Light-up leaves

Kiyomizudera, moments before the alien invasion began

One thing that I particularly admire about the Japanese is their ostentatious appreciation of beauty. People in the UK might glance at autumn foliage and say “Ooh ain’t it lovely!” and then whizz right past in their cars. You rarely get the whole hoards of people, slamming on the brakes and whipping out their cameras.

I’m being a little unfair. Japan is full of, surprise surprise, Japanese maples, which turn a vibrant red colour and make for simply stunning scenery. The UK doesn’t boast quite such a collection of colours.

But there’s another reason. The Japanese are obsessed with not just the casual observation of beauty, but with its creation. Rather than the often-used yet awkward juxtaposition of man-made = ugly, natural = beautiful,  the Japanese seek to improve upon nature, taming it into perfection. Temples gardens are wonderful examples of  an attempt to control not only the nature contained within them, but people’s own viewing experiences. Everything is laid out so as to create the most satisfying view.

Actually, when I say “everything”, I might be overstating things, but I’ve been paranoid ever since I read about Japanese garden planners’ clever designs. Breaks in the path or awkward stepping stones force the walker to look down and watch his or her footing, thus not observing their surroundings. This can be used to either distract the viewer from a less aesthetic part of the garden or to reward them or make a strong impression with a particularly spectacular view when they look up again. Now every time I walk round a garden, I deliberately look around everywhere in some kind of desperate attempt to objectify my experience.

Creating satisfying views is unashamedly and boldly the aim of the momiji (autumn foliage) night-time light-ups which take place at various shrines and temples across the city.

On a VERY cold Friday evening, I found myself being led up a poorly lit street by my endlessly enthusiastic friend Mimi to see the lights at Shoren-in. We waited in trepidation at the mysteriously lit entrance:

The mysterious entrance

The queue grew longer and the crew of the TV van next to us grew twitchier and twitchier. Until doors opened and we rushed forwards…

For those who have never been to Japanese temple garden walk, let me explain. First of all, you approach a wooden building and take off your shoes. Carrying them, you shuffle inside the building which takes you on a veranda walk with views of the garden. You then put on your shoes for when you actually venture into the garden itself. The garden is, of course, laid out in a way that makes it wonderful to view just from the temple building itself.

On our trip, we were greeted not only with an outdoor light up but some tie-dye bruvvas glowing inside the temple.

Tie-Dye Gang$ta

However, the garden really did steal the show. If only my photos could capture it. The whole experience was strangely intimate despite the crowds of people. The only thing that really intruded were the continuous camera flashes, which could have made a light show of their own.

Bamboo grove

Kiyomuzudera was an entirely different experience. It’s a famous tourist hotspot with in Kyoto and rather than being intimately tucked away, it sits boldly on a hillside overlooking the southern part of Kyoto. On the steep ascent up to the temple, the main building becomes visible, lit up in glorious orange with a beam passing straight through the upward protruding part of the roof. It’ss meant to make a statement.

Cameras flashing and sprawling landscapes, this is a place where I had to get your elbows out and squeeze into the gaps to find the view. Nevertheless, the colours are enthralling. And a night-time city scape always has a mesmerising quality.

Pizza Ball House and Other Osakan Eateries

According to my Lonely Planet, Osaka is renowned for good eateries. And whilst that statement might be true, after interrailing round Eastern Europe in the summer, I don’t trust anywhere Lonely Planet recommends.

So we wandered the streets at leisure, stopping to laugh at all the ridiculous places we found. Here they are, in ascending order of amusement:

1. Snack Donkey

Snack Donkey has squeezed itself down a dank-looking alley, to serve you God knows what.

Snack Donkey or Snack Donkey

2. Eat Man

Really? Eat a man? Cannibalism? Or is this a case of punctuation – Eat, Man!

24hr cannibalism

3. Pizza Ball House

This serves takoyaki (fried octopus balls). Maybe it serves pizza as well. But it definitely does not serve pizza balls. The octopus looks just as confused as we were.

Octopus: "Huh? They wanna eat me?"

4. Far D

Mmm, which would you choose?

