All posts tagged: Kyoto

Nishiki Traditional Market - Kyoto Japan

Nishiki Market // 5 Must-Eats in Kyoto’s Kitchen

Nishiki Market (錦市場), fondly known as Kyoto’s Kitchen, has been around for more than 400 years. Traditional food vendors, small cooked food shops, and eateries line this 400-metre street. The potential of this street extends beyond these 400 metres. Running perpendicular to Nishiki Market is Teramachi-dori (寺町通), an organized labyrinth of shops and restaurants worth exploring. Weaved into the smaller lanes, you will find vintage shops, small eateries, and the famous Sou•Sou shops. Parallel to Nishiki Market is the shopping belt of Kyoto, Shijō-dori (四条通), where you’ll find bigger shopping malls and boutique shops. We’ll dedicate a separate post to these later on. Stay tuned!   The array of fresh vegetables, local fruits, seafood, meat, pickled foodstuff, condiments, and ingredients will have you weaving in and out of the traditional food shops if you love to cook. Such was the allure of seeing in person, those heirloom Kyoto vegetables (京野菜 kyōyasai) cultivated since the Meiji Era, that you’ve only heard of, or seen on television – the sweet spring onions called Kujo negi (九条ねぎ), round eggplants called Kamo …

Moss Bridge in Moss Garden - Kokedera Kyoto

Saihoji Kokedera // Kyoto’s Magical Moss Garden

It’s like walking in a giant terrarium. The place. A temple garden with thousands of moss varieties. The little figurines. You. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Saihōji (西芳寺) or Kokedera (苔寺) is magical, out-of-this-world, surreal, and an ancient treasure. With such superlatives for this Kyoto site, you don’t see as much content or information out there as compared to say, Kiyomizudera or Gion. Why? Some might wonder. It’s not easy to get there. Not the usual tourist routes, there are buses to Kokedera but no trains. You have to make a reservation with a return postcard at least 1 to 2 months (depending on how fast your postal service is) prior to your intended visit. Advance planning is required, of which many didn’t get a chance to do for their travels. There are only 1 stipulated visiting time each day. The time of visit varies, and is decided by the temple. It has been said that latecomers do not get to enter and are shut outside the door. You know how travelling tends to get …

Tofuku-ji Kyoto // A Must-Visit for Spectacular Autumn Colors

Autumn is a fantastic time to be in Kyoto, Japan. During this season, leaves change their green coats to varying shades of vibrant yellows, flaming oranges and deep reds. Famed gardens and ancient trees are prevalent in the many shrines spotted all over Kyoto. I knew I had to be in Kyoto during autumn at least once in my life to witness these autumn colors or kōyō (紅葉) with my own eyes. With that many gardens and shrines in Kyoto, we had to be selective in the places we were going to visit. Time is limited during travels, but isn’t that always the case? Considered as Kyoto’s five greatest zen temples or Kyoto Gozan (京都御座), Tōfuku-ji (東福寺) was found in 1236 and its huge garden, which left an unforgettable mark in my experience and memory, was designed in the 1930s by landscape architect Mirei Shigemori – landscape architect of Tofuku-ji in Kyoto. Even before reaching the main gate where we had to pay our entry fees, towering trees in their glorious reds greeted us. Across …

Shirakawa Gion // Kyoto’s Most Beautiful Street

If you are a traveler from overseas on a tour group, tour guides might skip this part of Kyoto and head straight to the busy hub of Gion (祇園) for shopping and food. Dubbed by locals as Kyoto’s most beautiful street, Shirakawa (白川) is a few minutes’ walk from central Gion and the Hanamichi (花道小路) area. It is off the beaten path, and there seemed to be no sight of other tourists when we visited it. The street runs into a Y-shape, with a little shrine situated at the intersection. This little red shrine, like the Yasaka Shrine, was frequented by geishas living in that area. And by our lucky stars, we caught a happy couple taking their wedding photos at this picturesque place just when we reached it. A babbling stream runs through this street with shops, restaurants and tea houses lining one side of it. On the other side, you see willow trees, cherry blossom trees and Japanese maple trees. The majestic willow trees were indeed a sight. Their long strings of leaves …

Shopping in Gion // Buys that are uniquely Kyoto

One place that no tourist would miss in Kyoto is spending an evening in Gion (祇園) – a place best known as the district where geishas reside, entertain, wait to be ‘rescued’ by their patrons, and where maikos learn their art while serving the needs of their bigger sisters. And if you have read or watched ‘Memoirs of the Geisha’, a visit to Gion must be in the cards. There is much to do here – shopping for scarves and superbly made canvas totes, having kaiseki dinner (懐石料理) in the famous geisha quarters at Hanamichi (花道小路), exploring the most beautiful street in Kyoto near the babbling brook of Shirakawa (白川), and watching the sun set over Gion Shrine (八坂神社 / 祇園神社). To leisurely enjoy the sights and experiences that Gion has to offer, I would suggest heading to Gion in late afternoon to get some shopping done, and then enjoy a stroll to catch the sun setting over Shirakawa and Gion Shrine, before dinner at one of those nostalgic restaurants along Hanamichi which will bring …

