Asia, Japan

Asia Day 58: Kyoto – Tokyo (Gion – Mariyama Park – Ponto-Cho – Nishiki Market)

Photo of the day: Special outside skirt Kobe beef @ Yakinikubaru Han No Daidokoro.

After checking out of the Ryokan, we headed to E-fish for some breakfast. It had a nice view of the river. I ordered the tuna, cottage cheese and avocado sandwich, and Aaron had their beef balls soup. The sandwich turned out to be humungous so we shared. The taste was ok. The contents also kept spilling so I felt it was a bit messy. The beef balls soup was pretty good. Aaron was meeting up with a friend, so I used this time to do some blogging. My keyboard has official stopped pairing properly with my devices, I have been needing to rely on typing with my thumbs on my phone or awkwardly typing on my iPad mini. It was also a busy place, so I felt uneasy occupying the space for so long. I was considering visiting Kiyomizu temple since it was close by (a 20 minute walk) but read that the temple itself requires a lot of walking up steps, so I decided against it. My feet were still not in top shape.

Tuna, cottage cheese and avocado sandwich @ E-fish.

After Aaron finished, we walked along the river to Gion. I felt like I didn’t get to fully appreciate it the other night since it was so late and it was so dark. The ancient architecture can be seen today and it was actually really beautiful, especially with all the people in Kiminos. We even bumped into a few Geisha walking around. We eventually ended up in Maruyama Park, which was full of people and even had some street food stalls. We were getting hungry but didn’t feel like street food, so we walked back to Ponto-cho hoping to find some food. It was around 2:30pm now and a lot of the restaurants seemed to be on their break between lunch and dinner, so we walked towards Nishiki market instead.

A group of young ladies in Kimonos in Maruyama Park.

We finally decided on a restaurant specializing in Soba noodles called 有喜屋. I was originally attracted to their chicken and egg dons but decided to try their specialty instead. I had the Soba in soup with chicken and Aaron had their regular Soba with tempura. I realized I prefer to dip Soba noodles instead of eating it in a broth. Aaron seemed to have enjoyed his meal. At the end of Aaron’s meal, they brought over some of hot water for him to add to the dipping sauce so he can drink it. That was some concentrated soup!

Chicken with Soba at 有喜屋.

We wanted to do some shopping in the market and found some lockers at the main shopping area. We’ve seen these everywhere in South Korea and Japan. They are very convenient and found in many tourist attraction sights as well as train stations. We placed our backpacks in there to relieve some pressure on our backs while we walked. My priority was to buy new shoes to see if it would make a difference to how my feet felt. I’m a picky shopper so it took me a while to find something comfortable but also looks good. I ended up getting some sneakers with memory foam that made me feel like I’m walking on clouds. Hopefully my investment will not be wasted. (P.S. It was definitely not. My feet were no longer in pain for the rest of the trip.)


Aaron was more interested in the little spices and snacks in the market. The food market was not big but Aaron was curious to try everything. I eventually had to split up to visit the public washroom. To my dismay, it was a squattie. Not the dirtiest I’ve seen but not the super fancy Japanese toilets I’ve been used to with a million functions such as deodorizing, background noise-producing, bidet, and seat warming. I am also starting to really wonder why there is rarely ever any soap and hand towels found in washrooms of a country, which places so much importance in cleanliness. It’s not a problem for me since I carry around hand sanitizer with me. But what about everyone else? I later confirmed with a friend who lives here that you are expected to carry around your own hand sanitizer and handkerchief here. Phew! We’re ok!

We must not leave before getting some more cheese tarts from Bake. This time, Aaron decided we should get a box to go, so we can snack on the train. Apparently, they also had franchises in Tokyo, so I guess we didn’t need to load up on them now, but I can’t complain! The trains were definitely busier around 6:30pm. We had walk through a pretty full train before deciding to get off to wait for the next one, which came shortly after.

It was nice to finally be “home” again. It’s actually quite nice to have a home base, then take short trips from this central hub. We dropped off our bags then went out for some Kobe beef! Aaron found a place called Yakinikubaru Han No Daidokoro. I realized it was actually Korean BBQ as I saw the kanji for Korean on the signage as we walked it. We got a seat near at the bar, which was a great decision because our server/trainee chef was so fun to interact with throughout our meal. Our first order was the “special outside skirt” and the ribs. We were given a small appetizer with a cabbage and sliced beef in a vinaigrette. They set up the grill for us and then the meat came shortly after. We were instructed on how to cut the meat then it was time to eat! The “special outside skirt” was the fattiest piece beef I’ve ever had. It would just melt in my mouth. I ordered some Korean lettuce on the side but did not want to cover up the taste of such good beef with it. It came with a miso paste so I just ate the lettuce dipped in miso paste instead. There were a few options for dipping the meat. There was lemon juice, a special Yakiniku sauce and soy sauce with wasabi. My preferred way of eating this was dipping the beef in Yakiniku sauce with some wasabi on top. The ribs were also very good. It was definitely different than the beef we had in Korea. We also ordered the Aburi beef sushi and our server kindly reminded us to eat it fresh. I don’t think I’ve ever had raw beef sushi before so this was quite exciting. The beef was so soft, I couldn’t even tell it was beef! I can tell they really took pride in their food because they were so appreciative when I said it was “Oishii” (delicious)! For drinks, I tried the citrus plum wine hoping it would have some Yuzu flavour but was disappointed as it was just sweet. Aaron really enjoyed their Makgeolli, his new favourite drink. We couldn’t just stop here. We had to order more beef. For our second order, we had some “beef finger meat” (which I later learnt was actually the meat between the ribs) and the regular outside skirt meat. The finger meat was definitely tougher, while the regular outside skirt meat was still quite good but once you had the “special” one, there is no turning back. We also had some of their Bancho salad to balance out all this beef. We were warned it would be spicy and it sure was! This was a great way to wrap up our weekend. It was really late by now, but I’m glad we decided to spend more time in Kyoto since we really only had 2 full days there. The non-reserved seats option on the bullet train is so flexible and made our last minute decision a lot easier to pull off.

Kobe beef @ Yakinikubaru Han No Daidokoro


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