Take a look at this food. Yes that is an omelette stuffed with rice, served with a hamburger and a pile of spaghetti. Yes, the Japanese have VERY different tastes when it comes to what flavours they believe fit together.

However, look at this preposterous claim:

The Natural & safe cooking from style of Canterbury

From Canterbury? Yes, I believe the Archbishop eats that dish daily.

But on to our actual lunch restaurant….

The place: Buzz Brasserie & Wine Café 
The food: faux-European 

We spied this stylish place straight after crossing the road from Umeda Hankyu station and later returned to it hungrily to snap up what we thought was a 1,500円 lunch deal. And European food! I get so sick of eating rice, rice, rice and pickles. Hooray for chips and steamed veg!

Although on the main road and at the beginning of a rather dirty “shopping” arcade, Buzz was clean and quiet inside – despite the fact it was packed with people.

They had three options: lunch deal 1 (hamburger), lunch deal 2 (spaghetti carbonara) and lunch deal 3 (mustard chicken). I eyed the room eager to spot what everyone else was eating. I could only see hamburgers but didn’t really fancy it as it came covered in thick tomato-based sauce. Nor did I fancy the pasta because Japanese pasta is notoriously bizarre (I ignored my own reservations just the other day and regretted it – post coming soon). So I ordered the chicken. Mistake. If no-one else in the room was eating it, then there’s probably a reason.

It wasn’t terrible. But the mustard sauce was hardly complex in the flavours employed, and the meat itself was rubbery.

Mustard chicken

Calle took the pasta, which was “all right, especially for Japanese pasta”, and given that they’d adapted it to make it veggie.

Spaghetti with veg and salad and chips!

However, it really was amazing to have steamed vegetables!! And chips!

Plus the appetisers were delicious, and steeped in olive oil and basil and oregano, which are rare finds in Japanese food.

The dessert was also good – not the tastiest brownie in the world, and definitely not home-made, but the fresh fruit provided a delicious contrast.

Gratuitous shot of the super-fancy coffee cup:

Overall 3.5/5

Visit for relatively well-priced and above average “Western” food.

Food quality 3/5 – Pretty good for the price. Given the quality of ingredients and effort that had done into the appetisers, the rubbery chicken was the biggest disappointment. My ice coffee was also undrinkable – no idea what they did to it.

Value for money 3/5 –  let down by not including the dessert in the price. They slapped a cheeky 300円 extra on for it!

Atmosphere 4/5 – Busy yet quiet. Pleasant, stylish interior. Just enough space between tables so as not to feel uncomfortable.

Service 5/5 – Very helpful and obliging. Water glasses were continuously refilled. The till lady then directed us to the nearest cash machine.

How to find it

See this map on their website:

Turns out they also have a restaurant in Tokyo too:

The Hepatitis Whale / Never take directions from a drunk man

Last week, was a national holiday in Japan. Why? Who knows? Who cares?! It means no work, no school and LOTS of fun.

Actually, what it really meant was traipsing to Osaka to buy a second-hand printer we’d found on the Internet.

All kind of weirdos hang around Osaka at night

The morning stated badly – as in the old-married-couple-row kind of badly. Darling Calle had been asked to buy eggs the evening before. When it was subsequently revealed that there were no eggs, his first excuse was “How was I supposed to know that we were totally out of eggs?”, which changed to the more preposterous, “I couldn’t afford to buy the eggs!” What was wrong with walking to the ATM which is on the way to the supermarket and withdrawing money, I shall never know.

The result – I had an insubstantial breakfast and was incredibly grumpy. This mood was accentuated by the fact that I had to then pay for Calle to accompany me on the trip as JP Bank ATMs are located inside post offices, which, unsurprisingly, are closed on national holidays. To make matters worse, when changing stations we were directed the wrong way by two locals independently (NB: they weren’t even drunk!)  and ended up walking BACK the way we’d travelled on the subway, making it even further to reach the right station. As it turned out, it wasn’t going to be a successful day for directions.

SO…we arrived in Osaka later than intended. With only time to sit in café before we had to go on our printer mission.

