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Posts tagged “food

THE BEAUTY OF CHAOS, Street Markets, Old eateries, Heritage Buildings and Calligraphy Signage of Sham Shui Po (深水埗), Kowloon (九龍), Hong Kong

Hong Kong has its charm as a vibrant metropolis and financial hub in the Far East, but it also has its issues of insanely expensive housing and tremendous gap between the rich and poor.  New immigrants, elderly and young people living in bunkers about the size of coffins (known as “coffin homes”) have made the headlines in recent years while at the same time government’s land sales and housing prices have skyrocketed to record levels.   Because of its concentration of inexpensive tiny bunkers and decades-old apartments, Sham Shui Po (深水埗), an old neighborhood in West Kowloon, has often been associated with issues of poverty and urban decay.

With its vibrant street markets selling everything from cheap electronics, second hand appliances, clothing, toys, and a wide range of DIY parts, from buttons and fabrics, to cables and motors, Sham Shui Po seems like one huge flea market.  Beyond the chaotic appearance, however, visitors may find a special nostalgic charm in this neighborhood, with traces of the beautiful old Hong Kong that have been mercilessly replaced by cold and glassy highrises, luxurious malls, and uninspiring chain-stores throughout the city.  A walk in Sham Shui Po is a diverse journey full of chaotic street markets, affordable and unpretentious food, lovely heritage buildings and much more.

01Compared with many upscale residential neighbourhoods and the city’s commercial heart, the streets of the relatively less affluent Sham Shui Po are much more human and pedestrian oriented.

02Sham Shui Po still has a variety of traditional businesses from Old Hong Kong, such as a high concentration of pawnshops.

03Some old apartment flats in the area have been converted to subdivided rental bunkers.  The worst type is called “coffin homes” due to their tiny size similar to real coffins.

04Every view in Sham Shui Po seems layered, chaotic and complicated.

05Quite a number of streets in Sham Shui Po are famous for street markets. Catering for different clientele, each market zone is more or less designated for a distinct type of merchandises.

06Looking from above, the streets of Sham Shui Po seem like an abstract painting composed of rows of colour swatches.

07While the streets are vibrant and chaotic, the rooftop level seems like a totally different world.

08Ki Lung Street (基隆街) is popular with customers looking for DIY supplies for clothing, including fabrics, buttons, ribbons, trims, zippers, you name it.

09Nicknamed Street of Beads, Yu Chau Street (汝州街) is another street in the area famous for DIY clothing accessories.

10Known as the miniature of Sham Shui Po, Pei Ho Street (北河街) is a market street famed for its fine clothing in really affordable prices.

12Another well known market street is Apliu Street (鴨寮街), a large flea market specialized in electronic parts and second-hand electronics.

13There are many stalls at Apliu Street (鴨寮街) specialized in electronic repair.

14Other than shopping, food lovers also have their reasons to visit Sham Shui Po for some of its more small, traditional and down-to-earth eateries that are disappearing fast in other areas of the city.  Sun Heung Yeung (新香園 (堅記)) on Kweilin Street (桂林街) is one of the most popular Hong Kong style cafe in Sham Shui Po, famous for its beef and egg sandwiches.

IMG_0888Established in 1957, another renounced eatery in Sham Shui Po is Wai Kee Noodle Cafe (維記咖啡粉麵 ) on Fuk Wing Street (福榮街).

15Wai Kee Noodle Cafe (維記咖啡粉麵 ) is famous for their beef and pork liver noddles (豬潤牛肉麵) and Coconut Jam French Toast (咖央西多士).

16Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong (公和荳品廠) or Kung Wo Soybean Product Factory is another major attraction for food lovers.

17With over a century of experience, Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong (公和荳品廠) sell all kinds of bean curd or tofu products.

18Even the interior of Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong (公和荳品廠) is full of nostalgic ambience.

19.JPGApart from shopping and eating, Sham Shui Po is also a great place to admire Hong Kong’s old architecture.  The government proposes a series of urban renewal.

20Sham Shui Po still has a considerable amount of tong lau (唐樓) or old tenement buildings with a covered colonnade on street level.  The ground floor was usually occupied by a small shop, such as a pawnshop or food vendor.  This type of architecture once dominated much of Hong Kong before 1960’s.

21The 5-storey Nam Cheong Pawn Shop at 117-125 Nam Cheong Street was built in the 1920’s.  Even the iconic cantilevered pawnshop signage have becoming rarer nowadays.

