Snacks & Food from Kyoto

Wrapping up my Kyoto posts with snacks and food that we bought from the home ground of wagashi.

Bought the first confectionery – Nama Yatsuhashi 生八橋 from one of the convenience store near the Kyoto train station building. This brand Izutsu Yatsuhashi Honpo is quite well-known and have their own shops all around the compact city although you can find it widely sold in many of the convenience stores as well.  Opted for a box named “Four seasons of Yuko Kyo” comprising of an assortment of flavours: original, matcha, strawberry. It has a soft, mochi skin sandwiched with red bean paste.

There is another type of Yatsuhashi which are the hard cracker type, they are baked with cinnamon mixed in their doughs. Being a mochi-lover, I only tried the unbaked yatsuhashi and was pretty satisfied with my first purchase!

The other purchase from around the Kyoto train station (within the Isetan department store) was the Malebranche matcha langue-de-chat confectionery “Okoicha Langue de Chat, Cha no Ka”. This is Kyoto‘s version of the famous Hokkaido‘s Shiroi Kobito 白い恋人! Using Uji‘s famous matcha as ingredient for the light and crunchy cookie, it has a subtle green tea flavour and sandwiched between the 2 pieces of cookies was a thin layer of white chocolate. This product is said to be only available in Kyoto, unfortunately we can’t bring in back to Singapore as souvenir because it has to be kept under 26 degrees celsius. *The thoughtful sales staff had repeatedly reminded customers of this requirement*.

The 3rd Japanese confectionery store that we visited was Shichijo Kanshundo 京菓匠 七條甘春堂.  This wagashi shop not only sells their delicious snacks, they also organise wagashi classes that customers can sign up for. I was attracted to the Sakura-shaped higashi – a dry Japanese candy that is molded using a wooden frame. The higashi is made using Wasanbon (和三盆 is kind of traditional Japanese sugar) that will melt in your mouth.

At the same shop, we also bought the Sakura-mochi. This is another type of Sakura-mochi (Dōmyōji 道明寺) available during Spring season only. I tried the other type of Sakura-mochi (Chōmeiji 長命寺) bought from another confectionery store Kyou Sagano Chikujian (京 嵯峨野 竹路庵 本店) when I was in Arashiyama area. This version is made using sweet pink-colored glutinous rice dough filled with red bean paste (anko) center rolled into a ball shape and wrapped in a pickled cherry leaf. Personally, I preferred the Chōmeiji 長命寺 type, cos I’m a mochi-lover!!!

Admittedly I bought this confectionery simply for it’s unique shape that bears the face of the a fox. The Fushimi Inari, famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, is a shinto shrine dedicated to Inari, the god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari‘s messengers hence there are many fox statues around the shrine and they sell many fox-shaped confectionery around the area. The one I bought was castella sponge bun filled with red-bean paste from a random shop within the shrine’s compound. Wanted to use it more for photo opportunity, but found it pretty tasty (holiday effect?) cos I liked the slightly dense and moist sponge cake (it is those traditional type of 鸡蛋糕 – typically in cupcake size flower/round shape, sold in old-school confectionery in Singapore). It should be noted that the famous specialty item at the area is actually the “Kitsune (Fox)  Senbei” (crackers) which is said to have a crispy texture. They are sold in the confectionery shops along the streets surrounding the shrine.

My final shopping stop before heading over to Osaka was at Itohkyuemon‘s outlet near the Kyoto train station. As we only spent 2 short days in Kyoto, we didn’t have the time to head out to Uji where the brand originated and where the main store was.

The shop is stocked full of matcha made confectionery and I only managed to buy a few as they need to be consumed fresh. Tried their Matcha Monaka filled with red bean and matcha cream, this comes as a handy snack to munch on during our train rides. What impressed us more was the Matcha Nama Chocolate. The melt-in-your-mouth chocolate was coated with a generous layer of Uji matcha, striking a perfect balance with slight bitterness and sweetness. This product has to be kept using cooler bag with ice pack, hence was unable to bring it back to Singapore.

