Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Travel to Kyoto

Monday the 28th.  Our trip is almost half over.  Travel day to Kyoto.  Because of some hiccups with luggage handling (we didn't want to lug all our stuff to Kyoto, Kinosaki, Onomichi, and Osaka), I had to change our train ride to late morning.  Wouldn't have happened if we stayed at the Four Seasons...  Anyway, I digress...

We take the Shinkansen for the short, 3 hour, comfortable Green Car trip to Kyoto from Tokyo. Here is my Ham and Cheese sandwich with a cold bottle of water, covered with my freebie cloth Rilakkuman cover (to reduce condensation).

Emily with her rice and her Nishime (Renkon, Bamboo, carrot, Kabocha) and small bottle of water.

Connie, taking a picture of her clam over rice.

Sam had a cold tsukemen, with a plain dipping sauce.

Here we are at Saga Arashiyama station in Kyoto.  We arrived at our hotel, the Granvia, but too early to check in so we dropped off all our luggage and went out to visit the Arashiyama area.  This is several kilometers from the City center, in very quiet mountainous surroundings.  It's about a 1/2 hour train ride from Kyoto station. It's hot, so we get some macha shave ice.

We had to stop at a combini (we probably stop at 99% of the ones we see). Sammie gets a Cronut with macha.

The Hozu river. There is a Sagano scenic train that travels along the shore of this river.  There are several trips each day, by reservation only, and I figured that we really didn't have the time to do this on this trip.  It is supposed to be beautiful in Autumn with the colors changing.

The Togetsu-kyo bridge over the river.

We arrive at our destination, the Iwatayama Park, with its monkeys.  These are macaques.  They're quite used to people.  Here's one making acquaintances with Sammie. Notice a little bit of resemblance?

Sometimes they're a bit moody. Stay away from them then.

Sometimes, they're playful.  Sometimes they like to jump into the water.

Sometimes, they just sit and rest.

But they always like to eat.

Here is Em, feeding one some apples.  The humans have to be behind bars to feed them, or else the macaques can get aggressive.

It is a 20 minute walk up to the park.  In hot, humid weather, it is a challenge. But the view, and the fun with our newly found relatives is worth it.  Here you see Kyoto.  If you click on the picture here, you can make out a tiny tower slightly right of center.  That's Kyoto tower, just north of Kyoto Station, and the location of our hotel.

We take our leave, head down the hill, and walk to one of the bamboo groves in Kyoto.  They're supposed to be beautiful in a light wind, but we aren't lucky.  It is hot, and humid, with nary a breeze.

There are bugs around, and the girls get eaten alive by biting insects.  I'm lucky and am spared, except for one bite on my right elbow.  Em gets about twenty bites on her body, with Sammie close behind.

Upon check in, after we return to our hotel, we all say, "Ahhhh."  Unlike the Lohas in Tokyo, this hotel has really nice spacious rooms, with big beds.  We stayed here in 2011 for several nights.  That time we had a north view of Kyoto tower and the two Hongwanji's.  Now we have a south view, with the JR tracks visible.  Here is a Shinkansen coming in from Shin-Osaka.

Later, that evening, we decide to have ramen.  They have a "ramen street" here (we came here in 2011 as well). There are eight ramen-ya which are "branches" of places throughout Japan. We looked at all the pictures and chose this one.

Turns out that (unbeknownst to us) this is Yamagishi's place. He's the originator of tsukemen.

Em isn't into ramen, if you recall, so she gets hot rice with grated yam, an egg and some veggies.

Here is my tsukemen. I find the broth to be a bit lacking, though the noodles are superb.

Here is Connie's ramen.

It turns out that what makes Yamagishi's broth really good is the fish powder that is put on his pork based broth.  Sammie kept telling me to put some on, and I kept resisting, but I finally gave in, and she was absolutely correct.  Without it, the broth was a bit too vinegary and sweet.  However, halfway into my bowl, after I put some of the fish powder in, the broth blossomed.  After returning to research Yamagishi's place, I learned that Sammie was absolutely correct. Everyone says that the fish powder is what does it!  Amazing.

Here is a night view from the top of the massive stairs and escalator at Kyoto Station with the tip of Kyoto tower in the background.

By this time, we need our dessert.  We go to Estacion Cafe, in The Cube, a shopping mall in the station. Kyoto is known for its tea (nearby Uji is the tea capital of Japan).  

Below find Macha Anmitsu, with Kanten, and fruits.

Here is my green tea shave ice with dango, green tea and Azuki.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, our free day in Kyoto.

Meat meat

We needed to get to Rokurinsha this trip, obviously.  I had originally planned to go to the Haneda branch, not once, but twice, first when we arrived from SFO, and also upon departure.  However, the Haneda website is obviously incorrect (either it was there, but is gone, or it will be coming soon).  We had a limited amount of time, so we decided this day was a good day.  The hitch, for me, was that we were going to Satou for lunch, so I couldn't really eat a lot.  Fortunately, the regular Rokurinsha breakfast portion is relatively small.  Sammie was going to go to Satou, but she decided against it.  So, she had the deluxe Rokurinsha breakfast tsukemen.

The small portion had a small piece of kamaboko and a thick piece of chashu.  Sam's came with a larger portion of noodles and an egg with a perfect center.

Em isn't too much of a ramen/tsukemen fan, so she skipped this in favor of our free hotel buffet breakfast.

