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Food Tripping in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market.

Food Tripping in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market.

If you’re looking for other must see places in Kyoto that isn’t a temple, a shrine, or a castle, then head downtown and check out the Nishiki Market. A good walking distance from the Karasuma train station, the market is a long straight stretch of food stalls selling traditional street foods and ingredients.

Items here can be bought either raw or ready to eat. There are seated eateries here but I think that the best way to maximize the market experience is to stroll the entire stretch and try bits and pieces of different stuff from the wide array of vendors.

One of my favorites here is the Takoyaki. The lines can be a bit long for these goody balls though, but the wait is definitely rewarding.

If you want something quick and ready to eat, the Yakitoris and other on-stick snacks are instant gratifications.

You can have them reheated first…

Or eat them outright.

They come in different shapes and sizes from meats, seafoods, and vegetables. As long as it’s small enough to be skewered, you can probably find it there.

One of the oddest things I’ve eaten so far are those small octopus with quail eggs. The quail eggs are stuffed inside giving them their voluptuous figure.

Some stalls allow you to sample a few pieces first before you buy. This is one way of knowing what you’re getting into before you decide to dive in.

One of my personal favorite Japanese desserts here is the Matcha. These are green tea powder extracts, usually infused on drinks, pastries, rice cakes, or anything edible that they can make of. I love it when Matcha is infused on ice cream. There’s a stall here that lets you choose the intensity of the infused Matcha to your liking.

If you pick the highest matcha level, you will notice that the ice cream is much darker has a bit of a powdery consistency from all the infused matcha. This is something not for everybody as the matcha taste can become too strong and bitter, which I personally prefer. Note though that matcha comes from green tea, so those with caffeine issues should beware as too much can leave you jittery.

If you just want to buy something you’d want to prepare yourself, there is also plenty of fresh selections and raw ingredients to choose from.

You can also find other souvenir items such as trinkets and refrigerator magnets here.

Nishiki Market offers a fun food tripping experience. It’s the best way to experience the diversity of Kyoto’s street foods & snacks all in one place.

It’s open from 9AM to 5PM. Admission is free.

 

 

A Taste of a Legend. Kobe Beef in Kobe, Japan.

A Taste of a Legend. Kobe Beef in Kobe, Japan.

Steaks are some of the rare foods you just can’t go wrong with. Just season with salt and pepper, grill over open flame, or fry with a little butter. It doesn’t take a five star chef to turn the simple choice cut meat into a gastronomic delight. It’s safe to say that all steaks are delicious, but not all are equal. Beef comes in many choices and most of them I’ve already been acquainted with. But there’s one beef that’s said to sit high up on the echelons of prime steaks that I’ve been wanting to try for so long: the Kobe beef. It’s a meat that’s so praiseworthy as it is controversial. It’s a legend that keeps being told by those who have tasted its glory.

Hearing so much rave about the legendary beef, it’s been on my bucket list for such a long time. It was only until last year during our trip to Japan that I was able to tick it off. Traveling across Japan’s Kansai area, I made a quick side trip to the home of Kobe beef: Kobe. There are plenty of restaurants in Kobe offering their famous delicacy so I searched online for some recommendations. Since it was only a quick side trip, I’ve narrowed my search down to the ones that topped reviews but close to the train stations.

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The searching led me to Ishida. It’s about a five minute walk from the Kobe-Sannomiya station. I was lucky to get accommodated as a walk-in customer as reviews warned that reservations are a must as they get really packed most of the time. So with mouth watering and stomach grumbling, I went in with high expectations.

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Steaks in Ishida are cooked right in front of you. As they present the meat, the beautiful marbling is clearly seen spread evenly across. Once the teppan grill is heated, the meat is then cooked over animal fat. The best doneness to steaks is always around rare to medium, so I had mine rare like I always prefer.

