Japan: Kaiseki

Hidden away next to Kyoto’s river and bamboo forests in Arashiyama is a small restaurant Shoraian, serving traditional tofu multi-course Japanese meals (kaiseki).

While most kaiseki meals tend to be rather expensive ($100~300/person), Shoraian’s lunches are reasonably priced at $33~50/person (http://www.shoraian.com/menu/).  I picked the most expensive meal option Shofu ($50/person) to try as many dishes as possible.

Reservations is required.  If you can, request the window seats next to the river, because the view is amazing! 🙂

kaiseki (15 of 15)

Website: http://www.shoraian.com
How to get there: http://www.shoraian.com/access/randen-railway/ (it’s easy to get lost, but basically just follow the river, go up some steps until you see the sign below)

kaiseki (2 of 15) kaiseki (3 of 15) kaiseki (4 of 15) kaiseki (5 of 15) kaiseki (6 of 15)

Dried soymilk skin “OKE YUBA” and seasonal fried cuisine kaiseki (7 of 15) kaiseki (8 of 15)kaiseki (1 of 15) kaiseki (9 of 15)

Wagyu steakkaiseki (10 of 15)

Agedashi tofu (deep fried tofu served in a dashi broth)kaiseki (11 of 15) kaiseki (12 of 15)

Tofu ice cream with cinnamon mochi!kaiseki (13 of 15) kaiseki (14 of 15)

Hungry Cactus’ verdict: B+

Shoraian was a really nice place to have a kaiseki experience.  They were able to use tofu in a lot of ways, and it was unique (though you’ll have to expect it being a light meal and on the bland side).  It’s a great place to enjoy Kyoto’s tranquility after exploring the surrounding areas.

Japan: Omurice


When I was in high school I watched “Lunch Queen”, a Japanese drama about a lady extremely obsessed with lunches, especially the Japanese omelette rice called omurice.  Since then, I have been obsessed with finding the best omurice, and to see what’s the big deal.  So finally when I visited Kyoto in 2015, I visited Kichi Kichi.

Kichi Kichi
185-4 Zaimokucho,
Sanjo Pontocho-dori Kudaru,
Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

omurice (1 of 6) omurice (2 of 6) omurice (3 of 6) omurice (4 of 6)

And here’s the actual video of the chef cutting the omurice open! Wow!

Sadly while the presentation was out of this world amazing, the entire dish seemed very bland, even with the demi glace sauce on top…like it wasn’t flavored correctly.

omurice (5 of 6)

omurice (6 of 6)

Hungry Cactus’ verdict: B-

I have to say, I’ve come to the end of the journey and am not impressed with omurice in general.  I think it’s a dish that isn’t that great to start off with…after all, it’s just an omelette.  Even though Kichi Kichi really has perfected the creation and presentation of omurice (which is impressive in itself), but I would not recommend going there. My pictures and video above should be enough to satisfy your curiosity.

Japan: Nara (Part 2: Deer)

There’s only one place in Japan where you can find more free roaming deer than people…and that’s at Nara Park!  Before the 1637, it was a capital offense punishable by death for killing a deer (no joke!).   The park costs nothing to enter, but a bundle of deer crackers (鹿煎餅 Shika-senbei) can be bought for 200 yen ($1.80), which will guarantee massive deer attention!

nara (30 of 78)

There are the following instructions on what to watch out for!

nara (78 of 78)

Let’s go say hi to all these sacred deer!  Most were friendly, hungry and curious….but a few were aggressive!

nara (61 of 78)

nara (64 of 78)

Continue reading “Japan: Nara (Part 2: Deer)”

Japan: Nara (Part 1: Temples & Scenery)

While most tourists in Japan will visit Osaka and Kyoto, many pass by a lesser known city, Nara, which is just 25 miles away.  This post will showcase Nara’s temples and scenery, while the following post will showcase the famous free roaming deer that populate the city.

Enjoy the tranquility of Nara during the fall season!

nara (3 of 78) nara (4 of 78)nara (5 of 78) Continue reading “Japan: Nara (Part 1: Temples & Scenery)”

Japan: Satsuki and Mei’s House

One of Hayao Miyazaki’s most well known anime is his 1988 masterpiece “My Neighbor Totoro“.  Without ruining too much of the story for you, two sisters (Satsuki and Mei) move into an old rural house with their dad, where something special and magical happens.  As it turns out, this house was recreated in real life at the 2005 Expo (Aichi Commemorative Park) in Nagoya.  Everything in the house looks exactly in the anime, which is really amazing.

Here begins our journey to Satsuki and Mei’s house (took us 30 minutes of walking):

totorohouse (2 of 18) totorohouse (3 of 18)

This is the dad’s study room:

totorohouse (4 of 18) totorohouse (5 of 18) totorohouse (6 of 18) totorohouse (7 of 18)

This is the support that is about to fall overtotorohouse (8 of 18) totorohouse (9 of 18)

totorohouse (11 of 18) totorohouse (12 of 18) totorohouse (13 of 18) totorohouse (14 of 18) totorohouse (15 of 18) totorohouse (16 of 18) totorohouse (17 of 18) totorohouse (18 of 18)

This the plant that Totoro’s magic help grow!totorohouse (10 of 18)

Hungry Cactus’ verdict: B

It is unfortunate Satsuki and Mei’s house restricts photography inside the house.  Also, there were no life size creations of Totoro or the girls, probably due to legal issues of not being an officially licenced Ghibli attraction.  Lastly, Nagoya is pretty far from Kyoto/Osaka/Tokyo, making this attraction only for very serious Totoro fans.

Overall, this is very unique experience for Totoro fans, but not a must see.