Eating My Way Through Japan: KYOTO
Sorry it's taken so long to continue this multi-part blog post, but I wanted to build anticipation and the LA County Fair has been occupying all of my attention with all of it's fried miracles beckoning me from afar. I finally gave in last night and it only took several corn dogs to clear my writer's block.
So before leaving Tokyo, my friends Angie and Jess insisted we visit McDonald's to introduce me to this magical discovery they made before my arrival. As an intellectual, I am certainly not one to turn down an invite to a foreign McDonald's.
THE EBI FILET!!!
I once claimed my friend, Daichi was Japan's national treasure, but I now believe that this tempura fried shrimp patty sandwich is. This is hands down, the best anything at any McDonald's that I've ever experienced. I even snuck one back into America so that my boyfriend could try it. I also had a very intimate and sad goodbye with one of these at the Haneda Airport before I left Japan. Who knew I would ever have such a turbulent love affair with a McDonald's sandwich? (Everyone)
We made the hour long trek on the Shinkasen high speed railway to the Grand Sumo Tournament in Nagoya.
The entrance to the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium included a walk through what looked to be jousting grounds. That was until we saw real life SUMO WRESTLERS walking in and out. It took every ounce of restraint to not run up and ask all of them for hugs. I was basically the equivalent of a THOT hanging around outside of an NBA All-Star game, only I was wearing a culotte jumpsuit and not a bodycon dress from Bebe.
We had box seats, which apparently are just sectioned off mats on the floor. This was wildly uncomfortable, but the beers and oversized men hurling themselves at eachother made up for this. Our neighbors were all these old Japanese men getting wasted and yelling, so we fit in quite nicely. I highly recommend attending one of these tournaments at least once in your life because it is FUN AS FUCK. At the end of the tournament, everyone in the gymnasium stands up and throws their seat mats at the wrestling ring, so they all end up falling on all the old ladies sitting up in front and I would be lying if I said that wasn't hilarious.
On the train ride to Kyoto, it was becoming very clear to me that I was coming down with some sort of illness, so I self-diagnosed myself with MERS. No trip abroad is complete until I've contracted a local virus and require the help of several pharmacists to keep me sufficiently drugged.
My friend, Mimi had been living in Japan for a year and insisted that we not miss out on izakaya, which is pretty much just bar food. So once we got in, she Yelped the nearest and best izakaya. She found this hole in the wall spot that belonged on Kitchen Nightmares, but it was AMAZING.
The karaage chicken was just unbelievably good fried chicken. Take note, Popeyes. Just kidding, I love you Popeyes...you're perfect the way you are.
After finally getting more than an hour of sleep, my MERS was on and poppin the next morning but that did not stop ya girl from putting on that maxi dress and running around in the rain.
After visiting some gorgeous temples, we happened upon a HELLO KITTY CAFE. This was a big deal for all of us since we were all at one point little Asian girls and pretty much still are, so we ran inside and got giant boners for everything in sight.
We decided to have a light snack here, so we ordered the set meals because they looked goddamn ADORABLE. I have no effing clue what this was, but it was some kind of cold soup and possibly tofu? WHO CARES...look at that little green bow made out of that mystery powder!
That is matcha green tea soba noodles with regular soba noodles and it was actually really delicious. That rice cake thing was the cutest thing I've ever eaten and yes, those are Hello Kitty pickled what's its.
My matcha green tea latte had a tiny hello kitty marshmallow drowning in it and I would have helped save her, but I ate her face instead. It was equal parts cute and morbid.
Look at how beautiful Kyoto be lookin with that pagoda and the cobblestone streets. If I wasn't stricken with ebola, I would have been prancing from rooftop to rooftop like a ninja. Well, like a Chris Farley-esque type of ninja.
Found this glorious vending machine full of Japans finest beers. I love a country that allows you to freely walk around drinking a can of beer, because let's be real; that's what life is all about.
