Saturday, December 6, 2008

Imperial Kyoto

There are a lot of temples in Kyoto.  And we mean A LOT.

There are over 100 temples in the central Kyoto area alone.  They are grand with ornate details and beautiful gardens.

With only a few days in Kyoto we managed to only squeeze in one temple our first day and that was the Temple of 1000 Buddhas.  

No pictures are allowed to be taken inside the wooden temple building, but 1000 bronze buddhas set inside the dark wood temple is very somber, matching the neatly manicured gardens outside. 

The 1000 Buddha Temple was close to our hotel and several others were nearby, but we wanted to head out to the Arashiyama area just outside Kyoto to see the famous bamboo forest. 

The Arashiyama area around the Bamboo Forest is a big tourist area with shops lining the main street selling traditional Japanese ceramics, souvenirs and snacks.  One of the things we noticed was that most of the tourist were Japanese, which we thought was charming and says a lot about how the Japanese feel about their country and their culture.  So when we spotted a long line of Japanese tourist buying snacks at a street side vendor we had to get in line and see what the hub bub was about.  For only ¥70 or 70¢ we figured we could afford to try what everyone was so happily standing in front of the stall eating.  They looked like panko hashbrowns, but once we took a bite we realized it was so much more.  Creamy and starchy, similar to mashed potato, but it was shredded taro.  Yummy! Panko makes anything better!

Mixed in with the Japanese tourist were also local Japanese wearing traditional clothing.

And we spotted our first Geishas! 

Fitting in with the theme of ancient Japan, the area had numerous rickshaw drivers offering rides through the little town.

The Arashiyama area of Kyoto is a must see for anyone visiting Japan.  Traditional and modern intertwine seamlessly.

By the time we got back into Kyoto proper  we were starving and set out to find the famous ancient dining street Pontocho.  A narrow alleyway paralleling the river lined with Japanese restaurants that was reminiscent of Kyoto’s glory days as the capital of Japan.

We quickly found a small restaurant with an English menu advertising hotplate cooked dinners.  We were most excited by the descriptions of the hotplate style dinners and sat at the bar in hopes of observing the cooking action up close.  We ordered two hotplate items and was served a cold chicken salad starter consisting of matchstick-cut carrots, parsnips and chicken, delicious and complimentary! Everything was cut to the exact same size, including the chicken and tossed in a light miso-kupie mayo dressing and black pepper that brought out the flavors of the vegetables and chicken.

Next our scallops arrived
Again delicious, but for the first time we really felt like we were in the Japan we all hear about as travelers.  The portion was rather small for the price. 

Our next order of hotplate beef with seasonal vegetables arrived
Another tapas sized portion for entrée price. We also felt the beef cut was a bit thick for the hotplate cooking method, cooking the beef to an almost well-done consistency.  The seasonal vegetables were delicious, but we had to duel it out with our chopsticks for every bite. 

Still hungry after our long day of sightseeing, we decided to order a hotplate of garlic and greens rice.  Hoping it was going to be as good as the pickled mustard greens rice we had at Gonpache in Tokyo.  It did not let us down, except again for the size and the price.  The crispy garlic just made our appetites that more ravenous, but we knew we couldn’t afford to try another dish, so we paid the bill and went in search of something else.

Luckily the subway station boulangerie or bakery was still open and we wandered in. We settled on a ham and onion pizza slice that was delicious cold the next morning.  We also purchased a chocolate croissant that was filled with mini-chocolate bars, not chocolate cream and it too was delicious for breakfast the next morning. All in all another great day being tourists in Japan.

1 comment:

robshak said...

Hmmmm. Maybe I should have met you guys in Japan. But then again, there is no way I could have without Shakeil! Are you taking cooking lessons in Saigon? Am interested if you've signed up for any...not that you need it!