The next stop on my journey was Kyoto, where I met with Max, who’s a fellow student at Hamburg University and also preparing his final thesis, as well as Yumiko, who was an exchange student at Hamburg University in… 2010/11, I think. Don’t quote me on the exact year 😀 We decided to walk through the city for a while and not to do all the regular sightseeing, as we’ve all been there before. But as this is Kyoto, at least one temple has to feature in this post.
Honnō-ji in the heart of Kyoto
A little snippet for fans of Japanese history: Oda Nobunaga committed ritual suicide in this temple, after it was set on fire and he was unable to get out.
After getting in touch with history, we decided to get in touch with the cuisine next and like last time when I was in Kyoto, it was time for macha parfait! We had to wait for about 30 minutes outside of the shop, as everyone seemed to have had the same thought as we did. However, we were finally able to enter after some time. I was in a rather experimental mood and decided to take the parfait with sakura and salt ice cream. The latter one was definitely a bit weird, but still tasty enough, but the sakura cream was amazing (as everything sakura xD).
Matcha Sakura Parfait
When we were full and our bellies rejoicing in joy, Yumiko had to depart for Nara again and Max and I went to meet up with members of the Kengeki-kai, who are a group of Japanese actors for Samurai-esque films that we met at the Japanese Movie Festival in Hamburg last year. We met at an izakaya (Japanese style bar) and had a super cool evening and caught up with everything that had been happening so far. They’re just an awesome bunch of people – many thanks for taking the time to meet us! 🙂
Max and me at the izakaya with the members of Kengeki-kai.
Next up: Okayama and Hiroshima!
Nishin Soba is a typical dish from Kyoto, which consists of a soba noodle soup with sweet marinated dried herring added. As Kyoto is far from the seaside, it was hard to bring in fresh seafood from the coast, so dried herring established itself as one of the easier to transport fishes and became one of the important sources of proteine in the past.
As you can guess from this description, I ate this dish when I was in Kyoto in December, but I still wanted to put it up here, because it remained in my head. The taste of sweet herring together with a traditional Japanese soup flavour was completely new to me in that situation and at first I was a bit at a loss as to how I should judge it. But I grew to like the taste very fast and appreciate its difference to the other dishes I’ve eaten in Japan and also back in Europe (Yannik didn’t, btw. :P). For me, the subtle sweetness did fit very well with the broth and made for a well rounded meal together with the soba.
If you want to try it yourself, the following recipe might be helpful. I found it under this link and translated it for you (hopefully without mistakes :D). Enjoy your cooking!
You will need (for 4 persons):
- 400g soba noodles
- 1 sweetly cooked herring (you can either buy it or prepare it this way(scroll down))
- 1 leek
- 4 sheets of dried laver / seaweed
- 7 cups of dashi broth
- 120ml of mirin (sweet soy sauce)
- 120ml of soy sauce
- Mix the dashi broth, mirin and soy sauce in a pot and let it boil up to prepare the soup.
- Boil the soba in plenty of water until they are boiled thoroughly. Pour the water and put the soba in 4 bowls. Add the soup to each bowl.
- Add the finely cut leek, the dried laver and the herring on top. Enjoy your meal! 🙂
The Buddhist temple Kiyomizudera on the eastern side of Kyoto is a designated world heritage site and one of the main tourist attractions of the city. It was founded in 798 and is dedicated to the Eleven-headed Kannon, as well as serving as a symbol of the unification of Buddhism and Shintoism. The view from the temple’s balcony is said to be breathtaking at the time of the cherry blossom, as well as in the colourful autumn season and back in the Edo-period it was said that he who survives a jump from the balcony will be granted a wish. The practice is outlawed today, but the saying “to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu” is still used from time to time to describe a foolhardy action.
Other note-worthy sites at the temple are the small springs next to it and the two lovers stones a bit further up the hill. The first one is also the reason for the naming of the temple, as ‘kiyomizu’ stands for pure water. There are a few versions of the effect of the spring going around, from granting wishes to healing powers, but in the end it can probably be summarised as granting good fortune. The lovers stones are two stones standing 20m apart from each other. If one can walk blindly in a straight line from one to the other the wish for a partner will be granted.
So with this small introduction I wish you much fun with the pictures I took on our trip there 🙂
Fushimi Inari Taisha is the main shrine of Inari, the Japanese god of fertility, rice, agriculture, industry and worldly success and located in Kyoto on the foot of Mt. Inari. The shrine is very famous for its trails across the mountain, which are mostly covered with countless Torii gates (each donated by a Japanese business) and dotted with many small shrines on the sides. While most people go there in the daytime, Yannik and I decided to visit the shrine in the late evening, to get a special experience that not many people see in person.
Getting there was no problem, as there was a train station nearby and we only needed to walk for 10 minutes from there to reach the main shrine building. But walking the sparsely lit ways up the hill with only few maps in between was a really interesting experience. To me, the area was so full of underlying spirituality that I couldn’t help but marvel at all the things to see.
I hope you can catch a glimpse of that feeling by watching the pictures below – enjoy! 🙂
Despite beeing usually seen as the cultural heart of Japan and beeing dotted with temples and shrines everywhere even Kyoto has some spots, which may seem a bit weird from a foreigner’s perspective. At least they do from mine 😉