Last year my husband and I took a trip to Japan and had a thrilling 3 weeks there. We visited Kyoto and stayed at a traditional ryokan, (inn). Staying in the ryokan was an amazing/overwhelming experience that included getting naked in public (a story for another day), a 12-course dinner, beautiful sites and a traditional Japanese breakfast. We ate numerous meals, but the ryokan was the most interesting. The hubs and I visited the Otagi Nenbutsu-ji temple, which is a buddhist temple with over 1,000 quirky and interesting statues. We LOVED it! The statues were placed in 1981, so they aren’t particularly ancient, but they are still wonderful.I was especially happy to find a statue holding a camera. A kindred spirit!After site seeing we had a lovely experience at the ryokan and the next morning we were given the choice of a ‘western’ or ‘japanese’ breakfast. We laughed at the stupid westerners that couldn’t handle a Japanese breakfast and promptly opted for the most traditional breakfast possible! It seemed like a great idea until we sat down to the table and had NO idea what were were about to eat. I love trying new things, but this was definitely out of my comfort zone. You know that experience you have when you got to a fancy restaurant and suddenly realize there is much more cutlery than you are know what to do with. Why are there 4 forks, what is this mini plate for, am I supposed to use the small spoon for dessert, soup… ? This was just a taste of what it was like to eat traditional japanese breakfast. There were so many plates and ornate boxes with little treasures inside. I didn’t what was garnishment or food. At one point I managed to ask what to do with this cup of liquid only to discover it was just a cup of tea, which was the only thing I knew what to do with. It was beautiful and amazing, but we had no idea what were eating and what sauce went with what. A lot of it was delicious, but a lot of it we weren’t sure about. This could have been because we were pairing sauces with the wrong food. I did recognize rice, soy sauce, fish (pretty sure) and maybe.. tofu. The service was impeccable. Though the employees didn’t speak English, and we struggled with awful Japanese, they still took care of our every need and made it a great experience for us. The view was so beautiful it was surreal. Boats floated by and I kept feeling like I’d fallen into a movie. It was one of the highlights of our trip!We were awkward and confused, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.
While I was visiting Kyoto I had the pleasure of staying at the Sakura Terrace. There were many great amenities at the hotel, not the least was a free happy hour where guests got a free cocktail of choice each evening.
My plan was to try a different cocktail on each of our 4 nights at the hotel and on the very first night I got a violet sake cocktail. I LOVED it!! I’d never even thought of making a cocktail with sake, but it was delicious, perfectly balanced, refreshing and beautiful (I am a sucker for pretty libations). On the second night I got the violet sake again. By the third night both my husband and I got the violet sake and by the end of the trip I had never branched out. When we got back to the states I make it my mission to create my own violet sake. For months I played with various sakes, syrups and sodas to create the best possible drink. It was a fun project and my husband especially enjoyed the position of official cocktail tester. So here is the recipe!1 oz Monin Violet Syrup
2 oz Nigori Sake
3 oz La Croix Lime flavored sparkling water
Mix syrup and sake. Add water and ice and stir. Enjoy simple perfection!
You may have noticed the uniformed little ladies gripping the rim of the glass. They were vending machine purchases. One of the many things that I loved about Japan was the large amount of toy machines that contained the most bizarre little toys. For 1 or 2 yen you could buy the craziest figurines and I bought many of them. Far more than is acceptable for a full grown adult, but they were so interesting!! They had machines that sold nothing but old men sitting on benches, peeing dogs and even cute animals made into foods, such as a puppy made into a hamburger. You can see what I’m talking about on the far right below. I bough my flexible little ladies, a squat toilet, a woman serving sake, but the weirdest machine I bought is below!How weird is that!!! It is a baby head with an alien inside. I didn’t have any coins when I spotted it so I dragged my husband into a cafe to get change so I could buy it! The best 2 yen I’ve ever spent!