Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Four days in Kyoto

Visiting temples, shrines and old homes. Typical features are the water basins to wash your hands and mouths before prayer, bells to ring in front of temples and shrines, and taking your shoes off every time you enter (a temple or a home).

This is my fourth time in Kyoto, but the first for the kids, we visited a dozen temples and shrines, the Nishiki market (twice!), old homes and neighborhoods, the famous Gion (and saw a couple of Maiko) and Kiyomizu-dera areas, and still, there are hundreds more places we could have gone to. Kyoto is so rich of history!

Small pleasures: Jizo statues, protectors of travelers, children and mothers. These three are lucky if you touch them  with the right hand or both hands (of course both my kids are left-handed...); drinking macha green tea; wagashi, Japanese cakes, these rabbits are filled with anko, sweet azuki bean paste.

This is a very quick reportage of our 4 days in Kyoto, but you can also find an old post here (the last time I visited was spring and cherry blossom time, much warmer!!) and some of Arantxa's photos here.

Ryoan-ji, a must see temple in Kyoto, especially if you are interested in Buddhism. The 15th century rock garden aids meditation, and the water from the rock basing purifies your soul, the symbols roughly translates as 'All you need you already have".

No photos were allowed, otherwise I would have included one of our favourite sites: Sanjusangen-do, the temple with a long hall housing 1001 golden statues of the beautiful female bodhisattha Kannon.
On the Tourist map, but ever so great: To-ji Temple, especially for its five-storey pagoda built 1200 years ago; Kinkaku-ji Temple, the most famous attraction for foreigners for its golden pavilion (kin means gold); my favourite: Ginkaku-ji Temple (gin means silver, although do not expect to see silver on the pavilion in the same way you saw gold in Kinkakuji!) with its beautiful gardens and atmosphere).

Eating and shopping in the city is also great. Kyoto cuisine is very refined and the ingredients, especially the pickles and the tofu, are amazing (but more in this article). Kyoto Japanese cakes and sweets are so beautiful, and you must try the green tea (especially if you can experience a proper tea ceremony). Shopping in Nishiki market is fun (we also had a good meal there at Kanematsu - number 108 on the Nishiki map), and so it is in the various shops around temples and shrines (for books, good luck charms and souvenirs). The department stores are unbeatable for cakes, and free tastings, we visited the food court of all the three "biggies": Takashimaya, Isetan and Daimaru (my favourite, if you only have time for only one choose this one!), plus a number of small cake shops, which can be found everywhere in the city. 

And yes, we will be visiting again, maybe in Autumn next time? It was really cold, so for a laugh I am adding a photo in the bus with our friend Shin, I am all covered up and with a mask (a must in Japan if you are coughing and sneezing).
And to make you laugh even more, when I was sitting by the Kamo river a small falcon circled over my head and then dived for my hat! It turned back as soon as it realized that it was not an animal (and fake fur too!) but it was quite a funny experience, and I didn't realize that there were so many falcons (and other birds) in the city centre! Must be all those temples and gardens :-).

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Friday, January 25, 2013

Nagoya: a castle, some handsome Samurai, and the best Japanese room yet

What a handsome "Samurai"! 

Nagoya Castle

More "Samurai"

Nagoya Castle
The Japanese Suite at the Hilton
Around the city: the theatre area, the science museum, and cake break

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fuji from the Shinkansen

Impossible to show everything we are seeing in Japan, but a picture of Mount Fuji is a must!
Photo by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tokyo Disney Sea

Going to Disneyland is something special for children, but in Japan young adults enjoy it too: girls dressed with Disney merchandise, couples on a romantic date, high school and university students... Still, I never went there when I was young and living in Tokyo, and then I went a few years ago with my children (one in Tokyo and once in Hong Kong) and I loved it (I didn't think I was going to like it, but I really did!). This time we went to Tokyo Disney Sea (Tokyo Disney is divided into Disney Sea and Disneyland), it was cold and not so crowded, but definitely fun!

I did all the scary rides (and screamed a lot), ate in a fake Venice restaurant, did not buy expensive merchandise (the tickets and food are expensive enough) but enjoyed looking at the shops, and most of all I realized that the kids are growing up and are becoming very selective about the rides they like to do (i.e. the scarier the better!)
One of the best things (after the tower of terror, that was soooo scary!!!!) was the show on water, with floats, dancers and performer, and of course Mikey and friends! I am not one for amusement parks, but I do like Disney!!

Have you been? Did you like it?

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lunch at Yagenbori in Tokyo, with delicious Yudofu, rice and pickles

Bence and Judit took us to Yagenbori, a traditional Japanese restaurant that specializes in high class Kyoto cuisine. The pickles come from Kyoto and the rice is just perfect, and we had the perfect dish for winter: yudofu, fresh tofu simmered in a light kombu broth. The tofu is then dipped in another broth, this is usually made with fish flakes, but for vegetarians just ask for some soy sauce and then use some of the stock from the simmering tofu to thin it down. 
The restaurant entrance 

Kyoto pickles and yudofu

All gone!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fruit, cheese or dessert? Ricotta with blueberries and honey for Sweet New Zealand

This is a no-cook dessert that can be made in two minutes, and with three ingredients. Also, it can be served as fruit, or cheese! Place a spoon of creamy ricotta in a glass or verrine, add some blueberries and a little bit of honey. Repeat with a second layer. Refrigerate until serving time.

This dessert is for Sweet New Zealand, this month of January hosted by Arfi. To enter please click here.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Asakusa and Shibuya

The view from Asakusa, tall and strange buildings: Tokyo Skytree and the Asahi Building with the Philippe Starck's The Asahi Flame (Flamme d'Or) (when I was living in Tokyo we used to call it the golden sperm, but I am sure that a number of names are used for it!

Sweets filled with azuki bean paste, just bought piping hot from one of the many stall in the Asakusa Sensō-ji Temple.  Below, three more images from Asakusa Temple.

Shibuya, so many memories here, nice to be just looking at the famous scrambled Shibuya crossing without having to rush somewhere!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini and Arantxa Zecchini Dowling ©


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