Yugawara Sekitei

We headed out of Kyoto to Yugawara, which is a smallish spa town in Kanagawa between Kyoto and Tokyo. A hot springs stay is a bit of an indulgence but well worth it after so many days of slogging around. Traveling can be such exhausting business! I was looking forward to a long soak and just sitting around doing nothing for a while. I think the problem with traveling is that you always feel like you have to be doing something. It’s too much pressure!

For our hot springs inn, my dad picked Sekitei, which has a few branches in various spa towns. This one was their Yugawara inn. My brother kept whining about how the inn we stayed at in Hakone a few years back was far superior, but whatever. I think every time he goes back to Japan, he just wants to revisit all the same places he loved over and over.

I will say that the food was less to my palate this time, but I’m not sure if it was just the selection of the ingredients or the culinary skill. Everything was gorgeous, at least. The package included a one night stay in their Japanese style tatami suite, 24-hour access to their hot springs (indoor and outdoor), one kaiseki style dinner and breakfast. Pictured above is the first course from the dinner. You’ll have to forgive my lack of commentary on the food, since I don’t remember a lot of the specifics! (^__^);;

The rest:
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Bullet Train Bento

Aah, the train bento. I don’t think I’d ever done it before, on my other trips to Japan. This time, I intended to get a proper bento, especially since I’d be traveling in the Green Car of the Shinkansen. I found some really great bento packages in a Kyoto Station grocery shop, so we bought a whole bunch of stuff and set off for our next destination: Atami.

Pictured above is lemon tea, which I actually get at the Japanese grocery store in Maryland if I’m lucky. It’s so sweet but oh so good.

Corn salad, apple juice (sort of), and chawan-mushi (a savory egg custard). Yum!

The rest:

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Arashiyama

Arashiyama is a sleepy little town on the outskirts of Kyoto, just a short train ride away. It’s quite lovely there. There’s a river, a bridge, a mountain, and a ‘monkey park.’ They had a bunch of cute shops en route to the park, so we stopped by for some sakura flavored soft ice cream. Yum! I loved it, but it might be a little surprising if you’re not used to salty flavored ice cream. There was definitely a hint of salt brined sakura leaf in the flavor.

I also got some sakura mochi, rice cake flavored with cherry blossom and wrapped in cherry blossom leaf.

And some pics from the monkey park:

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Mister Donut

While staying in Kyoto, we did a quickie side trip to neighboring Nara. There was a lot of walking involved. And temples. Not a lot of eating, however.

But we did end up at a Mister Donut, which are pretty ubiquitous in Japan. This was my first foray into this establishment. I think there was a doughnut craze here a few years back, with crazy two hour lines when they opened Krispy Kremes in Tokyo. I’m not sure if they’re particularly superior to the home-grown Misdo chain, but I guess a trend is a trend …

The seasonal flavor of ‘sakura’ was all over the place, including the doughnut shop.

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Cake & Akkun

So back to my Japan trip … where were we?

My brother really loves Kyoto. The last time he went, he strolled around his hotel one morning until he found a cute hole-in-the-wall type cafe for breakfast. Wishing to revisit that quaint little restaurant, he decided to go look for it again when we went to Kyoto with him last year. Of course, he had no idea what the address was, or the name of the place. We ended up walking aimlessly for many many blocks until we finally stumbled into a smallish cafe called “Cake & Akkun,” hungry and exhausted. It wasn’t quite the place he was looking for, but it was close enough, and I frankly didn’t care.

Thick pieces of toast and a side of egg seems to be a common breakfast ‘set’ all over Japan, and this place was no different. The “morning service” set consisted of butter toast, egg (boiled only: you cannot choose), and ‘etc.’ The etc. turned out to be coffee jello (mmm!) and potato salad. The set also came with your choice of drink:

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