So looking back through my photos to put this post together it turns out that we ate basically nothing in Kyoto. So this is going to be a short Kyoto food diary.
We only spent 36 hours in Kyoto so here’s our food diary.
Bento boxes are by definition “a single-portion take-out or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine”. Thank you wikipedia.
So when you take the shinkansen/bullet train it’s practically the law that you get one. At least that’s what I told myself. Getting a 6.30am train from Tokyo to Kyoto meant that Topher and I needed breakfast so this was a both convenient and delicious solution.
I got myself a salmon onigiri (which is a filling like salmon, tuna, etc. surrounded by rice and wrapped in seaweed to make a triangle shape), a milk tea and a bento box. The bento box consisted of deliciously marinated beef on a bed of sticky rice.
One thing to mention is that this bento box was cold. And yet it was so delicious I still dream of it now. Bento boxes can also come hot but I went with this one. If you’re in Japan get one whether you’re riding the shinkansen or not.
As a lover of sushi and seafood, this salmon sashimi was right up my street. Perfection! The sea urchin on the other hand I could take or leave. We just wanted to tick it off our bucket lists. The taste was fine but the texture was…interesting. I’ll leave you with that.
I say torched because the guy literally blow torched them there and then before handing them to me on a stick. These were the best things I ate all day. I hadn’t seen them on any blogs or vlogs – I just saw a woman with them that day and hunted the market until I found them. Recommended.
Yes indeed that is an octopus you see. And not just an octopus; a glazed octopus. And not just a glazed octopus; a glazed octopus with a quail egg inside its head.
I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this taste-wise as much as I did. It was actually pretty nice. But only if you like seafood. If you don’t then steer clear of this eccentricity.
And unfortunately those are all the photos I have. For dinner and breakfast the next day we went to a convenience store (kombini) which you can actually see on our Kyoto video here.
And the next day for lunch we headed to another branch of our beloved Sukiya which I first spoke about in my Tokyo food diary. And that’s it!
Stay tuned for my next instalment where we head to Osaka.
If you can’t wait for that I’m happy to tell you that all of our Japan vlogs are up on my Youtube channel. Enjoy!
Now onto Kyoto. We only spent 1 night here and had a day and a half crammed full of activities so here we go.
We began the day waking up at about 4am to check out of our hotel and get the subway from Shibuya to Tokyo to catch a Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto just after 6am. So an early start!
The shinkansen experience was amazing – miles better than our trains in the UK. Though we were in the regular economy carriage it was amazingly clean, comfortable and well taken care of. We got bento boxes which I’ll go into more detail on in my Kyoto food post coming up next and just watched the sights of the Japanese countryside whizz past.
Oh and we saw Mt Fuji!
After arriving in Kyoto around 9.30am-ish we made our way to our Japanese style apartment we were renting to drop off our bags. Big thanks to our host who let us do that!
Next we were off to our first tourist destination of the day…
It was pretty busy but it was just after 11am by the time we got here so if you’re looking for those instagramable photos of empty paths get here early! As I mentioned we were only here for one night so our early morning get up was saved for Fushimi-Inari on Day 2.
I thought the cherry blossoms in Tokyo were pretty but they had nothing on the ones we saw in Arashiyama! Kyoto cherry blossoms bloom slightly later than the ones up in Tokyo so we got luckier with our timings for this part of the trip.
Not only do you get to hang out with monkeys at this hilltop park but you get an amazing view of Kyoto! Though be prepared for a 20-30 minute hike uphill…Definitely worth it though. The Japanese macaque monkeys roam freely and it was cool to see them chilling out in their natural habitat.
By this point we were starving so we headed to Nishiki Market for lunch. This place is a haven for foodies as the street food here is exotic and plentiful. More on about what we actually ate in my next post!
Doing a tea ceremony was on my bucket list so before we left on our trip out to japan I found this place online that is based right near Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto. It was a great experience and was fascinating to learn about the history behind tea ceremony’s as well as having some tasty matcha. Even Topher enjoyed the matcha.
Also known as the Golden Pavillion, this was a must do for Topher and I. Kyoto has a ridiculous number of shrines and temples which you would have to spend years visiting to get round them all so you just have to pick a handful if you’re on a short trip. This was one of ours. How gorgeous is it? We got here about 4.30ish so just before it closed at 5.
Our last stop of the day was Yasaka Shrine. Afterwards we wandered around the streets of Gion until it got dark and we realised how shattered we were! I’m not even sure what this place below is called just that we stumbled upon it and it looked pretty.
We got back to our apartment and this place was huge! It’s a definite must do to try and stay somewhere like this. We couldn’t really afford to stay in a pricy ryokan which is a traditional Japanese inn so this was a great alternative.
Though one downside was that we did both get a bit freaked out during the night as we realised the place reminded us of the horror film The Grudge. Both of us had the thought but didn’t want to freak the other out so didn’t mention it at the time! Something we definitely laughed about the next morning.
