So the premise of this trip was that each day we spent in Japan would be planned by different pairs of siblings of the family (I have 9 siblings, so we had a lot to work with). Because of this, we got to see drastically different sides of Osaka and Kyoto. From peaceful mountains and parks to bustling shopping centers and markets (and even the cup noodles museum!) this trip had a mix of it all.
So much so that I decided to arrange the photos in “sets”, because each experience felt so different, that I had to edit and take photos of them in different ways.
Set 1: Honmachi in the Morning
It was the day after New Year’s, so the streets were extra quiet. I woke up and walked around the area we were staying at the time and waited for sunrise. I wanted to take photos of how even if the streets were empty, the things around us, the lights, the vending machines, were somewhat alive.
When the sun rose, and the streets felt warmer. Still quiet. Still empty. But warmer.
Set 2: Train stations are an interesting place.
I took these photos from different places in Osaka and Kyoto. It’s always interesting taking photos at train stations because it’s the closest we can get to know what normal daily life is like in a place. I observed that the Japanese had a quiet type of urgency around them. Even if they were in between places, they were quiet. Everything was so precise that you had to be extra focused or you’ll miss your stop. And they implemented all of this in the stations without any loud alarms or huge red block letters. Everything was just a-matter-of-fact. No matter how complicated the information they were presenting was.
For this set, I wanted to capture that stillness in between transits.
Set 3: One with nature at Mino-o Park
I was not prepared for this place. This place was so scenic (and so cold), that I couldn’t help but stand still and take in what I was seeing. Our taxi cab had dropped us off on a steep high road where a path began. It was a long walk but it didn’t feel like it because we were walking among tall trees and rivers. The amount of zen I felt at that moment lasted me a loooong time. The trail leads to a beautiful waterfall, that was framed by this vibrant vermillion bridge. It was a sight to behold. As we continued through the trail, we stopped to eat Maple Leaf Tempura and Takoyaki. This is definitely a place I would spend a whole day in (given the luxury of time).
(A specialty of the place: Maple Leaf Tempura)
Set 4: Shinsekai Vintage Dreams
After Mino-o park, we then proceeded to Shinsekai. It was the perfect contrast to a quiet afternoon. It was a sight for the senses: from pink and orange neon lights to the smell of different delicacies, this place definitely left me curious. I wanted to stay longer and explore each store.
(A Billyken (the god of things as they should be) Manju!)
Set 5: A Walk in the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
We woke up (relatively) early to go to Kyoto and visit this Bamboo Grove. Although lined with groups of tourists and families wanting to take photos with the bamboo trees, the place still seemed peaceful.
Set 5: Pictures of Serenity at Okocho Sanso Villa
After walking through the Bamboo forest, we arrived at a gate that lead to the Okocho Sanso Villa. This place was unreal. It was composed of gardens and small trails that lead you to stunning views of Arashiyama. This place seemed to frame nature perfectly, using modest structures and natural elements to really put the place surrounding it front and center. After the trail, we were asked to proceed to a teahouse where we were served with some perfectly bitter matcha and a small sweet treat that complemented the matcha really well.
Set 6: Nishiki Market & Gion
After our time at the Villa, we explored the city a little bit more. We visited what they call The Kitchen of Kyoto: The Nishiki Market. We had tofu donuts and dango, and of course, more Takoyaki. We also visited Gion, where the bustling streets were lined many restaurants and traditional architecture. People would walk in the streets in their elaborate yukatas or kimonos and visit the Yasaka Temple.
Set 7: Shinsaibashi
We had to do some shopping too, of course. Our main stops were Tokyu Hands, Muji, Drug Stores (for cosmetics), BIC Camera (for Camera equipment, tech stuff and other things!) and Don Quijote.
Set 8: Kuromon Market
As much as I loved our convenience store breakfasts here in Osaka, I have to say that our breakfast here was my favorite of the trip. Kuromon Market was a goldmine for amazing Japanese food like otoro, fresh seafood, fresh fruits and veggies (like the coveted white strawberries!) and other food items!
Our first stop was at this small food-court like space, where they had many different things like takoyaki, grilled sausage, and fresh seafood. But my eyes were on the prize: I wanted to try the Otoro. Otoro is fatty tuna that is supposedly so good and so fresh, it melts in your mouth. It definitely did not disappoint. The tuna was so fresh that it didn’t have that fishy/metal taste that usually comes with sashimi. It was so rich and so smooth. It had the texture of really tender steak. It was like eating a salmon tuna hybrid. It was glorious. Ugh, my mouth is watering.
Various seafood around the food court:
After eating the Otoro, we saw this sign on the table we were sitting at that said “Daifuku. Delicate as a feather, Soft as Silk.” and it lead us to my favourite dessert that I had in Japan: The Strawberry Daifuku. (A daifuku is mochi filled with sweet filling)
The picture above is the texture of the mochi the vendor was preparing before we ordered our food.
This Daifuku kept its promise: It was delicate. So delicate that the mochi didn’t have its own separate taste or texture, it melded so well with the white bean paste and a whole strawberry. It was so soft, but it in a tender, smooth way. It was like biting into a custard. Not like mush.
Another highlight of this market was the White Strawberries, though I had tasted it with as a Daifuku, I also wanted to taste it on its own.
I was very surprised when I tasted this because there was no aciditiy in the white strawberries whatsoever. The strawberries in Japan were already so sweet, but this White Strawberry was definitely in another level! It was like it was dipped in honey!
We also roamed around other parts of the market and were fortunate enough to taste some other delicacies.
Warm soy milk which my sister describes was like a hug since it was so cold out (I totally agree) :
That’s it, folks!
There were lots of things that I didn’t take pictures of but I also really enjoyed (like the Cup Noodle Museum and Universal Studios), and there are lots of memories that I was not able to write about here, but this trip was more about spending time with the family and getting ready for the year ahead, and I think we all did just that.