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Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun


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Japan – Deer oh Deers! Nara’s Most Famous Residents at Nara Park

Nara DeersNo visit to Nara will be complete without meeting its most famous resident, the free roaming wild deers (シカ ‘shika‘ or 鹿) at Nara Park 奈良公園, which is also the location of many Nara’s attractions including Todaiji, Kasuga Taisha, Kofukuji and Nara National Museum.

Nara DeersNara Park is just a leisurely five-minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station or a a 20-minute walk from JR Nara Station. The park can also be reached by bus. If you are ever in doubt, just follow the deers which are literally EVERYWHERE you can think of, like in the shrubs or even inside a drain.

Nara DeersConsidered to be holy messengers of the gods, Nara’s 1,200 deer have become a symbol of the city and designated as a natural treasure under the Cultural Properties Protection Law. According to local folklore, deers in Nara were considered sacred due to a visit from Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto, one of the four gods of Kasuga Shrine, who appeared on Mt. Mikasa riding a white deer. Killing one of these deers was a capital offense punishable by death up until 1637.

Nara DeersSo these deers literally do whatever they feel like. Including stopping traffic.

Nara DeersNara’s wild deer are super chill with people, although they can get a little pushy when you start feeding them. They can be quite a handful at times as well…

Nara DeersLike this one who happily trotted into the pond just outside the Nara National Museum for a dip.

Nara DeersAnd came to ask to be fed after its skinny dipping. Shika biscuits, which smelt just like the wafers we eat (I had to resist trying them myself), were sold at kiosks along the park at 150yen for a stack. Our hotel kindly prepared a little bag of biscuits and bottle of water for our little adventure.

Nara DeersWhile the deers are generally tame, just be cautious as they can get aggressive. Afterall, they are wild animals.

The deers are pretty intelligent, and have learnt to bow to ask for food.

Nara DeersOnce the deers see the biscuits, be prepared to be surrounded and nudged around like a superstar. They butt you with their heads when you don’t feed them quickly enough, and the one behind lightly bit my arse to get my attention.

Nara DeersSee the affection they show just to get their treats.

Nara DeersThis clever one went for the shortcut and simply stood in front of the deer biscuit stall :D

Nara DeersGreedy little fellas. They are also very practical – they leave you as soon as you run out of biscuits to feed them.

Nara Deers“No biscuits for me? Bleahhhhh.”

Nara DeersOnce they are well-fed, they pick a spot and start snoozing. Nothing you do will move them, not even putting a biscuit right under their noses. So come early in the day when they are still hungry.

Nara DeersWe caught some hotties in traditional costumes playing ball at the park too. There was a festival nearby as well, and I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with the locals, both human and animal.

Nara DeersOne for the wefie album ;) It was quite an experience getting upclose with the deers after hearing so much about them. It was totally worth the trip, not to mention there’s so much cultural sights to visit in Nara. I will be back to visit my furry friends…with thicker pants.

 

Read more about my travels in Japan

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Kyoto – Savouring Yuba 湯葉 at こ豆や Komameya

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantEating in Kyoto offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Japan’s former capital. Some local delicacies that you should try include Yudofu (tofu boiled in clear broth), Kaiseki (traditional Japanese multi-course haute cuisine), Shojin ryori (cuisine of the Japanese Buddhist monks), Kyo-wagashi (Kyoto sweets) and Yuba (soy-bean skin).

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantYuba 湯葉 is one of the main ingredients of Shojin ryori, and is also nutritious with high protein content. Yuba can be served raw or cooked in various ways, from appetizers, soups, desserts and even as vegetarian meat. At Komameya (‘little bean shop’), a yuba restaurant by Kyoto yuba maker Ueda Yuba Company, you can savour savor interesting dishes made with freshly-made yuba. This is also one of the few places in Kyoto that serves yuba made from black soy beans (kuromame) and green soy beans (edamame).