2258 Pei Ho Street is probably one of the most famous heritage buildings in the area.  Built in 1920’s and served as a pawnshop until the 1970’s, it was then converted into a shop selling dried seafood until present days.

23The curved balcony of 58 Pei Ho Street is quite unique.  The amazing feature window a level above the street is such a lovely design gesture back in the old days when there was less vehicular traffic.

24Old Chinese calligraphy signage can be seen all over the streets of Sham Shui Po.  Before graphics design being computerized, most Chinese signage came from the hands of a professional calligrapher.  Each neighborhood allowed a few calligraphers to earn a living, and each calligrapher had his/her own style.  It’s the individual human touch that makes these calligraphy signage unique, especially in the  age of computerization and standardization.

25Built in the 1940s, Hang Jing Pawnshop is no longer in business.  The colonnaded area is now used as an outdoor workshop of a nearby shop.  On the columns, beautiful calligraphy of the former pawnshop is still visible.

26On the concrete wall of Hang Jing Pawnshop, the old calligraphy set in the plaster represents a bygone era


DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan

After we came back from Fushimi Inari Taisha, we thought it would be a good idea to find a place for lunch in Downtown Kyoto.  There was still a few hours before our 18:30 flight.

06We opted for a revisit of Nishiki Market (錦市場), the five block long market street known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”.

04For the past few days we didn’t really have a decent meal of sashimi.  We ended up sitting down at a sashimi restaurant Nishiki Daimaru Yoshi (錦大丸).  The restaurant was hidden behind its fishmonger shop.

01At this popular restaurant, we were the first customers sitting down at the long counter in front of the food preparation area.

02There was only set lunch available.  We wouldn’t mind as long as the sashimi was fresh.  The set included sashimi, tempura and grilled fish.

03The washroom at the restaurant was small but full of character.

07After lunch, we went outside of the Nishiki Market and arrived at the back side of Daimaru Department Store.  There was a small vendor selling farmer’s produce.  We couldn’t resist but bought a few items to bring back to Hong Kong.

05Then we headed back into Nishiki Market for another stroll.

08We passed by a vendor selling all kinds of traditional sweets and snacks.  We picked up some regional roasted peanuts.

09There were quite a few shops selling Tsukemono (漬物, Japanese pickled snacks).  Many items were seasonal.

10Then we passed by the chestnut shop where we bought some delicious local chestnuts before.

11At the end of Nishiki Market, we arrived at the entrance of Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine, a Shinto shrine conveniently located at the heart of the downtown.

12Another shop worth noting in the area was Tamaru Inbo (田丸印房), a Hanko shop, a store selling traditional stamps and seals made of wooden or stone blocks.  With over a century of professional reputation, Tamaru Inbo was a great place to check out Japanese hanko.

13From Shijo Dori, we walked east to the Kamo River (鴨川).   We decided to walk south along the river for a final stroll along the peaceful river.

14The weather was perfect for a relaxing stroll.

15Like us, many preferred to take the route along the river instead of the city streets.

16We passed by many restaurants facing the river.  Hopefully next time we would be able to enjoy a meal at one of the many waterfront dining patios during the summer months.

17We left the riverbank when we reached Gojo Dori Street.  We decided to get a good cup of coffee before leaving for the airport.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe landed on a cafe called Efish just south of Gojo Dori, at Kiya-machi Dori, a small neighborhood street sandwiched between the Kamo River and Takase River (高瀬川).  Unlike several blocks up north where Kiya-machi Dori represented the vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene of the city, here the narrow street became a laid-back neighborhood alley.

19Efish is great for its relaxing atmosphere by the river.  Other than refreshing food and drinks, Efish also showcased cool design housewares inside the cafe.

20On our way from Efish to Kyoto Station, we walked past Umeyu Rakuen (サウナの梅湯), a retro 80-year old bathhouse.  In 2015, 25 year-old Yusuke Minato, a long-time devotee to traditional bathhouses, took over the declining bathhouse and transformed it into a hip venue to promote traditional bathing, as well as occasional gigs and flea market.  We didn’t have time for a soak and would have to save it till next time.

21After another few minutes of walk we could see Kyoto Tower from a distance.  A big crow on the treetop over our head was making loud noises, as if yelling out our parting wishes with the ancient capital.

