Umeda Sky Building and Sakura Mille Crepe Cake

Umeda Sky Building and Sakura Mille Crepe Cake

After having Kitsune Udon at Umeda Station, I walked over to Umeda Sky Building. Instead of heading directly to the top of the building, I first tried to find a Doutor. The cafe advertised their sakura flavoured desserts in celebration of the cherry blossom season, and I wanted to taste the Sakura Mille Crepe Cake. At the time, I was still making exceptions for desserts that weren’t plant-based.

I had looked up the directions for Doutor back at the hotel, and was convinced I knew the exact building and level. Then when I didn’t spot the cafe, I started to panic. I had found myself in an underground market with no Doutor in sight. Although it was a wonderful recreation of an old Osaka street from the early 20th century, I couldn’t focus on exploring it. I darted from one area to another, desperate to stick to my schedule. I felt lost without any internet, and once again forgot to keep an open mind while travelling. I reminded myself that I wasn’t actually lost or even alone, and that it wasn’t the end of the world if things didn’t go according to plan. Maybe I’d even find a better sakura dessert later on.

Just as I had thought of skipping dessert and heading to the rooftop, Francois had found the cafe. I finally ordered the Sakura Mille Crepe Cake, and noticed that the dessert set came with coffee at a discounted price. I tried to order a decaf soy latte, but it wasn’t going well. The soy latte part was understood, but not the decaf part. When I tried to paraphrase, the barista tried to suggest hot chocolate. This seemed like a weird suggestion at first, but then I realized that technically it was a warm drink without any caffeine. It seems that the barista did understand me after all, but was trying to be polite.

After reading between the lines that decaf coffee wasn’t available at that location, I ordered the soy latte and figured that at least it was discounted. Then the total price was different from the discounted set price. There was no one in line behind me, so I casually asked about it. The server kindly explained that since soy milk was extra, the set was only available with a dairy milk latte. Even though this all happened much quicker than it sounds, I still felt bad about bothering him with my complicated order. I reassured him it wasn’t a problem, thanked him for all of his help, and quickly paid.

Umeda Sky Building and Sakura Mille Crepe Cake

The Sakura Mille Crepe Cake was adorable and tasted like strawberry jam. I was mostly just happy to finally relax and enjoy my dessert. When I was done, I calmly made my way to the entrance of the Umeda Sky Building. First, I walked around the indoor observatory taking in the beautiful views of Osaka. Then I went to the rooftop to experience the Floating Garden Observatory. The open air observatory was absolutely terrifying. There was no glass hiding the city views, which makes it ideal for taking good pictures but terrible for someone with a fear of heights. It was so windy, I was convinced I would fly right off the building.

Umeda Sky Building and Sakura Mille Crepe Cake

As I clutched my bag, I began to panic for the second time that day. While changing course had caused me stressed earlier, this time it brought me comfort to know that I could simply go back down. I knew my fear was irrational since other people were walking around happily. Not to mention that the rooftop wouldn’t be open if it was dangerous. However, I decided that I shouldn’t feel pressured to walk around if I wouldn’t enjoy it. I was brave enough to check out the top level, and didn’t need a picture to prove it. Besides, Francois would fill me in and show me his photos. I went back down to the enclosed observatory area, where I could enjoy the view more peacefully.

Umeda Sky Building and Sakura Mille Crepe Cake

Kitsune Udon at Umeda Station

Kitsune Udon at Umeda Station

After a busy afternoon tasting hojicha and matcha in Uji, I spent the following morning relaxing among the cherry blossoms at Osaka Castle Park. The area was beautiful with plenty to see. Last time I visited the park, I went straight to the castle. However, this time I wanted to explore the quieter spots by the river.

Kitsune Udon at Umeda Station

As part of the Japanese tradition of hanami, everyone was quietly adoring the blooms. Then as soon as it got windy, people rushed to capture the petals falling to the ground known as hanafubuki.

Kitsune Udon at Umeda Station

At lunch time I made my way to Umeda district. The giant station and surrounding malls offered a variety of food options. Even with the wide selection, it was tough to find something plant-based. Since I was craving noodles, I came up with the idea of ordering Kitsune Udon without the dashi broth. I explained the reason to ensure they wouldn’t worry about my enjoyment of the dish and they kindly accommodated me. The Kitsune Udon came with udon noodles topped with flavourful deep-fried tofu, a sprinkle of seaweed shreds, and sliced green onion. Even though I’m sure other people thought it was crazy to be eating noodles without the broth, the noodles tasted amazing with a drizzle of soy sauce.

Kitsune Udon at Umeda Station

Just to be sure I wouldn’t leave hungry, I also ordered the Inari sushi. This type of sushi is usually vegan by default as it is simply rice stuffed in the same deep-fried sushi pocket that comes with Kitsune Udon. After this filling and delicious lunch, I was ready to go looking for dessert.