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantKomameya has two branches in Kyoto. I visited the Nishiki branch for dinner. It is not that easy to spot as it is located on the third floor of a building. The best landmark around would be Ippudo Ramen two buildings away.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThe restaurant was cosy and perfect to spend a leisurely meal at.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantKomameya serves a-la-carte dishes as well as set courses for lunch and dinner. I went for the 雪 Yuki Course consisting 10 dishes (it is a sizable feast for ladies).

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantWatching the chefs at work. Such seriousness.

Tofu is especially famous in Kyoto for a few reasons – the city’s large number of underground springs provide excellent water quality for making tofu from good quality soybeans grown locally. Moreover, the tofu-making tradition has been passed down from generation to generation in Kyoto and the competition is fierce to keep up with other shops. Finally, the demand for vegetarian food is large from the priests living in the many temples in Kyoto. Tofu will thus remain an integral part of Kyoto.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantI ordered an unsweetened soy bean drink to start with.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThe appetizer trio of black sesame bean curd and fried soy bean balls was a good start to work up an appetite for dinner.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantYuba ‘sashimi’

Yuba is made by simmering soy milk in a large, rectangular pan. As the soy milk boils, the thin, delicate film that forms on the surface and scooped up is yuba (See how it is made here). Asians would be familiar with this in its dried form as beancurd sticks (腐竹 fu zhu). When served fresh, you can dip it with a little soy sauce if desired. I prefer to savour as-is.

If you are there with friends, you can also order the yuba pot and try making it yourself. Otherwise order a-la-carte dishes instead of the set course, else there will be too much food.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantAn odd combination, but I loved the mashed soy bean curd with olive oil.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantInstead of the usual miso soup, the clear yuba broth with citrus was refreshing.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThe only meat dish was grilled fish with yuba and cheese.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThis dish of yamaimo (mountain potato), atsuage (fried tofu pocket), and grilled yuba reminded me of oden.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantBraised black soy bean yuba with golden mushroom, garnished with flower petals.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThe fried yuba was delish!

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThe final savoury dish was Kumiage Yuba-don, a rice bowl covered with smooth soy milk yuba and a raw egg. Not a single grain of rice was left behind.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantFinally, dessert was matcha soy bean pudding (which reminded me of panna cotta), topped with a piece of fried yuba.

I enjoyed my meal tremendously. It was mind-blowing to see yuba prepared in so many different and delicious ways, and at a wallet-friendly price. I look forward to visiting again the next time I am in Kyoto, and to check out other yuba restaurants in the city.

こまめや Komameya

Nishiki Outlet
Address:
3F, Libertas Nishiki-koji Bldg. Nishiki-koji, Higashi-no-Toin higashi iru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
〒604-8127 京都市中京区錦小路東洞院東入る西魚屋町619 リベルタス錦小路3階
Tel: +81-75-221-7300
Webpage: http://www.ueda-yuba.co.jp/komameya_fifes/nishiki/nishiki.html
– 3 minute walk from Shijo subway and Karasuma train stations
– immediately west of Kyoto Daimaru Dept. Store north entrance
– 50 metres west of Nishiki Market west entrance
– 5-min walk from Karasuma Station on Hankyu Kyoto Line, or 5-min walk from Shijo Station on Metro Karasuma Line
Opening Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2.30pm; Dinner 5.30pm-10pm
Closed on Wednesdays

Nijo Outlet 二条店
Address: 〒604-8381 京都市中京区西ノ京職司町8-1
Tel: +81-75-812-3717
– About 2-min walk from Nijo Station 二条駅
Opening Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2.30pm; Dinner 5.30pm-10pm
Closed on Mondays dinner and Wednesdays

Lunch set course (a la carte available)
Yuba set course JPY2,000
Komame-ya set course JPY3,000
Dinner set course (a la carte available)
Yuki set course JPY3,500
Tsuki set course JPY5,000
Hana set course JPY7,000