Japan Day 3: Kobe/Ikeda/Kyoto!

Our hotel was right outside Hankyu Minamikata station, so it was a great base for making day trips to Kobe and Kyoto (both accessible directly via Hankyu lines). Even better, Hankyu has a 2-day tourist pass that you can buy for 1200yen and get unlimited rides on all Hankyu lines in Osaka/Kyoto/Kobe!

Kobe was less than half an hour away from our hotel – yay! We made our way to Hankyu Kobe-Sannomiya station to hunt down Steakland, famous for their cheap Kobe beef set lunches. We arrived at about 12.30pm and queued for about an hour before we got in. We got so hungry while waiting that we snacked on some fried chicken from a shop nearby while we were in line.

We ordered a normal beef set lunch and the kobe beef set lunch (more than double the price) so we could share and compare the difference. In total, we spent 4,460 yen for our lunch. Very cheap for Kobe beef! Each set came with salad, pickles, miso soup, and a drink (coffee, orange juice, or tea).

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The good thing about Steakland is you get to sit at the teppan table and watch the chef cook your beef. Plenty of photo opportunities! Everyone else had their phones/cameras whipped out for the occasion.

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The chef cooks for several people at the same time so what you see here is actually our order + another couple’s order (they both ordered Kobe). Ours is on the left – the normal steak (150g) and the Kobe (150g). You can see the difference in the marbling.

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The chef knew we were sharing and gave us half-portions of both steaks. Normal on the left and Kobe on the right.

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Mario thought both were fantastic, and the Kobe was even more so, of course, but I didn’t have a good experience because my portions somehow had more tendons and were quite chewy. How unlucky! I guess you get what you pay for… This was certainly not the best beef I’ve had and I was quite disappointed with the quality of the “Kobe beef” – I thought it would be an eye-opening experience, but I guess my expectations were too high. Oh well!

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Next, we went to Ikeda station (not that near, but free to go to with our Hankyu pass as it was also accessible via Hankyu lines) to visit the Instant Ramen Museum! It was super fun!

You get to personalise your own cup noodles for just 300yen! First, you buy a cup from the vending machine.

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Then, you get a seat and access to coloured markers, and you can decorate your cup!

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Once you’re ready, you get your cup filled with noodles and ingredients! You have to pick your soup base and four different ingredients.

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I also took a video! (Click here to watch.)

On the way back to Ikeda station, we stumbled upon an Ippudo Ramen shop. OMG! We hadn’t tried it before, so we had to! They even had a special kind of shoyu ramen available only at the Ikeda branch, so Mario tried that:

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I opted to try their famous tonkotsu ramen…

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I was absolutely blown away by the quality of their chashu! It was so fatty, so soft, and melted in the mouth! The noodles were also the perfect consistency. However, I felt the soup was quite flat, and not as tasty compared to Ichiran Ramen’s version!

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Our meal at Ippudo came up to only 1660yen in total!

Next, we went to Kyoto! Our first stop in Kyoto was to cat cafe Neko Kaigi. The admission charge is 900yen for the first hour, and 200yen for a drink.

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The cats here are all rescued and non-pedigreed, unlike most other cat cafes. They seem to really like being patted vigorously on their rumps!

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Post-cafe cafe, we headed in the direction of the Kamo River to find a nice place to have dinner at. We were hunting for a reasonably-priced restaurant that offered yuka dining – it’s a summer tradition for many of the restaurants along the Kamo River to build special platforms OVER the river. The cool air of the rushing waters below help diners to beat the summer heat! Most of the restaurants that offer yuka dining, though, price it at a premium. You either have to pay extra (like a cover/table charge), or you have to opt for special set meals that are more expensive. Most options were kaiseki-style, priced around 7000yen – 15000yen. We found a few places that were reasonably-priced, but many of them were already fully-booked. In the end, we went to a nice sukiyaki restaurant where we paid 12,060yen in total (so about 6,000 for one set – one of the cheaper options around!).

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The marbling! Oh. My. God. Truly, this was way better than the “Kobe beef” we had for lunch.

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So fatty, so evenly distributed. Every bite sent shivers down my spine!

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(Click here to see a video of our yuka dining experience!)

After that very satisfying dinner, we went back to Osaka using our Hankyu Pass. Whew!

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