During my winter break of 2018, I took a detour to Japan with my family before heading home to Malaysia for a month or so. We spent about a week in Japan; with three days in Kyoto and four days in Tokyo.
Japan is one of my top favorite countries I visited. Apart from cultural temples and heritage villages, food and desserts are always exciting and delicious. Having landed in Japan, my family and I traveled to Kyoto the next morning from Narita International Airport by car. It took us close to seven hours to reach our destination despite the horrid weather. We quickly checked into our hotel and searched for dinner. We dined in a fast-food-like ramen restaurant where I shared a bowl of Tonkatsu ramen, fried rice, and gyoza with my sister. After dinner, we went to Tsujiri, a popular and authentic local cafe that serves matcha/green tea desserts ranging from ice cream to pastries. I had the matcha soft serve ice cream; it melts instantly in your mouth with a good balance of matcha flavor, creaminess, and sweetness.
Arashimaya Bamboo Grove
We embarked on a new journey the next day starting with the Arashimaya Bamboo Grove. It is one of Kyoto’s top visited sights in the city. Many tourists visit the Arashimaya Bamboo Grove to capture the breathtaking soaring stalks of bamboo that sprawled into a grove. I enjoyed the serenity and rejuvenation in the bamboo grove. The pictures taken will never do enough justice to the place until you see it with your naked eyes.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
After that, we went to the glorious Fushimi Inari Shrine located in Southern Kyoto. It is a Shinto shrine famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds.
Tsukiji Fish Market
After three days in Kyoto, we headed back to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo city. We first visited the Tsukiji fish market, one of the most popular fish markets in Japan known for the freshest sashimi and sushi. Apart from that, wholesale and retail shops, as well as utensils and kitchen equipment are widely available.
One of the highlights of my trip was visiting the highly raved Ichiran Ramen restaurant. The chain restaurant originated from Fukuoka in 1960. Today, Ichiran branched out to places like New York, Hong Kong, Taipei and more to provide accessibility for more customers.
Ichiran ramen is served with the aromatic tonkotsu broth. The broth is made of 100% pork bones boiled for hours for the depth and richness of flavors. Ichiran aims to provide a highly customizable customer experience through serving bowls of ramen. I was provided with an order sheet to customize my own ramen when queueing. From the dashi stock and richness of the soup to the spiciness and noodle texture, customers can freely customize them to their own liking.
When seats are available, I was shown to my personal individual booth, awaiting my bowl of ramen to be served. The broth is extremely flavorful but not overwhelming. I tried both the medium and extra firm noodle texture, and I definitely preferred the latter. The chashu sitting on the ramen was soft but juicy and sweet. When you have a bite of everything in your mouth, all the flavors and textures bind so well together.