Travel Hacking Japan 4: Kyoto

Travel Hacking Japan 4: Kyoto

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

We were so excited to try the only place in Japan with dry-aged Wagyu beef. The restaurant is called Pound Steakhouse, and is situated just a few minutes from the palace. with the banchan and kimchi offered, it felt more like a Korean restaurant, even with the grilling, but the waiter insisted it was Japanese. The service was a bit spotty, but we figured it was because the waiter couldn’t communicate with us and felt bad. A new server came over and helped us so it was all right in the end. If you’re able to make reservations, ask for a private room on the bottom floor, it’s the same price but feels romantic.

Dry-aged Wagyu beef. My mind dreams of this constantly.

The dry-aged wagyu beef was incredible. It was melt-in-your-mouth, buttery, just simply delicious. I mourn for this every time I’m at a steakhouse in NYC and compare it to this day. The banchan were light and we paired it with spicy marinated seafood. For dessert, we topped it off with green tea ice cream as the beef was so rich that we didn’t need that much compared to a normal steak. If you’re in Kyoto, you need to try this restaurant!

Fresh green tea ice cream

So, where do we go to breakfast in Kyoto? Eggs N’ Things! FireBear was going through Western food withdrawal because he had gone to the gym for two days at Gold’s Gym and Japanese food was smaller than he was used to. We also had Western food that one day in Tokyo at Bill’s. To be clear, rain or shine, holiday or not, FireBear will go to the gym 3 times a week for 1.5 hours and drink his protein shake everyday. His healthiness and love of the gym kind of rubs off on me. Erm, ok fine maybe not. I just wanted to let you guys know in case you might miss Western food.

Eggs N’ Things in Kyoto, Japan

Don’t worry, we still had rice! I got spam and rice because all I wanted was some salty goodness and rice. I thought it would be spam musubi, so I just ended up making my own.

We also got the Loco Moco, which is one of the truly Hawaiian things on the menu. I can’t find the picture, but if you’re ever in Hawaii/Hawaiian restaurant you need to go! FireBear also got the steak and eggs, which was pretty delicious.

The next day, we went to the Fushimi Inari shrine. The entire trail takes around 2 hours to walk, and is filled with torii donated by businesses for good luck. We walked through the first level as we didn’t have time to go all the way up, but it was an incredible experience. It’s an amazing feeling to be in a place where people are invested in their history.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Kyoto had the most beautiful lamp posts, which I know is an odd this to notice. They were incredibly ornate and hand-painted. We learned that they check each one every year and repaint them if they lose their brightness.

Kyoto Historical Lamp Posts

While at the shrine, you could buy little Torii for a few dollars, write a wish, and hang them on this wall. They just looked so pretty. You’d see this behavior across a lot of places in Japan, but there it seemed culturally significant and beautiful, not commercial.

Little Torii’s for good luck
Little cakes with crispy exteriors and custard on the inside, Kyoto, Japan

At the bottom of Fushimi Inari, we ate some delicious custard cakes. They make these by hand, so they’re super fresh.

Japanese Cemetary

Along the way to our next visit, we passed a empty walkway on a hill with large cemetery fields on our right. Everything was neat and orderly, with large memorials for each.

KiyoMizu Temple on a hill
Wooden plates to draw funny faces on, Kyoto, Japan
People lining up to do the cleansing ritual, Kyoto, Japan

The Kiyomizu temple was situated on top of a hill. Walking into the temple, there was a fun sword game King Arthur style. People would try to pick up the sword from the box, but it was an impossible task. I’m not sure if it was incredibly heavy or had a large magnet on the bottom. The view at the top was a breath taking aerial view of Kyoto.

Japanese traditional wear

When we were in the historical district, everywhere we went we saw people dressed in traditional Japanese wear and were a little confused as the people who were doing it were non-Japanese. We figured out eventually that you could get dressed in traditional wear for around $40 a day, including makeup. Some men dressed up with their girlfriends and were taking some cute pictures.

Colorful Shrine in Kyoto

This was one of my favorite shrines, for no other reason that there were colorful balls that people had written their wishes on.

Tako Tamago at Nishiki Market, Kyoto

Nishiki Market was one long walkway with tons of small stalls of fresh seafood, fruit, and crafted items. One of my favorite snacks was Tako Tamago, which is a quail egg stuffed in a mini-octopus. The octopus is marinated and ends up being chewy, paired perfectly with a boiled quail egg.

Cute chopstick holders in Kyoto at Nishiki Market
Beautiful Kimono crafted products, Kyoto, Japan

We went in a chopstick store with the cutest little chopstick holders. You could get chopsticks with your initials engraved on them. We picked up a few for a family gift.

The prettiest strawberries I’ve ever seen. Nishiki Market, Kyoto, Japan
Fresh uni! So good, Nishiki Market,  Kyoto, Japan
One of the stalls at Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market felt like a farmer’s market for seafood. I loved seeing all the handwritten labels on the food. We went and got fresh uni and scallops for $8, a deal compared to the US, and more delicious and fresh to boot!

Oyakodon, beef noodles, and a beef bowl at Nakau

We went back home and read our books for the night. FireBear went to the gym that night and the morning after. He’s pretty dedicated. I stayed in bed reading books :P.

The next morning, we went to eat at Nakau, which is a fast food chain in Japan with over 400 locations. It was just about the only thing open at breakfast and I’d heard good things about it. We ordered probably 9 dishes for $30. It was incredibly cheap and we got to taste a ton of dishes. The oyakodon is one of their specialty dishes and did not disappoint. It was creamy, with thin slices of onion and chicken. The beef bowl tasted kind of like teriyaki, and the beef noodles were thick and hearty.

Ikura bowl, udon, and chicken karaage

I also loved the ikura bowl. Ikura is my favorite sushi paired with rice. The umami is just unbelievable. The egg went on the donburi and had a red orange yolk! I think it was more delicious, but maybe my brain was being tricked.

Red orange egg at Nakau

The technology behind Nakau was enlightening. There were no waiters, you simply ordered your food via a machine, and waited for your food to be ready with a portable buzzer device. The coffee was also automatic. I don’t understand why American fast food companies aren’t adopting the same technology, it would streamline a lot of restaurants. McDonald’s has started, but why haven’t others?

At Subway, instead of the sandwich artist asking “What kind of bread”, “Foot long or half?”, “What kind of veggies do you want?”, etc. it would be better to have a little ipad or machine allowing you to pick for yourself. It speeds up the line as well, because we’ve all been behind that person who can’t decide for a minute.

Maybe America isn’t ready for the impersonal feeling a machine brings? I don’t know. What do you guys think?

The ordering machine at Nakau
The auto coffee machine at Nakau

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5


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3 thoughts on “Travel Hacking Japan 4: Kyoto

  1. Hmm, I don’t believe we ate any wagyu in Japan! But we definitely got our fill of fresh tuna and seafood … mmm. In Kyoto we went out of our way to try burnt ramen at a restaurant that specialises in it and that was a flavour hit like nothing else. And yes, wasn’t it funny how all the people dressed like geisha were tourists?

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