Yuzu Ramen at Eitaro // Hidden Gem in Kyoto, Shijo

Did I share that I simply love the taste of yuzu (ゆず、柚子) ? From yuzu vinegar to yuzu fruit, yuzu sake to yuzu cakes, I’ve tried it all! Naturally, when I hear that there is a shop in Kyoto serving yuzu ramen, I had to go try. I was already imagining how such disparate flavors would combine – one is obviously a fruit! I arrived at Eitaro (英多朗) at 11am, when the shop opens and way before the lunch crowd hits. The shop exterior is not eye-catching and one could have easily missed it. So, here’s a picture to help. Eitaro is a small ramen shop and does not have a lot of seats, so it was good to get there early. Of course, I ordered the yuzu ramen (ゆずラメン) at ¥700 (approximately S$9 – S$10). When the bowl of piping hot noodles was served, the refreshing whiff of the citrus fruit  greeted me first before the fragrant chicken broth started mingling with its fruity accent. You can either squeeze the mini yuzu fruit or …

Fushimi Inari Shrine // Senbon Torii

If you have been a fan of Japanese animation films, you’ll be familiar with images of foxes often appearing as mystical messengers. But that’s the not reason why Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社 Fushimi Inari Taisha) attracted me and many visitors from afar. Located just 2 stations away from Kyoto Station at the JR Inari Station, this shrine housed the famed and flaming red torii gates (鳥居) in the thousands all the way up the Inari mountain (稲荷山), promising a sight not to be missed. That’s how this sight got its name – Senbon Torii (千本鳥居), literally meaning thousands of torii gates. But, before we get to that… On a beautiful autumn day, we arrive at the entrance of Fushimi Inari Shrine, where young Japnese maple trees lined the avenue against clear blue skies and the Inari Mountain in the background. There are 2 torii gates at the entrance, with the one located at the end of this avenue being the larger one. It was a good day – lots of sunshine, a cool temperature, and …

Nijo Castle // 二条城

Nijo Castle (二条城) is the first castle I visited in Japan. Situated in Kyoto, this Castle is famed for its “nightingale floors” (鴬張りuguisubari) found in the corridors of Ninomaru Palace (二の丸御殿 Ninomaru goten) – a National Treasure that one has got to see, and in this instance, hear in order to experience how it must have been like to live in the 16th century where shoguns ruled the day. The Castle was built upon the order of the 1st Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) in 1603. It was completed during the reign of the 3rd shogun, Iemitsu, in 1626. The Castle served as the Tokugawa shogunate’s center of power in Kyoto. Teamed with the dramatic, stormy skies that day, Nijo Castle appeared like it came right out of a samurai movie. I could almost envision ninjas darting across roofs in a silent attempt to assassinate some officials. This white building, found at the corners of the Nijo Castle, is probably where guards would station themselves to look out for possible attacks. A wide moat surrounds …

Shinsen-en // Garden of Divine Springs

Shinsen-en (神泉苑) or Garden of Divine Springs is a surprise discovery, en-route to Nijo Castle. I was a little lost, walking a long way from Nijo Station and not seeing the castle, I wandered into Shinsen-en hoping to get some directions from the kind-looking locals sitting in the shade. I was really glad that I did. This is one of those moments I will always love during travels – not really planning, and stumbling upon a beautiful place or a hidden corner that was not as widely-written as those on my itinerary. In all sense of the experience, a discovery of a hidden treasure. It is after seeing this beauty that I did some research after I returned from Kyoto. The crimson bridge will catch your eyes when you first enter Shinsen-en. Hosei Bridge 法成橋 has an elegant curved line, which reflects perfectly in the pond surface, where its strong vermilion seems to quiver with every ripple and every wave. The azaleas shrubs along the length of the pond made mirror images on the pond …

Katsura River // Arashiyama

Before I left the bamboo forest, I met a local elderly man who was sharing that beautiful view with me. He kindly advised me to hike to the halfway mark at Arashiyama Park (嵐山公園) for a good vantage point of the rolling hills and the Katsura River (桂川). After a slippery hike up a pathway of big, smooth rocks, I had a misty view of the Katsura River, meandering through the mountains with a few huts lining the shore. A few lungful of fresh air made me understand what the Japanese meant by 空気美味しい (translated as the air is very delicious). I made my way down Arashiyama Park and passed little spots of tranquility. If only I could read all those difficult Kanji. Japanese maples provided the perfect canopy for my walk down, letting slivers of the gentle sunlight through. Last night’s rain and the morning dew made their leaves a fresh green – a contrast from the toasty reds of the fallen leaves. Upon reaching the end of the measured steps down, I saw …