22Minutes later we reached the futuristic Kyoto Station once again.  We took the escalators down to the basement to pick up our backpacks at the lockers and hop on a Haruka Express for the Kansai Airport.  As the train leaving the station, we were already planning for a return trip sometime in the near future.  Kyoto was and always will be the perfect venue for us to dwell in the power of heritage, nature, and spirituality whenever we were overwhelmed by the dull and routine work lives.

This concludes the record of our 5-day Kyoto trip in December 2016.

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan

It was already past 7pm when our Kintetsu express train arrived at Kyoto Station from Nara.  We decided to check out the Kyoto Ramen Koji (Kyoto Ramen Street) on the 10th floor of the station for a quick dinner.  We took the escalators up to the famous Daikaidan (Grand Staircase).  The Daikaidan stretched from 4th floor all the way up to the sky garden on the 15th floor.  Architect Hiroshi Hara specifically provided a stage on the 4th floor, while the staircase would become an enormous amphitheater.  There was no performance when we were there.  Instead, the stage was occupied by a large Christmas Tree.  The lights changed colours according to the background music.

07The big Christmas Tree occupied the open space on the 4th floor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the Christmas Tree we walked up the Daikaidan (Grand Staircase) to the 10th floor for our ramen dinner.

05There was a strip of LED lights at the nosing of each step.  The lights changed colours constantly.

04With the LED lights on each step, the entire staircase became a giant screen of festive animations.

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We entered the building on the 10th floor, and could immediately smell the pork ramen and feel the warmth of the atmosphere.  Here at Kyoto Ramen Koji (Kyoto Ramen Street), there were about ten different ramen restaurants, representing the ramen style from different parts of Japan.  We ended up picking Masutani (ますたに), a Kyoto based ramen restaurant established since 1948.

01We queued in front of the restaurant for about 20 minutes and then ordered our ramen from the machine by the entrance.

02Once inside, we handed the tickets to the staff and sat down by a wooden counter.

03After several minutes, our hot and delicious ramen arrived, a perfect answer for the chilly night!

***

After the tasty ramen, we didn’t want to go back to the hotel yet.  In front of Kyoto Station, we hopped on a night bus bounded westwards.  Our destination was the ROHM Illumination Festival 2016.  With 800,000 light bulbs lighting up 82 trees along Kasuga Dori, ROHM Illumination is the biggest annual Christmas lighting event in Kyoto since 1995.  ROHM, a Japanese semiconductor manufacturer based in Kyoto sponsored the event annually to light up the immediate area of its office in town.  The light show was smaller than similar events in other large cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, it did however transform a tranquil neighborhood into a romantic, glittering and festive promenade of lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe entrance of Kasuga Dori was guarded by the two Yamamomo Trees (Chinese bayberry) covered with dazzling lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Yamamomo Trees were round in shape, perfect for turning into spheres of lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKasuga Dori was lined both sides with 20 metasequoias, all dressed up with tiny light bulbs to create the luminous promenade.

11With the lighting, the yellow crowns of the metasequoias appeared as if on fire.

12Two types of light bulbs were used, small LED and twinkling incandescent lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lights transformed the small Nagura Park into a romantic public venue.

14Families and kids were having fun in Nagura Park.

15Under different music, the LED balls on the ground and the 13.5m (h) by 9m (w) LED screen made use the lawn next to the Nagura Park to put together the “Ensemble of Light”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKids had a good time at the playground and the light show.

17Antique cars somehow blended in well with the ambience of the light festival.

18At 9:30pm, we turned back to the entrance of Kasuga Dori and had a final look at the two for the trip’s last day.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan

On Day 3 we decided to dedicate the morning to visit Northern Higashiyama (北東山).  The area was less crowded than the Southern Higashiyama (area around Kiyomizu-dera) but still contained some of the most impressive temples in the city, including Nanzenji Temple (南禅寺) and Ginkakuji Temple (銀閣寺).  We had a simple breakfast at Le Bac a Sable, a small French bakery near Higashiyama Metro Station.  Run by two Frenchmen, the bakery was cozy and causal, and offered good bread and coffee.  After breakfast, we took bus no.5 to head northeast.  The bus drove by National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, Kyoto City Zoo, and Okazaki Park, where a large torii gate led to the Heian Shrine beyond.  We got off at Shirakawa Dori (白川通), and found our way into a network of residential streets heading towards Nanzenji Temple (南禅寺), the most important Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto.  The peaceful street scenery of grey roof tiles, dew-wet timber panels, moss covered stone walls and autumn red maples under the early morning sunlight was impeccable.  We couldn’t ask for more for a perfect start of the day.

img_9189Breakfast at Le Bac a Sable, a simple French bakery near Higashiyama Metro Station.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe waited for the bus no.5 at the peaceful Sanjo Dori.

