After leaving our luggage at the hotel, we took the Ginza Line Metro to Asakusa (浅草) to purchase the limited express train tickets for our upcoming Nikko day trip in two days’ time. Then we decided to begin the day with some leisure time at Ueno Park and its museums after our red-eye flight. With lush greenery, old trees, historical shrines and several museums, Ueno Park is a good place for a pleasant stroll. From online research, we came across a beautiful restaurant called Innsyoutei (韻松亭). Housed in a century-old timber building in the heart of Ueno Park, Innsyoutei serves a causal version of Kyoto kaiseki cuisine made with seasonal ingredients. We decided to check it out before our museum hopping.
The original timber house of Innsyoutei was built in 1875. A little over a decade ago, the building underwent a major renovation. This rustic tea house has long been a landmark in Ueno Park, where visitors would stop for light refreshments. The renovation maintained the original building layout, but replaced much of the timber structure with materials savaged from other old buildings in Kyoto and Shiga Prefecture.
The traditional restaurant complex is full of the beauty of Zen.
Innosyoutei (韻松亭) literally means “rhythm of the pine pavilion”. This poetic restaurant remains popular with park visitors, especially during hanami (花見) season when the timber house is surrounded by clusters of cherry blossoms.
Once entered the vestibule, we were immediately greeted by the fragrance of the incense.
We took off our shoes at the vestibule, and were led to the dining hall on the upper level.
The wooden stair is accompanied by a beautiful railing made of bamboo.
Covered with tatami floor mat, the dining hall was well lit with natural light coming from the large windows at both ends of the room. Sitting on zabuton (floor cushions), guests gathered at low tables on the tatami to enjoy their Hana-kago-zen (flower basket meal).
Outside the large window, we could see lush green everywhere.
It was not hard to imagine the beauty of the space during cherry blossoms when the lush green would be replaced with clusters of pink flowers.
We sat down at a low table and ordered our lunch sets with much anticipation.
The appetizers soon arrived. We were immediately impressed by the presentation and the taste of food.
We ordered two different set meals of seasonal fish and vegetables. The food was beautifully arranged and presented like two flower baskets with eye-catching colours. The dishes were made of various vegetables skillfully prepared to bring out the distinct flavors and textures of the ingredients.
Tofu, eggplant, beans, and mushroom might sound simple. Yet when they were individually prepared with different flavours of sweetness, sourness and saltiness, and were tasted in a certain order of sequence, the experience would become much more complex and sophisticated. Sometimes, we might not be able to tell what the actual ingredient was just by the look, and would get a pleasant surprise after the first bite. Every of our bite became an opportunity for a pleasant surprise, and was full of anticipation.
A cup of creamy yogurt-like custard beautifully served.
The meal finished with the traditional delight, a mochi (rice cake) kind of dessert wrapped in a leaf.
We unwrapped the leaf with high anticipation and were rewarded with a perfect gift to end the wonderful meal.
As one of the Kumano Sanzan, Hongu Taisha is one of the three major shrines of Kumano Shinto shrines, and the main pilgrimage destination in the Kii Mountains since the early 10th century. Originally built on the river delta of Oyunohara, the historical shrine was partially destroyed by floods in 1889. Out of the five original main shrine structures at Oyunohara, three were rebuilt at today’s location about 1km from its original spot. Similar to other Shinto shrines, unfinished wood were widely used in the shrine structures of Kumano Hongu Taisha. Not a single nail had been used in the magnificent timber structures. After a long day of walk, we arrived at Hongu Taisha at around 5pm. We entered the complex through its back entrance. Only a few local visitors were around. All the shops and vending stalls selling religious souvenirs were already closed. We quietly wandered around the ground, paid our respect to the deities, and decided to return for another visit the next day. We exited the ground from its main entrance. Across the street from the main entrance stood the Kumano Hongu Heritage Centre and the local bus stop. It was a relief after we realized that the last bus to Yunomine was still yet to come. It was only ten minutes of bus ride from Hongu to Yunomine, the small village famous for its 1800 year old onsen. From Takijiri to Hongu Taisha, we covered a little over 40km of hiking in two days. At Yunomine Onsen, it was the time for a well deserved rest and a dip into one of its hotsprings. We arrived at Yunomine in the evening. After we checked into our traditional rooms in Ryokan Adumaya, the hotel staff immediately prepared our Kaiseki dinner in our room. Ryokan Adumaya is the oldest guesthouse in the village, with its own hotspring baths and traditional tatami rooms serving both foreign and local visitors. After the dinner, the hotel staff set up the bed and blanket for us on the bamboo tatami. We silently walked into the shrine complex from the back entrance, which led us into the outer courtyard of the shrine complex. Unfinished timber gate structure that leads to the inner courtyard of the shrine complex. Gateway into the inner courtyard of the shrine complex. The three main shrine structures at the core of the inner courtyard were off limits to visitors. One of the three main shrine structures rebuilt after the move from the original location in 1889. Bronze features on the rooftop of the shrine structures. Chigi, the crossed detail on rooftop, is a common feature in Japanese Shinto architecture. The main stairway led us to the front entrance of Hongu Taisha. At the bus stop in front of Kumano Hongu Heritage Centre, we waited for the day’s last bus for Yunomine, where we would stay the night at a local hotspring inn. The main creek ran through the entire village of Yunomine at its centre. The public hotspring bath and the adjacent shop/ eatery were still open at 8 in the evening. Below the village shrine by the creek stood the piping system distributing the hotspring water to different parts of the village. We checked in at Ryokan Adumaya, the oldest hotspring inn at Yunomine. Kaiseki dinner at Ryokan Adumaya. Kaiseki dinner at Ryokan Adumaya. Kaiseki dinner at Ryokan Adumaya. Menu of the Kaiseki dinner at Ryokan Adumaya. Bedding and blanket were all set as soon as we finished the delicious dinner. Before bedtime, we still managed to visit the hotspring in the ryokan.
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Read other posts on 2015 Kansai…
Day 1.0 – Kansai Japan 2015
Day 1.1 – Hanami, Mount Yoshino
Day 1.2 – Feast under the Shades of Sakura, Mount Yoshiko
Day 2 – A Day in Kobe
Day 3 – A Day in Central Osaka
Day 4 – Tanabe – Prelude of the Kumano Kodo
Day 5.1 – Takijiri to Takahara, Kumano Kodo
Day 5.2 – Takahara to Tsugizakura , Kumano Kodo
Day 5.3 – Minshuku Tsugizakura, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.1 – Tsugizakura to Mikoshi-Toge Pass, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.2 – Mikoshi-Toge Pass to Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha to Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.1 – Ryokan Adumaya, Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.2 – Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.4 – Wataze Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.1 – Kumano Nachi Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.2 – Kii Katsuura, Kumano Kodo
Day 9 – Church of Light, Osaka