Hidden & delicious Osaka

I have a confession: this is maybe not the MOST unusual or hidden side of Osaka because, I mean, this city is pretty legendary in terms of WTF spots. However, since I didn’t do the usual Osaka circuit, I do feel I have a few new insights to bring to the table (haha, yes I’m that clever!). So pop a takoyaki in your mouth, and read on!

Takoyaki Baby

Ya, let’s start with takoyaki, because it’s Osaka. You can get them everywhere. You can BECOME a takoyaki if that’s what your heart desires. Since I’m currently trying to become a yuzu, I’ve settled for just eating them instead.

There was no way I was coming and going from Osaka without having their famous takoyaki, and so I initially settled on going to Hanadako near Umeda station. SPOILET ALERT: it never happened!

Oirginal with onions, mayo and ponzu.

It never happened because, NO THANK YOU Google Maps, we kept turning around in circles, always missing it by 10 metres. But happy accidents always lead to tasty discoveries, and that’s how we ended up at the closet sized Takoyaki Baby. It’s not far from Hanadako, it fits about 5-6 people (standing up) and is VERY delicious! We shared the classics with mayo and a mountain of green onions, as well as the cheese and ponzu sauce version. Those balls were HOT and HUGE, yes, you can insert a dirty joke.

Cheesy goodness topped with parmesan.

*Unfortunately I don’t have an address to provide, as it’s one of those hole in the wall finds BUT if you look for Hanadako, it’s close by.

Oui! Bar

2 Chome-4-11 Nishishinsaibashi, Chuo, Osaka, Osaka

Osaka is THE party city in Japan, or so I’ve heard, since I was travelling with family I didn’t exactly get my freak on but, we did indulge in many a drink. Hey, we’re French, of course apéro is going to make an appearance here.

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I don’t know why but, we just kept flocking to closet sized establishments on this trip, and that’s exactly what Oui is. A delightful bar, whose owner is a Francophile and played George Gainsbourg for us when he learnt we were French; with room for about 8 people, and many a wonderful drink to offer. My highlights were the 2014 Umeshu national winner, a milky umeshu, as well as a coffee whisky.

To the right, the milky umeshu
The milky umeshu bottle, in case you wanted to try it

Now, you need to know, that we had a few drinks there as an apéro  before supper (which happened to be right next door at 串焼き バッテンよかとぉ アメリカ村店)* and we went BACK after supper for our digestif.

Yes yes, we do good things twice!

*See Izakaya, last piece

8G Horie RiverTerrace

〒550-0015 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Nishi Ward, Minamihorie, 1 Chome−5−17, キャナルテラス堀江

If you check out their website you’ll see the word “wedding” in there as well as pictures with foreigners. DO NOT BE ALARMED. Leave whatever building prejudice you may be having at the (restaurant)  door or else you’ll be losing out on a delicious experience.

Located in the rising hipster neighbourhood of Horie, the restaurant is a big black building that overlooks the Shirinashi river which means you’ll have a pleasant view during your meal.

Stairs leading to the restayrant are beautifully illuminated

The look of panic from the seating lady at seeing foreigners appear was the first sign that, if this is a touristy-place, it’s certainly not foreigner-touristy; having all the waiters AND chef in the open kitchen stare at us with outmost surprise seemed to confirm my theory. Luckily we had made a reservation so, everyone knew we meant to be there and didn’t just accidentally wander into the wrong building.

In a blissful haze of satisfied tastebuds!

You’ll get your own private room so as to enjoy your meal in utmost privacy. So let’s get down to the food shall we? Now pay close attention, this is VERY important: skip to the END of the menu, past all the individual plates, and order the menu of the day. You’ll be served around 7-8 courses, kaiseki style.

Starter course… tofu? Maybe? Forgot!!!
The BEST chawanmushi to date

My standouts were the delicate (seabream?) sashimi, dipped shabu shabu style into a broth that had yuzu jelly, the kalbi marinated beef that was both buttery and juicy, as well as the apple sorbet whose texture I’ve never before encountered! There was no ruggedness or flakiness to the sorbet, it just evaporated in your mouth. The fish, meat and a final rice dish, were all individually cooked on a mini stone oven, which added to the delight of the eating experience.

