Posts for Tag: Japan

Back in Japan for 2020 - Sapporo and Lawson

We’re back in Japan for 2020 and decided to head up north this time to see some snow. After an 11 hour flight to Tokyo, we hopped a domestic flight to Sapporo to spend the night before heading up to the mountains. Definitely much colder than Tokyo (which was unusually warm for this time of year) with snow lining all the streets.

We picked a budget hotel, Ibis Styles, which turned out much nicer than I expected. The bonus is that they have a Lawson connected to the lobby! 

Whether you are loyal to them or 7-11, you can’t go wrong eating from a cobini store. Besides having ATMs that accept foreign bank cards, they have very good food at very cheap prices. 

Case in point, we arrived at about 9pm and were too wiped out to go back out to dinner. We turned to Lawson for a quick, cheap, and pretty healthy late night meal of oden and onigiri. All you see below was less than $9 and was more than enough for us. I even got to choose my oden items - tofu, egg, fish ball, and daikon in a soul warming simple broth. Great end to a long day...

Kurakura izakaya and Wako Isetan for tonkatsu

For our last dinner in Kyoto, we stopped by our favorite izakaya in the area, Kurakura. This is a favorite with locals and we were lucky to have a local friend join us for dinner. We started with a house appetizer of potato salad, stewed tuna, and black sesame tofu. We then moved on to eggplant stewed in dashi, little fish tempura, a healthy tuna salad with a tangy sesame dressing, fried renkon, large grilled squid, and grilled ayu (sweet fish). All simply prepared and delicious. For dessert, we were treated to homemade warabi mochi. If you ever get a chance to try this, do it! It's an amazing flavor that's not too sweet yet still quite satisfying as an end of meal dish.

The next day, we were getting ready for our shinkansen back to Tokyo and decided to grab lunch at Kyoto station. We had not yet enjoyed tonkatsu so wanted to have that. Our local friend recommended their reigning favorite, Katsukura at Kyoto station. However, we got lost amidst the rows of restaurants at The Cube mall attached to the station and ended up at another tonkatsu place, Wako Isetan, by mistake. Not a bad thing since it was really good! This place is super kid friendly with toys and candy for my daughter alongside a hearty kid's meal. I decided on the standard kurobuta (black pig) while my wife got a set that included tempura shrimp and clams. A great way to fill us up for the train ride back to Tokyo!

Komeda’s Coffee and whisky @ Yamazaki

Every time we’re in Kyoto, we make the quick train ride over to Yamazaki to buy whisky at the Suntory Distillery. For breakfast, we headed to our favorite coffee shop, Komeda’s Coffee, for some good strong coffee and the best egg salad sandwiches. New on the menu was a hearty tonkatsu sandwich which was crispy and juicy. The little one got her usual flaky pastry with soft serve on top, this time with strawberry sauce on top. Seems strawberries are in season!

With the popularity of Japanese whisky at an all time high, there are no longer good buys at the distillery itself. Aged whiskies are pretty much gone and the bottles that can be bought at the distillery can also be bought at most shops in Japan. Instead, the reason to go visit the distillery (besides the beautiful nature) is to drink some of the best whiskies in the world at extremely reasonable prices. Below is my line up of pours which ranged from a 12 Year Puncheon Cask (extremely good and can only be had at the distillery) to a 30 Year Hibiki. Prices ranged from as little as 300 yen (less than $3) to at most 2,900 yen (about $26). I've seen places in the states charge $15-$20 just for a pour of 12 Year Yamazaki so $26 for a pour from a $3,000+ bottle seems like a pretty good deal to me.

First night in Kinosaki Onsen Town @ Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei

We finally made it to Kinosaki and checked into our hotel, Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei. It's a larger place than our previous onsen experience at Arashiyama Benkei but were still able to get a very nice tatami mat room with a garden view.

Service was outstanding including a welcome snack with tea and a refreshing vinegar juice. Snacks included rice crackers, red bean cookie, a wafer with light cream inside, and a preserved plum candy.

For dinner that night, we were treated to a full kaiseki meal in our room. They even had a special children's kaiseki meal which included sashimi, tempura, Matsuba crab, Tajima beef, and a box of fresh made onigiri. They even had two desserts for her. I would have been perfectly happy with that line up!

The adult menu was much more extensive and left us completely stuffed. We had two separate menus to accommodate my very inconvenient crustacean allergy. While my wife had a good helping of crab, I was treated to extra dishes centered around Tajima beef. I even had my own teppanyaki plate for one of my courses! I hope tomorrow's dinner will be as varied - stay tuned!

Shinkansen to Kinosaki Onsen Town with ekiben from Ekibenya Matsuri

After just a night in Tokyo (we'll be back later), we are headed up to Kinosaki Onsen Town for the next couple of days. It's a pretty long train ride (almost 5 hours with transfers) so getting ekiben was required. Ekibenya Matsuri in Tokyo Station is a crazy place that has a huge selection. We always try to get something different each time, including ones with collectible containers for my daughter.

I opted for the unagi bento which was quite good (though would have been even better served hot). My wife is a huge squid fan and these stuffed squids (ikameshi) are a regional speciality of Hokkaido. Riding the Shinkansen just wouldn't be the same without ekiben!