Printer collected, deposited in locker, plans for Osaka castle postponed by rain, we found ourselves wandering along a shopping arcade, mainly full of low-end eateries and gaming zones. But AH! was it good to be strolling in Big City air. How I miss that living in Kyoto. We entered a game zone where my money-hunting mode overrode by conscious senses and I located myself a 1,000円 (~£8.70)  note – nice! It, therefore, felt like a legitimate activity to try and win some kind of paraphanalia relating to possibly the strangest popstar ever to exist…..because she doesn’t actually exist. Yes! Japan is home to a CGI superstar.

How can a cartoon be this hot?

We then went to check out a large manga store. And I swear I’m not exaggerating when I say that about 50% of that store was dedicated to porn.  Don’t just think of the porn for the guys. There was plenty of S&M yaoi (boy love) for the ladies. Oh, but here I do exaggerate a little bit: I did find a really heart-warming incestuous story about two brothers as well. Standard.

So after perusing the store, and Calle bemoaning the lack of decent sci-fi in stock, we had to hunt out a restaurant before I gave in to my brewing cannibalistic tendencies. You can read about our lunch, all the weirdly-named eateries and gross food by clicking here.

Refuelled on Western food, or at least, a Japanese attempt at Western food, it was time to hit the shops. But which direction to go in? Where was the best shopping district? We could see a couple of giant department stores but we wanted to find smaller shopping districts. Sadly, that was not to be. Whilst stopped outside a conveni, a man sidled up to me, giving me a smile and a nod. Are you lost? he asked. It was pretty clear that whether we were lost or not, he was going to “help” us. He wore a leather jacket and was swigging cheap beer from a can. He was definitely inebriated. “Shops? I know shops! Big shopping centre! Follow me!” Our protests that we’d already seen the shopping centre were in vain. We were escorted there….so we decided we might as well enter the 9 storey monstrosity.

The name of the mall itself was intriguing: HEP FIVE. Now I’d only heard of Hep A and B. But conveniently, Wikipedia, informs me that there are actually 5 hepatitis virus forms. Could it be that you can find them in this mall, all under one roof?! Don’t forget about the Hepatitis Whale to keep you company as you shop. I like to think of him as benignly spreading STDs with the help of his cousins, the Sperm Whales.

The Hepatitis Whale

We perused the fashion shops, all aimed at the young market and yet with prices way above high street shops in the UK. Why? Probably because they have to fund projects like this to invite people in:

Now that's what I call a Bunny Girl!

However, this mall has subsequently become a very important place for me. For a very personal reason. I decided to get married. I can remember the very place. It was on the fourth floor. We’d just come up the escalator from the third floor. And then I realised: I HAD TO WEAR THOSE WEDDING DRESSES OVER THERE, LOOK LOOK LOOOOOOK!

Check these babies out:

Actually, the ones in the store were even more ostentatious, and possibly nauseating to many. But I love them! I want giant flowers and bows all over my wedding dress. I can see it now… I just need to convince Calle to marry me and pay for the dress… and for the divorce should he fail to buy eggs again.

We continued on our upwards journey until we got to floor 7, where for only 500円, we got to ride a really slow ferris wheel, 106m up in the air. Calle was completely comfortable with the height.

Calle: "Stop jumping, Phoebe. Please. Please!

The views it afforded were amazing! Can’t wait to go again on a sunny day!

Our day concluded by attending a Thanksgiving party, hosted by my employer, Tom Brown, of Tom’s Burger Bar and Brown’s English. He cooked a meal for a small army. Check it out:

Turkey feast

Damn I is a sexy bitch

This is what I bought after I cycled five miles to work in the rain. Not pathetic English drizzle, but heavy “I mean business” Japanese rain, which pours and pours. What a shame this waterproof set is made for people with short arms – or maybe I’m just an orangutan. I rather like the super-bright colour though. Why wear black in the rain?

Rethinking things

No, I’m not thinking anything incredibly profound. However, I have decided that since I like the layout on this blog – and since maintaining two blogs is really quite time consuming – I shall henceforth use this one as both a travel and a food blog. Besides, most things I experience are inseparable from my stomach, as it’s hungry pretty much 24/7….

