Posts Tagged ‘ Nishiki ’

Japan 1 Week Itinerary

Michael and I were on a two week trip between China and Japan. We had an amazing time in China and were pretty sure Japan would be even more awesome!

Touchdown Japan!
We flew to Osaka from Shanghai as it was cheaper than other city combination. We found the plane ticket expensive at £175 each – whereas our return flight to London was around £550. It was already the cheapest one when we were canvassing for prices. Fortunately, it was a very comfortable flight with a meal served. The plane was only half-filled too!

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We flew with Anitea Air from Shanghai Pudong International Airport

We flew in to Kansai (KIX) Airport. I seriously don’t understand how for the life of me, I thought that meant flying in at Osaka Airport! I researched on how to get to the ryokan we’re staying at from there NOT Kansai. It meant an additional hour of travelling for us. No biggie. He wouldn’t stop teasing me for messing up the locations though. He kept saying at least it was in the same country! Pfft!!! hahaha (I’ll get even. ^_^)

Our super kind host took this picture of us after we saw our room for the first time :)

Our super kind host took this picture of us after we saw our room for the first time :)

Whenever we travel, we like trying out new things. Since we’re in the heart of Japanese culture, staying in a traditional Japanese accommodation was a must do for us! To my horror, most ryokan I checked were fully booked on the dates of our visit. I was ecstatic upon receiving a positive response from one that met our wants (a garden view and private toilet). Yoshimizu Inn was a lovely accommodation located at the top of Maruyama Park. Gion, the famed Geisha district, is just at the foot of the park. We’d pass by geishas/ maikos at night on our way back/to the ryokan. I couldn’t be happier with the location really!

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Day 1 Kyoto
Temple hopping
Even if I wanted to squeeze in as much as possible for every trip – the two of us just can’t be bothered to be rushed from one place to the other. Sticking to a detailed schedule is only a dream. He needs his sleep. I like to take lots of pictures my time in a place I love. After getting some much needed sleep (and breakfast), we head out to enjoy sunny Kyoto! We walked around the park where our ryokan is located as well as saw the temples there. Then walked towards the direction of Kiyomizu-dera while stopping several times for snacks and drinks along the way.

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Kiyomizu-dera aka Pure Water Temple

We spent the afternoon in Fushimi Inari Taisha. The shrine was made more famous by the film Memoirs of a Geisha. It was pretty crowded at the base of the mountain but there were relatively less people as you go up the steps. I was quite keen on wearing a kimono while walking around Kyoto. That trek up the mountain made me thankful I did not get to do it. :D

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Fushimi Inari Taisha

For dinner, I made reservations with Gion Nanba. I was excited for us to try a multi-course traditional Japanese cuisine known as kaiseki. It was a pretty expensive meal at 75GBP each. But since we already flew (almost) halfway ’round the world for our love of Japanese food (and culture), might as well splurge for this instance and budget on the others!. :)

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Standing at the left is the owner/ (head) chef of Gion Nanba

Day 2  Arashiyama Day Trip
When we were planning for our trip, we allotted 3 days for Kyoto and 4 days for Tokyo. Eventhough that was the case, I was still keen to go to Nara plus I wanted to visit Osaka and not to forget of course a must trip to Arashiyama! He had to remind me again and again that we will have no time for Kyoto at that rate.  He said I should choose just one – Arashiyama IT IS! :D

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Beautiful bamboo groves

First stop was the beautiful Tenryu-ji Zen Temple and its Sogenchi Garden. I enjoy visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites so that was a pretty cool plus! Yeah, almost all of Kyoto is a Heritage Site but that didn’t make me any less excited! I realise there are some people who scoff the at the thought of visiting Heritage Sites but they were made so for good reason and I, for one, am happy to see for myself why! Every person’s travelling style/ taste is different and that’s what makes this world interesting. We headed for the north gate exit of the temple which led us straight in the middle of the bamboo groves (pictured above).

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Tenryu-ji Zen Temple and its Sogenchi Garden

I know I just said that kaiseki is expensive but I just couldn’t pass up another one – lunch this time around! – when it’s relatively cheap AND with amazing reviews! Our ryokan arranged for us to have lunch in Nishiki restaurant. It was impossible for me to do so since there was no English translation at their website. It was a more relaxed experience from the night before I guess that’s why we loved it even more plus it was cheaper too!

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A wonderful lunch at Nishiki!

