14th May 2019: a fancy izakaya, a visit to the sake district, okonomiyaki and more sake in Kyoto

On this day, we took another bullet train: the Thunderbird from Kanazawa to Kyoto.

Again, a smooth and uneventful train journey: the best ones!

Recorded next to Lake Biwa, soon before arriving to Kyoto, when the train starts to slow down a bit.

But we could feel the difference in business and increased levels of activity as soon as we set our feet on the platform. We had gone from Matsumoto (~239,000 inhabitants) to Kanazawa (~466,000 inhabitants) and now to Kyoto, with ~1.5 million of inhabitants… and the tourists!

It felt, in a way, like stepping on an ants’ nest!

Even the taxi ride towards the hotel felt congested, busy. The roads were bigger, the river wider. It was truly a capital. It is such a big contrast with the idea of “Kyoto and its temples”—yes, the temple area is well preserved and genuine, but the city is much, much more than that.

But this was not time for temples… yet. It was time for lunch!

And we didn’t know where to go.

Ishigamatei – いしがま亭

So we looked at various places nearby, and settled on the one that looked better, not too expensive, kind of friendly… and I think we did well!

It was fairly quiet when we entered. It looked so cosy and welcoming!

Our views of sake bottles while sitting at the counter

There was some sort of lunch set menu, which we chose in an exercise of trust. We had no idea of what would be served, but we were pleasantly surprised when it arrived.

In addition to the seafood, it also had all sorts of weirdly shaped “glutinous” bits which tasted so unknown and intriguingly delicious to me, plus lots of pickles and fermented stuff. Yum!

Here’s their website, just in case you’re lucky to be able to visit any time soon 😀

To the temples!

We took a train towards the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Look at the speed of the train against the backdrop!

And the greenery flying past!

Sadly, I can’t show you any shrine pictures, because there were so many tourists we just couldn’t cope with it, and so we left.

Geikkekan sake museum

We made our way towards Fushimi, the traditional sake district. Because it turns out that sake brewing is Kyoto’s traditional industry!

There, we visited the Geikkekan brewery museum. It was very interesting to see the sake making equipment plus all the historical artifacts (I especially enjoyed looking at the old posters!).

At the end of the visit we got to try a few of their sakes… and we also bought a few small sake bottles 😏

Fushimi Yume Hyakushu (伏見 夢百衆)

Devvers (who does proper in-depth research, unlike my overly optimistic Foursquare bookmarking) had also found that the former Geikkekan head office was now a sort of sake/café/tea room, so we of course had to visit it as well.

SAKE tasting and Coffee / Please from this

It was a lovely quiet café, with quaint traditional furniture, and old ladies chitchatting and gossiping away while sipping their sakes…

We loved it!

And so we went a bit bananas here (but just a bit) and ordered some sake for tasting…

… plus sake ice cream (as it was hot!).

(If I remember correctly, you were supposed to pour some of the sake on top of the ice-cream).

Much, much better than fighting the hordes of tourists!

Okonomiyaki at Gion Tanto (祇園 たんと)

We took the train back into the more central area of Kyoto, and after walking for a while we sort of were feeling hungry… and after some more walking and a lot of indecision we settled on this restaurant because… well, we still hadn’t had okonomiyaki and why not?

We were guided towards a low table with a hot grill inset…

… and soon after we ordered, they brought our salad, turned the grill on and a cook arrived with ingredients and started preparing the okonomiyaki in front of our very eyes. Shape! Shape! Flip! Shape! Flip!

What a choreography!

It was also really hot—between the heat outside, plus the heat from the grills, we were just one step away from melting! Water condensed on the surface of our very cold beers, making a little puddle around them. Not even the air conditioner could cope with all of this humidity!

We saw a long queue outside of the restaurant. We seemed to have arrived at the right time ✌🏼

JAM HOSTEL Kyoto Gion + SAKEbar + Cafe

Devvers had located another sake bar nearby, so of course we took advantage of the opportunity to experience some more local sakes 😁

It was a bit confusing—it was quite “functional” looking, and there was a bit of moderate seediness about the other patrons, but on the other hand the sake selection was quite decent and there was nothing seedy about the place itself or the waiters.

Sake bottles

Either way, I was so tired that I did not even take any more pictures… except for this one:

Japanese lantern with "Old Japanese Bar, English menu pripared" written on it
“Old Japanese Bar, English menu pripared”

I also think this was the day that I finally started to get the hang of my new camera, a Fuji X-100F 😁

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