So now that I’ve rethought my blogging approach, I thought I’d highlight some things in Japan that might want reconsidering. Like allowing 1,200 deer to wander around a city.

The children edge backwards as the deer advance on them...
Deer on a pickpocketing mission

Yes this is Nara. And yes it’s wonderful for tourists….but isn’t it a crazy idea? I wonder how many get killed by cars every year…..

Perhaps stranger, is the mascot of Nara. The thought process behind it must have gone something like this:

“What is Nara famous for? Hmm.”

“I know, I know! Buddhist temples and the biggest Buddha in Japan!”

Daibutsu - largest Buddha in Japan

“But it’s also famous for deer! Lots of deer!”


“I know! Let’s combine the two!!”

Here is Sento-kun! Half-Buddhist monk, half-deer! Now I don’t want to think about what led to his birth! (NB: Wikipedia states “Sento-kun is meant to resemble an amiable young boy who has the antlers of a deer.” Meant to. Says  it all).

A perversion of nature

Other things that might need rethinking:

1) A gangster octopus….

Giddy-up, tiger!

Yes that is a takoyaki  (fried octopus ball) restaurant, advertising the octopus it serves by a gangster octopus riding a tiger. Again, I wonder what thought processes led to this concoction? Certainly not any thoughts whilst sober…..

2) Fur-lined crocs

Crocs are an abomination in my opinion. Now fur-lined crocs just take that to a whole new level.

3) Do you Kyoto?

Do you Kyoto? Do you really?

The Kyoto city mascot. ‘Nuff said.

4) Big boy hamburgers

Do you fancy a Big Boy?

Actually, I’m  not convinced that this one needs rethinking. Big boys are probably just the kind of customer they’re trying to attract. And besides, a bit of innuendo goes a long way in marketing – Shake Weight is proof of that.

The perfect pot of steaming hot…

…UDON! That’s what I ate during a trip out “hiking” last weekend. At this time of year, everyone goes autumn foliage crazy in Japan – everyone wants to see the momiji or kouyou. We decided to venture to Kibune and Kurama in the north of Kyoto.

It turned out that we were a little too early as most of the leaves were still green:

Kibune is still green

The reddest thing we saw was this fellow – who is actually a tengu, a dangerous mountain and forest spirit. I would definitely run if I bumped into one of these at night.

What a mighty fine nose he has...

We attempted some serious climbing up a very steep path and crazy roots.

Jungle roots
The path was steep....
The view from My Kurama

The views were worth it. But it was just as well we’d manage to find some udon before we went up there. All the restaurants in Kibune were expensive kaiseki places which charged over 3,000円 for a meal, which contained a variety of dishes that we didn’t want to eat.

Fortunately, we were lucky to spot an udon and soba place, where you could sit on little benches outside, spying on the street:

Kibune village
Steaming hot kitsune udon

I got a steaming hot bowl of kitsune udon – that is fried sliced tofu, floating with thick udon noodles in a dashi (fish stock) broth. It was only 500円 and I got myself a shiitake mushroom and processed fish sausage too! (I was more excited about the former than the latter to be honest!) Although I’ve never been too keen on “wet” noodles, it was the perfect dish to warm me up and give me just the right amount of energy for the climb. I discovered after my trip to Fushimi Inari that it’s not a good idea to eat too much if you plan on climbing anything!

Romance and rare meat

Yes. It was official. On Saturday, 12th November, my boyfriend and I reached that landmark of one year. Of course, I knew what the event really meant. It was not about romance; it was all about steak.

I had launched my cunning scheme a few weeks earlier….

Me: Wow! I can’t believe we’ve almost made it to a year. I feel like I’ve known you for years.
Boyfriend: Yes. It feels like I’ve know you forever. But the time has also gone really quickly.
Me: So you’re treating me to steak on the twelfth?

Me: Do you know what day it is this Saturday?
Boyfriend: Of course I do –  I’m not suicidal.
Me: So have you decided on a restaurant to take me to yet?

Now pipe down feminists! I’m more than happy to play up to the traditional male-female roles if I get bought a steak! Besides, I think you’ll agree, I have a wonderfully obliging boyfriend…especially since he’s vegetarian.

