Sugared & Spiced

paris, pâtissier in training

Archive for the ‘Kyoto travel blog’ tag

[KYOTO] Tsujirihei Matcha Castella 辻利兵衛本店 抹茶かすてら

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Tsujirihei Honten 辻利兵衛本店

Add: 611-0021 京都府宇治市宇治若森41
Tel: 0774-23-1111
Hours: 9am~5pm (closed on weekends)
Website: www.tsujirihei.co.jp
Tasted on: 2012-04

Here’s something to brighten up this rainy day: a beautiful and delicious packet of matcha castella from Kyoto’s famous green tea shop, Tsujirihei 辻利兵衛本店. I’ve previously blogged about castella from Nagasaki’s Fukusaya, and I’m happy to present to you the green tea variation on this simple Japanese sponge cake. If you have read my Kyoto travel posts, you might remember Uji, a tranquil little town that’s especially famous for its green tea. Tsujirihei is one of the most historical and well-respected green tea specialty shops in Uji (along with Nakamura Tokichi 中村藤吉 which I also adore), and its green tea desserts are naturally meticulously created.

The Japanese are true masters at packaging design, and the encasing of Tsujirihei’s matcha castella is no exception. Each layer is designed for a specific purpose, and all together they keep the cake fresh until it’s ready to be eaten. If you want to see what each layer is meant for, click here to see my previous post on Fukusaya castella.

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April 9th, 2012 at 7:18 pm

[KYOTO] Itinerary

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Kyoto.
Beautiful, tranquil, mesmerizing with its historical flair and traditional sensibilities.
One of my favorite places to visit in the world!


Itinerary

Day 1: Late afternoon arrival –> Hotel check-in –> Kyoto Station

Day 2: Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺 –> Ninnen-saka 二年坂/Sannen-saka 三年坂 –> Lunch at Okutan 奧丹 –> Yasaka Jinja 八坂神社–> Gion 祗園 –> Afternoon tea at Saryo Tsujiri 茶寮都路里 –> Hanamikoji 花見小路 –> Kenninji 建仁寺 –> Dinner at Kiyamachi-dori 木屋町通

Day 3: Kinkakuji 金閣寺–> Jumbo Okonomiyaki –> Ryoanji 龍安寺 –> Arashiyama 嵐山 –> Tenryuji 天龍寺 –> Afternoon tea at Arinco –> Togetsu-kyo 渡月橋 –> Dinner at Hirokawa 廣川

Day 4: Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稻荷大社 –> Uji 宇治 –> Lunch at Nakamura Tokichi 中村藤吉 –> Byodoin 平等院 –> Ujikami Jinja 宇治上神社 –> Afternoon tea at Nakamura Tokichi 中村藤吉 –> Back to Kyoto

Day 5: Departure

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November 28th, 2010 at 6:33 pm

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[KYOTO] Uji 宇治

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When I was planning the Kyoto trip, I wasn’t sure if Uji should be on the itinerary. Sure, it has the famed Byodoin and the Uji tea, but it’s a good 30-minute train ride away from Kyoto. With so many amazing sites within the city that I already can’t fit into my itinerary, do I really need to travel to the outskirts? Yes, absolutely. Now that I have been to Uji, I would without any hesitation recommend it to anyone who has more than 3 days in Kyoto. Here’s why:

1. Byodoin 平等院

The cultural significance of Byodoin is indisputable. It is displayed on the backside of the 10 yen coin, and its signature phoenix image is printed on the 10,000 yen note. Built in 1053, the only remaining original (as well as the most famous) structure is the Phoenix Hall, which was designed according to descriptions of the Western Paradise. People would gaze at the Phoenix Hall and its reflection on the pond all the day, but the best time is during the late afternoon when the sunlight hits the golden buddha. Almost paradise!

Phoenix Hall

Byodoin

Byodoin entrance

Modern structure inside Byodoin

A random corner

Address: 116 Uji Renge Uji, Kyoto Prefecture 611-0021
Tel: 0774-21-2861
Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm (4:00pm in winter)
Price: ¥600; additional ¥500 for admission to Phoenix Hall

2. Ujigami Jinja 宇治上神社

Ujigami-jinja, a UNESCO World Heritage Site,  was originally built as a guardian shrine for Byodoin. The inner shrine, which dates back to the 14th century, is believed to be the oldest shrine building in Japan and is now protected as a National Treasure.