Sashimi waiting to be dipped, with a side of yuzu jelly that will melt into the broth
Delicate yet flavourful broth in a beautiful metallic nabe pot
Close up of our “oven” and grill, with our beef pieces waiting to be sizzled!
Mind blowing apple sorbet

Pablo cheesecake

They can be fluffy, they can be jiggly, they can be wiggly, they can be airy but they must ALWAYS be cheesy! Or so is my motto for Japanese cheesecake. There was SO much cheesy goodness, we went twice.IMG-0948

Hit up the location in Dotonbori so you can enjoy sitting down at their cafe, as opposed to just grabbing and going. Although you’ll probably wait in line, don’t be discouraged as it moves quite quickly; this despite being able to enjoy your time inside with no sense of rush or urgency. We went during the Christmas holidays between 4-5pm, thus avoiding the later afternooners and early dinner…ers?

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Whatever your choice, don’t bypass the original taste in favour of the other fancy flavours. Just go twice! It comes with apricot jam and ice cream, the jam being a really good pairing with the cheese. Oh and you’ll probably end up sharing it because that cake is RICH. CHEESY. GOOEY. All around goodness oozing out of a buttery and flaky crust. We tried the original flavour as well as matcha, and chocolate-cognac; the last two not being of the runny kind, but just as delish.

Matcha cheese tart
Chocolate cognac cheese tart

Izakaya

串焼き バッテンよかとぉ アメリカ村店

Osaka is foodie heaven, and we hit up so many izakaya that were all so delicious and had their own stand out dishes, but this one holds a special place for my no doubt liquored up taste buds.

Closet sized yet delicious

Allow me to praise the house made kimchi from 串焼き バッテンよかとぉ アメリカ村店 as well as both their chicken liver and tongue yakitori; melt in your mouth tenderness, with none of that overly strong offal flavour. If you’ve finally convinced yourself to go for those funny bits, let your first time be there. I’m really not a potato person, unless it’s sweet or fried, so if I praise ANYTHING with potato, you know it’s damn good. Such is their potato salad. Usually a bland mayonnaise mess, this is anything but! Last but not least, try the seemingly bland an uninteresting nagaimo (long mountain potato), grilled and topped with soya sauce and katsuoboshi: crunchy, starchy, salty, a surprising delight.

Best kimchi experience in Japan so far
Unexpectedly good potato salad
Unattractive grilled nagaimo, try it before you judge it!
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Letter to me

Before coming to Japan, our Montreal JET chapter had us write a letter to ourselves which we would receive halfway through our first year in Japan. SPOILER: I wrote about yuzu!

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Yes I wrote “FAKUS” and no, I wasn’t trying to Japanglish, it’s just how my coworker used to say “focus”… mooooooooooving on!

Coming up on the 7th month mark now and well, let’s see how I did on a few points:

– Improve my Japanese: … Yaaaaaa about that… I didn’t ACTUALLY study these past 7 months, I thought I would absorb it the same way you absorb everything they never tell you at work, by OSOMOSIS! That hasn’t really worked out. I do feel that I can understand more when people speak to me, but I feel that my own communication skills have stagnated. SO, this week I decided to kick my butt and get to studying regularly again.

Shame GIF

– Explore the heck out of Shikoku: Well, let me just say that I did NOT anticipate my car having so many issues. Battery, alternator, battery, battery… battery! Lame excuse I know, but it’s really put me off going anywhere with it. So no, I don’t feel like I’ve done well on this front. BUT I did do an EPIC hike on Mt. Ishizuchi, visit Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo and Nara soooooo… #patsownback. I now have a NEW alternator AND battery -because yes, the -4 degree weather was TOO COLD for it- SO I’m looking forward to visiting both Matsuyama and Aki with it before leaving. Unless I drive into the gaijin trap, again.

