Japan honeymoon: Shin-kobe

While heading back to Osaka from Okayama, we took a longer train (no idea why, I think it stopped at more stops?) and the journey was not what we expected. So we had to forego our Yakiniku M reservation. We were sleepy and weren’t sure what to do as the plan was pretty fluid. So looking at this map, we realised that our shinkansen would pass by Shin-Kobe station. I recalled a quick Google on kobe beef places, and found one that was right at the station. We didn’t get to see Kobe per se as it was already dark and Shin-Kobe isn’t that near the city centre. But we pampered ourselves with a Kobe beef meal and had a great time watching the chef handle the exquisite pieces of meat.

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Screenshot of the Kansai Wide Area Pass map of valid trains. The only dashed one (shinkansen) led us to Okayama and Shin-Kobe.

I had an itinerary done prior to the trip but left it fluid with only the key purchased items locked down. Each day I just reviewed where I went / what I had eaten (or not, which was more important), and made sure if it’s somewhere I really wanted to visit, that I’d cut and paste it later in the itinerary. Apart from the Kameoka hot spring and Universal Studios, which were purchased in advance, we could pretty much do anything, anytime. Which was great. It seemed to work with both of us. Good job for our first trip together (*pats Immanuel’s back).

Wakkoku @ Shin-Kobe station

We opted for one normal (A4) beef sirloin set, and a A4 sirloin set at Wakkoku after the chef explained the grades of the beef on the menu. The chef recommended sirloin which was fine with me. Tenderloins, though a feast to the eyes when looking at the teppanyaki table, aren’t my favourite parts of the beef. Perhaps the A5 would’ve been very different because of the fat content. My gripe with tenderloins is that they are usually dry. But now thinking of it, it probably would not have been dry at all, eh?

Our set meals came with a smoked salmon plate, soup (just mine), salad, and coffee. But really, who needs all that when there’s beef waiting for you?

Close up of the A5 sirloin.
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So meticulously prepared, I was afraid of eating it wrong. Wasn’t an issue as the chef guided us throughout the entire process. On how to taste the beef with just salt only, and then allowing us to try it with the other condiments around. Same for the veggies. It felt like a lesson – which I enjoyed. No fluff and haughtiness, just a sincere respect for the food in front of us.
The chef even offered to take a photo for us before starting his major cooking! No airs at all. Love it.

Japanese marbled fatty beef is something we HAD to try on this trip, but decided that isn’t the best thing for us. Immanuel and I both had the super jelat feel after all our Japanese beef meals at Wakkoku (Shin-Kobe), Yakiniku M (Osaka), and Gyu-kaku (Singapore). I much prefer good chargrilled beef, the kind with the criss-cross patterns. Immanuel likes beef most ways, and loves our meal at Mortons. I’m not too into the slow-roasted beef that’s cut after the whole thing is cooked. I really like the criss-cross marks and the charred taste. With salt. Salt will do. Or miso.

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Japan honeymoon: Osaka

Friday: Ekiben (fail) & takoyaki

On the day we left Kyoto, we excitedly dashed to get ourselves an ekiben each. But we didn’t expect the train to be that crowded and didn’t know that our train would be the less-awesome train. The KWA pass was not valid for the Shinkansen to Kyoto – which made the ekiben experience, well, non-existent.

So we kept it till nighttime and had it in our Airbnb apartment instead, along with our takoyaki. They were pretty decent, and I’d probably just need one try.

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We dropped off our baggage early after arriving at Shinsaibashi, took a quick walk towards Dotonburi and found a long queue at the takoyaki store straight at the bridge. Instincts told me that this would be the best of all the many takoyaki stalls in the area.

I guess the Singaporean theory works anywhere. Not proven right yet but it was pretty good.

Airbnb @ Shinsaibashi

Our Airbnb at shinsaibashi was a real letdown. I guess it was not too bad a try but having stayed at Cocoon and Kanra, the dip in standard was just too great. Kanra really set the bar for us in comfort and design.

That said, our Airbnb was conveniently located near a ‘station exit’, but it was more like an underground mall exit. So the walk from the actual station was still quite a distance. The good thing though, was that it was a sheltered path and if it did rain or if the wind got too strong.

The room was alright, with plenty of amenities. But it had some hygiene challenges that made us pretty scared of using.

The toilet was generally clean but there were patches of mould at parts of the toilet walls so it made for an uncomfortable time. Well good thing was, it made it more appreciative of what we had during the stay and had to squeeze out a list of things we liked about it. Here’s the list:

  1. It was in near an underground station exit. Well, sorta.
  2. It made us miss home.
  3. It had an escalator nearby (to access the station).
  4. The fridge was big and clean.
  5. The toilet bowl system, though old, at least had a bidet.
  6. There was hot water
  7. Plenty of cleaning appliances lying all over the tiny apartment

We had 11 when we were there, but clearly, not good enough a reason for me to remember right now.

Another thing to note about staying at shinsaibashi was the noise. It didn’t help that I watched ‘The Purge’ before making the trip. The incessant scary laughter, bottles clinking, and crazy random sirens and that one particularly scary one at 3.30am that made me Google earthquake alerts at that same in earthly hour just made sleep such a pain.