What I managed to bring back though, were these rich and thick Matcha Latte. I enjoyed the version by Itohkyuemon as it was not sweet and had a creamy foam after simply adding hot water and giving it a few quick stir! None of the brands that I got from our local supermarket has this kind of texture and quality. The drink was so addictive that I traded my morning cuppa for this matcha latte for a few days until I realised that my supply was running out fast! I even went online to find out if I could purchase it and have it delivered from Japan! Unfortunately it is not eligible to be delivered to Singapore…Guess I would have to stock up on this if I visit Kyoto in future.

Photos taken earlier:

After feasting on the tofu meal, we walked around to explore the Gion area, particularly Shirakawa Canal area. Initially I read news that they stopped the night illuminations here due to overwhelming crowd that disrupts the neighbourhood. Thankfully when we reached the canal, it was still lit up! And there was not much tourists!

It was our last night in Kyoto, so we ventured out to Maruyama Park to see the famous Weeping Cherry. It was drizzling slightly and the park seemed pretty quiet. But our hard work paid off when we saw the magnificent Sakura tree standing tall in the middle of the park!

Our eyes lit up and gasped as we hastened our pace towards the towering tree. She looked so elegant and charismatic. She is a superstar, putting up a brilliant show for the audience.

We spent our last day in Kyoto by making our way to the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Despite reaching the compound at 9am, it was already pretty packed. This was the most crowded attraction that we visited in Kyoto.

It was a challenge trying to snap a photo of the empty torii gates. Every 2 seconds, there would be people walking into the frame…so a quick finger reaction and fast shutter speed are key. The photo looked zen but it was totally not the case.

The hiking route up the mountain was slightly confusing and there are many tourists going against the traffic flow in a bid to get back down to the main hall from the same route where they came up from. When we decided to head back using one of the routes, we were led to one side route which did not have much torii gates…Hiking through the mountain with many of the smaller shrines, it suddenly felt slightly creepy.

This attraction was my least favourite in Kyoto.

Our last programme in Kyoto was to take a boat ride along the scenic Okazaki Canal which was lined with Sakura trees. It was relaxing and therapeutic to see the blossoming flowers glide pass our sight as our boat travelled slowly along the canal.

We stumbled upon the Keage Incline while making our way to the canal. It was a slope with old railroad tracks and lined with Sakura trees. As the saying goes, sometimes the best moments happen when they are unplanned!

By the time we finished our canal ride, it was already noon and the crowd had built-up on the railway track. Should we had came here early in the morning, we would have the chance to enjoy a leisure stroll here sans the crowd.

I shall wrap up my short but wonderful Kyoto trip with my stamps collection (my new-found obsession since my Feb trip earlier this year).

Starting with the Kansai Airport Railway Station Stamp.

Collected one when we arrived at JR Kyoto Station featuring the huge station building and Kyoto Tower.

Another stamp from the Arashiyama station featuring one of the landmarks in the area – Togetsukyo Bridge.

Although I didn’t take the Arashiyama Romantic Train, I went in the ticket office and saw a stamp corner.

Last but not least, two stamps that I collected which was meant to promote key heritage sites along the Historic Trail (Rekishi kaido) in Kansai region. I’m sure there are a few other stamps under the Historic Trail series up for collection

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Tousuiro 豆水楼, Kyoto

Kyoto is famous for its tofu, it is a local specialty due to the pure water source from the surrounding mountains. Once we decided to visit Kyoto, we set our minds to have a Tofu Feast. Managed to secure a late dinner seating at Tousuiro serving kaiseki-style tofu menu and they specialise in oboro-tofu.  They make their tofu in-house, using from 100% domestic soybeans. I also liked that the restaurant is housed in a machiya (traditional townhouse) next to the Kamogawa River, making the entire dining experience a pleasure. 

As with other traditional Japanese restaurants, guests had to remove the shoes before stepping onto the wooden floor in the shophouse unit. We were ushered to the upper floor that required us to climb up a narrow and steep wooden staircase. For a moment, I imagined myself being a ninja. =)

The interior decoration is simple yet cosy, with tatami mat floors and exposed wooden beams. I was rather relieved to see a low chair setting instead of having to sit on the floor due to a sore ankle.

