Friday, August 29, 2014

My Izakaya Night

I am, by no means, a drinker. 

Only when it comes to travel that somehow, a few alcoholic sips keep me relax. On this night, I walked alone on the alleys of Shinsaibashi, Osaka, searching for an Izakaya. The usual me would prefer the company of big Japanese crowd, raising their glasses for some bonding moments, chitchatting and giggling away, but right now, a less-commercialized Izakaya was what I long for. 

At last, I walked into an Izakaya with prices of Nama Bīru (draught beer) and yakitori all over the place. Small enough, this shop hosts no more than 15 seats. I picked a seat in front of the bar counter and ordered few things: draught beer, chicken thigh, and 2 chicken skin on skewers. Enjoyment to me, is to hold yakitori in one hand and chilled beer on another. The kawa (skin) was the best I ever had, but given the high standard of skewers in Japan, this might not be a big deal. 

Such a great way to end the night.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Kitano Tenmangu 北野天満宮 @Kyoto

Kitano Tenmangu

The word flea market alone has such irresistible temptation on me, I conjured the mouthwatering street food, a long stretch of things to see and shop, perhaps even some talents selling their own handmade craft. For Kitano Tenmangu, its definition is way beyond; arcade games and goldfish scooping for some joyous moments while unbelievably cheap Recycle Kimono going as low as 1,000yen, and also the breathtaking bloomed plum trees all over the compound. 

To get there, we took Kyoto City Bus number 101 (or 50) from JR Kyoto station Platform B2 for 230yen. The 30 minutes bus journey was an enjoyable one. As the bus passing through corners of the city, I wondered about the buildings, people that passed by and Kyoto in a whole. This is, after all, the common Kyoto life unseen from tourists.

Yakisoba

It did not take long for us to figure out the flea market location. Upon getting off at Kitano Tenmangu stop, we saw an array of stalls lining up, and we knew that this would be it. This monthly flea market on every 25th was not on a considerably big scale, but more than enough for us to spend half day here.

Oden
Oden

Came famished, we ordered almost everything within our sight; Oden, Yakisoba, Ramen, Karaage, Sweet Potato…and the list went on. Given the soup person I am, I constantly crave for that piping hot broth, and miss the steam swirling its way out. As much as I like the thick broth and rich flavor of Tonkotsu Ramen, Oden is the one that would always win my heart. Its soy-flavored dashi (broth) is clear, light, and brings up the sweetness within each ingredient at the same time. I became so addicted to it, especially the Daikon (white radish) that absorbs essence from the broth it is a must to eat everyday while I was at Japan. I would buy only 2 Daikon in a big bowl of broth, without add-on noodles and other toppings, and then pretend that the conbini staff wasn’t looking at me one kind. We had so much even my travel companions, aka the ladies can differentiate which conbini has better Oden broth or Daikon. Oden is now officially my caffeine.

Shoyu Ramen
Kitano Tenmangu Food

The Shoyu Ramen came in 2 pieces of ChaShu (slices of meat log), Menma (lactate-fermented bamboo shoot) and lots of Negi (Japanese spring onion) upon request.

Kitano Tenmangu Food
Kitano Tenmangu Flea Market
Kitano Tenmangu Flea Market
Kitano Tenmangu Flowers
Kitano Tenmangu Flea Market
Kitano Tenmangu
Ranunculus

There was also a small flower market within the flea market itself. We marveled at the beautiful daisy, ranunculus, chrysanthemum and flowers which the names are unknown to us. My sister was right about the ranunculus blooming size in Japan, and they are in so many vibrant colors other than the usual pale white or baby pink available in Malaysia. Being one of my favorites, ranunculus has its own unique texture that is so soft, fluffy and delicate; touching it would be like caressing a fledgling.

Kitano Tenmangu
Kitano Tenmangu Flea Market
Pin Cushion
Kitano Tenmangu Flea Market
Kitano Tenmangu Flea Market

Lots of interesting things to look for here, including customization of Shicimi (7 spices) or Ichimi (1 spice), some vintage sailing items, adorable pin cushion, handmade wooden cutlery and cover for blotching paper.

risaikuru kimono
risaikuru kimono
secondhand kimono

Another highlight of the flea market would be the exceptionally cheap Recycle Kimono (Used Kimono) going for as low as 1,000yen each. The varieties are many, and they come not only from one, but several stalls as well. Some of Kimono may not be of silk quality but rather the wool ones. Also, the condition might not be as decent, thus thorough check before purchase is highly recommended. Having said so, some of the stalls do provide options of higher grade or better condition Kimono. Occasionally, if you are lucky enough, wedding Kimono might be the guest of honor.

Kitano Tenmangu Flea Market
goldfish scooping

Indulge in the fun of classic arcade game, or Goldfish Scooping (金魚すくい, Kingyo-sukui), one of the traditional Japanese games.

Kitano Tenmangu Flea Market

On the ground of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine lie many bloomed plum trees there is really no need to pay extra 600yen for the allocated plum groove. Plum flower, which I deemed as one of the intricate works of art by nature’s creator, has its beauty in so many ways I couldn’t decide the best one, and boy I must have taken over a thousand photos just on them alone.

Plum Flower
Kitano Tenmangu Plum Flower
Kitano Tenmangu Plum Flower
Plum Flower
Kitano Tenmangu Plum Flower
Plum Flower
Plum Flower
Kitano Tenmangu Plum Flower
Plum Flower
Kitano Tenmangu Plum Flower
Kitano Tenmangu Plum Flower
Kitano Tenmangu Plum Flower
Kitano Tenmangu Plum Flower
Kitano Tenmangu Plum Flower
Plum Flower
Plum Flower
Kitano Tenmangu Plum Flower
Kitano Tenmangu Plum Flower
Kitano Tenmangu
Kitano Tenmangu

If you happen to be at Kyoto on every 21st, I heard that the flea market at Toji Temple has much more to be explored. 

*Visited on 25th March 2014
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