Written by Coeur de Saigon
Probably, it might be your first time seeing this weird type of adventure; but hey, it’s Japan! I am perhaps the least eccentric person there.
Thinking of Japanese food, Sushi, Ramen or Udon might be in people’s top of mind. On the contrary, Hokkaido Ice-cream is the funniest, thanks to its variety of flavors, and the most joyful refreshments upon my experience in Japan.
To eat Hokkaido ice-cream doesn’t require you to go all the way to northern Japan. Vendors sell it everywhere. They can be found almost everywhere across the country. In fact, I traveled through Kansai, Chubu and Kanto regions. Thus, I didn’t have the chance to taste the ice-cream in its hometown. Fortunately, Hokkaido ice-cream varies its flavors through regions, which make it even more interesting to taste it everywhere I go.
Let’s go on this adventure together! Along this ice-cream exploration, we would also love to introduce attractions that we have visited. Those sights are equally fascinating as the ice-cream itself.
1st stop: Osaka Castle & Forest Berries
We arrive at KIX (Kansai International Airport) in the morning. It’s not until the afternoon that we visit the Osaka Castle and I have my first ice-cream.
About the ice-cream: moist and flavorsome (forest berries) wrapped in its pink color and crispy cone. It was an experience when every taste is so chilly and satisfying not to mention the weather of Japan’s November.
Osaka Castle and the autumnal surroundings
Osaka Castle is a pity for us because we are not given the access to the interior due to its preservation process. Yet, the outside is at its finest coated in emerald colored roofs, being built on a huge rock foundation, which was used for military defense in the past.
Seemingly unbreakable walls around the castle
From the Osaka Castle Park, it takes us 12 minutes to walk into the castle area. Osaka castle is surrounded by a huge mall, and walls made of countless boulders. Overwhelming, it is!
2nd stop: Kiyomizu-dera & Matcha ft. Soybean
From the bus station to the temple area, there are temptations along the way. The slope to the temple is surrounded by shops and refreshment stalls, including ice-cream. The most popular flavors here are: matcha, soybean, sesame and chestnut. They offer me a half-on-half cone so I decided to go for it. Matcha and Soybean’s marriage.
The texture is as good as always, soft and creamy. The taste of the soy bean is plain but you can feel the richness of soy bean, while the matcha gives me the harmony to this cone.
The Ninen hill, area in front of the temple is where you can find all the goodies and delicious snacks. Because food is forbidden inside the temple.
Kiyomizu-dera – not a single nail was used to construct this temple
Located on Ninen hill, Kyoto, Kiyomizu-dera is best known for its Japanese architecture dashing in autumn red paint all over the complex. The complex includes the nail-less Kiyomizu-dera temple, Otowa-no-taki waterfall, Torii of Jishu-jinja, a matchmaking shrine and many pagoda. Additionally, Kiyomizu-dera is famed for its sacred spell tags, those that make your specific wish come true: health, pregnancy, study, business and etc. I have one for “success.” Teehee!
And don’t forget to try the match-making shrine.
Torii of Jishu-jinja is also an interesting shrine in the complex. It is said that if you walk from one boulder to another boulder with your eyes shut without touching anyone on the way, your love wishes will come true. It might sound easy but with the flow of Japanese youngsters and tourists to this place everyday; it is a challenge.
I have very good memory here when everything is coated with yellow and red of autumn. It takes me at least 30 minutes to visit all the towers and temples.
3rd stop: Kinkaku-ji & Matcha
Also located in Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji or best known as the Golden Temple has a similar feel like Kiyomizu-dera. The only downside of this temple is that you cannot go inside and all the food and drinks are prohibited once you got inside the visiting area.
This cone above is the pure matcha one. I love the fact that the waffle cone is very crispy while the ice-cream melts into my mouth making the perfect taste ever.
I visit both temples in the same day so this is my second ice-cream. Well, my jeans are tight now.
Looking at the temple over the lake
Here are some beautiful scenes of Kinkaku-ji in autumn. They say it is best to view the temple in winter when everything is white while this temple shines like a beacon in one cold day.
Kinkaku-ji from behind
4th stop: Owakudani & Egg & Black Vanilla
So we have been to 3 artificial places. So nature, here we go!
Owakudani (Hell Valley) is my favorite ice-cream moment through out my trip to Japan. It gives me the weirdest flavors ever: egg and black vanilla.
The egg one is super rich and taste like… egg. The color resembles egg of course, the texture is thick; and the portion is quite bigger than my previous ice-cream experience.
Black Vanilla ice-cream – sour and blacky
Even though I’m quite full, I could not hold myself to try immediately my second cone in Owakudani: black vanilla. The taste isn’t nice, it tastes a bit sour and reminds me of blackberry instead of vanilla. Because the vendors are all Japanese and my knowledge in Japanese is so little, I didn’t have the chance to ask what it is made of.
CAUTION: your teeth will look like coal after eating.
Managed to overcome the overwhelming ice-cream, let’s go back to Owakudani; because it offers you not only the weirdest refreshment flavors but also the scenery and black shell egg.
Black Egg – tastes nothing less than normal egg except its shell
This volcanic area is popular among tourist thanks to the black shell egg being boiled and hot served. Just 500 yen/5 eggs (they won’t sell you less than this quantity) and you can enjoy the moment seeing the white and smooth egg inside of a blacky shell. Well-known also for its life prolong effect. It is said that when you eat one black egg, you life will be 7 years longer.
But, tourists don’t flood to this place just because of the eggs only. There are so much more to keep me stay.
Volcanic water pond surrounded by autumnal colored plants
You will see the volcanic water pond, the beautiful hill covered with reed flowers when winter is coming, and the constantly smoke sneaking out of the cracks of the mountain. Don’t forget the mountainous scenery itself is ready to overwhelm you.
The mountain slope covered by blooming reed
How to order an ice-cream in Japanese:
This is definitely not Japanese 101, and I am not a Japanese expert. Yet, it won’t harm when we can speak to locals, especially in Japan – the country where foreign language is limited and 99% population speak Nihongo (Japanese) as their mother tongue.
Let the conversation begin:
Sumimasen: Excuse me!
Aisukurimu o kudasai: Ice-cream please!
Kono aisukurimu o kudasai: this ice-cream please! (point at the ice-cream flavor you’d like)
And don’t forget to bow your back and say:
Arigatou gozaimasu: thank you
It is truly delightful to have one single thing to connect your journey. For me in Japan, it is ice-cream. When I go back to Japan, I will remember the forest berry cone in Osak, or the egg cone in Owakudani.
So choose something memorable and record your journey now.
Note from the author:
I hope you find this article interesting and “digestible,” remember to check my blog again next Friday for coming-up Travel Moments.