Posts Tagged ‘Kyoto’

Day of Tourism in Kyoto

November 19, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are having a nice weekend! Today was a day off and it was filled with sightseeing, eating, and shopping around Kyoto. Pure tourism, aside from a tiny bit of work on the morning, but finished before 8am.


First stop was the Gekkeikan museum to learn about Sake brewing and taste sake. It was underwhelming but for three dollars a solid activity. One thing I learned is that unlike wine, sake shouldn’t age… drink it now. Makes sense because sake is brewed like a beer because it’s made from a starch, like beer, instead of a fruit, like wine. So when people call it “rice wine” it’s very misleading. The museum was crowded, even before 10:00am. On the way there I got a street food breakfast, a hot rice cake with red bean paste, in order not to drink alcohol on an empty stomach.


After the sake museum I took the train(s–it was not close) to West Kyoto, to the Arashiyama area. First order was a proper meal. I visited a tea house and got a set lunch with rice, pickles, and huge sardines, and so much tea.


Three different kinds of green tea throughout the meal. They had some books about tea and Japanese culture so during lunch I read  about traditional Japanese values and the way of the Samurai. After lunch I walked around the tea rooms with one of the women who worked there, and she taught me some things about the  very traditional tea ceremony.


One tradition is always walk into a room leading with your right foot, and walk out leading with your left. And don’t step on the edges of the tatami mat. And drink all the tea at once, and slurp a little bit audibly when you’re finished so you can let the tea master know you’re done without having to use any words. Something to try at family dinner. Lunch was “sit on the floor” style which made my legs hurt a little and have pins and needles multiple times, even with all the yoga.

wp_20161119_16_05_40_proAfter the meal I walked around and visited Hogonin Temple (and gardens), walked around the Hozu river, and then visited Tenryiu-ji Zen temple (and gardens). My mom told me to visit the Zen temple, she was right, it was really cool! The inside, very sparse with tatami mats, and the garden shown in the picture.


I think it’s a thing for Japanese people to rent traditional Japanese dress to visit these sites. There are a lot of people in traditional clothing taking selfies and rental places for Kimonos and the equivalent for men. Kimonos are very beautiful especially with fall colors. After the temple I walked through a street lined with bamboo and wandered around not sure where. At this point it was getting dark. I visited a plum shop and tried the traditional Japanese pickled plums from 2% salt to 19% salt. Eek . I visited some other shops and got Sake cups for myself, and a few other gifts. I think if there were ever a time to get gifts, this would be it.


By then it was around 7:30pm and it was time for dinner. I walked into a shop that specialized in boiled tofu, and tofu everything. Apparently it’s pretty famous. On the set menu was boiled tofu (first course shown above), tofu in a warm orange with miso and chestnuts, sesame tofu with wasabi, and fried tofu. It was another sit-on-the-floor style dinner, still a little painful. My favorite dish was the sesame tofu with wasabi (it was a gooey texture and good flavor) but at this point I’m completely tofu-ed out and ready to try Kobe beef. Fortunately I’m headed there tomorrow.


So Kyoto during the peak foliage season (now): It’s so beautiful and colorful which makes it worth it, but so so crowded. I think if you want to have peace and a less expensive hotel, visit during a different time.

Love, Annie



November 18, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

It’s been a nice three days since the last blog. Wednesday I woke up early in Tokyo and visited the Tsukiji Wholesale fish market (where they have the famous 4am tuna auctions).

wp_20161116_08_23_40_pro-1It was just two stops away from my hotel. I’ve come to love the Tokyo metro system. Of course the market was closed that day (they have one “set holiday” per month and this was it) but the restaurants in the outer market were still open. I tried steamed oyster with ponzu sauce, grilled crab in its shell with miso paste, and then went to a sushi counter for some pieces, and finished off the meal with a mochi with a strawberry in it.


Then I had a meeting and worked the rest of the day. There were some stores I visited in Shibuya, which has a famous crowded crosswalk.

For dinner I visited the neighborhood of my hotel again, near Hamamasutcho and Daimon stations. I’ve decided that’s my favorite neighborhood now. It’s really low key, quiet, and the little restaurants are filled in the evenings with businessmen getting totally hammered!

wp_20161116_20_15_02_proI walked around to find a good atmosphere intending to eat whatever was good. I decided on a restaurant that, when I walked in, the manager beamed! So welcoming. It was small, just 8-10 seats or so. He was super animated, fun, and very slightly heavier than average and didn’t speak English. I asked for no smoking? he said “yes smoking!” but I still ate there because it seemed like this guy would take care of me. I let him know that i’d eat whatever he thought was good. There were all sorts of dishes including some potato salad with something on it, I had to ask. Kind of looked like a sausage. It was “fish eggs” but honestly it was like a whole womb. I ate it all because that’s what’s respectful. And I like salty foods, and enjoy trying to figure out why people like to eat certain things if at first I think they are disgusting. At that dinner I got to eat all sorts of “presents” like edamame and extra special sake.

wp_20161117_14_42_45_proThursday morning I woke up and had a meeting, the first one I was able to find on my own 🙂 and then took the train to Yokohama, which took only about 45 minutes. Yokohama is its own city but very close to Tokyo. Some people live in Tokyo and commute to Yokohama. Some people live in Yokohama and commute to Tokyo, but really only if they want their kids to go to the international school in Yokohama.

wp_20161118_10_34_57_proI had another meeting in the afternoon there, worked, walked around the main shopping street, ate dinner, not much else. This morning I finished work and took the Shinkansen, the bullet train, to Kyoto where I’ll be for the weekend. The bullet train is very cool, and obviously very fast. I’m staying in guest house here in Kyoto. It was a little difficult to find it, and “check in” but that was because I was a early for the reservation but the issues turned around quickly.

wp_20161118_16_14_54_proI went to Fushimi Inari shrine and had a “road soda” of Kyoto beer on the walk there:) and then stayed wandering around the shrine until dark. It’s on a mountain, which you can climb up and the entire way is covered with gates. At the bottom it was so busy, but at the top it was very peaceful. There must be at least 100,000 of the gates, so cool! On my way down I stopped for a matcha latte and then visited Gion area. There are a ton of shops and restaurants. It was a little busy for my taste at that point but I took a deep breath and appreciated it.


I walked around for a while visited a “leek-themed” restaurant and sat at the counter and got more “presents.” The chef let me taste things when I looked curious. I’m always curious and tried things that were only on the Japanese version of the menu, not for English speakers.

Now I’m exhausted and excited to sleep on the Tatami mat.


Hope you are well and have a great weekend!

Love, Annie