The service staff presented us with the menu that has 3 different set courses ranging from ¥4,000 (S$50) to ¥5,500 (S$70) per person before tax and service. We opted for the Higashiyama (H) with 10 courses and Miyabi (M) with 12 courses.

As mentioned earlier, they serve kaiseki-style menu at the restaurant, meaning the multi-course dinner would be made up of elaborately arranged and beautifully plated dishes. Started our meal with a meticulously prepared Appetizer (H) Hijiki seaweed and tofu skin mixed with Huki miso and soya cream, Layered green peas and soya milk with gelatin, Cherry blossom tofu, Mixed egg and tofu in the shape of a butterfly, Sakura shrimp and tofu, Petals of a lily bulb.

Appetizer (M) Spring cabbage mixed with tofu, Mixed egg and tofu cut into shape of a butterfly, Three coloured tofu in the shape of a diamond, Fried soya beans with sticky rice, Grilled dried firefly squid and Lily bulb arranged in the shape of petal. Followed by (both) Assorted Sashimi.

The highlight of the meal was the “All-you-can-eat” boiled oboro tofu which was served in a heated wooden barrel.  We were told to wait for a few minutes for the tofu to be cooked before it was ready to be eaten. The staff came back when it was ready and opened the barrel to unveil the soft white slabs of tofu boiled with leafy greens in Konbu hot water. She then guided us on how to prepare the condiment mixture of soy sauce, mustard and chopped green onions that we could use to dip our tofu in.

The ultra-smooth tofu slid down our throat quickly and we finished the 1st tub in no time and had to ask for a top-up of the delicious tofu! This amazing tofu is a must-try for any tofu lover!!!! In fact, I think folks who didn’t used to like tofu because of the strong bean (soy bean) flavour might also fall in love with the oboro tofu as the flavour is much subtle.

While waiting for the top-up, the staff continued to pile us with numerous tofu dishes in our course menu. Thankfully these were mostly bite-sized items which were light and easy to eat including: (M) Mixed trout, petals of cherry blossom served in bonito soup stock, (H) Asari clams steamed soya milk and eggs, (M) Grilled tofu and bamboo shoot with two types of miso sauce, (M) Steamed spring vegetables, (H) Skewed tofu and grilled gluten cake with miso sauce, (M) Fried dish of gluten cake and tempura of young sweet fish.

Although it all featured tofu or soya byproduct, the dishes presented varying texture and flavours. Our favourite was the grilled skewered tofu and grilled gluten cake with miso sauce featured in the collage! It had an amazingly chewy texture with a slight charred aroma. I wished we could ask for additional pieces of these warm tofu pieces.

Final few dishes: (H) Tempura of wrapped sea urchin and fresh potato in tofu and tofu skin, (M) Vinegared taira clams with sesame and tofu skin, (both) Rice and onions cooked with bonito soup stock served with whitebait, red miso paste soup and seasonal pickles.

Lastly even the dessert – citrus fruit Sorbet featured soya milk in it.

If you have any doubts on how could tofu feast be a filling meal or if you are worried that it would be a vegetarian meal, you can be assured that you could leave the restaurant with a full and satisfied tummy. We certainly enjoyed the tofu dishes here and it was an eye-opener on the variety of ways tofu could be prepared.

Photos taken earlier:

Visited Ryoanji temple – site of Japan’s most famous rock garden and an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The garden consists of a rectangular plot of pebbles surrounded by low walls. It has with 15 rocks laid out in small groups on patches of moss. The interesting feature of the garden was that one cannot see all 15 rocks from any angle as at least one of the rocks is always hidden from the viewer.

There is a miniature display showing the layout of all the 15 rocks.

Ryoanji‘s temple grounds also included a park area with pond which was lined with blooming Sakura! What a sight!

Brochure of Ryoanji Temple.

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Smart Coffee, Kyoto

With slightly more than two hours to spare till our scheduled dinner appointment time, we decided to grab some light bites to replenish some energy after the extensive walking. Looking back at my tracker, I had already clocked 20,000 steps by 6pm versus my average steps of 5,000 a day during normal work week!!! I tend to lose weight during my holiday trips despite eating a lot more food due to increased physical activities.