However, it was just as well I gave said boyfriend mental preparation because we got to about 5pm on the day, when he turned round and asked me: “So have you chosen a restaurant?”

Now that threw me. I should have taken control over that as well. Damn.

We desperately began scouring the Internet and I grew steadily more frustrated, until I shouted – “I’ve read that one before. It’s been recommended before! Let’s go there!”

The place: Nishisaka
The food: kaiseki (steak set; tofu steak) 

Kyoto is famous for kaiseki cuisine – in short, eating lots of little courses, either brought one after another or presented all at once but in a beautifully arranged way.

Now this reminds me of nouvelle cuisine. And I’ve never been a fan of nouvelle cuisine. Sure, it looks lovely…but I want it to do more act as an hors d’oeuvres before I run home and desperately raid the fridge.

I hoped for little dishes that added up to one big dish that filled my poor tummy. I was wrong.

In fact, things went wrong from the moment we arrived. Nishisaka is in Gion, the “traditional” area of town where you find quaint little alleys with immaculate wooden buildings, where geisha might be spotted. So how could a place that looked so lovely from the outside fail us?

Because never judge a book by a cover; never judge a restaurant by its exterior (or entirely by its exterior).

We were led into a brightly lit, sparse, cafeteria style room and sat at a black hard wooden table with a heater in the centre for shabu shabu (beef stirred around in a broth until its cooked). The chairs were at the wrong height for the table and so the gas machinery underneath stuck painfully into our knees whilst we painfully blinked at each other in a painfully overlit room. 0% privacy. 0% atmosphere. 50% romance (we were united through out mutual disappointment).

The food might be excellent, I told myself. I duly ordered the steak set and boyfriend took the tofu and tempura set.

A meal that barely even massaged my stomach...
Tofu and tempura set

Now I actually can’t be bothered to describe the food in too much detail. No-one wants a low-down on rubbish. But here goes in a nutshell…

The steak: it was actually quite tasty – but I think that was mainly bacuase the Japanese believe in the need for fat in meat and this piece was wonderfully marbled with it. It sadly was very small and served with ponzu sauce. The Wikipedia definition is as follows: “Ponzu  is a citrus-based sauce commonly used in Japanese cuisine. It is tart, with a thin, watery consistency and a light yellow color.” The experiential definition is: it tasted awful – it was so sour and overpouring that in no way should one ever annihilate the taste of steak with it.
– An additional note: yes my broccoli really is dipped in mayonnaise.

The tofu: surprisingly good for tofu – the soy milk sauce had a lightly balanced flavour.

The tempura: bland and boring.

The salad: distinctly average, especially since the Japanese can create some really tasty dressings.

The miso soup: bitter, acrid and probably the worst I’ve had in Japan so far (excluding a fast-food Chinese joint).

The pudding: take a look. Does that look satisfying to you? It’s macha (green tea) mousse. It was…inoffensive.

All the time, plinky-plonky “traditional” Japanese music kept jarring in the background whilst the lights kept grinning down on us which sharpened rays.

Overall 1.5/5

Don’t bother going – you’ll leave hungry and poor.

Food quality 2/5 – The steak and tofu were all right; all other “courses” were average to less-than-average.

Value for money 1/5 – 9000円 – 4500円 per meal. Kaiseki prices can be much steeper. But for this miserable rubbish? Ridiculous.

Atmosphere 1/5 – I wanted to give it 0 but the waitresses were dressed nicely in kimono. 1 point then.

Service 2/5 – Glasses were never refilled with water. When boyfriend went to pay, the old  man messed up the payment as credit cards are a rare newfangled invention in Japan. The result was that the guy got short-tempered and shouted at another woman without apologising for keeping us waiting.


I was still hungry so my evening didn’t stop there. First of all,we emerged from the glaring place into the night time just in time to spot TWO geishas coming from opposite directions down the road. Here is a very shaky snap of one:

Yes my photography skills aren't excellent but it's a geisha!

And here’s a perfect example of a Japanese shop:

There's a new blockbuster title right there...

