The weather these few weeks has been so excruciatingly hot to the point of being unbearable. It is precisely times like these, that we celebrate and embrace the greatest invention of the 20th century, air-conditioning. Singapore knows no seasons. Its either hot, or hotter, and we can only lament that the cooler months left us too soon as we move into the warmer periods of the year. Alas the almost “spring-like” season during the December to March months was much welcomed, albeit a bit wetter than usual, but at least the heat was much more tolerable. How I wish we were off somewhere cooler. And thoughts like this made me reminiscent our trip to Japan last year. Snow in March, countless macarons and pastries, wagashi… all was but too memorable…
Our first encounter with traditional Japanese confections, better known as 和菓子 wagashi stems from a trip to the Kansai region last spring. These little sweets, often made of very simple ingredients like anko (red bean paste), sesame seeds, japanese candied chestnuts and glutinous or rice flour are delicately designed and crafted, often to reflect the changing seasons. We sampled an assortment of deletable wagashi in Osaka and Kyoto, from candied yuzu to 金糖 kinton-styled 菜の花 nanohana, but none left an impression as strong as 桜餅 Sakuramochi.
Day 5 in Japan is our 3rd day in Kyoto. Incidentally, its our last day here too. We love this city so much and lamented at the thought of not being able to stay here for another day. No wait, make that the rest of our lives! Its an ancient city yes but still so very much alive! The juxtaposition of the ancient and the new, the young and the old is all too dramatic and attractive for us. 3 days is really
barely NOT enough to see Kyoto and I often wonder how people do those “one day Kyoto stopovers” as they travel from Fukuoka to Tokyo via the JR line. I bet they leave the city with memories like… erm, Kyoto… what Kyoto?
No trip to Japan would be complete without sampling authentic Japanese cuisine. We ain’t very keen on Kaiseki 懷石料理 though. Exquisite it might be, the damage is not going to be dainty on our wallets. Our overnight stay at an mini onsen resort in Hakone during our last trip to the Kanto region came with a mini Kaiseki dinner, so its more or less a “been there done that” for us. But we’d not had 和菓子 wagashi yet. Not the authentic ones at least, unless you count the countless sticks of dango we’d bought from supermarkets! So we are definitely not going to miss the opportunity this time round to try some and zoomed in on those offered by 竹路庵, a very famous wagashi shop from 岚山 Arashiyama. We’d read online that the flagship store in western Kyoto is always packed with tourists! Thankfully they have a stall located at the basement of Daimaru in Umeda Osaka which is well supplied with freshly made confections sent from Kyoto 2-3 times a day. That definitely saved us the hassle of queuing, and not to mention giving us a preview of Kyoto, and a taste of spring…
We were absolutely famished after a whole morning at Osaka Castle and the Plum Blossom Garden. We headed for Umeda via the Osakajo Koen Subway Station on the Chuo line.