Stopped by Smart Coffee – a Kyoto-based coffee shop that was established since 1932. We chose to visit this place cos it was said to have retained its decor of a classic Western-style kissaten (tea room/coffee shop). Other than Smart Coffee, there were several old-school cafes all around Kyoto and I was surprised that people of Kyoto are such hard core coffee lovers (though the region is known for producing high quality Japanese green tea). There is even a vintage coffee mill displayed outside the store front.

The place was reasonably filled and not too touristy.  It was said that the cafe uses home roasted original coffee beans that remained the same as the ones used from the founding of the shop more than 80 years ago. Ordered a cup of Smart Original Blended Coffee to try it in black – I seldom drink coffee without milk, but this was really smooth drinking, not too bitter.

The Egg Sandwich served here is the omelette type, where a fluffy omelette is sandwiched between soft white bread. Although the other star product here is the pancake, we wanted something less filling. The sandwich portion was just nice for us. Perhaps we visited at an odd timing where most people were already having dinner, the place was not packed and was a nice place to recharge our energy after a long afternoon exploring two famous temples.

Photos taken earlier: 

Our first stop post-lunch was to Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) also an UNESCO World Heritage Site – there are a total of 17 sites in Kyoto!

The entrance ticket was printed in a format that resembled a Chinese talisman, printed with phrases to bless the family, bring good luck and longevity. The original ticket was printed on white paper and wordings in black/red. I’ve altered the colour tone to gold for my post as its meant to be a sample.

The temple is charaterised by it’s ostentatious and glamorous facade where the top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. The temple interior is closed to the public so we could only admire the exterior structure. Although this picture made the place looked serene, this was the most crowded temple amongst the ones I’ve visited for this trip.  This was probably the most or 2nd most popular temple in Kyoto as based on my recollection, Kiyomizudera temple was even more packed when I visited back in 2009. For that reason, I skipped Kyomizudera for this trip.

Brochure of Golden Pavilion.

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★ Unagiya Hirokawa うなぎ屋 廣川, Kyoto

As we made quite a late decision to go ahead with our Kyoto trip (cos we wanted to be sure that we could see the Sakura blossoms), we were not able to plan our food itinerary in advanced. Many of the popular restaurants in Kyoto were already fully taken up during this peak season. Thankfully we found out that this 1-Michelin star restaurant specialising in unagi set aside tables for walk-in customers.  In order to snag a coveted seat at Unagiya Hirokawa, we arrived at the restaurant by 11am (an hour before the start of their lunch service). Despite doing so, we were told by the staff who was taking the names of guests in the queue that the waiting time would be around 1.5 hours from where we stood – you could judge from the pic below as we joined the queue after snapping that. After getting our name into the waitlist, at least 1 person in the group needed to remain in the queue while the rest of the folks were free to roam around.

After enduring an 1.5 hours wait, we finally reached the front door of the restaurant. We felt excited when we saw the sliding door opened and we were eager to enjoy our lunch but our joy was shortlived as we soon realised that there was another short queue within the restaurant… =(

In total we queued for 2 hours before finally being ushered to our seats at one of the limited tables available on the ground floor. We noticed that people who managed to make reservations (mostly Japanese) were ushered to the upper level instead. The lower level has only seats for around 30 pax. The good thing was, once we placed our food order, the items were served fairly quickly.

We ordered a set course comprising of a few side dishes: Koi no arai slices of half boiled fresh carp with a miso based dipping sauce, Uzaku pieces of grilled fresh eel and cucumber in sweetened vinegar and Kimoyaki boiled fresh liver of eel with sweetened sauce and spices. I especially enjoyed the grilled liver which had a chewy texture and aromatic smoky flavour from the slightly charred parts.

