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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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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Jun Coffee

Day 2 in Kyoto started with breakfast in some coffee shop inside Kyoto Station called “Jun.” It was a tiny little shop and one of the only ones open so early in the morning. The service there was utter crap. I’m sorry they don’t have a Yelp page so I can properly rant at the incompetence of its staff and how slow and excruciating the service was. I suppose this blog will have to do.

At least the food was okay. The salad dressing was especially yummy. That being said, why is it that a western style breakfast set is always the same wherever you go in Japan? Buttered Texas toast. Egg (usually boiled, sometimes sunny side up). Side of salad. Coffee. Not much imagination at work. Good thing I usually skip breakfast…

Pictured above is their toast with egg and bacon set. It came with a small cup of coffee.

And some places have the Japanese style breakfast sets. Fish, rice and miso soup usually make an entrance… Healthier than bacon and eggs, at least! :)

27 Apr 2013, 11:24am
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Kyosendo

The first day in Kyoto was a busy one with tons of walking. After we stashed our stuff at the hotel and had a bite (or several) of tempura for lunch, we hopped on a bus to Yonjo street. I had a bit of an incident on the bus… I dunno about most buses in Japan, but in Kyoto, you have to pay upon exiting. The fare is 220 yen, and you pay exact change. If you don’t have exact change, you can convert your money at a machine on the bus. Now, the conversion machine is the same machine as the one where you pay. I inadvertently threw a 100 yen piece into the conversion machine, and it immediately spit out a bunch of 10 yen coins, much to the dismay of the driver lady. Hahaha…. But hey, it was confusing! The slot was right there, next to the payment bit! But now I know, I guess…

We got off the stop and walked across a river, past the kabuki-za theater and onward towards the sites. We hit Yasaka Shrine before ambling toward Koudai Temple. (By the way, it’s either Koudai Temple or Koudaiji. It’s a bit redundant to call it Koudaiji Temple). Everything was beautiful. There were a ton people there, including quite a few school groups… Maybe it’s that season of the year. We attempted to see Kiyomizu Temple but it was already evening and closing up for the day. Instead, we stopped in at a dessert shop called Kyosendo for a much needed respite. My feet were killing me at this point.

Kyosendo had a shop in the front to buy dessert gift packages and a cafe in the back for dining in. The colorful menu had all kinds of Japanese desserts listed, mostly in “sets.” A set basically meant it came with a drink. You could also order something “tanpin” or “individually” if you wanted an item by itself. There was some confusion when my brother ordered one set and one other thing individually, because the second thing wasn’t “individual” at all. It took a moment to realize that even the solo items come with a complimentary tea.

Pictured above is the sakura-mochi set, which came with a bowl of matcha – very thick green tea. It was just near the end of cherry blossom season, so a lot of places still had their sakura specials on the menu. :)

All of these pictures were taken on my brother’s Fuji X100, which means he probably took most of them.. I might’ve taken a few as well, but I don’t remember exactly which.

The rest:

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Tea House Lipton

After crashing in Tokyo for one night, I was off to Kyoto the next morning on the Shinkansen (bullet train). The Green Car was very nice, indeed. It was roomy and comfortable, and I was feeling very relaxed after a long journey. The train I was on had no Wifi or power outlets, however. I’m not entirely sure I’d splurge on Green Car next time.

Kyoto Station is a behemoth, and it took me several days to get oriented on where things were. There’s the Isetan department store (11 floors of shopping), cafes, restaurants, book shops, food stores, souvenir shops…you could spend a whole day inside the station alone. There’s also the Porta underground mall adjacent to the station. We only ventured in briefly one morning, but almost everything was still closed. The Tea House Lipton was open, however, and my brother bought a few pretty looking pastries for the road.

…by the way, not all restaurants do takeaway in Japan. Most cafes do, I think, but it’s always safe to ask ahead.

Pictured above is the strawberry “candle” cake made with custard cream. We had this with a cup of Cafe du Monde coffee in Kyoto Station.

Also:

A cream puff! I think cream puffs need to catch on and be the next cupcake donut of the local fads. I propose a Beard Papa cream puffs branch for DC, pronto!

Photos in this post taken by my brother

 
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