After sending off blister-suffering Pierre to the hotel by taxi, Yasuko and I strolled in a quiet lantern-lit stone-paved quarter to the Yasaka Shrine. The crowd of daytime tourists was gone by the time and the area very atmospheric. The shrine was illuminated by lots of paper lanterns as some Japanese were coming by to pray at night.
The Kyoto night life was in full swing. On the way back to the hotel there were zillions of attractive bars and restaurants so many that we couldn’t visit them all in a lifetime!
It’s very unlikely we would have known this restaurant if it wasn’t recommend by Yasuko’s friend Mayumi, a food fanatic who travels hundreds of miles for a good meal and who, unfortunately, couldn’t join us. It would have been close to impossible to find that hidden gem in the picturesque backyard of Ishibei-kōji without our friendly guido-san Yasuko.
But then we stood in front of Mame-cha. A pretty, old building, lit like any other, with just a small sign in Kanji on the left. That’s it. No big banner shouting at you to get in, no menu open for your evaluation in front of the door. No plastic food display. Nothing of the usual stuff at all. Originally, restaurants in this area accepted guests based on recommendation by existing clients only. It has changed since. Yasuko hesitated two seconds as she wasn’t sure if we were at the right place. That was enough for the sliding door to open and for the host to bow followed by the usual “Irashaimase” (welcome).
A (food) journey was about to start.
Food experiences are hard to put in words. But we all agreed, that this was probably the most refined meal, with attention to every detail, without overdoing it, we remember. Prime raw material turned into a series of sublime dishes. The pictures speak for themselves.
We were just knocked out. Next Time in Kyoto, we will go again.
Funny little side story: We were sharing the room with a Paris loving Japanese Facebook group. The room got a bit quiet when we started to talk in French among us. After a while, one group member had the courage to talk to us in French, which is very rare in Japan, we exchanged a couple of sentences and, not that rare in Japan, restaurant recommendations.
Yuba (Tofu Skin)
The check-in procedure is typically accompanied by a couple of nervous “oh-oh-ohs” when the host sees the size of my shoes and my length. A couple of seconds later, “beam me up Scotty” style, she’s back with slippers I can get at least half my foot in and a Yukata in super oversize. From then on it’s just about not bumping my head everywhere 🙂
One thing hard to find in Japan (and that may be hard to believe) is a quiet place. Listen to the sound of a viewing platform at the top of a cable car at 2100m.
Japan Mountain Top Sound
We have moved slightly south of the Japan Alps to a very pretty town called Magome. It is the starting point of a historical trail which used to be part of the route Kyoto-Tokyo which was of great importance during Edo period. We are staying at the Minshuku Tajima one of those inns right next to that trail.
We spent a couple of days in the Japan Alps. We took a train to Matsumoto, continued to Kamikōchi and spent a first night at the entrance of the national park. On the second day the hiking started against an impressive backdrop of steep mountains rising up to 3000 meters. We hiked about 3 hours up along a river to reach our second night Ryokan Tokusawa-en. It was a bit pricy, had limited service and – kind of a big exception in Japan – the owner, we believe, was not overly friendly. On day 2 we hiked towards Karasawa, the starting point of serious alpine tours. For us that was the end as we had low hiking shoes, no ropes, no tent, well, nothing half-way professional looking. The Japanese mountain boys and girls came with incredible gear, the kind of equipment the NASA is using for the expedition to the moon (hmmm… I may just be jealous). It was a very nice hike. Again, the pictures…
If you want to take the one gondola into the Japanese alps at Shinhodskaonsen, you first need to buy a wicket. If you also buy a meal coupon, you may consider bending it. There is a friendly machine assisting…
We’re on a train during lunch time. As we had quite early breakfast before Pierre’s departure we knew we would be hungry. So we bought a japanese lunchbox. There are thousands of those, one for every taste and hunger.
Arigatou Gozaimasu Guido-Sensei & Guido-San & Ojiisan.
Dave and I enjoying our last Japanese meal at Osaka Airport. Udon, tempura, fried eggs and pickles!!!
Had an amazing time on all levels.
Thanks again for all!
It’s been a fun two weeks with a lot of action and quality time to get to know my friend Pierre a bit better… Now Pierre is heading back to his family and Yasuko and I visit the Japanese Alps for a few days…