The Una jyu (medium size) was part of the course meal and I could drool just by looking at the glossy glazed unagi sitting on top of the bed of Jap rice. The flesh was moist but firm (not mushy) but retains a melt-in-your-mouth texture. Perhaps this is also due to the difference between Kansai style unagi and Kanto style unagi. In Kanto (eastern Japan including Tokyo) the unagi is grilled, then steamed to get rid of excess fat, then grilled again. In Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka and the west) the steaming step is skipped. The unagi is grilled longer, making it crispier and chewier. I personally preferred the Kansai style. Even the grains of rice that absorbed the oil from the grilled unagi were so tasty! If you are concerned that it would be too greasy, the pickled vegetables served as a side would help to cut through the grease.

We added an ala carte small unagi donburi but it did not look as tempting as the Una jyu.  Somehow the lacquered container used for una jyu made that dish looked a lot more luxurious than the plain bowl for donburi.

If you asked whether this is worth a 2-hours wait? I would reply “Why not?” I treated it as a break from all the walking in the morning, I would need a rest anyway – cos I just recovered from a sprained ankle…needed to give it a good rest in between walks….

After an immensely satisfying meal, we were energized after the rest and were raring to continue our exploration of the other temples at Arashiyama region~

Photos taken earlier:

Brochure on Tenryuji Temple

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% Arabica, Kyoto

After completing our tour of Tenryuji-temple grounds, one of us went to queue at a popular Michelin star restaurant 1 hour before they even open for lunch service; while another went to get a cup of coffee from the famed coffee chain %Arabica.  The name is pronounced ‘Percent Arabica’. %Arabica is a must visit while in Kyoto. I’ve seen a few instagram posts featuring the Arashiyama outlet as one that offered scenic views with their sleek cafe interior design. But we certainly were not prepared to see the crowd and long queue for a cup of iced coffee!

It took us about 30 mins wait before we get our hands on a cup of the iced latte. But the coffee was really smooth and rich. Way better than the US coffee chain that has strong global presence…

If you have the time, you could enjoy the drink while taking a stroll along the riverbank which was dotted with Sakura trees during the Spring season.

Photos taken earlier:

The bamboo grove was relatively empty in the early morning and was a pleasure to stroll through the scenic path. It has a totally different ambience when we passed by the entrance again by noon…people were packed almost shoulder-to-shoulder…

Inside Tenryuji temple (an UNESCO world heritage site) was the Sōgen Pond. A wonderfully manicured landscape garden surrounded by rocks. We spent some time resting at the benches next to the pond which allowed us to take in the expansive view. I could imagine in the past when this place was solely used as a place for religion practice, it would be really calming for the monks to carry out their meditation here.

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Kyou Sagano Chikujian (京 嵯峨野 竹路庵 本店), Kyoto

After a night’s rest we were fully recharged and ready to spend a long day exploring Kyoto starting with Arashiyama area. In order to beat the crowd, we arrived at the area before 9am. We also had another agenda up our sleeves – we needed to complete round 1 of the sightseeing by 11am so that we could join the queue for a popular lunch place in the area!

As one of us joined the queue for the restaurant, another went to buy some handy snacks to fill our stomach as we anticipated at least 2 hours wait before we get to eat lunch.

While on my way to a confectionery shop in the area – 竹路庵, I was attracted to the pretty Ichigo Daifuku from a mobile cart. There were a few types of fillings available and I chose the chocolate daifuku. The whole strawberry was wedged into the mochi and the mochi had really good chewy texture. It was only on hindsight that I realised the cart was operated by the same confectionery shop that I was looking for! The cart is situated a short distance away from their shop.  The cart mainly sells handy snacks for tourists to munch while on-the-go. You would have to go to the shop unit to purchase boxed confectionery items.

My key purpose of visiting the shop was to purchase 2 items on my To-Eat list. First was the Sakura mochi.  This snack is a type of Japanese wagashi (Japanese confectionery) which is often eaten during Spring.

Little did I know that there are in fact 2 types of Sakura mochi – Chōmeiji 長命寺and Dōmyōji 道明寺 until I saw the one sold at 竹路庵. My knowledge of Sakura mochi is limited to the Dōmyōji type, comprised of a sweet pink-colored glutinous rice dough with red bean paste (anko) center rolled into a ball shape and wrapped in a pickled cherry leaf. This type of Sakura mochi originated in the Kansai region. *I managed to try the Dōmyōji type from another store later in my trip and would have a post on it. 