Our evening ended….well you can see where. And guess what? We still weren’t in luck. There was only one crepe left so we shared one between two, before heading back. Hungry. And feeling distinctly unromanced.



The Royal Palace of Cake

I felt the title should be capitalised, as if to shout royalty’s name. For this could be a palace. A staggering four-storeys high, this white-walled cake-castle has more lights than a town square Christmas tree (you can see a photo at night here).

The palace is actually a café. And when we saw it, we were hooked: we absolutely had to eat cake there. When we saw that a cake and coffee set was only 650円, we returned post haste.

The Place: Swiss Rhone 

The Food: A variety of European cakes; cake and coffee set (with home-made ice cream)

As this is a food blog, I should probably start with the food. But for once in my life, I was more taken with the interior of a café than the menu.

The owner was inspired by European architecture and style, particularly Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and collected artefacts accordingly.

Here are some photos so you can the idea of the wooden planes, hot air balloons, cherubs, rocking horses etc.

Now it wasn’t too long before our cakes and coffees arrived. I chose chocolate cake and Calle chose cherry chocolate cake. Both came on beautifully old-fashioned ornate tea crockery.

Chocolate sponge cake
Chocolate cherry cake

I went straight for the home-made vanilla ice-cream which had the lightest of flavours and was an absolute delight.

Sadly, “light” flavours aren’t always a good thing and when it comes to chocolate cake, I want HEAVY chocolate flavour. My cake just merged into a mush of sponge and cream in my mouth. It was almost like eating air – not enough substance. Calle’s cherry cake suffered from a similar affliction – it was fantastic when you came across a cherry, but without, it just evaporated. It wasn’t unpleasant – it just didn’t touch the sides of a cake craving. It left me wanting more – it left me wanting stodgyness.

Overall 3.5/5

Visit for the fantastic décor and an amazing value cake set.

Food quality 2.5/5 – The cakes were of good quality but they lacked taste. The home-made ice cream saved it.

Value for money 5/5 –  cake sets are normally from 650円 upwards, with plenty at the 800円 mark. With ice-cream included and amazing crockery, the value was incredible

Atmosphere 4/5 – Although the shop was well-frequented, we were the only people in the café. It didn’t matter when we had two little men popped out a clock to announce 5pm. In essence, the ornaments will keep you company.

Service 4/5 – Prompt service plus a brief explanation about the history of the place.

How to find it:

There are two but I recommend going to the main one (as the other is just in a department store ie. no big fun palace)

Copy and paste this into Google maps:


As you come out of Yamashina JR station, walk down towards the main road. Just before the giant Racto department store building, turn right. You will be on a small road which runs parallel to the main road, Sanjo Dori. Carry on walking straight for about 10 minutes. The cake palace will be on your left. You can’t miss it.

Final note: Why are there purple smiley faces hanging from the outside? That doesn’t look very European – it looks more Japanese.

Well done, careful observer. You’re absolutely right. Those aren’t purple smiley balloons or plums as I assumed. It’s the Yamashina-ku Aubergine Festival! And every shop is covered in them. One even found its way upstairs into the café….

Around the world in half a day

3rd November is yet another National Holiday in Japan. They have about 12 a year, more than most countries, and my theory is that it’s because of their insane work ethic which leaves many people, some of my friends included, working 17 hours a day in Tokyo.

What to do with a holiday? Well, the answer was EAT.

Kyoto International Community Foundation is a large organisation not far from where I live and it’s where I’ve just start taking Japanese lessons (for free!) They were holding an open day, promising food and entertainment from around the world. Well, we didn’t get much past the food to be honest.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: food from stalls is never as good as it looks. I decided to visit “Germany” which was perhaps a mistake in itself, given my recollections of German food. However, they promised good quality looking sausages and potato salad. How could I resist? The two sausages in the picture were quite small but they looked so tasty and potato salad….mmm……

NOT. Firstly, when I went to buy the plate advertised for 400 円 they charged me an extra 100 円 for a second sausage. I believe that’s called false advertising, and I believe it’s illegal in the UK. Next, when I examined my potato salad, it looked very strange indeed. It didn’t appear to have any potatoes in it. Nor did it seem to be covered in mayonnaise. Instead, I got some doughy pasta balls mixed in with sauerkraut. Not impressed.

