Change of Plans! We had planned to go to Kurama on Thursday, a town up in the mountains which we can reach with ‘our’ train near our house. However, it rained that morning and my iPhone promised rain for all day. So instead, we went to the Takashimaya Department Store. We started in the basement Food Halls, which were stupendous. Row after row of food for sale, much of it prepared and much that you would cook at home. It went on and on.
There were French-fried chicken parts; many kinds of fish; salads with wagyu beef and egg yolks; crabs; eel; and even flowers.
Much of the pricing seemed sensible; however there were a few things like one piece of beautiful sushi-quality tuna that cost $140 for two pounds; two oz. of salmon roe that cost $15; and some very special Wagyu beef that cost $260 for a half pound.
We looked through each floor (there were seven in addition to the basement food halls) at many US and European brands of clothing. There was a display of Noritake china—-my mother and my mother-in-law both had Noritake china. Burt found the kitchen-ware area interesting, but how to get any more home?! The store put out a catalog of all the food items which was thick and free, which the clerk gave him.
At lunch time we went upstairs to the seventh floor where there were 15 restaurants. We had decided we wanted eel (again!) which we love. There was a special eel restaurant—-Unagi Toku—-where we were served lovely eel lunches. There were two young women in kimonos sitting near us. One does see them on the street occasionally, but not often.
When we finished lunch, we set out for home, walking to the train stop, and then buying the tickets to ‘our’ station. I apparently made that same mistake I had made before——-I was sure I knew how to do this, now—-when the machine kept our tickets. This time, I got the man and he fixed the situation by refunding me most of the money that I would need to buy the correct ticket.
It was still misting a little; we were carrying umbrellas that our apartment provides. Now when I bought the correct tickets for the train, I forgot my umbrella there. I was already on the moving train when I thought of it. So it goes.
At the department store, Burt had bought some shirasu or white bait. That evening for
dinner he made a ramen noodle dish that included these tiny fish. When he bought them, the clerk packed them in a plastic bag, along with a plastic wrapped large ice cube. This had still not melted when we arrived back at our apartment.
Our last day was beautifully sunshiny, which we wanted for going to the mountains. We got the Eisen train, and 20 minutes later were at Kurama, the last stop on the train. The greenery on the mountains was more than welcome, as the houses in Kyoto are cheek by jowl, with virtually no yards. We have also noticed that they do not have or sit on balconies—-apparently they remain indoors, even in the nice weather.
Of course the Kurama Temple was well up the mountain side—-a monk established this place in 734 AD, and of course he would do so up the mountain. However, we were lucky to have a tram to take us up, part way, anyway. Then it called for walking up, up, up to the temple.
There was a lovely path, but MANY steps. Luckily there were benches along the path for us to rest——the old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be——-but that’s OK, we take our time. Actually one youngish woman, a Japanese Hawaiian, we learned later, refused to go up all the way to the top, and sent her aged father up alone, while she and her mother stayed behind.
The temple was slightly underwhelming, but the atmosphere and the beauty of the mountains/forests completely made up for it. We were really glad we did this little jaunt.
We took the train back to our station, and went back to our apartment for a brief rest before going on to our other activity for the day.
A Kaiseki lunch at the Heihachi Tea House, established in 1576, which was right in our neighborhood. We had spotted it several days earlier, picked up a brochure, and returned to make a reservation for our last day, a few days later. We made sure that we wouldn’t be sitting on the floor—-we need regular chairs and a table; yes, we would have that!
In the 17th and 18th centuries, this Tea House served the lords, merchants and ruling monks of the time (according to the brochure).
The entrance was lovely and we were greeted by a maitre’d (?) woman, who escorted us to ‘our’ room.
We removed our shoes, walking on the tatami mats, and were seated. We had our own little balcony, overlooking the Takano River. The foliage along the river was beautiful, and then we saw a mother deer and her fawn across the
Our waitress was dressed traditionally, and always
bowed low before sliding open the doors and coming into our room. We ordered some wine, which was a French white Burgundy, and toasted each other for having such a good experience in Japan!
Then our 1st course: Tea and a mochi; our 2nd course was a variety of tidbits; our 3rd course was sashimi; notice how none of the dishes match as in a set—-that’s how it was in our apartment, too.
Our 4th course was a clear soup in a beautiful wooden bowl with cover; it contained green tofu, a mushroom, carrot and a green herb;
Our 5th course was another group of stuff—-one thing made out of the skin on heated soy milk; our 6th course was trout with ginger; our 7th course was tempura; our 8th course
was a ‘pasta’ (she called it) but bore no resemblance; our 9th course was rice with slimy yam (same as I had at the craft market) which is pretty ‘exotic’ and pickles. Our 10th and last course was dessert: sweetened agar agar with fresh fruit and tea. Burt knew many of the names of these various foods, and some we learned from the waitress. You med techs—-did you know people ATE agar? This concluded our wonderful lunch——the price? $200 and worth every penny!
We lingered a bit on our balcony, just enjoying the beautiful view and the tea.
The waitress and the maitre’d escorted us out to the street, thanking us all the way! Japanese people are so polite and gracious. We must seem like clods to them.
This was a wonderful capstone on our trip to Japan. I’m so glad I got to visit it—-it was a ‘hole’ in my traveling—-80 countries and no Japan. Burt had been here once 15 years ago, so was ‘an old hand.’
The things to see in Kyoto, Shimada, and Nara were wonderful, but the Japanese people were the standouts. Of course our trip to visit Yurie and her family was the highlight——staying in a Buddhist temple—-how many get to do that??!
Now we are home in Minneapolis, which is good, too! Thanks to all of you who wrote to us while we were traveling—-it’s always fun to hear from you all.