As you could see from the photo above, the one I purchased looked flat and had a dough made from baked flour and water. This is the Chōmeiji type which originated in the Kantō region. I absolutely loved the texture of the dough which resembled soft mochi and I ate the whole wagashi including the leaf. The slightly salty leaf created nice balance in contrast to the sweet red bean fillings sandwiched inside the flour dough. This wagashi is so pretty to look at and great tasting! If you like to eat mochi, I am sure you would fall in love with this sweet snack!

Another key item to try is their Warabi mochi – their signature item. Although it has the word mochi in it, the texture of Warabi mochi is different from the usual sweet Taiwanese type that we eat in Singapore. This confectionery is made from warabi (bracken) starch, warabi being a type of edible fern plant.

There were 3 flavours available – kinako (roasted soybean flour),  kuromitsu (a Japanese sugar syrup, literally “black honey”) and matcha. I bought a box of matcha coated warabi mochi and was informed that this has to be consumed within the same day. Upon first bite, we fell in love with this delightful snack! The warabi mochi has an incredibly chewy, jelly-like texture which is very smooth and melts in your mouth. The matcha powder used was also of very good quality. My first experience with warabi mochi had left such wonderful memory that it had me searching for shops that sells warabi mochi when I return to Singapore.

Photos taken earlier:

Before entering the bamboo grove, we stopped by Kotoimo Honpo 古都芋, strategically located at the entrance to buy a Taiyaki (Japanese fish-shaped pastry) and soft serve. Ordered the 4-layered soft serve with mugi-cha (inside the cone), matcha, houjicha and sencha and after a short walk it started tilting~ Just in time to snap a shot in front of the bamboo grove…

Tip for visitors to the bamboo grove – don’t be too anxious to take photos once you enter the place, move deeper into the forest and you will find even more beautiful scenery such as the above! Loving the greenery and abundance of endorphin in the air here!

Admittedly there was only a few seconds gap where nobody was walking in this frame…we arrived around 9am on a weekday during Sakura season.

Walking along the pathway lined with bamboos, you would pass by the North-gate entrance to Tenryū-ji Temple (an UNESCO world heritage site). The temple is surrounded by a huge garden filled with many different species of plants and flowers. As we visited during Spring and Sakura blooming period, we had a wonderful time admiring the flowers.

Most of the plants are clearly labelled with their names to guide clueless visitors like myself.

We probably spent a good hour exploring the expansive garden. It got pretty crowded by 11am when we were leaving the temple compound as we spotted large groups of tourists flooding in.

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Saikatei 菜花亭, Kyoto

After a long day’s journey we finally arrived in Kyoto and check into our hotel around 8pm. For our first night in the city, we did not make any prior dinner booking as we knew there were risks of not making it in time due to any unexpected traffic delays. Nonetheless we made our way to one of the shortlisted restaurants located in Gion area to try our luck on whether they accept walk-in customers. It turned out to be a wasted trip as the shop said its reservation-only and we returned back to the main rail station area in search of a place for supper (instead of dinner).

Found Saikatei housed in ground floor of the Kyoto Tower building and is an izakaya that serves creative Chinese-style dishes.

On a weekday night the place was filled with office workers, some in groups and some individuals came in for a quick bite. It was easy to observe that most of them ordered a bowl of ramen so we follow suit and add-on some grilled items. It was certainly comforting to enjoy a bowl of warm ramen as our first meal in Kyoto.

Paired our meal with ice cold beer along with some grilled items and a special off the menu Korean-style grilled beef lettuce wraps. This special turned out to be the highlight of our meal. The succulent and juicy grilled beef had hints of smokiness, paired with the spicy gochujang, well-fermented kimchi and crispy fried garlic.

We were pretty satisfied with this meal given that it was just a random place that we found. But since we are in Japan, seems like even an average place serve wonderful meal. With a full belly, we headed back to our hotel for a good rest as we planned to start our day early the next morning.

Photos taken earlier:

Started our journey in Singapore by taking a red-eye flight to Shanghai.  This stopover turned out to be well-worth the extra time as we were greeted with a totally unexpected surprise when we touched down. Read on to find out what it was.

