Milkin’ it.

I regularly buy flavored soy milk in little sippy cartons. It recently occurred to me that this might seem like a weird thing to someone outside of Japan. These little boxes of protein and sugar are probably meant for children, but I can only really understand six-year olds so by the transitive property it works.

In Japan flavors change with the seasons, and autumn reigns supreme. I arrived back in Tokyo to  flavors of sweet potato, pumpkin (actually, kabocha), hazelnut and persimmon. So when I saw the grilled sweet potato flavored soy milk, of course I bought it.

From left to right that’s yaki-imo (grilled sweet potato), banana, coffee malt, and strawberry. Other common flavors include black tea, matcha, vanilla ice cream, grapefruit, delicious plain, and fruity mix. My favorites are the less expected flavors, black sesame and kinako (roasted soybean powder). Perhaps these flavors sound strange, but in Japan they are commonly associated with sweets. So really, I’m just drinking candy.

Kyoto is for Eaters, Again

As Dan reported, our recent trip to Kyoto was livelier than expected. While wriggling fish haunt his dreams, all I can think about is this:

Parfait perfection.

Maybe we need to look at that again…

This was lunch. I’m not ashamed. I also wasn’t alone — this is what my father-in-law ordered:

We’re like two peas in a pod sweet beans in a parfait.

But let’s back up. After we arrived at Kyoto station, Dan and I used our keen instincts — we found the only restaurant with a line and stood in it — to track down some seasonal soba.

Clockwise from the top left — pickles, tempura mushrooms and green peppers, warabi (a soybean-powder-covered mochi dessert), soba noodle soup with mushrooms, tempura dipping sauce, yuba (tofu skin, a Kyoto specialty), mushroom rice (kinoko takikomi gohan), and more pickles (another Kyoto specialty).

Nishin soba, another Kyoto specialty.

After lunch we went for a hike. At the peak there was a restaurant serving beer and ice cream, of course. What do you think this shop owner’s commute is like?

When you climb a mountain and meet a guy wanting to sell you ice cream, you can’t refuse. This one was kinako.

Our weekend wasn’t all about food, I swear. We did some sightsighing, and a little more sightseeing. And then after an especially rainy afternoon, we found a charming little omurice restaurant. Maybe not the haute Kyoto cuisine my in-laws were expecting, but it was perfectly placed comfort food for a chilly evening.

And, to round out the weekend (and our waistlines), we ended with a trip to Kyoto Ramen Street.

With a belly full of noodles and a cold beer in-hand, we hopped on the shinkansen for a sleepy trip back to Tokyo. Ah, how I love Japan in the fall.