I’ve been to Kansai just last year but I figured it was good enough to go again. In fact, I could go every year. Or maybe several times a year. I had limited time in Kyoto last year and because it was so beautiful with good food, I decided to spend more time in this city over neighbouring ones.
From Nagoya it is quite easy to each Kyoto. I chose the Highway Bus over the Shinkansen because it was the more economical option. Hilton Nayoga Hotel was relatively close to Nagoya Station, the main transfer hub for Nagoya to other cities in Japan. They provided a free shuttle bus to Nagoya Station but walking is only 10 minutes actually.
I found the Meitestu Bus terminal easily upon reaching the very big Nagoya Station. This bus terminal was somewhat like Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC, where you can find all sorts of buses and coaches.
If you have more in a group, one way tickets to Kyoto only costs ¥2050 and the express ride is estimated to take 2h 23min, departing in hourly duration in the morning.
Lunch was at Endo Yasaka Tempura near Gion. I found this listed on Tabelog while searching for tempura. It is not listed under the Michelin Guide. I actually attempted to book a few 3 star restaurants but was out of luck because it is apparently the high season now. I guess it’s high season all year round and Kyoto/ Osaka is a busy place.
I booked the counter seats and was initially worried I may reek of oil but that didn’t happen because the oil is covered.
Tofu appetiser was served. Behind are the dipping options for the tempura – they provided dashi sauce, salt and matcha salt. The chef would suggest which to use upon serving each course. I personally find matcha salt kind of gimmicky.
The good thing about having each item served one at a time is you don’t eat too fast and get sick of the fried stuff.
Bread and corn
Fish wrapped in shiso
Small shrimp and mushrooms
Sea eel (anago)
Kakiage of vegetables
The tempura here is on the light and brittle side – very crispy and the batter is actually rather thinly coated. The course I took was the ¥3500 lunch course. It was not bad really. I wouldn’t mind eating it again.
On the way to Nijō Castle, I found a supermarket which looked quite high end. Bought a vitamin C collagen drink to boost my immune system. This drink can be found all over Japan and price varies, but nothing over S$1.50!
Nijō Castle is one of Kyoto’s top attraction. The interior walk through kind of reminds me of the Palace of Versailles in France or Winsor Castle in England. No photography was allowed.
Autumn has just begun.
I think this place would be much nicer during cherry blossom season or at the peak of autumn where there will be a myriad of colours.
The one must thing to do in Kyoto according to me is not the temples, shrines or castles. It is the matcha. Kyoto Prefecture is well known to have the best matcha and teas, mostly coming from neighbouring city of Uji. Kyoto city itself has numerous tea shops and what better place to hunt for something good than the famous Gion district. Gion is filled with many souvenir shops but many of them actually has quality products. I’ll talk more about how to choose your souvenir Japanese snacks in another post.
Houjicha soft cream from Gion Tsujiri (祇園辻利) which is a retail shop selling tea and equipment for tea as well as some takeaway options like soft cream. This cost ¥430 and was so good, I could easily have another one with the rate I gobble up my ice cream.
This is available only for take-out. I bought one while waiting in line for the dine in tea house Saryo Tsujiri (茶寮都路里). Notice how the same name of Tsujiri has different Kanji for both concepts. The wait to be seated took around 20 minutes and I realised that this was because they were quite slow to prepare vacant tables for the next customer when the previous ones has left.
Tsujiri Parfait – ¥1102
Tsujiri Zenzai Shiratama – ¥1048
This is a seasonal item on the menu. The zenzai is warm and the matcha is a smaller size.
Matcha – ¥1080
Every order of a full sized matcha comes with a side of either seasonal wagashi, dango or warabimochi. I chose the chestnut from seasonal wagashi because it is cute.
This is one of the seasonal wagashi shaped to look like purple sweet potato.
I stayed in Kyoto for 2 nights at Hotel Vista Premio Kyoto Kawaramachi. Kawaramachi was like a little slice of Osaka in Kyoto. The area was bustling with shops and is not far away from Gion and Kyoto station. It’s quite a centralised place near Sanjo subway station and not too far from the main road of Kawamarachi-dori where you’ll find many buses. Behind you’ll find shopping streets and a lot of things. This particular area is under a smoking ban – something you seldom get in Japan where almost everybody smokes, so it is ideal for non-smokers to hang out. The rooms were big and well equipped with everything, including a Plasma Cluster air purifier by Sharp. I booked through Japanican and it costs ¥10000 a night per twin room. It’s really good value in my opinion!
This hotel happens to be recommended by the Michelin guide as well. I wasn’t aware before this trip but I can certainly understand why!
I did check using Wi-Fi from Sanjo Shopping street while searching for dinner and realised there’s Ichiran Ramen in Kawaramachi area. It wasn’t long before I found the place.
You first buy your ticket at the vending machine, and then you’ll look at the electronic system to know where an empty seat is located. You will be seated in individual cubicles. You then fill up a form stating your preference and then submit it to the staff that will be behind the counter. The blinds will be let down while you enjoy your ramen.
Tonkotsu Ramen – ¥790
This is a bowl of no frills, no gimmick ramen. It was tonkotsu broth at its best without any fancy addition. Since you are responsible for selecting your preferred texture of noodles, thickness of soup, oiliness, garnishes, spiciness and everything, you have only yourself to blame if one attribute isn’t to your liking. I did enjoy this bowl pretty much and it’s so much better than most ramen shops in Singapore!
Ni-tamago – ¥100
The egg was not seasoned but the doneness was perfect.