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My first visit to Kyoto

My first visit to Kyoto

After months of searching for the best hojicha Kyoto has to offer, I’ve finally found hojicha worth sharing and have officially launched Hōjicha Co. Japan Today kindly featured the exciting news, including more about the origin of Hōjicha Co. and our future plans. If you’d like to celebrate the launch and taste my new favourite tea, use code: DANIELLE10 to get 10% off any of our products (yes, even the Hojicha Launch Pack).

If you have no idea what hojicha is, you’re not alone. Although it was invented nearly 100 years ago in Kyoto, hojicha is only now beginning to gain popularity outside of Japan. Hojicha is a roasted green tea that has zero bitterness and is reddish-brown in colour. I only discovered the naturally sweet tea last March in Osaka.

During that trip to Osaka, I also visited Kyoto for the first time. After wanting to experience the modern urban vibes of Tokyo on an earlier trip to Japan, I was now ready to slow down and explore nature. Kyoto was always described to me as a peaceful hiking destination. That is why I was utterly shocked when I arrived at a bustling shopping district.

My first visit to Kyoto

As I tried to navigate through the crowded streets, I double-checked that Maruyama Park was in fact nearby. The cherry blossom season started early this year, and I didn’t want to miss out on the blooms near Yasaka Shrine. When I arrived at the park, I walked towards the cherry blossom viewing spot Google Maps had suggested. However, I was once again caught off guard as the spot turned out to be a festival area full of food stands. I continued to venture deeper into the park, determined to find a quiet spot.

My first visit to Kyoto

A few moments later, I was surrounded by nature. On my stroll I came across ancient shrines, beautiful buddhist temples, serene ponds, and colourful cherry blossoms. It dawned on me that there was much to see in Kyoto, and it was best experienced first hand with an open mind. A realization I hope to remember throughout all of my travels.

My first visit to Kyoto

 

Hanami in Osaka

Hanami in Osaka Japan

During the cherry blossom season in Japan, people flock to the parks to view the blooms and have picnics. The first park I visited was Kema Sakuranomiya Park by the O River in Osaka.

Groups gather on picnic blankets or giant blue tarps. They remove and neatly line them up before sitting in a circle. Employees on their lunch break typically eat store-bought bento boxes, while families enjoy homemade food. Some even prepare a fresh meal on a tiny grill.

I joined the few individuals sitting on benches. My lunch seemed fairly basic, but I noticed many others also picked up their lunch from a nearby FamilyMart, Lawson, or 7-Eleven. Despite my hesitation, I soon understood why convenience store food is so popular. Of course it wasn’t a gourmet meal, but it was better than the food served at some restaurants.

My cold lunch set consisted of soba noodles and Inari. The sushi was incredibly fresh and delicious. On the other hand, the soba noodles appeared to be a disaster. They were all stuck together, and impossible to eat. Then I discovered that they came with a clear packet that appeared to be water. Once I poured the water in and mixed the noodles, they separated like magic. The soba noodles tasted even better with the shredded seaweed and green onion toppings. Since the sauce provided appeared to have bonito in it, I made a note to grab plain soy sauce packets next time.

After I was done my lunch, it proved to be impossible to find a garbage bin. My usual hack for Japan is to check for one in public washrooms, but that only works when they have paper towels. While walking around, I heard a sound reminiscent of an ice cream truck. Weirdly enough, this turned out to be a coca cola sponsored garbage truck. It seems that people threw their garbage bags into a fence enclosed area, and so I did the same. Then I walked upwind.

Hanami in Osaka Japan


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Baked Goods Breakfast

Baked Goods Breakfast

Baked Goods Breakfast

After months of planning my trip to Japan, the cherry blossom season started 9 days early. Instead of sleeping in after 30 hours of travel, I rushed out towards the O River on my first day in Osaka. Luckily, the beautiful Sakura trees were still in bloom. Even though the cherry blossoms were the priority, there was no way I’d be able to fully enjoy them on an empty stomach. I stopped worrying about missing out, and started to think about breakfast.

Baked Goods Breakfast

Since I still wanted to make the most of it, I tried to find something to eat by the river. I spotted a bakery called Pompadour, and was drawn by the sweet scent. The bakery had trays and tongs at the entrance, which meant I could wander around and take my time deciding which treats to get. I loved not feeling rushed and pressured to place my order. The bakery also had enough variety to satisfy my needs, but wasn’t overwhelming. 

Baked Goods Breakfast

This place was heaven for someone with a sweet tooth, even if it was far from ideal for someone used to eating mainly vegan food.

Baked Goods Breakfast

When it was time to pay, I was delighted by the level of care taken into packaging my custard filled bun, cheddar and onion bun, and the cutest strawberry shaped bun. Since the strawberry bun was pretty fragile, it was placed in it’s own perfectly fitted container. While people were taking pictures of the cherry blossoms, I couldn’t resist taking pictures of my yummy breakfast.

Baked Goods Breakfast

The strawberry shaped bun did not only look adorable, but it also tasted magical. It had incredibly fluffy cream inside that tasted exactly like a strawberry milkshake. It wasn’t the healthiest breakfast, but sometimes you just need to indulge.



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