We then spent 25 minute queuing for a mutton kebab which was sized for hungry two year-olds. At least it was delicious.

Mutton kebab
Sesame and lemon dressing. Delicious.
There's no delicate way to go about this...

I particularly liked the Japanese interpretation of French cuisine. What do the French eat? Omelettes! Fois gras! Let’s mix the two together! (Apparently some recipes for this do exist on the Internet but the thought of the combination turns my stomach. What do you think?)

Mangez comme les français!

If you go down to Fushimi-Inari…

….you’ll be bombarded by all kinds of tourist traps. Because after all, you’re in Japan and you’re in Kyoto, one of Japan’s top tourist destinations.

Fushimi-Inari is a shrine that has thousands of orange torii (Japanese-style gates that you can walk through) stretching 4km up the mountain, through forest and cemeteries. It’s stunning, peaceful and even mystical.

The street at the bottom, however, is graced with all kinds of trinkets and bowls of udon (fat white Japanese noodles) for over 1,000円, even if they do serve some inari (rice in fried, sweetened tofu pouches) in order to be in-keeping with the name.

We’d cycled for several kilometres and had several more kilometres to go. I was prepared to shell out a few extra yen if it meant I got full on tastier food. The strategy paid off.

The Place: Kanoco

The Food: Ridiculously large teishoku  (set lunch) and udon

This caught my attention and I had to have it…..

Delicious lunch set, 1500円

It was sitting in the window, quite blatantly giving my stomach the eye and I knew it was going to be love at first sight. Or rather, I knew this once I’d checked the price and that my stomach was not making a high maintenance commitment.

At 1,500円 for a large lunch set, the price was only 200 – 300円 higher than the udon places. And you bet that this lunch set was LARGE. Not only did it include all the food pictured there, but it came with a perfectly balanced cream of sweetcorn soup and a coffee.

Now you might be looking at the lunch set a little confused. Is that fried pork, salad, rice, vegetables and a hamburger? Wait! Is that hamburger on spaghetti?

Yes, yes it is. The Japanese have a very interesting take on food when it comes to combinations. And when I first arrived out here I was more than a little surprised at things I saw placed together. But now it is the most natural thing in the world that hamburgers – and all other kinds of fried things – should come on top of spaghetti. Served with rice as well, of course.

As to the actual taste of the food… it was delicious! Everything was of exceptional quality and home-made. Even the fried pork had incredibly home-made tasting batter and was proper meat, as opposed to the reformed grey patty that sometimes appears. And believe it or not, the steamed vegetables are well-worth a mention: cooked to perfection, the flavours stood out charmingly.

My only criticism would be that the salad had a rather strong Caesar dressing, which smothered the taste of the actual vegetables. But given that salad with lettuce and tomato is not terribly common served in Japan, I was thrilled to have it.

Calle, my vegetarian partner, had the kitsune udon (udon with fried tofu pouches). I should point out that all udon dishes are made with dashi (Japanese fish stock) which tends to be shoved into almost everything and therefore means very few things are truly veggie. It’s a compromise for Calle, I guess. His dish was also very tasty, and included a well-grilled rice cake. The dish erred on the overly sweet side but still packed plenty of flavour and the dashi didn’t overpower, thank goodness.

Kitsune Udon, 750 円

To top the eating experience off, the interior was beautifully designed.

Overall 5/5
I would visit again, no hesitations. Even if the amount of food did make it a struggle to walk up the shrine.

Food quality 5/5 – Very well prepared and exceptional ingredients.

Value for money 5/5 – Compared to what else was on offer, it was amazing. No actually, I would pay 1,500円 for this food anywhere!

Atmosphere 3/5 – It was fairly quiet but I imagine it to be great dining at night.

Service 4/5 – Staff were very helpful and kept us well topped up with tea.

How to find it:

Facing downhill at the bottom of the Fushimi-Inari complex, there is a little street full of tourist shops and restaurants to your right. Walk down it until you hit the main street. Turn right. Kanoco will be on your left. Look out for the entrance and the food display.