The steaks are cooked in batches and served in cutlets. This means that you get just enough at once, then wait to enjoy the next serving. This also means that you always get your steak fresh from the grill. Nothing gets cold in your plate. You can opt to eat the steak as is, or dip it in their sauce and sprinkle with a little salt. Whichever way you wanna enjoy your steak, you just can’t go wrong with either.

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Initially, I thought that the cutlets were a bit too small, but upon first bite, I discovered that it’s the perfect food to mouth ratio. Every bite lets the meat secrete its juicy goodness. That juice joyfully plays around your tastebuds as it fills up every corner of your mouth while you chew. The meat is so ridiculously tender, it makes chewing such a pleasure.

The flavor? It is simply out of this world! The tiny cutlets are succulent and densely filled with flavor. It’s like an entire slab of steak has been juiced down into every one of these little cutlets. It’s packed with all the beefy goodness we all know and love, but with a slight uniqueness that’s just hard to describe. It is just that good! In fact, it is phenomenal! I tried it with their sauce and a little salt, and the flavor oozed out even more. Adding seasoning actually draws out and highlights more of the natural flavor instead of masking it. The perfect combination. Finished with my first batch, I moved on to enjoy the next succeeding batches. The taste doesn’t seem to get mundane at all.

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I went inside Ishida with expectations set high, and came out having them exceeded. The legend about Kobe beef is true, and now I’m one of the few who get to tell about it. Having Kobe beef in Kobe was definitely the perfect Kobe experience.

Ishida serves complete course meals. Average price is around 2,500 JPY for lunch and 8,000 JPY for dinner. 

 

My Deer Nara. A Side Trip to Nara, Japan.

My Deer Nara. A Side Trip to Nara, Japan.

Nara is one of the prefectures in Japan’s Kansai area. We were able to make a quick side trip here during our Japan visit last August. Coming from touring Kyoto’s historical shrines & temples and Osaka’s cosmopolitan sites, we were in search for something else— something different that the Kansai area had to offer. This lead us to go to Nara to see the famous Nara Deer Park.

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The Nara Deer Park isn’t your typical park. What makes this different from any other parks are the deer that are native to the place.

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Allover the park are plenty of them— herds upon herds of adorable furry creatures. They roam freely around the park and are actually protected by law as national treasures.

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From the Nara train station, going to the park is just about a five minute bus ride. There are special roundtrip bus tickets for tourists visiting the park that can be purchased from the station.

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As the bus nears the park, you can already start spotting deer scattered in the streets. You’d be mystified at first, but after a while, they pretty much become a common sight.

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The deer are used to mingling with people and you can even touch them. It’s ok to pet the deer, but it’s best to not be over confident with them as there are some rare occasions when they try to nab from your stuff thinking it has food.

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Or if you’re eating, make sure to keep your food away from their reach as you would not want to tempt them. Check the warning signs posted allover.

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But generally, these guys are a really friendly bunch and so fun to be around.

Another attraction to see in the park is the Todai-ji Temple. There are other temples in Nara, but for just a quick side trip, we were only able to visit the Todai-ji.

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The Todai-ji Temple houses the great giant Buddha. We weren’t able to get inside the temple itself since we got there a bit just in time for closing, but we were able to enjoy the entrance and temple grounds.

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What’s amazing about this temple is that everything here is really huge. The pillars that make up the entrance gates are massive columns of logs.

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The entrance gates have two giant statues of Kongō Rikishi (Nio protectors of Japan according to ancient Buddhist beliefs). They’re also made of wood, painted for color.

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It’s really amazing looking up the scale of these two giant statues. What’s incredible is that the entire temple complex and everything in here have been constructed during Japan’s ancient times, thousands of years before machines have been employed in building construction.

Another thing to see around the temple is a boat by the lake.

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Not sure though if the boat is actually functional or just for display, but it does look majestic.

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And of course…

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More deer.

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The side trip to Nara was definitely a worthy quick-stop destination. The deer were a uniquely fun experience, and the Todai-ji Temple was something that had its own “massive” charm, different from any other temples we’ve seen in Japan so far.