April 15, 2005


Last Friday I made a trip to Kyoto, when sakura or cherry blossoms were just about to bloom in full. I had only one full day there, but it was a lovely springy day and I walked a lot, saw a lot of trees and blossoms, and ate and brought back a bit of good stuff the old city had to offer. I meant to blog this trip ages ago - but it has taken me a whole week to do this, and I am sure by this time most of the blossoms would have been gone. Cherry blossoms have such a short life on the tree, which may be why people go crazy about them and try to capture the year's view of blossoms while they can.

I had a bit of trouble in uploading images here, and am now pretty exhausted, so I'm just posting pictures for now - full text will follow shortly. (Click on the small images for a larger view)

Apr 17 updated: I have only added brief descriptions of food items here... I decided the rest is quite self-explanatory.

Daigo-ji Temple

Breakfast @ Boulangerie Le Petit Mec

I had heard that this place is one of the best bakery in Kyoto, and had been eager to pay a visit - now I did! The small bakery, now open only three days a week - Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays - had a beautiful selection of classic french bread and more creative ones, such as this croissant filled with whipped cream and custard. With a cup of nice coffee it made a small but caloric breakfast to start a long day.

Kyoto Gosho (Kyoto Imperial Palace) (in Kyoto Gyoen)

Snack: green tea ice-cream bites @ Tea shop Gion Tsujiri

An old and well-known tea shop Gion Tsujiri has been doing good selling a range of tea-products from fine matcha (green tea powder) to tea cookies and cakes to ice cream. I got a small box of five of them, and immediately popped them into my mouth as I strolled down old Gion quarter. Rich and creamy, yet refreshing in the hot-rather-than-warm afternoon.

Chion-in Temple

Nanzen-ji Temple

Tetsugaku-no Michi (Philosopher's Path)

Tea break @ Tea Room GOSPEL

Located near Ginkaku-ji Temple is this quiet, classic tea room on the second floor of an old house. They serve this beautiful cake roll that is almost legendary among some sweets lovers, made by a pastry chef called Yoko Tsuda, the owner of a cake shop/baking school and author of baking books including Kuru-kuru Roll Cake. The cake looked perfect - almost too perfect to be edible - and, more importantly, tasted good. The cake can be mail-ordered but it is said to take six months and up to fill an order due to the strong demand. I didn't see it quite worth of half-a-year wait, though.

Kamo River

Snack: Nikuman (meat bun) @ 551 Horai

A Kansai (Kyoto-Osaka area) favorite snack that I had wanted to try. Meat bun is one of my staple winter-time snack, and theirs was pretty meaty compared to most of the ones I'd have in Kanto (Tokyo area). Good though.

Kitsch subway train

Dinner @ "Obanzai Cafe" Kuri-Kuma

Obanzai is a collective name for traditoinal home-made dishes original to Kyoto, which nowadays are often served at restaurants like this. I had a Today's grilled fish set, including a bowl of rice, miso soup, grilled mackerel, two small obanzais (freeze-dried tofu and small yams) and pickles, and a separete order of hiya-yakko (chilled tofu). They make such dishes less saltier than those in Tokyo in general, but everything were well seasoned in real not-so-fishy fish broth. A very filling dinner.

Nijo-jo Castle

They lit up the castle for a couple of weeks including the day I was there, but I missed it by ten minutes... just ten minutes late! O well.

Things I brought home: Sweetwise, Kyoto is associated the most with matcha or green tea, and every merchant knows it so well it seems every single shop has something matcha-related. People don't seem to ever get tired of it, though.

Tsujiri-no Sato @ Gion Tsujiri

Matcha cream rolled in a thin crisp cookie. Yummy!

Tofu & Black Sesame Chocolates

I couldn't help grabbing a box of this at a shop - tofu and black sesame! How could I have not? But I later figured it a little... weird. It wasn't bad, but it really tasted like tofu... but it was chocolate. Strange.

Green Tea Chocolate & Sweet Black Bean Sandwich Cookies @ Cake shop Malebranche

They have an outlet in Tokyo, but this particular kind of cookies is claimed to be only available in Kyoyo Isetan department store. The pairing of green tea and kuromame or sweet black beans has become almost an fixture in Japanese sweets, and this one wasn't any new at all - but the quality chocolate and cookies did make a little difference.

"Chacolate" Pavés au Chocolat au Thé Vert (Green Tea Chocolate) @ Tea Shop Nakamura-ya Tokichi

It made me giggle to find out the name - chacolate, instead of chocolate, with cha meaning "tea". Since it is made and sold by a tea shop rather than a sweet shop per se, it isn't just a green cube with loads of additive colorings and flavorings but obviously uses quality tea in it that you can tell. I bought this also in Kyoto Isetan, but their main store is located in Uji, outside of Kyoto city, in an old-fashioned store that you can recognize in the painting of the box (see link for how the store really looks like).