This was right at the top of my Kyoto bucket list so we got up super early and headed to the south of the city to arrive at the bottom of Mt Inari just after 6am. Something that I highly recommend if this is something you want amazing people free photos of. It was just us, a handful of tourists and some super polite photographers who had the place to ourselves. Perfect!
It is a long hike though so decide amongst your group how far you’re willing to go! If you just want some cool gate photos you don’t need to go far at all. If you want the amazing view of the city you only need to go halfway. If you want bragging rights for getting to the top of Mt Inari, then you will be doing the entire thing. We did the entire thing.
I cannot stress enough that if you just want the gates and the view you don’t need to go to the top. There is no view at the top as there is a hut in the way. There is a shrine but that is it. Oh and this cool sign that proves you did a crap load of cardio. Yeeeessssss. But this is definitely a tired face that regrets wearing a jacket on top of a jumper!
This is the view that you get halfway up. Pretty!
I’m glad we did the whole thing though. Such a beautiful place. By the time we got back to the bottom at around 8am there were a lot more people streaming in so the 6am arrival was worth it for our photos and footage we got. I’ve also seen on vlogs I’ve watched where people arrive around noon and the place is packed! So if you’re going decide what time works best for you.
I’d heard great things about this walking trail so added it to my must do’s. I wasn’t sure if we’d catch the cherry blossoms but we did so that made it even prettier than I can imagine it looks all year round.
This was the last thing we did in Kyoto before heading back to the apartment, getting our bags and heading to Kyoto station to catch a train to Osaka. So I’ll just leave you with this photo of a building across the street from our apartment that made us giggle.
So stay tuned for my next post: What we ate in Kyoto!
Sukiya is like staple Japanese fast food. They mainly serve gyūdon which is basically a beef and rice bowl. We found this next to our Shibuya hotel so we ran in out of the rain and it was exactly the kind of comfort food we were after.
We both had beef, rice and cheese. It was so good that we ate at two more branches on our Japan trip.
Street Food at Asakusa
When we went to Senso-ji on the first day we decided to try as many kinds of street food as we could.
These are little cakes filled with red bean paste. So cute and tasty! We both enjoyed them even though Topher isn’t a huge fan of red bean paste.
This doesn’t look like much but wow oh wow was it good. Dango is mochi balls on a skewer and comes in many different varieties. This type is covered in soy flour which tasted like peanut butter in my opinion. I think this is my second favourite type of dango.
Say hello to my favourite type of dango. These mochi balls are covered in a sweet soy sauce. Served hot from the street they were the best treat of the morning.
Daifuku is mochi stuffed with red bean paste. This particular type also came with a large strawberry on top. Topher was happy to find that this vendor also did a version where it was stuffed with thick custard instead of red bean. Both were delicious though a little messy to eat!
Our final bit of street food was a melon pan ice cream sandwich to share. Melon pan is basically sweet bread. It’s name comes from the outer shell which is a criss-cross pattern that looks like a melon. This particular shop that I got it from only had a few flavours of soft serve ice cream to choose from (despite having about 30 you could have in a cone!) so I panicked and chose matcha.
Topher does not like matcha at all so I had to eat a lot of this…oh well!
Korean BBQ has become pretty popular in Japan and I saw this restaurant on youtube so had to give it a go. This particular branch was in Shinjuku and we both went for the lunch set meals. You get a plate of meat and veg to cook, a bowl of rice, a bowl of miso and some little side dishes. It was one of our more expensive meals but pretty reasonable considering how much food you got.
This is a chain that was started by a guy originally from Japan in the USA but a branch finally opened in Japan. I’d heard it was good so we decided to give it a go. We both went for their wagyu beef ramen which was very good. The beef cooked itself in the broth!
A Happy Pancake – Shibuya
Ever since I discovered soufflé pancakes online a few years ago I’ve been dying to try them. So A Happy Pancake had to be added to my list. We showed up just after opening and had to wait about 20 minutes for a table. I just went with the original ones with maple syrup and honey butter and they were to die for!
Keep in mind if you ever go here that the pancakes take a while to cook so bring your patience with you. They are definitely worth the wait though.
Reissue – Harajuku
If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary then get yourself to this 3D latte art cafe. They have a book full of options and the creations are super cute. Rather expensive though!
Street Food in Harajuku
We also decided to try some random Harajuku food (minus their famous crepes as we were too full from breakfast) as we walked around.
We got this ginormous thing covered in soy butter and it was delicious though in some places a tad too salty.
We picked up this dango in Daiso which is a 100yen store. We spent a fair bit of money in here. They do all kinds of snacks, homeware and beauty stuff among other things. This was my least favourite dango but it did have a lot to live up to with the other two we tried. I just wanted to be able to hold an emoji!
Calbee is a Japanese snack maker famous for their different type of crisps. You can get fresh ones in their Harajuku store with different toppings. We got some crisps covered in chocolate sauce as well as some veggie flavour sticks. The pink wrapped one was a freebie we were given at the till.
