I was traveling with first-time-visitors-to-Japan and although it would've been super fun to just keep eating and shopping in Osaka, I wanted to ensure that they experienced the historical beauty of Japan. So I booked us into a 2 night stay at a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn), in the gorgeous city of Kyoto.
For those who haven't been to Kyoto, it is a beautiful place to unwind - filled with elaborate gardens, stunning machiya (traditional Japanese townhouses) and temple architecture, and a delectable focus on seasonal produce that is always artfully presented. There was so much culinary traditions to explore.
Matcha (green tea) and baked tatsuhashiis (cinnamon biscuits) are served upon arrival by our hostess.
Dinner is a kyo-kaiseki, a degustation-style sequence of seasonal ingredients, presented beautifully in exquisite dinnerware.
The hostess was so lovely, she took the time to explain what every dish was and had cute translation cards handy to point out particular ingredients.
I'm not going to be very detailed here because I was too busy eating to take notes. So just feast your eyes on these scrumptious pics -
Sakizuke - appetiser using ingredients representative of the season
Hassun - appetiser using ingredients from the sea or mountains
Tsukuri - assorted sashimi featuring hamo (pike conger eel)
Suimono - clear soup
Yakimono - grilled dishes, juicy beef and eggplant
Mushimono - simmered dishes
Konabe - hot pot
Tempura - seasonal delicacies deep-fried in a light crisp batter
Kudamono - fruits, mango jelly, fresh watermelon and grape
Dinner finished just in time for the tea ceremony demonstration which was taking place in the lounge room.
The tea ceremony is a comprehensive art which requires much discipline. It involves the protocol of tea preparation, the serving and drinking of tea and many other aspects must be taken into consideration.
By now, the hostess had already rearranged the furniture in our room and laid out the futons. Not that there was much sleeping done, as we made maximum use of the free high-speed internet. It was wireless but the connection dropped out beyond the lobby so guess where we spent most of our nights?
We also bathed as the Japanese do, in the public bath.
Breakfast the next morning was another feast! We had yudoufu (boiled tofu), dashimaki (Japanese omelette), grilled salmon, ham salad, nori (roast seaweed), tsukemono (pickles), gohan (rice) and misoshiru (miso soup) and a wedge of grapefruit. What an incredible way to start a day of temple & shrine hopping!
Overall, there's lots to love about Nishiyama Ryokan and the English speaking staff, free internet access and sensational meals are only just a part of it.
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Gokomachi St.-Nijyo Sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-0933
Phone: +81 075 222 1166
Now, I'll leave you with some foodie must-dos to add to your Kyoto itinerary:
- Shop for kyo-taki and kiyomizu-yaki pottery and tableware which are handcrafted and feature gorgeous intricate details
- Learn about the true essence of tea and take part in a traditional tea ceremony
- Savour a kyo-kaiseki feast
- Eat kyo-yasai choux - choux pastry puffs filled with seasonal Kyoto vegetables such as mibuna (a green vegetable), yamanoimo (yam), kyo takenoko (bamboo shoots) and more
- Visit the Nishikikoji-dori (Nishiki Market) which is a street lined with over 130 food shops and is often referred to as the kitchen of kyoto