Those blossoms were in full bloom!


Anonymous said...

Beautiful! When I had to shoot the cherry blossoms in Waimea it was a very grey day and there were hardly any blossoms on the trees. Nothing at all like you shot. 

Posted by Baron

Anonymous said...

Ohmygod. Your photos are so gorgeous, and all that matcha stuff is making me drool. 

Posted by Mariko

Anonymous said...

hey Chika!
im so jealous- i want to visit kyoto so much, especially to see all the palaces and temples. ill just have to live vicariously through these gorgeous photos for now! 

Posted by tanvi

Anonymous said...

Wow! Love it! I've been to Kyoto but during the summertime. I love to eat in Japan!


Posted by Trisha

Anonymous said...

so beautiful pictures !
wonderful colors

Posted by moonisup

Anonymous said...

very beautiful photos Chika, it makes me long to see Japan even more :) have a nice day! 

Posted by Cat

Anonymous said...

Hi Chika,

Everything looks so good. As always, the pictures look so professional and beautiful. The matcha chocolates look tasty. How were they? 

Posted by Reid

Anonymous said...

Woooow! Those pictures are so beautiful! I was also hyperventilating over those delicious looking food pictures. =) *drool* 

Posted by Tea

Anonymous said...

oh my gosh!! those pictures are sooooo gorgeous. not only are the sakura trees and flowers so pretty, the food and snacks are as well!! ahhh i'm so jealous. :) 

Posted by Emily

Anonymous said...

ahh great pictures as usual! would love to try the Green Tea Chocolate & Sweet Black Bean Sandwich Cookies! 

Posted by gwenda

Anonymous said...

Wow!Sakura blossoms are so pretty, you are a brilliant photographer!And the food...oooh, yum yum, the Tofu&Black Sesame chocs and Green Tea&Sweet Black Bean Sandwiches, do they taste good?My friend's going Japan soon and I hope to pester her into getting those for me ;) Or maybe you could recommend some other sncaks? Yum!!! 

Posted by Chris

Anonymous said... Sakura in your old town but I think I need to go to Daiei or Shirokiya (near Ala Moana) to get some spring wagashi now 

Posted by vegimouse

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. And now I at last know what "Sakura" means and why so many Japanese restaurants in the US are named that. 

Posted by Suebob

Anonymous said...

Thanks for getting back to me.My friend says she will be going to Tokyo,Osaka,Nagano...I can't remember if the fourth place was Kyoto or Hokkaido.I hope you can recommend some snacks.I saw your blog re:shingen mochi, and it looks really good, too.Thanks and sorry for the trouble!
PS:Is tsujiri-no-sato only available in Kyoto? 

Posted by Chris

Anonymous said...

such beautiful pictures. if only japan wasn't so far away and my boss would let me go on vacation. well, japan is going to be next on my list of places to visit! 

Posted by J.

Anonymous said...

Oh, the pictures are just breathtakingly beautiful!! I’ve been to those places in Kyoto, but not in cherry-blossom season. Never expected to see 551’s Butaman on your blog, though :D  

Posted by obachan

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos! Obviously you know what you are doing but may I ask what type of camera you use? thanks!

~ B 

Posted by Culinary Fool

Anonymous said...

Hallo Chika,
My sister and me are planning a short culinary trip to Japan, March 29 till April 09. We are especially interested in tofu and related products, the making and tasting of these (though we are not vegetarians), and in all other typical Japanese ingredients and food.We will do Kyoto from 31-03 till 03-04 and will continue for Kyushu. (eventually Shikoku, if time left)and will fly back to Europe from Osaka
Anyhow: we got very inspired by your weblog of april 15 2005: we would like to have a culinary guide, for an afternoon lets say, who could show us around for typical Kyoto food. Would you be interested and able to do that???? Ifnot, would you know another "food-passionata" who could? We don't mind to do a "food-favour" in return!!
PS: do you think our stay will be to early for the cherryblossoms????
We have similar interests for Kyushu, but lets first see if we can reach you. Regards, Yvette and Karin

Posted by Karin van der Linde

Anonymous said...

hi ! i'm french and I do not speak very quite English, I thus use a translator! I like much your blog and I am facinée by Japan, I do not know if it would be possible conetre by Internet because I would like much to learn some! I find that Japanese food is very original, I hope that you will répondera me! thank you in advance !

Posted by clotilde

Anonymous said...

Just found this post through JapanNewbie, and the photos blew me away. Gorgeous, all of them. Thank you for sharing them with us.