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Saturday, June 17, 2017

#carmenxjapan Day 9: Matcha city of Uji and chillax time in Kyoto

Last full day in the pretty city of Kyoto, I remember the sun was shining bright, exactly like how I felt after two days of traveling alone. Got used to things and time to truly enjoy. Began the day with a day trip to the city of Uji to learn and experience all things Matcha. In the evening, back to Kyoto for a walk down its shopping districts and coffee at the Kamo river.

Uji City
Matcha is almost synonymous with Japan, it's a national identity. Can't just leave Japan without making a effort to understand about the tea culture in depth. Was really intrigued to explore Uji, the city where quality green tea is cultivated. Took the Keihan Main Line train from Sanjo Station in Kyoto to Chushijima Station and transfer to the Keihan Uji Line which terminates at Uji Station. Explored the nearby area by foot.

totally can understand why tea in Uji is good, like literally 好山好水 arrr!

seriously I cant get over how perfect the weather was. It's not just what you see, but what you feel as well. The warmth of the sun with the incredibly comfortable gentle winds, perfect. 

Byodo-in 平等院
Another iconic Buddhist Temple with its unique features of the Jodo sect. In the middle of the temple ground is the grand Phoenix Hall, I think it looks like one of those imperial palace buildings in China. Also within the temple grounds is a museum that exhibits various Buddhism related artifacts. Loads of preserved Buddhist texts and all sorts of Buddha statues with intricate details. Really recommend a walk down the museum. (Don't have any photos coz photography is prohibited)

In Japan, you could purchase a special temple stamp book where you visit different temples in Japan and get the unique handwritten temple stamp from each of them. 

The Phoenix statues at the top of the roof against the wide sky. 

Didn't bother to use tripod today, please bear with my selfies haha

Tea Ceremony at Taihoan 對鳯庵
I have always wanted to experience the Sado which I've seen many times on TV but it's not exactly a affordable activity to see how people prepare tea. But thankfully, Uji city's municipal tea house, Taihoan has an alternative for a simple yet symbolic experience at 500yen only. It's the elegant and courteous way of preparing a cup of tea and serving it with grace. It might seem too much for just a cup of tea but it is how you express your sincerity. The only drawback is that the tea ceremony hosts do not converse in English but I really think their actions and smiles speaks louder than words. Would be better if we could understand some of her explanations coz I really wasn't sure if I'm doing things right haha.  
Walking along the Uji river towards the tourist center

The Municipal Tourist Center

just next to the tourist center is the pretty and traditional teahouse 

purchased a ticket for the tea ceremony at the tourist center. 

traditional tea house setting

We were served with sweets before the tea, they are meant to balance off the bitter taste in tea. Can we just take a moment to appreciate how perfect that round green sweet rests in the middle of this round-gold-flakes plate. Loving the colours. 

Though I'm not sure why it is purple inside, but i'm pretty sure it's red bean filling, my second guess is purple yam. Taste really good eh, it's like extra intense flavor of red bean paste but not too sweet.  

the only photo I have of the host, I was too chicken to take photos coz no one was doing it, thought it might be rude to take photos in the middle of the ceremony. By the way be prepared to kneel on the tatami mats, I don't know if it's just me who sucks at kneeling, but my legs started to have cramps after just 5 minutes. Salute the hosts who had to move around the room while kneeling!

my cup of tea is here! It is served one by one by the host and they had to bow every single time! Felt so paiseh haha. The tea, has a thick layer of foam and the tea at the bottom has this smooth texture. It's sweet but with a slight bitter after taste. 

The tearoom and the equipment 

Overall, it was a slow but fulfilling session of appreciating tea. Really hope they will have a English translator next time haha

Nakamura Tokichi Honten 中村藤吉本店
Born in Uji, this is one of the first and best Uji Matcha merchants ever established. Besides selling tea products, this main store has its own teahouse that serves delicious Matcha desserts and meals. There's also a pretty garden in the middle of the store. I am not a die-hard fan of green tea but I was really looking forward to have some sweet and refreshing desserts and tea. Don't say I didn't warn you, be prepared to wait in line. 

