Snacks & Food from Kyoto (Part 1)

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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