It's different from all my other Japan posts up to this point.
In the past, whenever I followed Bryan to Japan on one of his business trips, we always had to stay in Tokyo. As a result, I knew next to nothing about any other cities in Japan.
This time, things were different. For once, Bryan wasn't here on business. We specifically planned a separate Japan trip with friends. For the first time, we bought JR Rail passes and ventured outside the capital. Though we only had eight days, we managed to spend some quality time in both Kyoto (gorgeous, gorgeous place by the way) and Osaka, a neighboring self-proclaimed food-obsessed city that's only a 14 minute shinkansen (bullet train) ride away.
Here's a peek at some of the places we visited, to be explored in much more detail in this new series: Tokyo - Kyoto - Osaka.
Autumn is the perfect time to visit Japan, especially Kyoto, a city filled with meticulously kept zen gardens.
On our first night - fresh off the plane - we headed straight for this soba restaurant that Jean-Georges Vongerichten loved so much he convinced the owners to move to New York to open another location (now closed).
Instead of waiting in long lines at Tsukiji Fish Market for "sushi breakfast", we headed down the street to enjoy a fabulous and reasonably priced one-star Michelin sushi lunch.
Can you make maki more perfect than this? Seriously impressed.
We tried modern kaiseki for the first time at a very famous three-star Michelin restaurant in Roppongi.
Instead of wine, they paired sake with each course.
We finally made it out to Ramen Street at Tokyo Station (after just missing it last time), and it was totally worth the reasonable wait in line.
Of course, we had to go to Bryan's favorite place in the world, Yodabashi Camera at Akihabara.
We took our friends to some of our favorite places, like this ethereal two-star Michelin tempura restaurant in Ginza.
Though we were unable to book Jiro this time, we did visit his protege, who is still my favorite sushi master in the world.
Bryan's birthday occurred during our trip, so he picked a few restaurants at which to celebrate, such as this fantastic and reasonably priced three-star Michelin restaurant in Osaka that specializes in grilled meats.
In Kyoto, we had fantastic udon right near the beautiful temple called Ginkaku-ji, or Silver Pavilion (pictured at the top).
We tried traditional kaiseki for the very first time on Bryan's birthday. The experience was a fascinating peek into the lifestyle of the nobility of the imperial court.
The food at this three-star kaiseki was exquisite.
In Kyoto, we visited the famous bamboo forests at Arashiyama.
And then hiked (a bit) through the forest to a remote tofu restaurant hidden off the beaten path.
Some say it is the best tofu restaurant in all of Japan.
Our last day in Kyoto, we visited Fushimi Inari Shrine, a fascinating path on a hill lined with hundreds of torii gates, some dating back as early as the year 711 (!).
We tasted the most famous street dishes of Osaka one evening, sampling bites of okonomiyaki and takoyaki at Dotonburi, a crazy, bustling night area in Osaka.
On our last day in Tokyo before our flight, we stopped by one of our favorite tonkatsu places for a quick lunch.
For dinner, we had unusual sushi at a place that's not very well known to westerners, but is highly regarded within Japan. Black vinegared rice, shrimp, and yuzu powder or cod sperm sac, anyone?
It was a fantastic trip. Unlike past trips where Bryan was usually here for business (and thus working a lot of the time), this was a dedicated vacation with friends. It was awesome.
Stay tuned for detailed posts on many of the above mentioned restaurants!
UPDATE: Here are all the posts!
Ramen Honda (Tokyo Ramen Street)
Ryugin, Omen (udon)
Dotonbori in Osaka (street food)
Taian (3-star Michelin)
Sushi Sho/Shou (Chef Keiji Nakazawa)
Nakamura (3 star Michelin kaiseki)
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