It was equally cold in Kyoto but sleep was good because it was in a quiet neighbourhood. The weird noises here were nothing like what I expected when I saw the reviews that there would be noise till early morning.

Many many regrets with regards to this choice that was a last minute change as I jumped at the fact that it was at the station exit. Plenty of other prettier apartments but it could have been the same thing – pictures promising the apartment in its best state, and not that which we’d open the door to. That said, it seems only applicable to Osaka. Maybe I’d be proven wrong at the next trip. I sure hope so!

This was probably the only disappointed throughout our trip and it lasted a painful 8 days… But it was with my dear hubby so that made up for it.
Sunday: Church & Nara

We went to Lifehouse Church Sunday and had a heartwarming time, listening to Pastor preach about having our own unique stories. This was reinforced in our own time of listening to sermons.

We met a couple of warm people and got a recommendation to head to Nara. We were told it would take less than a day so we went there after church.

So our first stop there wasn’t the deers but Maguro Koya

This tiny shop. Crazy good ootoro bowl.

 

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Below the visible layer of ootoro and rice, was another splendid layer of ootoro and rice. After having the ootoro, this normal negitoro bowl paled in comparison. But our strategy throughout the trip was to get one serving of decadence, and one normal good one. It served us well as too much fat would have killed the joy.

 

Then, it was time to explore. It was pretty dark and cold so we just gave ourselves a short period to walk quickly and ‘cover’ Nara. We already had the tuna so objective was achieved 🙂

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We got some pretty night views, had ice cream, saw some deers (from the back, in the dark) and called it a day.

Tuesday: Universal Studios Japan

I LOVE HARRY POTTER. It’s possibly my favourite book and movie series. It really started my love for fantasy/sci-fi. I love seeing things I can’t see in real life.

I got the tickets online via klook and got the e-ticket so it was a breeze. However, it was raining on the day we went there. It was mighty cold and made the trip a bit of a bother. It was also on this day that I got to see how much my husband could take care of me.

We took the The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – The Ride 4K3D and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ in 4K3D and they were awesome. Okay, I see now the common factor in the two rides.4K3D. I love the technology that went into it, 3D effects and all.

The HP ride nailed it for us and so it was time to go home after we went back to the Harry Potter area for the second time.
Umeda Hagakure

Rainy weather made for a perfect day for udon. After googling, we found this udon place. Everything interesting we read in the reviews on TripAdvisor manifested:

  • He made us take photos of the udon. The Korean guy next to us didn’t intend to take a photo of his udon and he made him do it.
  • Taught us step by step as to how to eat it (we didn’t dare to do otherwise)
  • I received a pat on my head for slurping it right, while slurping it right- 2 noodle, not 1 or 3 but 2.

Tempura udon (cold)
Tempura udon (hot soup)

You can see the uncle taking the noodles out into the small bowl for Immanuel. He was really that involved in our meal. Also, he called us by country. Meaning, he called us, Singapore. And the Korean man next to us, Korea.

Shuhari (守破離)

Our entire trip was largely planned around famous soba places. What a way to start planning an trip but it’s the only way I know how.

So imagine my disappointment when I found that Ayamedo was no longer Ayamedo and I didn’t know why! So I never got to try that elusive little soba shop which apparently didn’t allow it’s guests to take photos of the food or the eatery.

Google really saved us throughout our trip and we instantly found a nearby place that sold handmade soba. It was SOBASOGOOD.

We  had a tempura with cold soba each and I saw something vaguely looking like an upside on the Japanese menu. Thank God that one of the ladies there spoke super fluent English and we managed to confirm an upsize and even ordered an extra portion.

One upsized portion of soba.

We had in total, 2 upsized portions of soba, and one normal one.

We shared a table with two men that day. The more senior gentlemen had plain soba with sauce – upsized too. I felt affirmed when I saw is arrive. He did something that amazed me though. Before dipping the noodles into the sauce, he tried a little bit of it. Then asked his friend to pass him the salt on the side. He dished out a little and put it on the side of his saucer. Then gently dipped the soba into the salt and tried it. He gave a pleased look after which just told me that the noodles passed. Looked totally like a soba connoiseur.

After he left, Immanuel and I also tried it. It was yummy in that everything dipped in salt is yummy for me, but soba without sauce isn’t soba in my opinion. So I slurped on.

Crunchy, light, crisp tempura
Cute little duck dish poster.

Tough fight between this and Owariya. Owariya’s noodles were smoother and lighter. Shuhari’s noodles (apart from the awesome upsize), we’re chewier and grainier and strangely felt more authentic and ‘handmade’.

Both have their merits and I’d recommend both. One for Kyoto and the other for Osaka. Major, major highlights of the trip for me.

Yakiniku M

Marinated Karubi
This was already fantastic.
Beef seared sashimi sushi

Hot stone bowl garlic rice
A platter of splendour

Yuzu ice cream and Sake pudding

Well, we did eat a few more things than what’s highlighted here but they were negligible. So loving our Japan trip and it has officially taken over Seoul as my favourite destination. No jelatness of Japanese food this time. Loving the start of this journey with Immanuel, and looking forward to the many more trips to come!