Eat local: Japanese-style breakfast at Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan

While there is no lobby, no restaurant, no fitness center, Tawaraya Ryokan in Kyoto, Japan, offers the few guests accommodated each night tranquility in both the guest_s room with a vi

While there is no lobby, no restaurant, no fitness center, Tawaraya Ryokan in Kyoto, Japan, offers the few guests accommodated each night tranquility in both the guest’s room with a view of a private Japanese garden and access to a few public rooms, such as this library with its own garden view

 

During our three-day visit to Kyoto, Japan, we stayed in a traditional ryokan – Tawaraya, regarded as a beautiful example of a small, traditional Japanese inn.  “A ryokan (旅館) is a type of traditional Japanese inn that originated in the Edo period (1603–1868), when such inns served travelers along Japan’s highways.  They typically feature tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, and other public areas where visitors may wear yukata and talk with the owner.  Ryokan are difficult to find in Tokyo and other large cities because many are expensive compared to hotels, and Japanese people increasingly use hotels for urban tourism….  However, ryokan are more typically located in scenic areas, such as in the mountains or by the sea…  Most ryokan offer dinner and breakfast, which are often included in the price of the room.  Most visitors take their meals at the ryokan, which usually promote themselves on the quality of their food.  Meals consist of traditional Japanese cuisine known as kaiseki, which features seasonal and regional specialties. (Kaiseki originally referred to light meals served during a tea ceremony, and today refers to a meal consisting of a number of small, varied dishes.)  In order for each dish to be enjoyed at the proper temperature, ryokan stress that guests should be punctual for their meals.” – Wikipedia

 

Visiting during the heart of the Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season, the center of Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan, contains an outdoor cherry tree that was in full bloom, providing a calming

Visiting during the heart of the Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season, the center of Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan, contains an outdoor cherry tree that was in full bloom, providing a calming vista to all guests who walked back to the front entrance from their guest rooms

 

Adjacent to the small library was a reception room where guests are met and served hot tea upon arrival, Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan

Adjacent to the small library was a reception room where guests are met and served hot tea upon arrival, Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan

 

“Tawaraya is the finest ryokan in Kyoto and, arguably, the finest in all Japan.  Private gardens and incredible attention to detail make it a very special Kyoto experience…  But this isn’t why celebrities and political leaders from all over the world have stayed there.  Rather, it’s because Tawaraya is one of the few accommodations anywhere that manages to get everything right.  The rooms are impeccably decorated, in keeping with the wabi-sabi aesthetic of spare simplicity, with each item carefully chosen.  All guest rooms look out over their own private gardens and invite hours of contemplative gazing.  And the staff possess the uncanny ability to know what you want before you do.  All in all, it’s a magical little world that you won’t want to leave.  Only that would be a shame in a city with as many wonders as Kyoto.” – www.insidekyoto.com

 

Our traditional Japanese breakfast at Tawaraya Ryokan featured seafood, tofu and vegetables, Kyoto, Japan

Our traditional Japanese breakfast at Tawaraya Ryokan featured seafood, tofu and vegetables, Kyoto, Japan

 

This service box contained tofu and vegetables with a separate copper carafe of hot soup heated by the charcoal brazier, Ryokan breakfast at Tawaraya, Kyoto, Japan

This service box contained tofu and vegetables with a separate copper carafe of hot soup heated by the charcoal brazier, Ryokan breakfast at Tawaraya, Kyoto, Japan

 

Accompaniments for the tofu and soup, Ryokan breakfast at Tawaraya, Kyoto, Japan

Accompaniments for the tofu and soup, Ryokan breakfast at Tawaraya, Kyoto, Japan

 

Eat local: Sushi dinner (Kaiseki), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Our group enjoyed an outstanding nine-course Kaiseki dinner with special pairings of sake made by the top sake producer in the Kanazawa region, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu I

Our group enjoyed an outstanding nine-course Kaiseki dinner with special pairings of sake made by the top sake producer in the Kanazawa region, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

One of the highlights of our visit to Kanazawa on the “mainland of Japan” (Honshu Island) was the opportunity for a group of about 30 of us from the ship to gather at a local restaurant near the city’s Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai) for an outstanding nine-course Kaiseki dinner with special pairings of sake made by the top sake producer in the Kanazawa region.  We were hosted by the owner of the restaurant and the sake master who explained (via our translator) each of the special sakes we had paired with courses of our dinner.

 

Each place setting was a lacquered tray with chopsticks, sake glasses and water; Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan; each course was served on the tray with refills o

Each place setting was a lacquered tray with chopsticks, sake glasses and water; Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan; each course was served on the tray with refills of sake

 

Kaiseki (懐石) is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner.  The term also refers to the collection of skills and techniques that allow the preparation of such meals, and is analogous to Western haute cuisine…  In the present day, kaiseki is a type of art form that balances the taste, texture, appearance, and colors of food.  To this end, only fresh seasonal ingredients are used and are prepared in ways that aim to enhance their flavor.  Local ingredients are often included as well.  Finished dishes are carefully presented on plates that are chosen to enhance both the appearance and the seasonal theme of the meal.  Dishes are beautifully arranged and garnished, often with real leaves and flowers, as well as edible garnishes designed to resemble natural plants and animals…  Kaiseki consists of a sequence of dishes, each often small and artistically arranged…  Originally, kaiseki comprised a bowl of miso soup and three side dishes; this is now instead the standard form of Japanese-style cuisine generally, referred to as a セット (setto, “set”).  Kaiseki has since evolved to include an appetizer, sashimi, a simmered dish, a grilled dish, and a steamed course.” — Wikipedia