01bWe got off at Shirakawa Dori (白川通), and crossed the road into a network of small residential streets.

02The air was fresh and the sunlight was soft at around 8:00am.

03A alleyway leading into the neighborhood of Nanzenji Temple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA cyclist under the soft morning sun.

05The residential streets near Nanzenji Temple was so serene.  All we could hear was the sound of singing birds and running water from the channels along the edge.

08Red maples matched perfectly well with the timber sidings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMoss-covered stone and white wash wall of one of the large residential complex.

10Channel brought the fresh water down from the Eastern Mountains.

11Signage for the north gate of Nanzenji Temple and Philosopher’s Path beyond as we approached the temple complex.

12We passed by the entrance of Jishin-in Temple (慈氏院 ) just before entering Nanzenji.

13The woodland near the entrance of Nanzenji Temple.

14Path leading to the main entrance of Nanzenji Temple.

15The trees were still wet from the morning dew.

17The autumn colours at the entrance of Nanzenji.

16A natural carpet of red leaves at Nanzenji Temple.

02The Sammon Gate (三門) of Nanzenji Temple leading into the temple ground.

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan

 


DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan

Recommended by a number of blogs and international media such as the New York Times, Yakitori Hitomi (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見) has been named as the best restaurant in Kyoto for Yakitori (焼き鳥) or Japanese skewered chicken.  We made a reservation through the phone about a week prior to our departure.  Fortunately, we managed to communicate with the staff over the phone with simple English and managed to secure a table for 20:30 on our second day of the trip.  Many said that bookings should be made weeks well in advance for this highly popular and intimate restaurant on Nijo Dori at a quiet residential neighborhood in Higashiyama.  It was a 15 minute walk to Yakitori Hitomi from our hotel.  We borrowed an umbrella from the hotel as it was still raining.

Nijo Dori was quiet and there were hardly anyone on the street.  We arrived at Yakitori Hitomi right on time, and were received with a warm welcome by the staff.  The master chef/owner recognized us right away as he was the one whom we spoke to on the phone.  He talked with us for a bit and told us that he had been to Hong Kong more than two decades ago.  We sat by the counter facing the semi-open kitchen.  We were given English menu, and a diagram of a chicken indicating different parts available, from neck to heart to bottom.  We ordered sake, plum wine, and a variety of chicken skewers, local duck fillets, chicken soup, vegetable sticks, etc.  The master chef/owner was the only person who worked at the binchotan (備長炭) or traditional Japanese white charcoal grill.  We sat patiently to wait for each delicious skewer to be served one by one.  The two-hour meal was definitely the best Japanese yakitori we ever had, and on top of that, the wonderful staff service and cozy atmosphere all made it a remarkable experience for our Kyoto stay.

01The secluded front door and street facade of Yakitori Hitomi.

02We sat at the timber counter facing the semi-open kitchen.

03The restaurant interior was cozy and simple.

04Japanese menu of Yakitori Hitomi.

05Diagram showed the various parts of chicken available.

06Sake and salt.

07Chicken knee cartilage.

08Tsukune or Japanese chicken meatball.

09Sasami or chicken breast tender.

10Seseri, or chicken neck.

11Local chicken wings.

12Japanese pickles, and momo or thigh meat.

13Chicken soup.

14A type of Japanese yam.

15Vegetable sticks with master chef/owner in the background.

16Complimentary dish and plum wine.

18Thigh meat.

19Kyoto duck fillets.

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan

Leaving Kiyomizu-dera behind, we walked down Matsubara Dori (松原通) to the intersection of Gojo-zaka (五条坂), where we were drawn by a small shop selling different senbei (煎餅), or Japanese rice crackers snacks.  The shop Terakoya Honpo (寺子屋本舗) is a well known chain store of senbei in Japan.  We couldn’t resist but picked up a piece of delicious senbei with seaweed spices.  Turning into Sannen-zaka (三年坂), we found our way back to Yasaka Dori (八坂通), the historical alleyway dominated by the iconic Yasaka-no-to Pagoda of Hokanji Temple (法観寺 八坂の塔).  A number of locals and tourists dressed in traditional kimonos were posing for photos in front of the pagoda.   A strong coffee aroma led us to a few shops down from the pagoda.  The sleek design of curved glazing and minimal decor of %Arabica Coffee provided a pleasant contrast to the historical atmosphere of Higashiyama.  We went in, ordered two cups of hand drip coffee, and sat down at the communal table.  A female staff took our order and prepared the coffee at the counter.  After about ten minutes, our magnificent morning coffee were ready, and that was probably one of the best coffees we ever had.