A friend suggested- thanks Sucelle!- that we ride the romantic train of Sagano. Intrigued by the name of the ride, I read more about it. Also known as Sagano Scenic Railway, it is a 25 minute train ride from Torokko Saga Station to Torokko Kameoka Station (and vv).  It runs along Hozugawa river. We enjoyed the view immensely!

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Riding the Sagano scenic train ride was his must do for Arashiyama :)

Day 3 Bullet train-bound to Tokyo
Originally, I was planning for us to pass by Kawaguchiko to see Mt. Fuji enroute to Tokyo so as to prevent us from backtracking. After some research and having a plan in place, we had to abandon it due to force majeur – there was a typhoon that day. It literally started pouring rain after we got to the foot of Maruyama Park from our ryokan. We headed to Kyoto Station and bought our shinkansen (bullet train) tickets straight for Tokyo instead!

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Arriving in Tokyo late that afternoon, we headed to our hotel. Got ready. Headed out. Our destination: Akihabara, a district in Tokyo that is famously known as electric town. Having just arrived from Kyoto where it was all temples and shrines, this place provided such a contrast and was the quintessential hi-tech Japan we had in mind. We spent the night in arcades and in a maid cafe that was pretty interesting. I can see that the bf was very quite happy to be there! haha

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Konichiwa from Akihabara!

Day 4 Tokyo
The game of baseball seem to be popular in only 2 country – the USA and Japan. Since we can’t get any bus to take us to Mt.Fuji this day, Mike announced that we can watch a match instead! He was hoping to squeeze it in and he got his chance! I wasn’t sold to the idea as I had my heart set to seeing Fuji on that particular day so was pretty bummed out about it. To get me even partially interested, he said that the team playing is one of, if not the, most popular team in the country. Plus he said that the interior of the stadium is pretty awesome. Alright, I guess let’s give it a go then! After visiting Meiji Shrine of course. :D (I did enjoy watching the game – it was such a low scoring one though.)

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Day 5 Sumo Wrestling
Peak tourist season in Japan is during cherry blossom season. Our trip was booked 2 weeks after it. </3 Why? Because he we opted to time our trip while it’s sumo tournament. I figured, since he let me decide most of the trip, I can I think concede the “when” part of our trip. Sumo is the Japanese style of wrestling and is the national sport of Japan. Being a traditional sport, it is filled with religious rituals (eg the symbolic purification of ring with salt) and only men practice it professionally. We spent a whole day inside the Kokugikan Stadium. To not get bored, I got busy eating the various food sold inside plus I’d go outside every now and then to check out what’s happening outside the ring. Fan-girling the sumo wrestlers if you’ll ask the bf what I was doing. Sheesh! ^_^

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After dinner, I suggested we go to Asakusa to see a few more sights before we call it a night. :)

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Day 6 Daytrip to Mt. Fuji
The main reason I agreed to skip the cherry blossom season is because it’d be the Shibazakura season. Ahhh… Japan and its beautiful blooms! <3

Fuji, Japan

Fuji, Japan

Returning back to Shinjuku after our daytrip to Kawaguchiko, we decided to stay in the area and explore. This district is crazy fun. WE LOVE IT! From bargain shopping to robot restaurants and nonstop karaoke, we all gave them a go! It was such a fun night! This was also the night that Mike and I realised that we both love karaoke. :D

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Day 7 Tokyo
For our last day in Japan, we wanted to take it easy, visit a few sites and go back to our favourites. We left our luggage in Tokyo Station then walked to the Imperial Palace. Upon seeing how huge the place is was enough to tire me out even before we got started. We did manage an hour of walking before we called it quits and ate lunch. I was almost falling asleep by then. I wasn’t so sure how we ended up in an Irish pub/ resto. I ordered a burger but was served a burger patty on top of some green salad and with rice on the side. I knew we should’ve just stuck with local food! ;) It was probably the downcast weather that was making me feel sluggish. Thankfully, the sun shone shortly afterwards, well, at least it stopped raining. We headed back to Shibuya to while away the time before it was time for us to head back to the airport. The crossing really amazed us. Seeing huge crowd of people moving in an organized chaos while we’re just chillin’ – we liked it! Sang our hearts out in another karaoke session and then gorged on kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi. Mmmm. <3

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Mmmm...Sushi galore at affordable prices!

Mmmm…Sushi galore at affordable prices!

