Back at Byodo-in Omotesando Road for Matcha by the River

Back at Byodo-in Omotesando Road for Matcha by the River 1

Some people can hop on a plane at a moments notice, not me. I wouldn’t want to miss out on the joy of planning a trip and the anticipation that builds up. Admittedly, I used to over do it. Since I wanted to explore, and not just sit at a spa, I’d try and squeeze as many places and activities into one trip as possible. Then I realized that in my attempt to experience everything, I wasn’t fully experiencing anything. It was time to relax, and maybe even schedule some spa time.

Once I stopped treating each vacation as a checklist, I started to get comfortable with leaving attractions for next time. Sometimes I’d even go back to the same spot more than once. Although there are so many new places to see in Japan, when one brings you as much joy as Byodo-in Omotesando Road you can’t wait to return.

Back at Byodo-in Omotesando Road for Matcha by the River 1

After visiting most of the tea shops on the main road, I wanted to go back and spend more time by the river. While walking along the trail, I spotted Fukujuen Café Uji. I hoped that the high price of their ceremonial matcha was an indication of its quality. They invited me to find a seat at the second floor, and I was happy to find a table overlooking the river.

Back at Byodo-in Omotesando Road for Matcha by the River 2

While waiting for my order, I looked around only to discover an entire tea-making machine exhibition. It was interesting to see the machines up close, especially after the tour of Marukyu-Koyamaen. Once I was served, I was pleasantly surprised to learn the matcha I ordered wasn’t already prepared. Luckily I also learned how to properly whisk matcha on the tour, and was excited to put my newly acquired skills into practice.

Back at Byodo-in Omotesando Road for Matcha by the River 3

The matcha set was served with instructions on how to prepare both usucha and koicha, a kettle, and a tray. On the tray there was an empty bowl of matcha, bamboo whisk, chashaku scoop, chaki container, and wagashi. As I vigorously whisked the matcha powder, it quickly dissolved and a thick foam began to appear. The matcha had a vibrant green colour and inviting fresh scent. As is tradition, I enjoyed the wagashi first and then slowly sipped every last drop of matcha.

Back at Byodo-in Omotesando Road for Matcha by the River 4


Taste hojicha powder and loose leaf tea from Kyoto at Hojicha Co.

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

 

Visiting Weir’s Lane Lavender & Apiary during a heat wave

Visiting Weir's Lane Lavender & Apiary during a heat wave

There are still plenty of adventures to share from Japan, but I wanted to write about what I’ve been up to in (and around) Toronto. I especially wanted to write about Weir’s Lane Lavender & Apiary before the lavender season ends.

After planning to visit a lavender farm for months, I finally made it to Weir’s Lane. It was the perfect time to see both the English and French lavender flowers. Although, I do wish it wasn’t during a heat wave.

I breathed in the relaxing scent, as I walked among the lavender rows. Since the sun was beaming down, and the field was fairly small, I felt that I had made the most of it after a few minutes.

When I headed back to the car, I saw some people walking down the path. I figured that’s where the shop was and decided to check it out. As the path curved, an even bigger lavender field revealed itself. I forgot all about the heat, and excitedly walked towards the fragrant blooms.

Neighbouring farms and trees hid the roads, cars, and buildings. It felt incredibly peaceful to be surrounded by nature. The only two other people in the field were quietly taking photos. Before leaving, I did the same. Apparently my silly poses gave the other people ideas for new angles, and they stayed behind continuing to snap photos.

Visiting Weir's Lane Lavender & Apiary during a heat wave

On my way to the shop, I noticed thousands of bees buzzing around stacked boxes. One of the owners casually asked if I was interested in bees. My gut reaction was to say nope and keep on walking, but he reassured me that the bees wouldn’t risk their short lives to hurt me. He then continued to explain all kinds of fascinating tidbits about bees. When he found out I was vegan, he shared the gentle way in which they treat the bees. They never move the hives, and only gather honey once a year before it overflows the hive. They gather the honey long before the winter, ensuring the bees have enough time to adequately stock up for the cold.

The ticket prices included a coupon for the shop, and after learning about their honey I wanted to give it a taste. I ended up buying two jars of lavender infused honey. There were also lavender plants for purchase, but the owner advised that they would only thrive directly in the ground.

Visiting Weir's Lane Lavender & Apiary during a heat wave

As soon as I got home, I ate a spoonful of the lavender infused honey. It tasted sweet and fresh with just the right amount of lavender flavour. The distinct taste was there, but it didn’t feel like eating a bar of soap as I feared. The liquid gold tastes great in tea, but my favourite way to enjoy it is as a crepe filling. I either spread it directly on the crepes, or prepare a paste with the honey and ground up black sesame seeds. Just typing this is making me crave it.

If you don’t get a chance to visit a lavender farm this season, you can always start planning one for next year.