Ujigami jinja entrance

Ujigami jinja

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November 28th, 2010 at 4:54 pm

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[KYOTO] Arashiyama 嵐山

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After visiting Kinkakuji and Ryoanji, we boarded the Keifuku trains for Arashiyama, a touristy but very pleasant district in the Western outskirts of Kyoto. The area has numerous temples, shops, cafes, and restaurants, all centering around the Togetsukyo Bridge and Keifuku Arashiyama Station. Come here for a relaxing afternoon away from the city!

Arashiyama street scene

Right outside the Keifuku train station is a roll cake (i.e. Swiss roll) specialty shop called Arinco. We tried a thick slice of their delicious matcha roll cake, which can also be purchased by the roll (¥950/roll) or as a “roll sand”, which is a roll cake sandwich. See their website here.

Arinco roll cake specialty store

Matcha roll cake

After the sweet fix, we headed for Tenryu-ji, which is ranked number one among the “Top Five Zen Temples in Kyoto”. For more pictures of the majestically beautiful Tenryu-ji, see this post.

Tenryu-ji

Tenryu-ji

As we wandered along the streets of Arashiyama, we came by this little store that sells traditional Japanese snacks. Seeing that even the kimono-clad girls were lining up for it, we decided to give it a try.

General rule of thumb: when there’s a line, join it.

Street snacks

I don’t exactly know how to translate 古都芋, but it’s something like roasted yam wrapped inside a thin and crispy coating. Let’s just call them yam cakes. We also tried a roll of みたらし団子, basically glutinous rice balls drizzled with a sweet and salty sauce. Both were delicious and something very fitting to eat when in a historical city like Kyoto.

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November 28th, 2010 at 3:11 pm

[KYOTO] Tenryu-ji 天龍寺

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Tenryu-ji 天龍寺

Address: 68 Saga Tenryuji Susukinobaba-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Tel: 075-616-8385
Hours: [Apr-Oct] 8:30am-5:30pm [Nov-Mar] 8:30am-5:00pm
Price: ¥500
Website: http://tenryuji.org/

If you travel to Arashiyama (嵐山), Tenryu-ji would undoubtedly be on your list of places to visit. It’s ranked first among the “Top Five Zen Temples” in Kyoto and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I honestly don’t remember too much about the design and history of this particular temple complex (it is, after all, our 3rd temple for the day), other than the fact that it is majestically beautiful. Let’s just proceed with the pictures and let those speak for themselves.

Tenryu-ji entrance

Dry garden with racked white gravel

Pond

Main hall

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November 27th, 2010 at 1:18 pm

[KYOTO] Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稻荷大社

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Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稻荷大社

Address: Fushimi-ku, Kyoto
Tel: 075-641-7331
Price: Free
Website: http://inari.jp

On our third day in Kyoto, we visited the spectacular Fushimi Inari Taisha, a site with thousands of torii shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. The trail from the main shrine, located at the bottom of the hill, to the inner shrine, located at the middle of the mountain, is about a two-hour round trip. Happy hiking!

Getting attention from the gods so they can hear my wish :)

 

At the bottom of the hill is the main shrine. According to my Japanese friends, this is what you do: at the offering hall, throw a coin into the offering box, bow deeply twice, clap your hands twice, bow deeply once more and make your prayers. If there is a gong or a bell, ring it (this is my favorite!) before praying in order to get the gods’ attention.

Wishes on fox-shaped wooden plates

There are other fun stuff to do at the shrine. There’s the ema, wooden plates on which you can write your wishes and then leave at the shrine for the wishes to come true. There’s the omikuji, fortune telling paper slips that are randomly drawn and contain predictions ranging from daikichi (very good luck) to daikyo (very bad luck). Tie the pieces of paper to a fixture at the shrine, so good fortune will come true and bad fortune can be averted.

Strips of “luck”

The most distinguishing feature if Fushimi Inari Taisha is of course the thousands of torii. You’ll also see fox statues here and there, as foxes were thought to be the messengers of Inari.

Thousands of torii gates

Two roads diverge in the Kyoto woods

(They actually lead to the same place…)

 

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November 27th, 2010 at 12:25 pm

[KYOTO] Gion 祗園

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On our 2nd day in Kyoto, we spent the whole afternoon and evening in Gion 祗園, an area where the geishas reside and entertain.  Supposedly the best time to see geishas is after 6:00pm when they begin to go out to entertain for the evening, but we were not so lucky even though we lingered in the area until after dark.