 

Your blogger_s first course, “Japanese citrus with several clams, Urchin, Salmon roe” was served without the Japanese citrus (grapefruit) shown in the first photograph, Kaiseki (su

Your blogger’s first course, “Japanese citrus with several clams, Urchin, Salmon roe” was served without the Japanese citrus (grapefruit) shown in the first photograph, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

“Steamed sea bass” wrapped in a leaf, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

“Steamed sea bass” wrapped in a leaf, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

A close up of the “Steamed sea bass”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A close up of the “Steamed sea bass”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

“Clam soup”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

“Clam soup”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

A complex course with a number of ingredients – “White meat fish, squid, tuna, Bottan shrimp pickled Chinese wine”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A complex course with a number of ingredients – “White meat fish, squid, tuna, Bottan shrimp pickled Chinese wine”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

“Conger Eel and fresh bamboo shoot”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

“Conger Eel and fresh bamboo shoot”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

“Globefish jerry, sesame seed tofu, Crab sushi, sillago with urchin; Fried wild vegetable”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

“Globefish jerry, sesame seed tofu, Crab sushi, sillago with urchin; Fried wild vegetable”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Our fourth sake, paired with warm dishes, was Juku-Shu [Momotose] Gonenn – “As the name of JUKU-SHU, this type has deep rich aroma and flavor taste. This kind is mostly made like a

Our fourth sake, paired with warm dishes, was Juku-Shu [Momotose] Gonenn – “As the name of JUKU-SHU, this type has deep rich aroma and flavor taste. This kind is mostly made like a wine leave while after finish all the process. That makes the taste more deep.”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan; the sake maker noted that the sake was aged for 5 years in French oak, very unusual for sake (it tasted akin to a sherry)

“Jibuni, Duck with lily bulb, Japanese parsley”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

“Jibuni, Duck with lily bulb, Japanese parsley”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

“Steamed rice with small fish [whitebait]”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

“Steamed rice with small fish [whitebait]”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A close up of “Steamed rice with small fish [whitebait]”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A close up of “Steamed rice with small fish [whitebait]”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

“Bracken starch with white strawberry [and red strawberries]”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

“Bracken starch with white strawberry [and red strawberries]”, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The view of the walkway through the property as we headed back to the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai) to catch our van for our return to our ship, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kan

The view of the walkway through the property as we headed back to the Eastern Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai) to catch our van for our return to our ship, Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The view of Kanazawa from the property on the hill, as we left after dinner -- Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The view of Kanazawa from the property on the hill, as we left after dinner — Kaiseki (sushi dinner), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea

Panorama of the Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea, with its pastel hued homes -- many in Busan note that this exotic neighborhood is reminiscent for them of Machu Picchu

Panorama of the Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea, with its pastel hued homes — many in Busan note that this exotic neighborhood is reminiscent for them of Machu Picchu

 

Originally settled in the early 1900s by the Taegeukdo religious sect, Gamcheon Culture Village expanded with the arrival of refugees during and after the Korean War.  Houses in the multi-tiered community are arranged so that no house obscures the view of the home behind it, a tenet of the Taegeukdo belief of allowing others to prosper.  Residents of the neighborhood have long painted their homes in pastel hues, but it was a 2009 public art project that gave the village its often whimsical murals, statues, and other colorful decorative works.

 

Historical photographs of the Gamcheon neighborhood, Busan, South Korea- (far right) the hillside was hardly settled in 1950 before the Korean war refugees from the north moved in; (midd

Historical photographs of the Gamcheon neighborhood, Busan, South Korea: (far right) the hillside was hardly settled in 1950 before the Korean war refugees from the north moved in; (middle) rows of water jars lined up in front of a well, mid-1950s; (left) 1957 photograph of the original shanty homes, terraced so as to not block the views of homes behind them

 

This area began major development as a poor ghetto for war refugees from North Korea in the early 1950s who built shanties without electricity and running water.  Over time, the houses were upgraded to stone and concrete construction and much later running water and electricity were brought to the houses.  Many in Busan note that this exotic neighborhood is reminiscent for them of Machu Picchu.  Gamcheon is now very popular with artists and young residents as a residential area.

 

A small portion of Gamcheon Culture Village today, showing the terracing of the homes and the pastel hues, Busan, South Korea

A small portion of Gamcheon Culture Village today, showing the terracing of the homes and the pastel hues, Busan, South Korea

 

As we walked through the village on the hill (and up and down alleys connecting homes and terraced walkways), we came across a large number of street vendors, cafes and small restaurants

As we walked through the village on the hill (and up and down alleys connecting homes and terraced walkways), we came across a large number of street vendors, cafes and small restaurants, Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea; this area is now a major tourist attraction

 

Locals love having their (wedding) portraits made at Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea

Locals love having their (wedding) portraits made at Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea

 

The homes in Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea, are small, but have interesting pastel paint colors and, here, eye-pleasing graphical elements

The homes in Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea, are small, but have interesting pastel paint colors and, here, eye-pleasing graphical elements

 

Korean street food – Korean “pancakes” freshly fried as you wait for your order, Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea

Korean street food – Korean “pancakes” freshly fried as you wait for your order, Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea

 

Many roofs serve as building terraces with excellent downhill views, Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea

Many roofs serve as building terraces with excellent downhill views, Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea

 

Fried fish cakes are the number one street food all around town, Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea

Fried fish cakes are the number one street food all around town, Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea

 

This rare “slice” of green (nature) on the hillside shows how steep the area is that Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea, is built on

This rare “slice” of green (nature) on the hillside shows how steep the area is that Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea, is built on