We recently traveled to Japan … to Kyoto and Tokyo specifically. Here is a recap of some of the things we did and ate while in Kyoto. Part Two: Tokyo is soon to follow!
Last week, we hopped on a 10-hour flight to Japan from California. Japan has been on our wishlist of places to go for a while, and so we made the decision to do it while we’re living here. We picked a good time weather-wise: we enjoyed a gorgeous 50-60 degree-ish weather (my favorite), no rain (except on the last day) and a time when the trees boast gorgeous fire red, glowing amber and deep green. Check it out!
This was off the main path of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto, a gorgeous and peaceful spot, with lots of bamboo, of course:
Our first meal in Kyoto was at mumokuteki, a cute little cafe Jeff found tucked away down a narrow side street. The entire menu was vegan, except that about 75% of the menu items contained fish stock, which I was grateful for that they indicated. I ended up choosing their avocado burger, which was a soy meat croquette, topped with fresh avocado and a creamy sauce:
It was delicious, and hit the spot after we toured Nijo Castle all morning! I didn’t get many good pictures of the outside, and no photography was allowed inside, but I did manage to get a photo of the gorgeous pond nearby:
Our next stop was at the Fushimi-Inari Shrine, a massive collection of shrines and a pathway that gently sloped up and lined with bright orange columns along the way. Once we were about halfway up, we stopped to look at and photograph some of them. They ranged from beautiful to spooky, but all were interesting and unique:
We spent hours here, and loved it! We didn’t make it all the way to the top, though, and headed back down to grab some dinner. We ended up at a super-tiny but popular sushi bar where you ordered through a touchscreen menu (so efficient!) I ordered Inari Sushi (seasoned rice wrapped in a fried tofu skin), Oshinko (pickles) maki rolls and natto (fermented soybean) with some kind of spicy radish. I didn’t get good pictures due to the overhead lighting and the fact that I was kind of tired of taking pictures all afternoon. We were lucky to get there early, and got a seat right away. On our way out, there was already a huge line at the door!
By that evening, exhaustion really hit us, but were still a bit wired from the day. We drank some Kirin (from a vending machine!) in our hotel room and finally drifted off to sleep.
The next day, we hit Bamboo Grove (pictures at the top of the post), then headed over to Prunus Cafe for lunch. It was small but cozy, and the food was fantastic! I had this wonderful vegan noodle dish with soy meat and vegetables, and Jeff had the ramen.
From there, we headed over to Nishiki Market, a huge market with food, Japanese apparel and touristy stuff. It was packed with people inside, and each booth or store was packed to the brim with food and merchandise:
After that, we checked in at Maifukan, a Ryokan-style hotel. It was a great experience, and a place unlike any other we’ve ever stayed. The decor was super-minimal, with shoji screens and a few pieces of simple furniture in the room.
Once we settled in and headed back out to the Higashiyama District, the hotel arranged these futons on the floor. They were so soft and cozy!
The Higashiyama District was a favorite part of the trip for both of us. It was super traditional, gorgeous at every turn, and marked with tons of winding + narrow streets. I didn’t get a ton of pictures, because I was too focused on looking at all of the tons of shops, people watching and architecture. No regrets about that, it was a great experience!
For dinner, we headed over to Choice, a vegan cheese shop and cafe. (Yes, you read that right!)
It was a gorgeous and soothing cafe, and I was super excited to taste the cheese! We started off with a cheese plate, with five of their cheese varieties: one smoky, one Italiana, one spirulina, one “Koto” (?) and rum raisin. All were amazing and, if we had the means to transport it, would have bought a wheel or two. The smoky was my favorite, slightly similar to Miyoko’s Kitchen’s Smoked Farmhouse cheese.
I ordered their teriyaki cheese pizza, while Jeff got the penne pasta with vegan bolognese (quinoa based) sauce and dollops of mozzarella. I loved this “pizza” which had a gluten-free, tortilla type of base. The salty, sweet and umami flavors of the sauce mingled well with the pungent and rich cheese (which I believe was their smoky variety). The scallions gave it a little crunch, texture and color. Since the dishes were rather small, I only took a small bite of Jeff’s pasta, but I loved the use of quinoa, and the cheese was really good too!
The next morning, we had a traditional Japanese breakfast at Maifukan. I had “vegan” translated into Japanese on my phone so I could just flip it around to make communication easier when we checked in. They were happy to accommodate and produced a really gorgeous breakfast with rice porridge, Japanese sweet potato, greens, pickled vegetables, baked wheat gluten, daikon and fish-free miso soup. Everything was simple, but cooked and seasoned perfectly. This was the most traditional meal we had in Kyoto, and one of my favorites!
From here, we hopped on to the Bullet Train back to Tokyo. I’ll be sharing what we ate and did there in Part Two!
Special thanks to my sweet husband, Jeff, who coordinated and found most everything we did and ate while in Kyoto! He is a master of map reading, train transferring, yelp hunting and being the perfect travelling companion! xo