We (Connie, Sam and I) joined the four others after finishing and then we headed out to Kichijoji for steak. Satou has been blogged to death in the last several years and there are usually more foreigners there than Japanese. We had a little bit of time to burn, so we hung out at the JR Kichijoji station.  The last several years there, we had seen a lot of construction going on, and finally we saw the fruits of that disruption.  There was a brand new mall there, Atre. The food court there was clearly high end. Kichijoji is a very nice area of Tokyo, about 20 minutes by train from Shinjuku, and many well-to-do live here. It was a Sunday AM, so there were perhaps less people around than on a busy commute day, but there was a ton of food ready to be purchased and consumed.

Only Donna, Cal, and I decided to go to Satou.  The rest preferred to have less rich food.  Everyone has a right to be be wrong. There was a line upon our arrival about 15 minutes before opening at 11. Good thing we make the first seating. The poor guys who just missed have to stand at the top of the steep stairway, staring at everyone eating for the better part of an hour. We arrive and are seated at the counter by the manager, Takashi Ryu. We recognize him. I've seen him at each of my visits. 

I showed the pieces of meat we were going to ingest already in my prior post.  Our portion was actually 1 1/2 of those pieces for three orders of their ¥10,000 Matsuzaka Sirloin beef. 

Mmmm. Here is Cal posing with the beef, and Donna laughing in the background.

Our set.  We all order the same meal, with some beer. A refreshing salad and a couple of sauces (like that Satou wannabe place made famous by Rocky). And below that, our meat grilling.  I think that each portion measured out at 180 or 200 g (not certain).

Here is our chef and our meal.  A perfect medium rare.  I prefer, in my older age, a bit more warmth in my meat.  Gone are the days of ingesting cold beef.  Besides, the marbled fat is best when liquified a bit.

Cal loves the ninniku, so I ask for extras at ¥100, but they don't charge us in the end.  

I get more and more full by the second that afternoon.  We travel back to Tokyo Station later and walk over to the new JP Post Kitte building across from the Tokyo. Kayla tells us about it (I'd not heard or read anything about it -- a very large open 7 floor building (B1F to 6F) with upscale trendy shops and restaurants. This is in the site of the old Tokyo Central Post Office.

I, for one, am too full for dinner.  I just want dessert at Mihashi!  Sam and Donna agree and we head there. The rest, Cal, Em, Kayla, and Connie go to Ochazuke En in the basement floor of the Shin Maru building.

Sam has Ozone, with cooked mochi with a crunchy exterior.  Looks good, but I just needed my standard macha ice.

Afterwards, to the bath at our hotel...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sushi Iwa and more...

We arrived and we meet Iwa-san.  For most of our meal, Connie, Sam, Em and I are the only ones at the six seat restaurant.  There is a private room in the rear, which has two patrons (as he is preparing six portions, two of which go to the back).

Iwa is Edomae style sushi.  A little different from the sushi we all get in the US. Aged and marinated.

Umi Somen as a starter. Nemalion vermiculare is the scientific name. Literally like somen. Flavorless by itself, unlike Umi budoh, but with a vinegary shoyu sauce, it is refreshing.  I like its crunchiness.

We start with Tai (snapper).  I was a little bit hazukashii, so I didn't take pics of all the sushi.  I took a bunch of pictures last year... Tai's a standard in Sushi-ya.

Karei (Flounder or Flat fish) is what we started with last year.

Kinmedai (golden snapper).


Chutoro. Marinated for about ten to fifteen minutes in a shoyu based sauce, along with the Maguro and Katsuo to come a little later. Chutoro has more fat and is a little lighter pink than the regular deep red Maguro that we're all used to.

Ishigaki gai. (Giant clam named for one of the Ryuku islands near Miyakojima). It is very soft, not chewy, unlike some of the clam that we had at Zanmai the day before.

Katsuo (bonito) with a dab of ginger.

Ika. Finely slivered.  Not crunchy like squid usually is.

Shiro Ebi. With yuzu and shiso. 


Kiso.  Not sure of spelling and not sure what kind of fish... But here is what it looks like:



To finish off, four rolls: Kyuri. Maguro. Kampyo. Toro. I like how there is very little rice in proportion to the filling.

White Miso clam soup to end.

Thirteen pieces and the Maki.  A great meal...

We even met up with Iwa's apprentice there.  He remembered us from our last trip.  He said our kids had grown!  (he's the one with good English, and lived in San Mateo before)  Numerous blogs show him, and mistakenly call him Iwa.

Later that day, we meet up with Cal, Donna and Kayla, and we, of course, have to decide on dinner...  I used Tabelog (the Japanese Yelp), and even though it is only in Japanese, I can figure it out.  Google translate helps a lot.

I find this place called Doma Doma. In Nihonbashi, about 4 blocks from our hotel.  It's a chain Izakaya.  Decent food, relatively cheap and filling.

A couple of salads, onion rings. Margherita pizza. Negi omelette. Cal and Kayla.  Takitori. Al dente clam pasta. Sizzling eggplant plate.

For dessert, we go to Mihashi, our standard.  We've been there, now, five years in a row.  Usually, several times a trip.  We just happened upon it in July 2010, but it has now been blogged to death.  

Macha ice with Azuki beans on the bottom and soft ice cream on top.  Some like it without the macha.

So, tomorrow, Sunday, we're off to Satou, in Kichijoji, for Matsuzaka beef. Here's a preview: