“Summer” is here again and for a tropical country like Singapore who knows no seasons, it is usually marked by unbearable heat waves, and hopefully late afternoon thunderstorms which help to dispel the heat for more tolerable nights, only to wake up to repeat this “daily cycle” all over again. While I loathe the heat, I love “summer” for several reasons and one of which is the coming of seasonal fruits we get only during this time of the year. Stone fruits take centre stage but not forgetting our lovely tropical mangoes and soon-to-come durians as well. One of my favorites is 日向夏柑 Hyuganatsu, a citrus from Miyazaki, Japan much loved for its refreshing sweet and sourish flavour combination. Amongst all the varieties of Japanese citrus available throughout the year from an assortment of different cultivars of Mikan to Yuzu, Kiyomi, Dekopon, Satsuma etc… Hyuganatsu is one which is particularly enjoyed to “welcome” the hot season, as the name of this citrus 夏 “natsu” literally means “summer” in Japanese. The Japanese love it and often present boxes of hyuganatsu as omiyage or gifts to friends, family and business associates whenever the fruits are in season. Though good to be eaten on its own, Hyuganatsu can also be used to make a variety of desserts, including the popular 日向夏柑の寒天ゼリー Hyuganatsu Kanten Jelly, which is so easy to make but incredibly enjoyable.
Back to Osaka after a couple of days out in Kyoto and Nara, we’re down to our second last day in Kansai. The original plan was to explore Umeda in northern Osaka but we’d decided against that after passing through the area on the train to Kyoto. Towering skyscrapers and looming office buildings seem to characterise this part of town. Well, it is afterall a commercial hub in Osaka, that reminded us of the western end of Shinjuku. A quick change of plans brought us to Kobe, another coastal city barely an hour from Osaka by train. Kobe, well known for its beef and the great Hanshin earthquake in 1995. Kobe was highly recommended by Chef Lynn Chen, the macaron instructor at Palate Sensations who supposed that the quality of some patisseries and confectioneries in Kobe are on par, if not better than those in Tokyo! Since we were already in Kansai, it seemed wrong not to pop by Kobe for a visit!
The bento lunch was cold but tasty, and alas, too short. We continued our way around Nara, crossing Nara Koen and making our way to Todaiji 東大寺, an ancient buddhist shrine, which boasts many “firsts” in this ancient city.
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?
Apart visiting kiyomizu-dera 京都清水寺, we headed northwards passing through numerous small lanes which we so well-preserved of Kyoto’s glorious past. Some of the houses have been standing for hundreds of years. Even rebuilts were modelled after the old design. If not for the people, one would have been transported back to the Edo period…
After waking up to a cold and lazy morning, we took a bus from outside the hotel to Kyoto Station. Though the train station is nearby, we opted for buses instead as its cheaper. Moreoever, we get to sightsee along the way, and hopefully chance upon something which would be interesting. Today’s itinerary is to cover Higashiyama, which literally means the “eastern hills” of Kyoto. We had glimpses of the place yesterday since Gion is located there. Today’s walking trail would bring us from Kiyomizudera to Heian Jingu.
2nd day in Kyoto, we woke up to a pleasant surprise. it had been snowing the night before and the neighbourhood was enshrouded in a white veil. barely 6 am in the morning but the sky’s already quite lit but the air was chilly and dense. the neighbourhood was still in slumbers, quiet and peaceful saved for an occasional but infrequent bark. probably an Akita. clouds ominous and grey brood in the distant mountains foreboding a storm making its way down the hills. True enough, it began to snow again.