Had a bowl of Prawn Noodles with Dim Sum at the SilverKris Lounge in Changi. It was always nice to enjoy some local delights before being deprived of it for the next few days. Unlike Japanese/Korean cuisine, Singapore/Malaysian food is rather uncommon overseas. The broth used for the prawn noodles was surprisingly savoury and rich. Although the quality of food in the lounge has always been pretty good, this dish exceeded my expectations.  In fact this was better than my in-flight book-the-cook meal later.

We were served our supper shortly after takeoff, starting with appetiser of Jellyfish, Marinated Scallop and Mesclun with seasame soya dressing. The scallops were chewy and jellyfish had a good texture. It was a nice start until I had my Prawn and Chicken Laksa. We used the “Book the Cook” option to pre-order our meal and I opted for the aromatic Singaporean cuisine. I felt the Laksa had too much tamarind taste which lingered on my palate and I could even smell it when I burped….

Perhaps if I knew they were serving Supper instead of Breakfast, I would have gone with the in-flight meal of Pork and prawn ball congee which was less harsh on the stomach before we were put to bed.

As we were scheduled to arrive in early morning in Shanghai, I was looking out of my window for the daybreak moment. Caught a pot of gold amidst the cloudy sky!

Oddly at Pudong International Airport guests who are transiting had to clear the customs and collect the luggages for a re-entry and check-in; unless you are travelling on a few selected airlines that would handle the transfer directly. We were naturally slightly disturbed with the inconvenience but lo and behold, while walking out the customs we saw some fans holding up Ferrari flag and Finland flag! Bewildered we turned our heads to see if there were any F1 drivers behind us. Apparently they were not on the same flight as us, but might be arriving soon. So given the luxury of 5 hours gap to our next flight, we decided to linger around the arrival hall and joined the local fans in the wait.

We probably waited for about 30 mins before we saw Kimi Räikkönen came out from the gate. The notable ice man walked briskly right past me and did not stop for any signature requests from the fans. Sebastian Vettel came out later with smiles, he stopped at an open area and politely asked the fans to queue up to get signatures and attend to photo requests. It was a rare opportunity to get this up close to the drivers. Having attended the Singapore Grand Prix for a few years, we never had this experience of seeing the drivers so casually. Even if one were to go to Changi Airport to welcome them, I’m sure the crowd would be much bigger. Hence I was really happy to see them sans the huge crowd!!!

We were pumped up after seeing the F1 stars even before starting our Hanami holiday in Japan. Keeping our fingers crossed that we could see the Sakura in full bloom where we would be spending our time in Kyoto and Osaka.

For our 2nd leg, we boarded an ANA flight. As the flight was delayed by about 45 mins, the stewardess served us hot green tea while waiting for take-off. I particularly liked that they offered the steam eye mask to guests. I found it very relaxing to use it onboard flights and it was so soothing that I fell asleep for a quick nap thereafter! The mask would make it into my carry-on bag for my future flights!

Unexpectedly the meal offered onboard ANA was not Japanese style but International cuisine. There was only 1 option – Stewed Beef Tongue. IMO their Jap cuisines are way better than their international option. So if you are onboard ANA flight, go for the Jap cuisine and you should be fine.

Upon arrival at Kansai International Airport in the late afternoon, we were greeted by the giant inflated Pikachu at the hall. Seems like the Pokemon fever has hit Kansai Airport as there was an ongoing promotion with Pokemon theme.

Rightfully we should have a leisure time making our way from the airport to Kyoto, but we were caught off-guard by the long queue at the JR-WEST Ticket Office… Look at the setting sun while we were stuck in the queue…

We had booked the ICOCA & HARUKA card so as to purchase discounted tickets for the HARUKA which offers direct access from Kansai-airport Station to Osaka/Kyoto Station. Despite having pre-booked the tickets, the queue for collection was terrible! We spent more than 1 hour in line to get our tickets…Guess its because everyone was heading to Kyoto/Osaka for hamami?! Here’s the hard-earned ICOCA Hello Kitty & Osaka Castle card that is only available at the Kansai-airport Station. This certainly makes a good souvenir.

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