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Thursday, September 24, 2015

GAWA Day #9: Kyoto and Suiran

My Nichiren train took me from Miyazaki towards Kyoto.  I had a soba with sake.  

I happened to look at the ticket for my final train, and noticed that the arrival was in Osaka at 4:24, not Kyoto.  I had arranged with Suiran to pick me up at 4:30 in Kyoto.

All train seats were taken today, so in illegal brilliance I snuck on the Nozomi, the fast bullet train not available to Japan Rail Pass holders.  However, my thinking was that if you sat in the non-reserved section, set aside for trains 1/2/3, the conductor wouldn't be able to tell if you belonged there or not.  Unfortunately, the lines to get into trains 1, 2 and 3 were today ridiculously long.  So, again, being super clever, I stood in the #4 reserved train line, which had only ten people, and when I got on board, made a left instead of right turn, and found myself an open seat  Very few of those in those 1/2/3 lines got on the train.  My Nozomi arrived in Kyoto at 4:10, ahead of my normal schedule, and I was able to meet the taxi arranged by Suiran.

Okay, so this was not morally right.  However, I've long felt that the country should open up the Japan Rail Pass by charging more for using the Nozomi, as there are so many more of them than the Hikari and Kodama options left to foreigners.  So, in this time of despair, I felt it was justified to do what should have been allowed anyway, plus I have a Green Car first class pass and I used the lowest class unreserved train.

Suiran is a luxury ryokan (Japanese hotel), a first for Starwood.  Everything here is an up-scale blend of high tech and feudal Japan.  There is polite staff everywhere, and I wonder how they can stay in business.  Well, the cost is rather high.  However, there are only 39 rooms.  The Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort had close to 750.  So after checking in, my sty here started with a champagne welcome in my room.

The hotel itself is way outside of the city on the grounds of Emperor Kameyama's family villa, with a history that goes back to 1339.  A few minutes walk brings you to Tenryu-ji Temple, Sagano Bamboo Forest, Nonomiya Shrine and Togetsu Bridge.

My room has a personal furo (Japanese bath), kept at a constant temperature just a little too hot for me, but survivable, in a teak room:


The dining room was smallish, and less than half full.  I show the view from my seat just to provide a sequence leading to breakfast the following morning:


The reality is that there is a lot of reflection from the room and you can hardly see the outside:


That girl in the reflection with her grandparents is worthy of a photo:


Then, this is how the garden looked in daylight when I had breakfast here the next morning:


My dinner appetizer:


I'm having a Kyoto sake and Kyoto beer.  Next, the best sashimi I've had on this trip:


Again, note the artistry of both the food in the dish and dish itself.  I ate all those tiny flowers, but soon thereafter, noticed that someone was stripping the flowers off the stem and laying it aside.  I now feel those stems slowly coursing through my alimentary canal.

This was followed by abalone and foie gras:


With so few diners, I wondered why the abalone was lukewarm.  Same for the following Kyoto beef bowl:


Worse, Kyoto beef has the texture of and tastes like American beef.  Miyazaki wagyu is so much better.   For Chaine des Rotisseurs members, that is one price we pay for eating in a group of a hundred or two, for the restaurants just can't get the temperature right.  At 15 Craigside, the Dining Committee, which I chair, has established a Food Temperature subcommittee to cure this problem.  Here at Suiran, this is inexcusable.  The dessert:


It was cantaloupe, green tea ice-cream and wasabi cream.  All in all, for the price, somewhat disappointing.

Breakfast, however, was just fine, and free.  They actually had an appetizer first, very similar to what I had for dinner:


It was raining today, but I went out for a short walk anyway.  Suiran is located next to the historical Hosu River of Emperors.  Located next door is a World Heritage Site, Tenryu-ji Temple:


The Bamboo Grove is also on a nearby path:


Turns out that we are in an environment much cooler than the city, such that Fall colors are already appearing.  Here is the entrance to Suiran:


My Shinkansen trip to Hokkaido got derailed by Silver Week--and, thank heavens, that ended today-- so these are all the Fall colors I will see.

Tomorrow, I return to Matsumoto Castle.  Hopefully, Pearl's Koi will be there to greet me.

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That typhoon I mentioned a couple of days ago, now named Tropical Storm Dujuan at 60 MPH, is expected to attain Category 4 strength and, at this time, is projected to roll over several smaller Okinawan islands south of Naha, and ease towards China just north of Taiwan:


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