We both enjoyed the potato stick things – the regular flavour were all sold out. And I loved the chocolate covered ones. It reminds me of when I was a weird kid who would put plain crisps and chocolate in my mouth at the same time.
The freebie was one we opened on the shinkansen (bullet train) the next day. They were prawn flavour crisps covered in strawberry flavour chocolate. Topher liked – I did not!
Food Show – Shibuya
Food Show is a food hall in a department store in Shibuya. We were low on time and money at this point in the day so I got this luxury egg sandwich I saw on Youtube and Topher got a pork bun and some pork gyoza.
My egg sandwich was amazingly good and I wish I’d been able to buy a second one. I will never be able to replicate this at home.
Topher loved what I will forever call his pork feast. And that’s everything we ate in Tokyo!
Me being me I had to take about a million photos on our trip to Japan. Especially of both the sights and the food so naturally I have had to split them into separate posts. Even then I’d still probably grab a brew before sitting down to this one…
We flew from Manchester Airport via Helsinki, Finland and our trip started at around 10 in the morning our time. It finished at 9 in the morning Japan time. Ouch. Oh and did I mention we couldn’t check into our hotel until 3pm? Double ouch.
We took a coach from Narita Airport to Tokyo as it’s actually between an hour and an hour and a half trip between the two. Neither of us are particularly good at sleeping on planes (though Topher is a pro at falling asleep on any other mode of transport!) so we were tired!
The train is slightly quicker but we opted for the bus as it was half the price and we could hand our luggage over to the bus driver. Then all we had to do was navigate the subway from Tokyo station to Shibuya.
We dropped our bags at the hotel and went out for lunch before mooching back just in time for 3pm check in. We were desperate to get showers and fresh clothes we after we sorted ourselves out it was back into the wilderness of Shibuya. Lots of rain this evening so we mainly spent our time in shops. Hello Disney store!
We spent a fair bit of time in Tokyu Hands which is a department store. So many weird and wonderful things in there.
We managed to stay out until around 9 before heading back to the hotel to collapse.
In the morning we had a little lie in and then headed over to the other side of the city. Asakusa is an older area of Tokyo which houses the oldest shrine – built in 645 AD. Sensō-ji. Our plan was to explore and sample the street food.
We got lucky with the cherry blossoms as I thought we’d miss them all but there were still a few blooming when we arrived in Tokyo. Yay!
It was about 11.30 by the time we got to the temple so as you can see it’s pretty crowded. Sensō-ji is open from 6am though you can wander through the main grounds 24/7. So if you want photos with less people around then get there early!
It was a beautiful day so even though it was crowded I’m happy with my photos.
The building in the above photo is Tokyo Skytree; a popular tourist attraction that boasts some amazing views of the city. We didn’t go here as I was given a tip for a free view of the city that includes Skytree in it.
That was the building we headed to in the afternoon. Shinjuku Government Building also has amazing views and if the day is super clear, you can even see Mount Fuji.
Unfortunately by this point the clouds had rolled in but it was still an amazing view of the city. Definitely recommended and you can’t go wrong because it’s free!
Afterwards we headed to Sunshine City in Ikebukuro purely so that Topher could visit the Pokemon centre. He had an amazing time and spent a lot of money! Sunshine city is basically a shopping centre with a load of stuff attached like an aquarium and mini theme parks. A perfect day out if it’s raining. We were tired so it was Pokemon, a couple of shops and then back to the hotel.
Harajuku day! I’ve been dreaming of visiting Harajuku since I was 15 so the rain did not stop me today. Topher and I got suited up with our rain gear and headed out. Shops don’t tend to open until at least 10am so we had a little lie in.
Our first stop was Meiji-Jingu which is a shrine that can be found in Yoyogi park. The photos below are of the tori gate and the barrels of sake you can find on the way to the shrine. The photos I took of the shrine itself weren’t that great so just look out for it in my upcoming vlog!
Then it was off to Takeshita Street for some shopping.
Not many photos due to the amount of rain and shopping bags we were both carrying! Money was spent. No regrets.
We also managed to find a place that did Purikura. It’s basically a photo booth only Japan has taken it to the next level where you can practically make yourself look like a doll. Topher was up for a laugh so we gave it a go. The results make me chuckle and this is now on our fridge at home.
We also had a wander around nearby where we found a Lush store. I wouldn’t usually rush in to one abroad but I heard they had lots of Japan exclusives. Plus it was worth it for this wall alone!
I may have purchased a few things…
Then it was back to the hotel to pack as we had a super early bullet train out of Tokyo to our next city.
It’s been just over a week now and I can’t believe we’ve been to Japan. Topher and I had the most amazing time. Of course I’m going to have to break down the whole thing into many blog posts because just like our honeymoon, it wasn’t a one destination trip.
One thing we did differently this trip was for the first time, we vlogged the entire thing. Like a ton. I have so much footage to edit my way through so I guess that’s my plans sorted for the next couple of months. It will definitely keep me occupied while waiting for our next Florida holiday in October.
So for now I will leave you with the little three minute trailer I made! Let me know what you think.