Sunday, May 20, 2012

Alone in Kyoto

Yesterday I got up early and decided to head to Kyoto, yet again, this time to climb Diamonji-Yama. Previous to this visit to Japan, I have climbed Diamonji at least 3 times and felt it was high time to make the trek once again. I was so keen to make the climb that I actually forgot to eat! Fortunately I didn\'t forget to hydrate or carry water with me as it was incredibly humid from a very early hour.
I had forgotten how deceptively steep parts of the hike are, once at the peak however, it was just as I remembered - the view is incredible and well worth the post climb 'jelly legs'.
I sat at the top for about an hour, just taking in the sights, watching the hawks circling above and the city buzzing below.

In desperate need of fuel upon decent, I made my way over to Pontocho, Gion, and decided to try the 'yuzu' restaurant that Michael had pointed out to me two days earlier. I was keen to try the yuzu dumplings and not knowing how big they were, ordered a noodle soup as well. The soup was nothing to write home about - other than the fact that I discovered, (after eating two thirds of it), it had chicken mince in it. I don't really do chicken... For several reasons... Needless to say I spent the next few hours listening to pessimist versus optimist quarrel inside my head! The dumplings, however, were AMAZING! The sake wasn't bad either.

With a few hours to kill before Yoramu opened I headed over to the Heian Shrine area and paid a visit to The National Museum of Modern Art. Entry was free as they were in the process of installing a new exhibition. They had the gallery collection on display and that alone was worth the visit. The collection, all Japanese artists, included works by Toshiko Mitani, Yoshinara Hideo, Tetsuya Noda, Jiro Yoshiharae, Kimiyo Mishima and an artist who I have renamed 'The Japanese Cy Twombly': Sekine Seinosuke.
Whilst I was in the area, I decided to venture across the road to see what was on at Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. I was told it was a 'print' exhibition. Not too sure what to expect, for 500 yen it was worth satisfying my curiousity... The exhibition, for me, albeit 'interesting', was neither inspiring or very memorable.

Throw in a little random Geisha spotting…

My second visit to Sake Bar Yoramu was a more memorable experience than the first - or perhaps I should say 'more enjoyable'. Despite being alone this time, it felt much less intimidating upon arrival than last Saturday night. Yoram welcomed me back and I refreshed his memory as to what I had tasted last week, and despite absolutely loving them, requested I try something different this time.
Yoram's selections, (as he wrote them), were:
Kinkame 60 - Muroka Nama Genshu
Kagatobi Ai - Junmai Daiginjo Muroka Nama Genshu
Miyako Bijin - Yamahai Muroka Nama Genshu

Initially, the second choice was my favourite, but by the end of the tasting, number 3 had fought its way to first place... I never really took a shining to the first one - it was not unpleasant, just not something I would order by choice.
Wanting to end my experience on a high, I told Yorum which sake I enjoyed the most last week and suggested he selected something different, yet just as amazing, for the grand finale.
His selection was: Yorokobi Gaijin (how appropriate?)
Yoram's notes state: Aged 7 years, unrefrigerated, Nama Zake.

It was a lovely selection, and a nice sake to finish on but I still think the winner was in last weeks selection. I must say though, every sake I tried at Yoramu was, in its own way, delicious and all were incredibly different. I would definitely recommend this bar to anyone who is curious about, or a connoisseur of, sake.
After bidding farewell and threatening to come back should I visit Japan again, I realized it was earlier than I had first thought so I decided to see if I could find a small and fairly new Japanese sake bar that Michael Baxter had mentioned, called Madoka - not far from Nishiki Market. I found it without a problem and ventured in. Greeted with a friendly 'Irrashaimase, hai dozo', I took a seat at the bar and feared my limited Japanese may not be enough to communicate any request. We managed and although I really didn't need another drink, I sampled a premium sake before calling it a night and catching a train back to Osaka. My minimal Japanese limited me from finding out too much about the sake I was drinking but I photographed the selection for good measure.

Oh... One last thing, Michael was correct to make mention of the toilet at Madoka... not only did it have a light inside the bowl, it actually played classical music to you once seated! Is there such a thing as too much attention to detail?

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