Just round the street corner from %Arabica along Higashioji Dori (東大路通), we arrived at a alleyway leading to the Shinto shrine Yasui Konpiragu (安井金比羅宮).  Nothing monumental or extravagant, the low profile shrine in a residential neighborhood was surprisingly popular with local worshipers due to the specialized wishes of “sever bad relationships and established  good relationships (悪縁を切り良縁を結ぶ).  In the shrine complex, the centre piece “Power Stone Monument” is a 3m x 1.5m tall rock with an oval hole in the middle.  The monument is fully covered with white paper charms.  When we were there, there was a long queue of visitors (mostly young women) waiting for their turns to crawl through the oval hole in a ritual of making wishes related to relationships.  The main shrine building stood adjacent to the “Power Stone Monument”.  In front of the main shrine, racks fully loaded with ema (絵馬) wooden plaques and paper charms written with wishes captured our attention.  Judging from the amount of ema, Yasui Konpiragu should be considered a very popular Shinto shrine.  We exited the shrine complex through a side torii gateway into a residential lane, and soon found ourselves just steps away from the perimeter wall of Kenninji Temple (建仁寺).  Before entering this oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, we stopped by a soba restaurant next to the temple entrance for a quick lunch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutside of Kiyomizu-dera, visitors including us began to walk down Matsubara Dori (松原通) towards the city.

02Senbei, Japanese rice crackers, with seaweed spices ordered from Terakoya Honpo (寺子屋本舗), a chain snack shop.

03On Yasaka Dori (八坂通), there were quite people dressed in traditional kimono and posed for photos.

04A grapefruit tree below the Yasaka-no-to Pagoda of Hokanji Temple (法観寺 八坂の塔).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear Yasaka-no-to Pagoda, we passed by  Yasaka Koshindo (八坂庚申堂), a small Koshin (庚申) temple.

06Walking down Yasaka Dori looking for %Arabica Coffee.  Whenever we turned around the Yasaka-no-to Pagoda just dominated the vista.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThree customers sat on a bench in front of %Arabica Coffee Shop.

08Front counter of %Arabica Coffee Shop in Higashiyama.

09Coffee beans stored behind glass cabinets against the long wall in the coffee shop.

10Coffee roasting machine at the back of the shop.

11Two cups of Hand drip coffee!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA long queue for the opportunity to crawl through the hole of “Power Stone Monument” at Yasui Konpiragu (安井金比羅宮).

13A young woman crawling through the “Power Stone Monument”.

14A young woman worshiping at the main shrine.

15A rack fully filled with ema (絵馬) wooden plaques

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Side Entrance and torii gate of Yasui Konpiragu (安井金比羅宮).

16soba restaurant.

17Interior of the soba restaurant.

18Soba with tempura

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASoba with fresh tofu skin in thick broth

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan

As first time visitors to Kyoto, we were eager to see the autumn colours at the world famous Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺), especially when we knew that the iconic Kiyomizu Stage (清水の舞台) would undergo a major renovation starting from January 2017.  It was the second last day of the season that Kiyomizu-dera opened for autumn special night viewing, and according to local weather forecast, Kyoto’s weather would turn bad in a day’s time.  Without hesitation we hopped on a bus near Kitano Tenmangu and headed back to Higashiyama.  We had some rest on the 45-minute bus ride.  After getting off, we picked one alleyway to walk uphill.  Soon we arrived at the magnificent Hokanji Yasaka Pagoda (法観寺 八坂の塔).  As we walked uphill, we felt like we were pilgrims going back in time, entering into a world of narrow stone alleyways, centuries-old timber houses and Buddhist buildings.  Along the way, most shops were already closed, but a few souvenir and snack shops still opened to serve the night visitors of Kiyomizu-dera.  Over our heads, we soon discovered a strong beam of blue light in the sky, pointing from Mount Otowa (音羽山) where the temple was situated, outwards to the infinite sky above the city.  According to the official website, the light embodies the Kannon (観音)’s compassion, brightening the streets of the ancient city.  For us, it was like a guidance leading us uphill.  It get more crowded as we walked closer to the temple.  Minutes later we arrived at the stepped plaza of Niomon Gate (仁王門).  In front of the famous Saimon Gate (西門), we lined up to get our admission tickets from a temporary shelter and delightfully walked up the stair to enter the temple complex.