Mt. Ishizuchi

– Yuzu otaku: Even then I knew I had a destiny to fulfill. I’ve eaten anything and EVERYTHING yuzu I can get my hands on, heck even our Christmas meal was yuzu nabe! Hitting up the yuzu festival in Uwajimura almost didn’t happen and can you imagine the tragedy? Looking at you inaka ALTs sharing details at the LAST minute… teehee. However, I must issue a PSA that I’m a fraud. Yes, a BIG.FAT.FRAUD! Sigh, you see, I thought yuzu season lasted muuuuuuuuuuch longer than it did. SO, I kept putting off visiting the yuzu onsen until it was too late. Sobering reality. So, moving forward, I’m going to jump on opportunities and not repeat such an epic fail.

MUCH. HAPINESS
Soooooooooooo many yuzu products to choose from!

Now there’s a few things I hadn’t put in my letter because they were more of a personal nature than something to do with Japan. However, I feel like I’ve done pretty good by some of the goals I set myself so let me share them with you:

– Keep to an active lifestyle: I do feel like I’ve been decently active back home but, especially hitting 30, I didn’t feel like I was properly incorporating it as a life habit. I intend to travel until I DROP, for that I need a healthy body. In summer and fall I’m quite active and then -30 hits and FORGET IT. So, enough of that. I figured that if I kept to a routine, I could make it a life habit. The secret? Change it up! I’ve been swimming, dancing, running and (trying) to do yoga #sweatlife.

– Read more: I can’t believe I even have to set this goal for myself! I LOVE reading and I let cat memes and the internets take too much space in life. Since I’ve arrived I’ve polished off Good Omens, Wuthering Heights, Onegin (2nd time!) and Consuelo; Finishing off short poems by Cocteau and moving on to Lemon by Kajii. Not exactly book worm level, but definitely on the right track. And in case you were wondering (even if you’re not TOUGH LUCK cause Ima tell you anyways) I try to alternate between English and French, just to confuse my brain a lil more.

brain GIF by University of California

– Eat better: I am SO over having stomach issues! In a nutshell, I have non-ulcer dyspepsia, so imagine having an ulcer… without an ulcer. Ya, fun. Bloating, pain, nausea and insomnia are all part of the super package. Oh and social anxiety. That one’s no fun because I’m an outgoing foodie… enough! It’s not like I ate crap to being with and I did watch my diet back home buuuuuuuuut sometimes life gets in the way and you slip up. Again, enough. Despite stuffing my face with every delicious thing that’s thrown my way here, I’ve had relatively few problems and that’s because I got back into the habit of cooking regularly. It’s fun, it’s cheap and it’s delicious! So, yay me.

Still enjoying some pizza action! What? I said I was being careful, not crazy. Strawberry pizza from Solana Surf Camp.

So there you have it, a letter to myself.

7 months in and 5 to go. What’s next? Stay tuned!

Okayama Pt 2 : Eat… and eat, and eat!

Admit it, this is really the main post you wanted to see about Okayama! Of course we filmed our indulgence, so check out the videos.

WARNING: do not read this before dinner (or doing groceries), you may not be able to control the impulse to indulge in #nom.

Parfaits (ice cream y’all)

Okayama is famous for producing their parfaits so fork out that ¥¥¥ and dig in!

We had a black sesame & soybean flour with mochi, chocolate cake, anko, whip cream and pudding parfait (and an extra 10 pds!) at Korakuen garden, but we also had a decadent budo grape parfait in Kurashiki at Momoko.

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I will never get over this parfait!
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Worth every penny in grapes.

There were 3 kinds of grapes and they ALL tasted different. The green one was fresh and citrusy, the red one was… well, like a grape, and the purple one tasted like red wine. Yes, yes, red wine!

Here’s more recommendations for your taste buds:

Contents Cafe

HOTEL GRANVIA OKAYAMA Café Restaurant Olivier

Kibi dango

Okayama is, after all, the city of Momotaro, legendary peach boy! As the story goes, his adoptive mother gave him kibi dango to take on his journey, he shared it with his friends (dog, monkey and bird), and together they defeated monsters!

Let me tell you, the dango here do NOT disappoint! They are light and fluffy, not dense, and are so fresh they only “keep” for 20 days. The peach dango actually tastes like REAL peach and there’s a harder to find, but totally worth it, chocolate & sea salt kibi dango.

So how can you get your hands on either or both of these delicious treats? The easiest is at Okayama station, right in front of the Central Exit.

Koeido has multiple flavours ranging from white peach to brown sugar and soybean flour; you can easily spot their colourful boxes covered in onni (monster) faces. Walk straight out of the Central Exit to the shops in front of you, the first one on your right should be Koeido. * There’s also a Koeido in Kurashiki.

岡山名物“きびだんご”。お子様からお年寄りまで愛され続ける日本一の桃太郎の“元気の素”です。
Photo curtesy of koeido.co.jp

As for the shio choco kibi dango (chocolate & sea salt), you can also find them at Okayama Station just off the Central Exit. I think… they where in the store on the right of the Central Exit? If not, just circle the omiyage shops until you spot them.

4. Best Buy in Okayama: Shio Choco Kibi Dango
Photo curtesy of allabout-japan.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oyster okonomiyaki

Along with fresh fruits, oysters are another BIG food feature of Okayama so YOU BET we were gonna lay our hands on some oyster okonomiyaki! Kamon okonomiyaki is close to the train station, so once you found your kibi dango, you can reward yourself by stuffing your face nearby.

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Oyster okonomiyaki

We got 8 giant oysters and nothing else (save the basics that come with) because we wanted to taste them pure. They were juicy and fresh, really delicious. But if I’m totally honest… I most fondly remember the grilled mochi and cheese okonomiyaki. This is my new favourite combo! The grilled mochi has a satisfying chewy, soft texture, and coupled with the cheese #perfection.

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Mochi okonomiyaki

Chocolate & fruit jelly

My life is now richer, for having eaten too much chocolate and for having discovered that Rokumeikan exists. Everything looked so good from the outside and this was day 1 of vacation adrenaline rush, so naturally we just had to buy their chocolates… and jelly… and cookies #foodie. The chocolates have very interesting flavour pairings (shout-out to the champagne!) and the jelly is like the most perfect gummy bear. I recommend both for self-indulgence and as a gift.

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Image curtesy of Rokumeikan

Related image

Image curtesy of Rokumeikan

Izakaya

Being the intrepid walkers that we are, and fearless adventurers, we ventured out into the unknown for an izakaya! Right in front of our Air BnB to be exact, at Nojika .

Can’t remember what sake we drank, but it was a tall glass and it was GOOD. They had Yuzu wine, but tragedies of tragedies they were OUT… so they kindly made us a yuzu sour on the house! * Apparently that wine was from Hiroshima.

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LOOK at that sashimi!

The standout dishes were an octopus salad entre, assorted sashimi and ochazuke. And I won’t snub my nose at the fried chicken, daikon soup and chicken stock onigiri freebies we got! Besides the food, the chefs behind the counter were very friendly and it made the experience that much more enjoyable.

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Octopus salad

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Royal milk tea pudding

Fruit liqueur etc.

Okayama is fruit heaven and white peach as well as budo grape are the shining stars. You can find sake, wine, liqueur and beer featuring their flavours. I enjoyed both the peach sake and liqueur and would recommend them as a gift. You can find them in any omiyage store, grocery store or specialty sake store.

Image may contain: drink and coffee cupStarbucks

… let me just hang my head in deep, deep, DEEP shame. I am NOT a Starbucks afficionado, I only go back home if it’s on a roadtrip of some kind with friends or as a meetup point, and I NEVER get the flavoured/seasonal coffees. But FOR SOME REASON, in Japan… they’re very enticing! I live in the deep inaka remember?

We were in Okayama right before the Christmas season so the Gingerbread latte, Pistachio candy latte, and Rasberry mocha were the featured items. Yes I tasted them all, yes they’re surprisingly delicious! Not sickeningly sweet, not syrupy, not articifial in taste (although they clearly are). It’s a good thing we indulged here because the week after, both the Pistachio and Rasberry mocha were mysteriously out of circulation. Thankfully the Gingerbread latte lingered on until mid-December.

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Rasberry mocha
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Pistachio and gingerbread lattes

Okayama Pt 1: See & Do

My good friend was visiting Japan and, since I live in the middle of nowhere, I sort of randomly picked an accessible, not too expensive in train fare, meeting spot: Okayama. What a lucky random choice! o(^▽^)o Read on OR skip the text and watch our travel video.

*** I’ve got so much to share I couldn’t possibly do one post, so I’ve split it in two with food in Pt 2. ***

Okayama castle

Monday – Sunday 9AM – 5:30PM

2 Chome-3-1 Marunouchi, Kita-ku, Okayama-shi, Okayama-ken 700-0823

Also known as Crow Castle, it’s a striking black and gold edifice, unlike your regular white castles. Sure it was destroyed in 1945 (like everything else!) but its replica is apparently #onpoint, since the original blueprints were used. Bonus free kimono photoshoots are available on the second floor.

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Image may contain: sky, tree, cloud, outdoor, nature and waterKorakuen garden

Monday – Sunday 7:30AM – 6PM

1-5 Kōrakuen, Kita-ku, Okayama-shi, Okayama-ken 703-8257

Not gonna lie… day 1 we decide to skip this… 400¥, are you crazy! Ya, we were just THAT stingy. But then we spent 1700¥ on a parfait so, we re-evaluated our life choices. Cough up that 400¥, it’s worth it! Dating from 1700, it hasn’t changed since the Edo era; waterfalls, tiny shrines, teahouses, miniature maple forests, a lotus pond, and rare red-crested white cranes. But the BEST feature? The nameless (as far as I can tell) teahouse that has DECADENT parfaits!

Image may contain: plant, tree, grass, outdoor and natureImage may contain: sky, tree, outdoor, nature and waterScenic bike rides

If you check Wikitravel, it’ll recommend doing a scenic 17 km Kibiji cycling trail. We did it and it was AWESOME… we also got lost at night time and needed the help of lovely 7/11 ladies BUT we made it home in one piece! Having survived the trail, here are my words of wisdom:

  1. Start at Soja and finish at Bizen if you’re based in Okayama, makes getting home faster. Basically, do the trail backwards.
  2. Make this a day trip. Yaaaaa you can do it in half a day BUT you’ll enjoy stopping at shrines a lot more if you’re not worried about getting the bike back in time.
  3. There are signs for the biking trail… most of the way? Sometimes the signs just drop off… which is lovely. Pull out that fully charged mobile and get back on track!

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, outdoor, nature and waterImage may contain: sky, tree, grass, outdoor and natureKurashiki area

Only 10 minutes away by train, the main draw is the Bikan Historical Quarter. Honestly, it’s like stepping back in time and being suspended in a nostalgic bubble! The streets are cobble stone and the weeping willows lining the canal make for a scenic half day excursion. It’s also where you can find delicious fruit parfait, but more of that in Pt 2! Check out Ohashi house while you’re there, a typical wealthy merchant town house with tatami floored rooms, elegant sliding doors and hanging scrolls.

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Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, child, sky, tree and outdoorOkayama, initially a random choice, turned out to be a hell of a 4 day weekend! It’s also a great base to explore Hiroshima, Osaka, Kyoto and Nara.

BUT Estelle… what… what about the food!? Pfffffff as if I could forget. Get yourself to Pt 2!

Tales from the inaka: 3 months in

A little over 3 months into my life in Japan, sounds like a good time as any to update you on my inaka life! WARNING… this is a long one:

September ended with a 2 for 1 deal, culturally speaking. My town and a junior high school in New Zealand have been partnering in an exchange program for over 20 years. Good news for me, since I was the English attaché for the duration of their stay! I discovered New Zealand culture AND Japanese culture in one breath. We started off with a trip to a local aquarium that had very beautiful fish BUT the show stealer that day was the majestic, black male deer that appeared out of nowhere on the road: we did a hard brake, it stared at us, we stared at it… then it jumped back into the forest! That was some Princess Mononoke level experience right there.

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Following that was a whirlwind of local dancing (yosakoi), flower arrangement (ikebana), summer kimonos (yukata), temple visits, tea ceremony (sado), and the gutting of an unsuspecting bonito (katsuo). If you aren’t already following me on facebook or insta, then let me enlighten you about bonito. It is THE local fish, star of every tourist meal, an unmissable delicacy. A famous restaurant here kindly organised an activity where the students prepared the fish themselves, A-Z.

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This was the yukata I picked out for the day! I love that the obi belt wasn’t pre-made and I had it done in a pretty bow.
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Green tea ceremony (sado)

Speaking of bonito, October 14th there was an entire festival dedicated to this delicious fish. That’s right, you heard me, a fish festival. Basically, it’s a bunch of tents with a bunch of food and IT IS AWESOME. Don’t take my word for it, watch the video I made instead! Of course I had seared bonito (katsuo tataki) and I washed it all down with yuzu shaved ice (kakigori). Yuzu looks somewhat like a lemon, either yellow or green and is SUPER aromatic. Forget lemons, once you’ve had yuzu, you don’t go back!

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yuzuuuuuuuuuu kakigori #nom

Dear readers, you may or may not have had the chance to taste Yuzu before, so you may or may not understand my sorrow when *cue dramatic music* the “#%&$’”%& damn typhoon cancelled a Yuzu matsuri I was planning on attending.

Most of October was overwhelmed by typhoons which means rain, rain, rain. But hey, I didn’t let that dampen my spirit! In fact, before the rain hit we had the JET surf camp and yes, I went surfing for the first time in my life EVER! Omg, omg omg omg omg it was so amazing. I managed to stand on the board TWICE in 2h #goals. I can’t wait to go again!

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Exactly what I looked like on the water

Kochi city held a local products festival mid-October, at a shrine that had my name written all over it. Deer hot-dogs? Rose petal soda? Yes please! That very night was also the last performance of traditional dance (kagura) held at Kochi castle and I had been obsessing about seeing it. The entrance to the castle was lit with beautiful light installations and we were given paper lanterns to carry up the stairs. Check out the video I put up on my YouTube channel!

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#nom
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Kochi castle by night

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Multiple rainy weekends means keeping yourself busy. I spent one very wet and windy Saturday at Cap Ashizuri, touring Kongōfuku-ji Temple (one of the largest temples on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage) and walking along the high cliffs that jut out into the Pacific.

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Kongōfuku-ji Temple

22550032_1474990815909845_1964867755258620107_nI’ve also been playing the local tourist which in my book means FINALLY tasting the local katsuo tataki burger! I could talk about it buuuuuuuut I have a great video up on my YouTube channel that gives you a much better idea of how delicious it was. And if the burger isn’t a big enough draw for you, well I’ll have you know there’s also the skeleton of a whale in that video!

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Katsuo tataki burger = DELICIOUS

22851683_1480589298683330_4181534632271501283_nI’ve passed the 3 month mark and am loving every minute of it! Well… not so much the minutes spent on the surprise malfunctions of my car (looking at you alternator) but hey, no point sweating the small stuff.

Fall is kicking off here which means season themed decorations everywhere, including decorations made from Japanese pampas grass (susuki), eating rice dumplings (Tsukimi dango), roasting sweet potatoes and finding chestnut products everywhere; my favorites are the homage to the mythology of a rabbit living on the moon.

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Chestnut cake!
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Rabbit in the moon.
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Rabbit in the moon

Kyoto Part 4: Kiyomizu-dera

Ok so no, I didn’t go to the golden temple… I went to Kyoto and only did 2 of the major temples. And you know what, I survived to tell the tale!

Listen, Kyoto is FULL of temples and you could spend your entire trip doing just that, so I decided to cut down (+ I’m going back in March so I’ll do more then). The temples I did do were: Fushimi-Inari and Kiyomizu-dera. Check out the videos.

temple 1

templeTo reach the temple you’ll pass a thousand and 1 shops of various goodies and be MEGA matcha overloaded. Since I did this trip 1 month into my arrival in Japan, I wasn’t yet jaded by the hyper commercial alley. But I digress.

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The first thing that hits you upon entering Kiyomizu-dera is the brightly painted, coral red gate and pagoda. But what truly blew my mind is that this structure dates from 1633 and NOT A SINGLE nail was used to build the 13 meter stage! Fun fact, Kiyomizu-dera gets its name from the waterfall area near it, Kiyomizu meaning clear or pure water.

