Even though Tokyo and Kyoto have the exact same letters, the two beautiful cities really differ in aesthetics. If Tokyo is where all things new and trailblazing filter out of Japan and into the western world, then Kyoto is where the preservation of an old Japan remains as the most important element of the city. With over 400 shrines, temples and pagodas inside Kyoto city limits, it’s simple to find where the priorities lie.
Seiji and Kyoko, Japan is full of friendly people
As you can imagine, that is primarily what we did whilst visiting the area. Being said, Japan always throws a couple twists which in this case took formation into naturalized deer that literally bow when asking for rice crackers surrounded by UNESCO world heritage sites in the city of Nara. Another is yuba, the fried tofu ‘skin’ snack that seriously took us out of dangerous threat levels of hangriness. As a traveler, it is always nice to see both the old, new, and uncharted; after Tokyo, Kyoto, and Ito it was great to have found all three.
However, the food also made quite an impression. Ramen, the first meal one should always have in Japan because it is so steeped in the flavors of traditional cuisine but still has the ability to expand into something new. Sublime pork broth with slowly cooked eggs, tender cuts of pork with a few bonito flakes and seaweed makes for a perfect meal. Jellied mochis stuffed with red beans and matcha sitting side by side with chocolate croissants that taste like home. What’s fascinating about Japan’s food is the confidence in simplicity. Tonki, the 70-year-old tonkatsu restaurant in Tokyo makes one item: breaded pork. The line is always out the door and it doesn’t matter how long the wait is, customers always stay. The simple menu brings critics and public alike. There is no way to mask flavors in sauces, foams, and reductions. That kind of cuisine is found everywhere is Japan; where bowls of sticky rice with an array of perfectly sliced pieces of fish ranging from iridescent white to almost crimson in shade exclude sauces or crispy toppings. Yet it is one of the best bowls of food I’ve ever had. Japanese cuisine can teach chefs, home cooks and everyone in between that less is more. But less, in this case, is definitely a good thing.
Todaiji temple, the largest wooden structure in the world
The harmony between food and onsen, mountains and temples, counter-culture and traditionalism are in the details of what makes Japan so special. What lies underneath, the honor and pride of the people and their openness to Westerners and new experiences is what makes Japan a wonderful place to visit.