Mimi brought us to what she considered to be her favorite bowl of ramen in all of Japan. The stakes were high and so was I (off them cold meds), so we were excited as hell for this. This place was called Gogyo located right by the Nishiki Market.
They're famous for their burnt ramen, but we got the Tonkatsu ramen since we can't say no to a porky broth. This had the burnt oil in it too, which looks strange but it added a rich smoky taste to the broth. I LOVED this. Everything about it was perfect between the porkyass broth, THAT EGG and the thick chewy noodles.
The Nishiki Market was an amazing place to find street food and chachkies. These sea creature sticks doubled as both food and chachkies. Threw some in my purse to bring home to my friends and family. Just kidding, I am not Andrew Zimmern.
Went to the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine and did an extraordinary amount of walking, but it was worth it because this place was gorgeous. I also scored an orange with a straw in it at the entrance.
Since my friends are nice, they very reluctantly agreed to go to a Cat Cafe with me after I told them it would make me feel better. My friends hate/are allergic to cats, so I'll love them forever for this.
First off, this was not even remotely a cafe. I actually think it was just the waiting room area of a veterinary office that someone decided to monetize by letting a bunch of cats loose in there and charging admission. This happened to be exactly what my dreams are made of, so I instantly lost my mind and chased all the cats around until they were all terrified of me.
This is a cat that had zero respect for me.
As my friends were wheezing and crying in the corner, I purchased a tube of fish glue from the cashier lady/cat keeper because a cat's affection needs to be bought, not earned. These very kittens were initially running away and hiding from me and the instant I busted out the cat glue, these bitches were all up on me. I was CAT RICH for half an hour of my life and it was MAGICAL.
As we were walking out, I learned that these were all feral cats available for adoption. No wonder they were so vicious.
We decided we needed shabu shabu so we went on an epic hunt for it. Sometimes Google Maps is a son of a bitch and will lead you nowhere, which is a lesson we learned a thousand times on this trip. We finally found This Place near the Kyoto Station. I have no idea what the real name is. Once again, I win at food blogging.
This is the closest thing we had to a vegetable the entire trip. Japans idea of a leafy green is limited to cabbage, green onions and seaweed. I'm not really sure how anyone in that country takes regular shits.
ALL YOU CAN EAT PRIME BEEF BRISKET!!!! I wiped my face with these like a cleansing wipe because I just wanted my pores to experience what a fabulous flap of beef tastes like.
We spent the entire morning the next day getting GEISHA MAKEOVERS. I shit you not, we spent 4 hours getting dressed up in kimonos and getting makeup put on us and being professionally photographed as geishas. I'd put up photos, but they are hilariously scary and traumatizing to look at.
We hit up a place called Chojiro for some sushi. This place has a conveyor belt AND an iPad menu at each table that you can order off of. We went nuts and ordered a dangerous amount of sushi and it was shockingly good for a conveyor belt place. I think I got mercury poisoning?
Three cuts of TORO. Ugh, god I cannot even stand looking at how sexy this looks right now.
This was the first of around 30 rounds of sushi.
The tableside matcha green tea saved my life. I should note that matcha is Kyoto's signature export and is available for purchase at every turn.
UNI UNI UNI UNI UNI UNI UNI UNI
I cannot stress that enough.
So then we went to this MONKEY PARK.....
This is the Arashiyama Monkey Park, where you hike up a mountain and stand in a cage while you feed wild monkeys peanuts. I love good park where humans are in cages.
And I got to experience this romantic sight. It was quite adorable to watch a monkey (whose eyes I was advised to not look directly into) pick and eats bugs off another monkeys ass as it gazed into a coy pond. This is why I travel.
The lovely view of the Arashiyama river. I have to savor natural sights like this because I have to look at the LA River regularly, which is river with no water at all and is just a backdrop for Dodge commercials and Chris Brown videos. I actually just found out it was a river, I thought it was a raceway for years.
The Bamboo Forest of Arashiyama. So precious.
Stay tuned for how I contracted Avian flu on top of my MERS and ebola in Osaka!