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statue templetemple BnWI have a very vivid memory of accessing the wooden stage under a ceiling of wind chimes. It was such a beautiful and peaceful sound, a welcome soundtrack while overlooking the lush greenery from the stage.

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Buddha statueroosterDragon water fountainherronSo there you have it, you CAN visit Kyoto without doing EVERY  SINGLE temple until your eyes bleed, and still enjoy the ones available to you!

Location

1-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku

*** 10min walk from Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi Bus Stop, Kyoto City Bus 100 or 206 from Kyoto Station

Opening hours

6am- around 6pm

Fee

Adults: 300 yen

Junior and elementary school students: 200 yen

Kyoto Part 3: Unique Japanese fashion

I couldn’t continue talking about my Kyoto adventure without including fashion! SOU・SOU was created in 2002 by Katsuji Wakisaka, Hisanobu Tsujimura and Takeshi Wakabayashi and is based in Nagakyo-Ku. Their products are a modern interpretation of traditional Japanese clothing and techniques. In addition to their Kyoto location, they also have a store in Tokyo and San Francisco. DO YOU KNOW HOW EXCITED I WAS TO SEE THEIR STORE!? DO YOUUUUUUUU?

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A VERY short walk from the Nishiki market, you’ll spot the store’s banner.

 

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They have dedicated stores for men, women, kids, shoes, accessories and textiles.

22069076_10155039502622817_552380718_oThe expression of Japanese culture is at the heart of SOU・SOU and the name itself is an entertaining example. Of course, we all know how often sou sou is used when speaking in Japanese, and according to the founders, the use of sou sou is a direct expression of Japan’s uniqueness.

 

What are some of the aspects that allow SOU・SOU to offer a modern Japanese style? Let’s start off with the beautiful textile designs created by Katsuji Wakisaka. Often debuting as postcards, the designs are inspired by changes of the season in nature and traditional Japanese patterns. Follow them on Instagram for an @sousoukyoto! Fun fact, Wakisaka was the first Japanese designer to work for Marimekko (1968-1976), a well-known Finnish textile company.

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One of my scarves from SOU・SOU with a fun and elegant pattern.
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Another scarf from SOU・SOU with a simple and geometrical pattern.

Moving on to a distinctly Japanese item that often results in many giggles in the West: jika tabi. Believe it or not, this split toed shoe wasn’t invented for laughter but rather to offer better balance. All SOU・SOU shoes are handmade in Japan and in order to adapt to our modern lives, the traditional thin sole is replaced by a thicker, sneaker like sole.

 

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22050828_10155039502647817_109015805_oTheir men and women’s line is what first drew me to the website of SOU・SOU. The kimono is such an emblematic feature of Japan and, especially in the West, seems impractical for daily wear. The kikoromo is SOU・SOU’s answer to this dilemma for women. Men can turn to the kei I clothing line, a modern interpretation of kabuita mono or kabuki mono,Muromachi era terms describing carefree people with a different dress.

Their clothing line is fascinating and endearing to me because of the traditional elements that come together: the overall shape, the patterns and the fabric. The Chizimi, Bizen and Ise cotton are found in many of their collection; Chizimi is a Japanese crepe cotton, Bizen is a cotton produced in 1950 for school uniforms and Ise is a special export from Tsu city.

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Chizimi top AND scarf: perfect pairing!
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Upping
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Upping my game with another chizimi top and linen pants, great for 35+ weather!

Being a lover of Japanese culture as well as art and costume history, I am mesmerized by SOU・SOU. I am now lucky enough to be a proud owner of 6 SOU・SOU pieces and wanted to bring to light their efforts in maintaining and adapting Japanese techniques and aesthetics. I hope the information I’ve highlighted will encourage you to discover not only their history but also the clothing and fabrication history of Japan.

Location

583-3 Nakanochō (Shinkyōgokudōri), Nakagyō-ku, 京都市中京区 Kyōto-fu 604-8042

Website: sousou.co.jp

Telephone: 075-212-8005

Follow me on my #JETprogramme experience in Japan!

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