Hanami-koji

Kimono girls

Hanami-koji entrance

Kamogawa River 鴨川

Kiyamachi 木屋町

Kiyamachi

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November 27th, 2010 at 10:23 am

[KYOTO] Ryoan-ji 龍安寺

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Ryoan-ji 龍安寺

Address: 13 Goryoshita-machi, Ryoan-ji, Kyoto
Tel: 075-463-2216
Hours: [Mar-Nov] 8:00am-5:00pm [Dec-Feb] 8:30am-4:30pm
Price: ¥500
Website: www.ryoanji.jp

Ryoan-ji’s “Zen garden” is another one of my favorite spots in Kyoto. There are no trees in this dry landscape garden (kareisansui), just 15 irregularly shaped moss-surrounded rocks of varying sizes, arranged in white gravel that is raked every day. The rocks are placed so that, when looking at the garden from any angle, only 14 are visible at one time. It is said that only through attaining enlightenment would one be able to see the fifteenth boulder. Come try it yourself?

Ryoanji entrance

Moss garden

Random structure

Pond

A model showing all 15 boulders

So why 15 boulders? In the Buddhist world, the number 15 denotes completeness. To have a whole and meaningful experience, one must have a total view of the garden, which is not possible in the conditions of this world…

Zen Garden

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November 27th, 2010 at 10:12 am

[KYOTO] Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺

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Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺

Address: 1 Kinkakuji-chō, Kita-ku, Kyoto / 〒603-8361 京都市北区金閣寺町1
Tel: 075-461-0013
Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm
Price: ¥400/person
Website: www.shokoku-ji.or.jp

Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), also known as Rokuon-ji (鹿苑寺, Deer Garden Temple), is a Zen Buddhist temple and one of the 17 World Cultural Heritage sites in Kyoto. It was built as the retirement villa of shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and is modeled according to the descriptions of the Western Paradise of the Buddha Amida. The most distinguishing structure in the temple complex, the Golden Pavilion, has the two floors completely covered with pure gold. Talk about lavishness!

Entrance

Map

Tickets

Kinkaku-ji’s history dates to 1397, but the present Golden Pavilion (金閣) structure was rebuilt in 1955 and subsequently underwent various reconstructions. The top two stories of the pavilion emit a warm glow in the sun as they are completed covered with pure gold leaf. More mesmerizing yet, the Mirror Pond upon which the pavilion was built on produces a perfect reflection of the golden extravagance on a clear day. Absolutely beautiful.

Golden Pavilion

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November 27th, 2010 at 8:45 am

[KYOTO] Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺

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Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺

Address: 1-294 Kiyomizu Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Hours: 6:00am-6:00pm
Price: ¥300/person
Website: www.kiyomizudera.or.jp

Among the hundreds of temples and shrines in Kyoto, Kiyomizu-dera (Pure Water Temple) really stands out as a must visit. Originally built in 798 and reconstructed in 1633, the temple is best known for its wooden stage that juts out 13 meters above the hillside below, offering an impressive view of cherry blossoms in the Spring or maple leaves in the Fall (or dry twigs, since I went in December) with Kyoto city in the backdrop.

Chawan-zaka 茶わん坂

Kiyomizu-dera is extremely popular even during off seasons, so we made that our first destination in the morning to beat the crowd. To get there, take bus 100 or 206 (15 minutes, ¥220) from Kyoto Station, get off at Kiyomizu-michi bus stop, then take a 10-minute uphill stroll via Chawan-zaka (茶わん坂) to reach Kiyomizu-dera.

On Chawan-zaka

At the entrance of Kiyomizu-dera, we rinsed our mouths and hands at the stone water basin. This is a common practice at all Japanese temples and shrines, since it is believed that such purification is necessary before entering sacred temple grounds.

Cleansing

Kiyomizu-dera entrance

After climbing a few flights of stairs, we arrived at the Kiyomizu-dera main hall. What a sight! The large veranda is supported by tall pillars and juts out over the hills, which is especially impressive considering that no nails were used at all during construction. Amazing.

View from the main hall

The veranda

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Written by sugarednspiced

November 21st, 2010 at 11:39 pm