Archive for March, 2023



The highlight of our recent trip to the Kansai area was the full blooming cherry blossoms or Sakura. So much worth the 3 day extension we made to base ourselves in Kyoto after Osaka. Week earlier, we simply visited Kyoto as a day trip from Osaka. On our last 4 days, we based ourselves in this old corner of Japan to enjoy the Sakura scenery. And to continue our love for the seafood markets of Osaka and Kyoto.

Look at those prawns!
Love these lobsters. We had two — with
loads of cheese!

Our heads were spinning just looking at these beautiful sea creatures, steaming or grilling. We found this lobster vendor in Kuromon Market in Osaka offering us a small round table behind him so we promptly claimed our seats and pointed out the lobsters, prawns, squid, and unagi to grill. We also asked for oysters but he didn’t have any so we were allowed to order from the next stall, along with some scallops! Asians that we are, he understood we badly needed our rice which he didn’t have. So one of us trooped to the nearby Family Mart to buy steamed rice which the store kindly warmed to complete our very late but sumptuous lunch!

Butter and drops of miso on my scallops!
That squid was grilled to perfection!

From Kiyomizu-Dera to Fushimi Inari to Gion the whole morning and a good part of the early afternoon. It started raining in Gion so we decided to call it a day, but not without visiting the Kuromon Market in Nambashi area near Dotonbori. It was well past 3pm but since our last full meal was breakfast at our hotel before setting out, this feast was our very late lunch that may well be early dinner.

We brought home fresh strawberries but they weren’t as sweet as the ones we ate here. Spotted: yes, those were fresh UNI that we sampled after the strawberries!
First time I used scissors to cut up my oysters!

Memories of Kuromon persisted till our last day in Kyoto. From our Kyoto hotel, we took the subway to visit Nishiki Fish Market. But we didn’t just eat fish or seafood. Because it rained, we scrapped our trip to Kobe and searched for the premium beef in Nishiki. We weren’t disappointed. We also found more sea creatures here. This time, we ate standing up! No tables in this cramped little space with barrels for tables and smelling of sizzling, grilling, steaming seafood all around. This beats the 4D ride in USJ’s Hogwarts area!

That’s our Kobe steak!
Crab Sticks sitting on a bed of Kani miso. Spotted: Octopus on skewers. I actually wanted to try Tako Tamago but found none. Y’know, that octopus with its head standing upright bcoz someone stuffed a quail egg into its small head. Mean, huh? My apologies.

The rainy day may have ruined our plans to visit other Sakura spots around Kyoto but thankfully, we had our fill of cherry blossoms the days before. From Kuromon Market in Osaka to Nishiki Market in Kyoto, it’s a food trip hard to forget. Our jolly bellies speak for ourselves and you bet we’d repeat the adventure in our next visit of Japan like it’s a ritual! Sakura and Food is our version of “hanami” in Kansai!

So many choices in Nishiki! And look at those
oysters with Ikura and Uni — all my favorites
on a single shell!
Holding that Kani miso like it’s a pricey jewel!
Love that man behind us! He also enjoyed watching us eat like it’s the last day of our lives.

I have visited Japan in all 4 seasons but never quite timed it right for Sakura. On this 3rd visit in the last 4 months (yes, Virginia, I was in Fukuoka last Nov 2022, back in Osaka/Tokyo last January 2023, and here in Kansai again), I was eager to check out those white and pink cherry blossoms! While in Osaka, the blooms just started to make a show at the Osaka Castle and Mint Bureau. Not much luck in Nara Deer Park though.

Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle

By the time we reached Kyoto, Sakura was in full bloom. Walked the entire Philosopher’s Path and was enchanted by those blooms along the canal. Truth is I was on edge while our taxi passed so many canals and parks from Kyoto Station to Ginkakuji Temple. I actually longed to jump out of the cab as I saw lines of locals and tourists enjoying Sakura everywhere!

Philosopher’s Path
Perfect for those pre-nup shots?

As we covered the entire 2 kilometer stretch, we made stops at a couple of shrines and even visited a garden with several varieties of camellia blooms. Reikan-Ji Temple is actually a nunnery with a lovely pond and stone garden. Nothing huge or fancy, but the camellia blooms make up for the stark simplicity of the temple grounds.

Camellia Blooms at Reikan-Ji Temple
The Path Towards Ginkakuji Temple

Since we fancied the scenery in Gion while our cab drove us to Ginkakuji, we took the bus at the end of Philosopher’s Path for the Geisha District. But not without late lunch at the Pontocho Alley. Love the vibes here, but so did many others crowding the alley and the Kamo riverside walk where more cherry blossoms are truly a feast for the eyes, a balm to the soul. A week earlier, we visited this same area and there were only hints of the sakura around Gion’s Hanamikoji Alley dotted with ochayas and those traditional and quaint machiya or centuries-old two-storey wooden structures.

Kamo Riverwalk near Pontocho Alley
Yasaka Shrine

Further down the geiko area, we went in search of Starbuck’s first tatami coffee shop. We weren’t as lucky as those who claimed spots on the tatami but managed to enjoy our matcha lattes on western seats inside this old wooden structure that must have earlier functioned as a tea house centuries ago. I just love Gion! No luck too spotting a geisha or her assistant Maiko, but strolling along these narrow alleys and enjoying more cherry blossoms in full bloom make for a lovely, unforgettable holiday.

The First Starbucks Tatami Shop
Gion District