Again, as we are behind, we are writing this up a day later, this time at breakfast <Editors Note – In San managed to pull it back by doing it efficiently this morning>.
We were excited by our breakfast we had picked up the night before. There were a selection of breads, the most delicious was probably the yuzu stick, although I suspect James enjoyed the salt and butter bread <EN – I enjoyed both, I think the yuzu bread was more exciting>. We both agreed the matcha melon type bread was nice although as it couldn’t be heated up, it wasn’t as exciting as the others at this time.
We then set off for the day and immediately got distracted by other another bakery. James insisted on one with bacon so I got a chocolate shortbread, both were pretty good. We decided that we needed to stop getting distracted by food <EN – The bacon bread was amazing!>.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best of days and the forecast stated it would be on/off rain for most of the morning. Because of this we had to carry an umbrella around with us. We couldn’t actually take the one we purchased as the other people staying with us had taken our awesome big one so we took one that belonged to someone else, we hoped the owners wouldn’t mind as they had already left for the day.
Our first order of business was to seek out tea. James had done some research and there were two shops he wanted to visit. The first was a bit more old school and so we headed there and were pleasantly surprised to find out it was the one we had previously visited and purchased a cherry bark tea caddy from. This was, with more knowledge, we thought we’d be brave and seek advice from the shop owner.
The owner was obviously very knowledgeable about tea and he had a price guide in English, this also explained the cost for tasting the tea for any potential purchases. As James particularly wanted sencha, it made sense for him to try this out and we tried the Shuppincha and Tokiwagi. He opted for Japanese style brewing so it was about 5g of tea and just enough water (at 80 – 85 degrees celsius) to cover it. We also opted for blind tasting and it was amusing to watch James try and describe the teas to the tea connoisseur. An hour later, we left the shop with 100g of each which meant there was no charge for the tasting. We also got some tea caddies to take them back in.
It was only 50 metres later when we realised that in our excitement we had forgotten the hojicha so we went back for 200g of that, stem only for more sweetness <EN – It looked and smelled good and was very affordable at JPY 850>.
Tea’d up, it was actually time for lunch and it was going to be a snack lunch day at Nishiki market. The skewers were generally tasty but they were not filling.
When James noticed a pickles cafe, I figured it would be a good place to stop as it would have rice which is filling and cheap and have a bathroom we could use. We ordered our food and were surprised when it came and seemed a little small for 2 people. Turns out they forgot our extra portion of rice and miso soup so we had to ask for this. We didn’t want to complain in a foreign language but luckily they understood as soon as we showed them the receipt.
After wandering the food streets, we wandered the outdoors for a bit sticking to undercover where we could due to the gray skies.
By mid afternoon, it had started to clear up and the sun was poking through the clouds <EN – We started to worry that leaving the hats and sun-cream at home may have been a mistake>.
We made the decision to visit nijo castle, we had actually been here 5 years earlier but figured it was so long ago that it was worth another visit, especially as I couldn’t remember much about it.
This time the castle had some extra art work dotted around, some of it was cool but others were just a bit odd (the bronze coated turd with a footprint figures). We spent ages wandering around the nice outdoors garden and then heard a message saying the castle would be closing at 4pm, it was 3.37pm at this point so we quickly made our way over. Luckily, the announcement was for a last entry at 4pm rather than closure at this time so we could see everything inside without rushing.
After seeing the rest of the outside of the castle, we had an hour before dinner so we wanted to find a cafe. The previous day there was an abundance of cafes but for some reason they all alluded us.
Instead, we saw a trendy sake shop and went in as James had already decided earlier in the trip that he wanted to bring a bottle back. We had previously visited some shops but with no one clearing speaking English, we were always a bit hesitant walking around. This guy looked young and seemed relaxed and when we noticed there were open bottles in a fridge, we thought we’d let him know we had tried Dassai 50 which was tasty (and very expensive according to him), he then made some suggestions. We got to try one which was made by a brewery in Singapore but wanted something local so it was a choice between a Kyoto one which was stronger in alcohol and a Kobe one which was fruitier. The fruitier one won out and we purchased the bottle and got it in a box. It wasn’t as intense as the tea experience but we felt with our limited knowledge of sake, it was better to go for a place which was not as hardcore.
Wandering towards dinner, we saw Before9, a trendy craft beer and sake bar, we decided to go in. It had lot’s of craft beer on tap and some we even recognised, we opted for sake seeing as we were in Japan. What was nice was that after we sat down, we were given some pickled carrots with our sake.
It was then off for dinner, we had planned to go to Kappa sushi as this was recommended by our hosts however the location google maps had took us to an expensive looking sushi restaurant rather than a 100 yen a plate place. I really wanted a sushi train experience so James looked up an alternative for the area and we headed there. This was more like JPY 146 a plate which is what happens when you don’t listen to a local. We didn’t mind as it was still great value for money. They were a bit heavy handed with the wasabi so we had to extract some but there was infinite green tea on demand so I was happy.
We ate a lot of sushi. More than we usually would back in London. My favourite was the red shrimp as it’s so big and sweet. By the end, we had 16 plates, 2 of which were the premium ones (JPY 346 each). The bill only came to JPY 2,950 so cheap as chips for us. We were confused by the girls next to us to came in, picked out all the non fish options (including candied sweet potato, ham and cream sushi) and then left in less than 10 minutes <EN – there was also another westerner who seemed confused, he couldn’t find the chopsticks, choose another cream cheese california roll and managed to pour hot water over his hand rather than in the cup>.
After this, we were going to go back to the accommodation to get an early night and got distracted by an arcade. They are much more fun and normal in Japan and we made sure to stay away from the UFO machines. Well we did but then James saw one with a melon bread prize and so he had one play <EN – It was an experiment to see how the hook nets worked, there was no chance of success>. After this, we headed upstairs to the actual arcade. Time crisis 5 would be waiting for us and this had 2 pedals (left and right) rather than just one, we limited ourselves to 2 plays each but turns out this wasn’t very much. The double pedal system and extra missions was quite confusing for us, we were sure instructions would have been given in Japanese but as we didn’t understand we lost our lives quite quickly.
It was then time for a stroll back along the river, there were fancy restaurants with fancy people inside and there were lot’s of couples on the riverside with picnics. We felt it was pretty although it may also be a source of our mosquito bites so we will avoid walking the scenic route back in the future.