The third and final part in Joy Zhang’s lovely photo tour of the culinary wonders of Japan.
By Joy Zhang
As a photographer, there are certain moments that you wish for — a good photo is about light and timing with a vision of imagination. Because our trip was planned around cherry blossom season, otherwise known as sakura blossoms, I prayed months before even getting there that the weather gods would shower me with everything blossom. I dreamt of frolicking and twirling beneath the swirling sakura petals and painted images in my mind of the trees’ branches hanging heavy with bountiful bundles of blooms. It’s been one of those World wonders that you always hope to see and want to experience so what better place to do it than Kyoto?
But before we went in search of sakura blossoms, we had to make a stop at Hakone to see the majestic Fuji Mountain as well as Hakone Shrine. We took the Hakone Ropeway, enjoyed the views, hopped on a pirate ship, met a pirate and enjoyed a stomach wrenching bus ride back to the station which left the majority of us car sick, except for speed racer, Alex-san.
Then off to Kyoto where we stayed at Gyo Zan En, a traditional Japanese hotel near the Ohara Sanzenin Temple. We treated ourselves to a baller Kyo-Kaiseki, a multi-course dinner featuring traditional Kyoto cuisine prepared with seasonal ingredients. The experience was easily on my top 5 favorite dining experiences. The execution, attention to detail and technique of the dishes again reminds me of the many special qualities of Japan. The hotel also featured “onsens”, which are natural hot springs — my favorite one was the one outdoors. There is something liberating about being completely stark naked, sitting in a hot spring, amidst a beautiful cove of cypress trees. I’ve added it to my must-haves for our future home. (Also ladies, dont’t worry, there’s a boy side and girl side. Luckily I had the entire onsen to myself!)
We woke up the next morning to the sound of rain softly pattering against the roof. We couldn’t see much around us last night as it was dark when we got in, but I quickly came to realize the city known for their cherry blossoms unfortunately was not ready for our arrival. I had wished too hard. As life always reminds us, we can only control so much and to make things more interesting, there would even be a typhoon later on in the day.
We braved the rain, grabbed a couple umbrellas and we were off — onward World travelers!
First stop: Kinkaku-ji or The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Japan. There was something so peaceful about the rain causing ripples in the water, the reflection of the temple danced between each pitter-patter and all was silent.
I couldn’t have imagined a better memory.
With warnings of the typhoon, we decided to duck into Nishiki Market — otherwise known as The Kitchen of Kyoto. This historical place has been here for centuries, with the first store dating back to as early as 1311.
The narrow streets were filled with hundreds of food stalls, selling every type of traditional Japanese food you could imagine — ranging from sweets, fresh seafood, dried goods, sushi, tempura and various different types of pickles, all locally farmed and produced.
A brief hail storm and bellyfuls of snacks later, the sun finally decided to come out to play. We went for one last stop: Kiyomizudera Temple, otherwise known as “The Pure Water Temple”.
The Buddhist temple is known for having some of the World’s purest water, sourced from the Otowa Waterfall. What better way to end the day? We pressed on and climbed up to the temple for our last adventure in Kyoto.
And I am so happy we did.
A 25 year-old free-lance photographer, home-chef and writer from Dallas, Texas, Joy finds inspiration for her photography and recipes through music, art and nature. Her work has been featured on Elle Girl Korea and Gourmet Live. Join her culinary adventures through her kitchen and discover fresh, simple and delicious recipes.