As it was a Sunday, our friends very kindly used their only day off from work to explore Kyoto with us. Our meeting destination was Osaka Station (-I think that’s the station, all the different names of places have become muddled in my head). We had a little time to spare so we decided to have a hot beverage at a cafe of the chain brand: Deli Kitchen Café, little did we know that is was possibly the worst choice of meeting place.
It turns out there are approximately 4 or 5 different Deli Kitchen Café stores located around this vastly expansive train station! I recommend stopping by one of their stores for a hot drink with a fluffy whipped cream topping, but as a meeting point even Starbucks would be more suitable. After finally managing to form as a group we ended up separating again (my fault). I somehow missed everyone exiting the public toilets whilst I waited for them; thank goodness for global roaming data for texting.
One of the two or three trains we took onwards to Kyoto appeared to be a tad fancy considering it was just a usual train not requiring any form of a special ticket. Simply to say the train was slightly old fashioned with it’s presented interior design: velvet-like red fabric seats with wooden details to the carage. If anyone is curious about the train and subway modes of transportation in Osaka, payments are made with ‘contactless’ rechargeable cards called ICOCA. Some other Japanese cities have transport cards of a different name, such as SUICA. I only took two buses in Japan which required fees to be paid for with cash, so possibly transport cards or tickets aren’t accepted for travelling by bus (this could be dependent on the area).
The day’s first stop-off was to view a world heritage site: Nijo Castle. This castle was occupied during 1626-1939 being built under the rule of Tokugawa Shogunate. It is a flatland castle meaning their are divided sections of the castle that are linked via several gardens and pathways. One of the most fascinating aspects of the castle was how well preserved and restored the wall and ceiling paintings are. The castle now fuctions more as a museum. Each room through the twined corridors, that can’t be entered, has a plaque highlighting and indicating the purposes of that particular room. Some rooms were purposely reserved as waiting rooms for people who were close to the Shogunate to await comfortably to have meetings with him.
A sculpturist had accurately portrayed a scenery from a painting which recalls the accounts of typical meetings in which the Shogunate, Daimyo (lords) and Samurai had together. Highly ranked people under the ruling of the shogunate each had their own individual symbol to represent and state their family name. As surnames were even more honourable during that time period, the symbols were worn one their clothing: on the elbow area of their sleeves and in the middle of their shoulder-blades/higher back. As someone who grew up in the UK, I was never taught a single thing about Japanese and/or Asian historical events or culture; therefore I was pleasantly occupied with learning as much as possible in so little time.
One final historical building was on our agenda: Kinkaku-ji/Rokuon-ji (Kyoto’s Golden Temple). I had completely forgotten that Kinkaku-ji which I had so much wanted to see for years is in located in Kyoto. Despite the ongoing seemlessing neverending walking around, finally ‘hiking’ to see the temple in all it’s glory was totally worth the wait. The ripples of the lake reflected the shining temple, with trees and wildlife surrounding all. During the Sakura blooming season is the most athestically pleasing time to see the temple.
By the time we had taken the bus away from the Buddhist temple, the early darkness of the evening sky had fullen. How could I go to Japan without eating authentic ramen yet!? We settled down to our first proper meal of the day; after all the excessive eating over the course of our trip it was probably good to have skipped a few meals on this day. I opted for salted chicken ramen. The broth was well seasoned, the meat was juicy and the best parts were the part boiled egg half and the handmade noodles.
I could have easily ate another two or three bowls; instead I solved my randomly large appetite for a Matcha Dessert! I don’t know if I have mentioned this before: one of my favourite flavours is Matcha green tea! To be able to go to café specially serving real Matcha desserts was a fantastic experience. The waitresses were very well mannered, wearing neat uniforms and refilled our tea cups of Sencha many times over. They served some very traditional desserts in which I was unaware of their existence prior to reading the menu alongside many parfaits. Honestly… shamefully… I had never had real Matcha tea or a parfait before.I selected a parfait which included: hanami dango (tricoloured balls of rice cake that are usually pink, green and white), chunks of green tea konjac jelly, Matcha whipped cream, Matcha sorbet, red bean paste, blocks of green tea sponge cake, Matcha ice cream and soft chesnuts. I have eaten too many desserts in my life already, and this has to be in my top 10 of favourites! Any chance you get to go to a café that sells Matcha desserts, go to it!