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Spot the bf! :D

Happy to head back home but sad to leave Japan - we'll definitely come back! :D

Happy to head back home but sad to leave Japan – we’ll definitely come back! :D

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Kaiseki at Nishiki

Michael and I love Japanese food! Our first date was in a Japanese restaurant where he treated me out for my birthday dinner. From sushi to ramen to everything in between, what’s not to love about it? I kinda planned the Kyoto leg of our trip around food – I didn’t tell Mike but I’m certain he had an inkling of what was coming.  :D

Inside Tenryū-ji's garden in Arashiyama

Inside Tenryū-ji’s garden in Arashiyama

A must for me for our trip is to have a traditional Japanese meal. Having kaiseki is a great way of going about it! Kaiseki is a multicourse traditional Japanese meal. The menu changes with the season as the meal is a reflection of nature’s bounty. For the Japanese, presentation is very important. Each course that was served to us was beautifully arranged and garnished. It is quite pricey though but since we flew more than 18hrs to get there, we might as well splurge a bit – though not that much (still budget conscious hehe). We had one for lunch and one for dinner.

We had a kaiseki lunch in Nishiki on a daytrip to Arashiyama. The feedback from them were all very positive. Plus, it’s relatively more affordable. We paid 4,800yen per person for an 8-course meal which took almost 2 hours.They have a website but I can’t find any English translation. I wrote a letter to the ryokan we were going to stay at to make a reservation for us which they easily did after I answered their questions: when and what time, how many course, for how many people.

Nishiki restaurant is located very close to Arashiyama Station (Hankyu line). Upon arriving there, we were warmly welcomed and ushered into our own private room. The lady who served us was really, really nice which we happily realised is the norm in the country but she hardly spoke English. It was all good since all we had to do was seat and wait for our food to arrive one by one. We could hardly wait!

That magical tray that will hold beautiful food for the next hour and a half.

That magical tray that will hold beautiful food for the next hour and a half.

First course is a small appetizer. We were served deep-fried tofu with Japanese mustard inside. Accompanied by Japanese wild ginger and soy sauce. This dish is simple but we love it! The mustard gave us a kick. I had to stop everything and hold my nose from the heat. It was gone as soon as it came. The sensation was pretty cool and unexpected! haha

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Second course was sashimi, porgy sashimi and cooked burdock. They were adorned with (from left to right) spirally-cut angelica (celery-like stalk), cucumber made into an image of water drop, seaweed, wasabi and pickled garlic. I’m really not a fan of sashimi and though I was able to finish this plate, it wasn’t in my favourites. Mike thinks otherwise. :)

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Third course, is herring soup with tea-Soba (tea-taste buckwheat noodles) in mild shoyu (soy sauce) soup. It’s garnished with leek and grated radish. Since the radish was made into a round shape, at first glance we thought it was egg yolk.  I really enjoyed the fish! The dish has a rich flavour that try as I might not to, I finished it so fast – Mike wasn’t even halfway with his!

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Fourth course is oshukuzen – assorted dishes in a tiered food box. This has got to be the prettiest course we’ve had for this meal. I just had to ask her to take our pic with this beauty! <3

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Upper tier: trevally sushi inside the Japanese ark, dried halfbeak inside the gabion box. Side dishes (from left to right) include special boiled small fish, pickled carrot in ume-blossom vinegar, eel roll with burdock, leaf bud of Japanese pepper, boiled beans and kashiwamochi (rice cake wrapped with an oak leaf).

Bottom tier included taros boiled in soy sauce and sugar, fried free-range chicken and vegetable.

Somehow, it felt like a crime to tuck into this and “destroy” such a wonderfully prepared dish. But we were hungry and can’t wait to taste it as everything had been really good so far!

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Sixth course, a medium plate. A fried eggplant that served as a pot for miso soup and ginger. We weren’t sure how to go about eating this. Mike’s solution? Just dive into it!

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Seventh course, cereals. Porridge of rice with green beans and pickled vegetables as well as Enoki mushroom. The Japanese serve rice towards the end of the meal. With this in mind, I was a bit sad to be given this dish because it meant that our meal was coming to an end. At the same time, we were already quite stuffed so I was able to accept it more readily. hehe Mike doesn’t understand Asian soup(s). He remarked that they just seem to be water boiled with something in it unlike the Western counterpart were everything is pureed together. This dish wasn’t in his top three. I really like it though – it reminds me of a dish my mom would cook for me. I’m not certain if one can describe a taste as simple and fresh -that’s how I’ll describe this dish. He gave me his soup and I would have finished it if I can but I just can’t – I was close to bursting!

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Eight and last course, fresh strawberries to end a beautiful meal and a warm cup of oolong tea to wash it all down with.

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So happily full!

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