Thursday, 20 February 2014

Japan 2012 - Part 7 (Hikone and Kyoto)

Happy New Year! It's well beyond the new year now (I'll share some food from that time in a later post), so let's get back to Japan!


While perusing some food shops earlier in the trip I had found this vacuum packed pumpkin which I had with some rice and a side of fruit (from my mother's breakfast). The pumpkin ended up being sweet, which was quite odd!

I was heading out on my own today for a train trip to Hikone so I could see one of the original castles of Japan in all its glory! I managed to get on the right train and get off at the right stop. And thankfully there was a very helpful English speaking person at the information office who gave me a great map to point me in the way of the castle and also let me know there was a festival on in the town that day!


On the way to the castle was a roundabout with a famous statue - and also a figure of the little Hikone mascot, named Hikonyan. More on mascots later!

Hikone Castle
Hikone Castle

At the castle I bought a '1000 Yen Set', which gave me access to the Castle Museum (which was really interesting and had a lovely place for tea). The castle itself was lovely to behold, though you can see from the inside the Japanese style of castle is very different to the European style! Also it had these ridiculous almost vertical staircases. So steep! I am terrified of heights and when I had to descend it was slow and very scary. But worth it!

Hikone Castle Garden
Hikone Castle

After the castle I walked down a steep hill to the gardens, which were lovely and also afforded some very pretty views of the castle as well.

Hikone Mascot Festival

After the castle I walked down Castle Road (finding an adorable cat themed shop on the way - I bought some ridiculously cute little rice bowls!) and found this festival. It was the Hikone Mascot Festival! I am still not sure what it was all about, but it seemed to be different Mascots from all over Japan who had little tourism or information stalls selling all sorts of different things. And they all had people dressed up as adorable mascots! I have know idea which mascot this is, but it is a kitty! There were a couple of kitty mascots. So much fun!

I made my way back to the station and caught the train back to Kyoto, snacking on a fruit and nut bar I had brought from home. Once back in Kyoto I had a rest at the hotel, and had some 7-11 inigiri and edamame for lunch before heading out again.

Tofuku-Ji Tofuku-Ji Tofuku-Ji Tofuku-Ji

What sort of vegan would I be if I didn't visit the temple called Tofukuji? I caught a train to Tofukuji station, but then got a little lost. However some helpful people assisted me with directions. Tofukuji is the site of some very famous gardens, some of which you can see above. It is a very beautiful place.

Inari Shrine Inari Shrine

I took a taxi to my next stop (I was tired), the incredible Inari Shrine. Fushimi Inari Shrine has entire pathways made up of tori gates that wind up a mountain, and it is full of beautiful stone fox statues. It is pretty amazing.

Inari Shrine

As I was walking up, a man was trotting up the hill with a backpack full of cat food. Several cats were around, very timid, but they came running out to greet him. I would have hugged him if I could.

Hale Restaurant

After my shrine experience I caught a train back to the hotel for a shower (it was a long day) and then the subway out to dinner. I finally made it to Hale! Hale has a strict no photo policy, but I did take some notes as to what I ate.

When I first sat down I was brought some cucumber spears with some sort of miso garlic dressing. I ordered the Hale Dinner Set for 2400 Yen, determined to eat as much as I could! It started with 'Kyoto Hattori's Delicious Chilled Tofu', which was indeed delicious, creamy and lightly salted. Then came 'Two Types Kyoto Seasonal Vegetable Dish'. One of the types was eggplant, capiscum and carrot ribbons with seaweed, and the other was some sort of carrot noodle in a sesame dressing. Following this was a bamboo steamer full of organic veggetables - lotus, pumpkin, okra, mushroom, daikon, carrot, potato, onion turnip, edamame and some soft green thing. This came with three dippers - salt, soy and sweet miso. 'Today's Fried Tofu and Fried Gluten Meat' was always going to be popular! Fried tofu, lotus balls, root, gluteny blobs, chilli, yuba crisp, leaves and cucumber and bean sprouts with dressing, Japanese mustard and chestnut. Yum!. But my favourite may have been the 'Yuba and Mushrooms Rice Bowl', enoki mushrooms and shreds of yuba over brown rice. This was also served with tea. Drink wise I also had a homemade grapefruit ginger ale, which is a must buy drink if you are at Hale! In fact, Hale is a much eat at place if you are at Kyoto! It did look like one thing contained something fishy, however the English menu is very clear as to what is what.

Matsunoko - Deep Fried Yatu Hashi with Ice Cream and Green Tea

One thing Hale didn't have was dessert, so I popped back in to Matsunotoko for some Deep Fried Yatsu Hashi with Ice Cream and Green Tea.

Kitty on Nishiki

On my way back to the hotel wandering through Nishiki I came across this lovely shop cat who was very giving with her affection. A lovely end to a mammoth day!