Japan – Day 21 – Bit of a pickle in the bamboo forest

Sad though it makes me to admit it we are finally getting tired of bread and eggs. However it is cost efficient and filling. Then we headed up to our first stop of the day Higashiyama Jisho-ji Temple. It was an interesting and intensely structured place, unfortunately it was filled with hundreds of energetic Japanese school children which rather took away from the tranquil and harmonious nature of the place <editor’s note – there were absolutely tonnes of school children, we somehow managed to get the shots below without them in which was a miracle>.

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Higashiyama Jisho-ji was small but interesting as the birthplace of the Zen aesthetic in Japan.

The route up to the temple was filled with some snacks, mostly ice cream. We remember more snacks and variety, we suspect in summer they all switch to ice cream as it is easy and popular when it is hot.

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Matcha ice cream and matcha mochi … of course.

Once we were refreshed we headed for the main reason we had walked all this way, the Philosopher’s walk.  We have been a couple of times but it is still pleasant to walk along with interesting shops and previously lots of snacks including delicious dango with matcha sauce. Sadly this time there were no snacks, only more ice cream. Other snacks must be a more of a winter thing. There were however many more cats which seemed friendly but dis-interested unless you had food for them.

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We returned to our favorites spots today including the Philosopher’s walk.

After we had worked up an appetite and achieved the correct frame of mind we headed to Izuju, a tasty alternative sushi place for some Edomae sushi. This was the sushi popular in Kyoto in the past when they did not have access to fresh fish so they made sushi using pickled fish that lasted. Today a few restaurants continue this tradition and it makes an interesting alternative to the usual fare. Interestingly in summer they had a couple of special options (conger eel which we had seen everywhere and also horse mackerel) which we decided to go for along with the classic saba-zushi (chub mackerel wrapped and pickled in seaweed). One thing we really like about food in Japan is that they really like to use seasonal ingredients, if it is fresh and in season they have it everywhere but if not they move onto what is in season then. It keeps things fresh, delicious and interesting. We also had a Kyoto style soup which was a light and fresh clear fish soup. The sushi is very delicately pickled and is sharp and slightly sweet, complementing and cutting through the slightly salty oily fish. It is very different and delicious <editor’s note – James neglected to mention a nice older Japanese lady started a conversation up with him whilst I was in the bathroom, apparently his starting conversation is strong but then with his extremely limited vocabulary, the lady has to speak in English to ask about our trip in Japan>.

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Of course we had to return to Izuju for some Edo era style sushi. Pickle-tastic.

On our way out we picked up more snacks … we have a problem <editor’s note – James has a massive problem, I kept on trying to resist but James is a bad influence, the roll cake was justified because usually you can only buy the whole ring and he really wanted the dango as it was done over a barbeque>.

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We had never actually tried good ring cake as it was only ever available as a whole, but we found it available as a slice. It was delicious. Plus a dango, we couldn’t resist.

Today we were heading to all our favorite places in Kyoto so of course we had to go to Arashiyama (In San vetoed another trip to the monkey park sadly). As always it is such a calm, lazy and enjoyable place to visit. This time in bright sunshine, it was nice to be able to walk around in t-shirts and the sun made everything more magical. We did miss the variety of snacks as everybody had switched to ice cream. Seeing the bamboo forest in the day was nice and they had opened up different paths through for autumn.

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Continuing our theme we returned to the lovely Arashiyama for snacks and a relaxed and tranquil setting.
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We found some unique chocolate dango and mochi so we had to try it <editor’s note – James had to try it, I knew I wanted a skewer which had green tea paste inside and we both agreed my skewer was tastier>.
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We relived our first visit with some tasty rice cakes of various sorts and continued our trend of tasting soy in all its forms with a soy doughnut. It was surprisingly good <editor’s note – when we ordered the last chewy rice skewer, they put a sold out sign up and told James he was very lucky, good thing we did turn around to go back for it otherwise James would have been very sad>.
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No more snacks we promised. But they had Taiyaki (japanese fish based pancakes) with green tea (and mochi as it turned out) inside so we could not resist <editor’s note – I said I would resist but when James insisted he wanted the fish, I felt it was fair to get myself a dango, by stating I wanted it without any sauce the price dropped from JPY 180 to  JPY 100>.
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Walking through the bamboo forest is always impressive. This time in daylight.

<editor’s note – what particularly amused us was when a guy had a dog with sunglasses and a hat, it appears that 2 attractive ladies asked him if they could have their photo taken with the dog and he obliged, he even gave the dog commands so that it could pose, it was very impressive>

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It is beautiful with lots of new things we discover each time we visit. Sadly we had no time to go to the monkey park this time.

Weirdly most of the restaurants there (that we could afford) closed really early so we headed back for Kyoto’s signature noodle dish, soba. We went to Honke Owariya, a very traditional place. I decided to try hot soba noodles for a change rather than the usual cold noodles with cold dipping sauce <editor’s note – James decided under the pressure and immediately began thinking he may have made the wrong choice>. I think I prefer the cold noodles more but I enjoyed the tasty light and refreshing soup. The tempura was tasty too. In San doesn’t believe in cold noodles so she went for a fish cake and vegetable mix which seemed tasty too. Personally I would recommend going for the cold noodle tempura set (which is what most people in the restaurant were going for).

What was tricky was that it was closing at 7pm and we only arrived at 6:10. We assured them that we would order and eat quickly. Most of the customers seemed in be in a similar situation, it seemed a weirdly early time to close. Everybody ate fast and finished in time because it was all so tasty.

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For supper we went to Honke Owariya the oldest soba restaurant in Kyoto (it is 552 years old). It is so popular even the Emperor (in various eras) has visited. It was surprisingly affordable.

On the way back we decided to mix it up (also walking past the four seasons hotel every night was making us feel poor) so we walked a different route back, it was interesting as we got to see a couple of new sights.

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In San saw a hot royal milk tea and she could not resist.

As we start to reach the end of our trip we are packing in the snacks, sights and meals but it is also nice to go back and do some of our favorite activities.

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Brown bananas becomes banana bread

IMG_20170611_164404For once it was a sunny weekend in London and after spending the previous day having pimms and duck confit at a friend’s fancy flat in Fulham Broadway, we decided to have a lazy Sunday at home. Also, James was on-call so it’s not like we could have done anything out and about.

We did go to Tesco’s to do our weekly shop, we got round the supermarket to the till point in 9 minutes due to a combination of meal planning at home and adding ingredients to keep notes in the order in which we would go round the supermarket. This was essential as James needs to respond to any alarn within 15 minutes.

We had some very ripe bananas from when I went home the previous week and my mum insisted I take them back so we decided to make banana bread. Well we decided and I made it.

Ingredients (makes 8 thick slices)

  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt
  • 115g butter (room temperature)
  • 115g dark brown soft sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 500g mashed over-ripe bananas (about 4 medium bananas)
  • 100g chocolate chips
  • optional spicing: cinnamon, nutmeg

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas mark 4.
  2. Line a 23x13cm loaf tin with baking parchment.
  3. Mash the bananas.
  4. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar.
  5. Then stir in eggs and mashed bananas to until well blended.
  6. In a large bowl, combine flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  7. Stir banana mixture and chocolate chips into flour mixture (add optional spicing); stir just to moisten. Pour mixture into prepared loaf tin.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, until a nice crust forms and knife inserted into centre of the loaf comes out clean.
  9. Leave to cool in tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire cooling rack.
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