Location: 10 Uji Ichiban, Uji City, Kyoto 

Omotesando, a market street before Byodoin Temple which pretty much sells everything Matcha. Just be prepared to see a lot of Matcha in this area. 

One of the many tea merchants

after almost an hour of waiting, got a outdoor seat at Nakamura Tokichi

second day in a row to have matcha ice cream as lunch. 

Nakamura Tea 中村茶 (480yen)
I know it's not exactly wise to have tea while I'm already having a green tea dessert LOL But I was really intrigued to try their signature blend. Interestingly, it taste kinda like Leicha 擂茶 but with a sweet taste which was totally unique to me. It's not your sugar sweet or honey sweet, but a tealeaf sweet, couldn't believe my taste buds at first. And just as the instructions say, there's a slightly more bitter but refreshing taste if you infuse for a shorter time. And after several infusions, the tea will be sweet. 

there's a tea brewing how-to manual in English 

Matcha Tea Jelly (740yen)
Can't say I am super impressed, but it is yummy! The icy green tea icecream, the sweet red bean paste together with the slippery and slightly bittersweet tea jelly was a good combination. The jelly has a very mild taste but it's good on its own too. It's still a sweet dessert anyway and so there's the inevitable diminishing marginal utility as you eat more, wished there was someone to share this. 

I spent another half an hour strolling around the Uji bridge and take in as much of this scenery as I could. 

yep sun was really shining bright haha

Nishiki Market and Teramachi Shopping Street
Back to Kyoto city again for some walk after taking in all those sweets and tea. Decided to explore the shopping districts nearby Shijo street and Kawaramachi Station. Departmental stores, boutiques, souvenir shops and tea houses can be found here, pretty much everything you want to buy haha. Get ready to lose some cash here. Among those, the Teramachi shopping street is lined up with fashion boutiques from international brands and local stores that I've never heard of, and prices ranges from affordable to the expensive. The variety is amazing. Next, Nishiki Market, it's like the food version of Teramachi, loads of food and it's known as Kyoto's Kitchen! You can have street food and also buy fresh vegetables and seafood, together with any food ingredients as well. Such a joy to walk on streets like these. I don't have photos of Nishiki Market but do check out a video I made :) 

spotted a Geisha while I'm on my way

The Teramachi shopping street which houses more upscale brands

another shopping street parallel to Teramachi is Shinkyogoku Street, which offers more affordable options and many souvenir shops

only in Japan, you have a shrine in the middle of shopping street

Starbucks at Kamo River
Another beautiful sight not to be missed in the city of Kyoto is the stretch of shops along the Kamo River. Most of them are FnB outlets with alfresco dining which overlooks the river. Imagine savoring yummy food under the warm bright sun while enjoying the gentle breeze and the surrounding nature. One of them is the Starbucks outlet at Kamo River which is frequently featured in the list of prettiest Starbucks outlets in Japan. Enjoying coffee couldn't get better than this!    

If you just want some quiet time with a peaceful view, the Kamo River is a great hang out place. 

I know Japan's starbucks has its unique menu as well but I was really craving for Americano :) Super syokkkk

was really tired and i was just sitting down and thinking nothing. 

before i knew it, night falls

Still charming in the dark

Dinner at Machikadoya Kawaramachi Sanjo
a Japanese casual dining restaurant that attracted me with their affordable meals!
Location: Japan, 〒610-0113 Kyoto Prefecture, 中京区河原町 三条東入る中島町86

Miso Sauce Pork Katsu Set (690yen)
Is it my luck or all food in Japan taste good. I wasn't expecting it to taste good but this crunchy pork cutlets are pretty yummy, especially with the sweet and salty miso sauce. 

Looking back, my day was pretty much just walking around and drink some tea and repeat. But I really love it, especially when you are in a city with the most comfortable weather and beautiful scenery. But time to wave goodbye to the unique charms of Kyoto and say hi to the unknowns of the next destination! 

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