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Kyoto, once the capital of Japan, is a city on the island of Honshu. It’s famous for its numerous classical Buddhist temples, as well as gardens, imperial palaces, Shinto shrines and traditional wooden houses. It’s also known for formal traditions such as kaiseki dining, consisting of multiple courses of precise dishes, and geisha, female entertainers often found in the Gion district.
Area: 319.6 mi²
Hotels: 3-star averaging $116, 5-star averaging $379. View hotels
Weather: 82°F (28°C), Wind NW at 9 mph (14 km/h), 93% Humidity
Local time: Friday 8:31 PM
Prefecture: Kyoto Prefecture
Population: 1.474 million (2010) UNdata
Japan’s capital for over 1,000 years, Kyoto remains awash with remnants of its past glory. The city’s stunning collection of UNESCO World Heritage sites alone would be enough to set it apart, but Kyoto also boasts a still-working geisha district, some of Japan’s most exquisite cuisine, and a whole lot of Zen. Not that it’s all temples and tradition: the city also hosts its share of hip cafes and modern art. Think of it as the cultural yin to Tokyo’s yang, but with a sprinkling of modernity. Here’s how to get a taste of it all.
Top 10 things you should think about when visiting this place:
1. Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion)
Be it capped by snow in winter or set against a lush green background in summer, nothing is as symbolic of Kyoto as Kinkaku-ji’s golden reflection shimmering across the rippled surface of the pond before it. Not even the crowds of tourists — and they come by the thousands — can detract from Kinkaku-ji’s undoubted splendor. The current gold leaf-coated reconstruction was unveiled in 1955, five years after the 14th-century original was torched by one of the temple’s monks.
2. Ginkaku-ji (The Silver Pavilion)
Here’s an oddity: the Silver Pavilion doesn’t have a trace of silver on it. When the temple was built in the 1480s as a retirement home for the then shogun, the plan was for it to be coated in silver leaf. Scholars believe he ran out of money before they got to that part of the project. And when he died a few years later, the silver-less pavilion was converted into the Zen temple it is today. Though the temple itself is small and unassuming — a Spartan version of its illustrious golden cousin Kinkaku-ji — the reflective pond and manicured trees, the raked sand garden, and the mossy, wooded hillside to the east, from where you can see Ginkaku-ji holding back a sprawling, low-rise urban backdrop, all combine to make a spectacular whole.
Ryoan-ji Temple’s dry rock garden is a puzzle. Nobody knows who designed it or what the meaning is of the 15 rocks scattered across its expanse of raked white gravel. Some academics say they represent a tiger carrying a cub across a stream; others believe they depict an ocean accented with small islands or the sky dotted with clouds. There’s even a theory that the rocks form a map of Chinese Zen monasteries. The only thing scholars do agree on is that Ryoan-ji is one of the finest examples of Zen landscaping in the country. You could stay there for years quietly contemplating the garden’s riddles and still get no nearer to an answer, and maybe that’s the point.
4. Toei Kyoto Studio Park
Yes, it’s touristy, and yes, it’s a bit tacky too, but dressing up as a samurai and watching TV actors hamming it up on set does hold a certain charm. Eigamura, or Kyoto Toei Studio Park to give it its English name, is a working TV and movie set that doubles as a theme park, where besides dressing up in period costume you can wander around a mock-up Edo-era samurai town and take in exhibitions of the well-known TV series and films shot here.
It’s the live studio performances, however, that steal the show. The swordfights are extravagant, the facial expressions and body language overly dramatic, and the dialog at times delivered about as convincingly as an elementary school end-of-year play. It’s Japanese kitsch at its finest. Quentin Tarantino would love it.
It’s not the only geisha district left in Japan, but Gion, a collection of streets defined by its old wooden buildings, teahouses and exclusive Japanese restaurants, is by far the most famous. Spend an hour wandering the area and chances are you’ll glimpse a geisha or two shuffling between teahouses in their cumbersome zori sandals and exquisite kimono. Much to their annoyance, you’ll probably see camera-happy Japanese tourists stalking them too. Not that Gion is just about geisha. Every July, their charms are eclipsed by the Gion Matsuri, a festival that attracts in excess of a million visitors for its procession of festival floats and traditional musical performances.
Numerous bus routes from Kyoto Station and other parts of the city stop at the Gion bus stop.
A waitress in kimono kneels on the tatami mat floor and silently begins placing a dozen or so small, yet picture-perfect dishes on the low dining table. Among the subtle favors and seasonal tones are a clear soup garnished with a sprig of green sanshou, slices of raw sea bream and tuna specked with tiny, delicate yellow flowers, and a simmering silver pot of off-white soy milk and tofu. Japanese cuisine doesn’t get more refined than Kyo-ryori, or “Kyoto cuisine.” For a quintessential Kyo-ryori experience, head to Gion and the 100-year-old Minokou restaurant, where they do an 11-course Kyo-ryori dinner for ¥15,600, as well as lunchtime sampler sets presented in shiny lacquer ware bento boxes for ¥4,000. Alternatively, try the equally traditional Kinobu, where they have a seven-course dinner for ¥12,000 and a ¥4,200 lunchtime sampler.
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- 6 scoops vanilla bean ice cream
- 1 cup milk
- whipped topping
- candy eyes.
- Add the ice cream and milk to the blender. Blend until thick and frothy.
- Top with whipped topping and add candy eyes.
Many thanks to http://www.diynetwork.com/ Visit them for even more!
- 4 tins (400g (14.11 ounces) each) whole, peeled tomatoes
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 red onions, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1.5l vegetable / chicken stock
- 100ml cream
- salt & pepper to taste
- fresh basil leaves, to serve
For the onion puree
- 6 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
- 750ml stock (I used beef)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- white pepper and salt, to taste
For the toasted cheese (makes 4)
- 8 slices thick, white bread
- 1 cup grated mozzarella
- 2 cups grated mature cheddar
To make the soup
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°c.
- Place the tinned tomatoes and all their juices in a roasting tray and add the Balsamic, olive oil, sugar and salt. Stir to combine and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the tomatoes are broken down and have started caramelising slightly.
- In a large pot, sauté the onions in some olive oil until they are translucent and fragrant. Add the garlic and fry for another minute.
- Add the roasted tomatoes, tomato paste, soy sauce and sugar. Stir to combine all the ingredients and pour in the stock.
- Lower the heat and cover the pot. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and blend the soup.
- Add the cream and season to taste.
To make the onion puree
- Place the onions in an oven-proof dish and pour over the stock. Add the salt and sugar then cover and allow to braise for 45 minutes to an hour until the onions are soft and fragrant.
- Strain the onions (reserve the liquid to add flavour to sauces/stews) and blend with a hand blender.
- Add the butter and season to taste.
To make the toasted cheese sandwiches
- Mix the mozzarella with the cheddar. Top 4 slices of bread with a tablespoon of the onion puree followed by a generous handful of the cheese.
- Close the sandwich with another slice of bread then fry in a non-stick pan, over medium heat (I add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan) until the sandwiches are golden brown and the cheese is melted and oozy.
- Serve the toasted cheese with the tomato soup.
Many thanks to simply-delicious-food.com Visit them for even more!