Monday, 25 April 2011


Since the weather forecast gave us a "0% chance of rain" today, we were fully prepared when the first big rains/thunderstorm came at 8.30am. We were even treated to a hail storm! Didn`t see that one coming, did you, weather forecasters?

During a break in the rain, we walked to Kitano Tenmangu shrine (about 30 mins) for the huge monthly market there. It was great fun to browse around the stalls - loads of second hand kimono and fabric, yum! I even worked up the courage to negotiate a couple of discounts, and it worked. Result! I remember this old lady from 3 years ago when I came to this market. She is so sweet, we had a good natter while I bought stuff from her.
We were accosted by a group of very sweet school girls whose task for the day was to grab foreigners and `interview` them with a few set questions, in English. We obliged, and of course photos were taken on both sides. The whole market was buzzing with people and we had a great time.

Lunch was typical street market food; okonomiyaki for Boyf - a pancake with egg, cabbage, noodles and lashings of mayonnaise. I went for the safe veggie option of dango - rice on a stick, grilled with a sticky soy sauce until the rice is crispy. You can`t beat getting served by an old guy with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, can you? By the way, the tea came free from a boiler in the corner of his stall, but bleugh!!! Tasted like he`d been dropping his cigarette ends in it! We chucked it behind the bench.
For dessert we picked up some warabe mochi from one of the stalls - jelly-like pounded rice, covered in a special flour (it`s nicer than I just made it sound!)
With a full suitcase and lots of heavy bags, we just had time to catch a bus home to drop off the shopping, then were straight back out to meet a friend in town. As we left the house, we heard the biggest, longest rumble of thunder ever...and grabbed our umbrellas in readiness. Sure enough, the rain (and this time it was RAIN!!!), thunder and wind tried their best to prevent us getting to the bus stop. Undeterred, we made it into town and met our friend, who`d made reservations for us to try making `otabe` sweets. If you`ve been to Kyoto, you`ll have seen otabe everywhere. Every other shop sells the stuff, because it`s delicious and makes a great present to take home. We were so excited to make our own otabe!

At the workshop, a table had been prepared for us.
First we made a dough from rice flour, sugar and water. We kneaded the dough slighly until it was smooth, then put it in a special cooker. While the mixture was cooking, we watched a film about the otabe factory.
We each made 3 pieces of otabe, and could choose flavours; matcha (green tea powder) or cinnamon. The large jar held `kinako` flour to coat the dough in so it didn`t stick (same as warabe mochi, above).

We could choose our fillings too - sakura, adzuki bean or black sesame. Mmm.
The lady who taught us even took a photo and turned it into postcards for us before we left. Oh, and she made us delicious houjicha tea to enjoy with our sweets. What a wonderful experience! Of course, we tried lots of samples before buying some otabe in the shop too, which came in a gorgeous box and swanky gift bag.
We went back to the veggie restaurant with cats from the other week, for our evening meal. Can you imagine a Japanese restaurant that looks like this? Stuff everywhere! But relaxed and cool. We got 6 dishes each in our dinner sets, with variations between each person`s food so we could share. This was mine, for example.
I couldn`t tell you what each dish is...but it`s soooo reassuring as a veggie, to know there`s nothing`dodgy` in it! Despite the Thunder God`s best efforts to spoil the day, we had a really great time today.

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