The autumn foliage at Kiyomizu-dera had past its peak a few days ago.  Nonetheless, all visitors including us were excited to tour around the celebrated complex under the illuminations of floodlights and embellishment of the remaining autumn maples.  At the main hall, we took off our shoes, paid our respect in front of the sanctuary, and admired the illuminated autumn colours down in the valley below Kiyomizu Stage.  Standing 13m above the valley, the Kiyomizu Stage (清水の舞台) had been the centerpiece of the temple for centuries.  Without using a single nail, the Kiyomizu Stage is made of 410 Hinoki wooden boards supported by 18 Zelkova pillars using the hole and grooves technique known as the Kakezukuri Method.  From the stage, a stone path led us to the opposite side of the valley, where a large crowd gathered in front of Okunoin Hall (奥の院) looking back to admire the  main hall and Kiyomizu Stage.  Perched above the fire red maples, the huge roof of the main hall made of Hinoki bark and the lattice structure of Kiyomizu Stage looked gorgeously timeless, while the comet-like beam of blue light connected the temple with the glittering urban skyline beyond.  The path overlooking the valley of colourful leaves then led us further away from the main hall until reaching the base of the small pagoda where we headed down to the valley.  In the valley, a tree-lined path brought us all the way back to the bottom of the Kiyomizu Stage, where the adjacent Otowa waterfall (音羽の瀧) came down in three separated streams.  Another crowd of visitors formed a long queue at the waterfall, waiting for their turn to drink the water with the special cup provided.  As we headed to the temple exit, we passed by a mirror-like pond with magnificent reflections of autumn leaves and the orange Three-storey Pagoda above the cliff.

We were overjoyed for having such a fruitful day of sightseeing.  To give this beautiful day a satisfying closure we opted for a late dinner.  We walked downhill from Kiyomizu-dera, passed through Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社), and entered the lively district of Gion (祇園), the active area of traditional geisha.  We picked Okaru (おかる), a small udon restaurant popular with geiko since established in 1923.  We ordered two of their signature noodle bowls and felt truly grateful of finishing our wonderful first day of Kyoto.

dsc_1567Passing by the Hokanji Yasaka Pagoda (法観寺 八坂の塔) as we headed up to Kiyomizu-dera.

02Minutes later we arrived at the stepped plaza of Niomon Gate (仁王門).

dsc_1589In front of the famous Saimon Gate (西門), we lined up to get our admission tickets from a temporary shelter, while the beam of blue light shot up the sky behind the temple.

03Stone statue in front of the Three-storey Pagoda.

04Looking back out to the Three-storey Pagoda behind entering the main hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVisitors stepping into the timber structure of the main hall.

dsc_1649Inside the main hall, the sanctuary is consisted of three sections: outer, inner, and innermost.  Only the outer sanctuary is open to the public.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVisitors gathered on the Kiyomizu Stage photographing the skyline of Kyoto.

09The strong beam of blue light shot out from Mount Otowa behind the temple.

10Behind the Kiyomizu Stage, a prominent stair led down to the Otowa waterfall.

11Iconic overview of Kiyomizu Stage, main hall, autumn maples, blue light and Kyoto skyline.

12The beam of blue light pointed towards Kyoto Tower in a distance.

13The stair adjacent to the timber structure of the Kiyomizu Stage.

dsc_1723The amazing structure of Kiyomizu Stage lit up with floodlight.

dsc_1713Lanterns indicating special night viewing, which happens three times a year: cherry season in spring, three days of Thousand-day Pilgrimage/Special Viewing of nainaijin in the Main Hall in the summer, and the maple colours in autumn.

15.JPGAutumn foliage and the Three-storey Pagada reflected in the pond near the exit.

14Autumn colours, blue light and the Three-storey Pagoda.

16By the time we returned to the Niomon Gate (仁王門), Kiyomizu-dera was already closed for the night.

17We passed by the lanterns at Yasaka Shrine on the quest for our late dinner.

18We picked Okaru (おかる) in Gion for a simple noodle bowl.

19We ordered two of the signature dishes: curry and cheese udon and local duck udon.

20Curry and cheese udon and local duck udon.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan