Started the day off with donuts and coffee from the chain Mister Donut. Then we walked through Omicho Market, where we saw variety of fresh seafood, including a bunch of snow and hairy Hokkaido crabs.
Walked around the historic Higashi Chaya district, an old geisha neighborhood. The charming streets and buildings are well preserved, so you feel as if you’ve been transported back in time.
After exploring the different rooms in the Shima Teahouse, a former geisha establishment, we snacked on traditional green tea and sweets in one of their tea rooms.
We came across a little ice cream shop that served offbeat flavors like miso and soy sauce. Not feeling overly adventurous, I settled on tofu flavored ice cream, a slice of mochi and sweet bean paste sandwiched between two bamboo charcoal cakes. It was yummy.
We strolled along the winding paths of Kenrouken Garden while taking in the beauty of some really magnificent trees — some so old and heavy that their branches had to be supported by wooden stilts.
Managed to find a few budding cherry blossoms even though Sakura season is not for a couple of weeks.
It was a chilly and gloomy day, so we briskly headed to our next indoor destination: the 21st Century Modern Art Museum. The labyrinth-like layout was a little confusing. Several of the works were interactive. One room was dark except for a central spotlight on a piano and a projection video of a slowly burning piano. The piano was available for people to create music or sounds to accompany the video. Other installations included a swimming pool and a disco room filled with beanbags.
We had dinner at Itaru, a cosy izakaya restaurant filled with locals. The majority of the staff did not speak English (my Aunt helped us book our reservation), but we were seated at the counter next to the one chef that knew a bit of English. He was super friendly and helpful, and through talking with him, we learned that he had worked at Taisho in NY for a few months.
This was our favorite meal of the trip. The sake was fantastic. We ordered the sashimi (included tasty raw octopus), raw squid in a squid ink dressing, grilled nodoguro, a huge portion of hamachi kama, simmered yellowtail and daikon, fried shrimp, oyster and vegetable fritters, local vegetables and sweet potato pudding to finish. All of the seafood was excellent and went well with the sake.
As we left the restaurant, we heard some live music playing nearby. We traced the music to a quaint bar named ‘Things Ain’t What They Used To Be.’ We hung out and listened to a soft jazz band until closing time. As we were paying our tab, the owner told us that he’s had the venue for 40 years. The man loves what he does.