Monday, July 25, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Ryori Yu 料理遊

Visited 14.11.2014 (Fri)

Japanese bar? Izakaya (居酒屋) is an important element of Japanese culture; a place where salaryman and office ladies hang out to relax after a hard day's work. Images of alcoholic drinks overdose, space being engulfed by cigarette smoke, rowdiness of patrons formed a large part of my impression of Izakaya though I have never visited one personally. First read about Ryori Yu in Milly's travel guide book on Shikoku and I was surprised by the exceptionally good review, which totally overthrew all the negative belief I had of Izakaya previously. Decided to uncover the truth myself by paying the place a visit during dinner time.

Where is the menu? When we arrived at the restaurant, the unusually peaceful mood caught us by surprise. But, a completely different ambiance was well kept behind the sliding door. That night, the restaurant was bustling with patrons; entire row of counter seats were fully occupied and we had to share a table with another group of ladies. Language barrier has always been my greatest concern when visiting a foreign country - the first waitress who served us water and towel could only speak Japanese and what made me more dumbfounded next was the absence of table menu (which mean I could not even use Google Translate to scan the pages to perform an auto translation). It was till the next waitress (who most likely have spotted my troubled and foreigner-look face) came by and spoke to me in mandarin which made me heaved a sign of relief! She was an international student (from China), working part time in the restaurant. She pointed me to a lady in her fifties who was busy preparing the dishes while entertaining the guests at the counter seats. She is the owner of Ryori Yu and is affectionately known by regular customers as "mama-san". The waitress told us not to fret as mama-san would normally serve a series of signature dishes to all her diners (unless we choose not to have it). This feeling was so homely, like how we would just tuck into any food which are put on the dinner table by my mother.

Home cooked food. The counter was lined up with many big bowls, all containing mama-san's signature cold dishes. First up was freshly cooked prawns and vegetable tempura, followed by a bowl of delicious and flavourful beef stewed together with potatoes and carrot. Another dish which I liked particularly was the braised eggplant, a simple yet savory soul food. Separately, we ordered a plate of sashimi moriawase (platter) to share; the freshest catch of the day harvested from the nearby Seto Inland Sea was sliced beautifully and plated together with sudachi. Waitress recommended us to try tamagoyaki which was made only upon order. This simple home cooked dish was cooked to perfection; egg roll was lightly seasoned and fluffy. Instead of normal rice, we opted for onigiri stuffed with salmon accompanied with tsukemono (preserved vegetables) and miso soup. Have never tasted a onigiri which is pressed when the rice is still hot from the cooker and it tasted heavenly! Shortly after we completed the dish, mama-san came out from the counter to pass us a plate of cut persimmons and told us to give it a try. Persimmons were in season during the time of our visit; fruit was very sweet and crunchy, In fact, eating fruits was exactly how we normally end off a home-cooked meal. The bill totaled up to 8,200 yen for three of us and all of us felt it was very worthwhile. Just before we headed for the exit, mama-san came out again and thanked us for the visit with a humble tone. Truthfully, we could not thanked her enough for making the entire dinning experience so wonderful and heartwarming.

Warm hospitality, modest personality, affordable yet delicious food summed up my overall dinning experience in Ryori Yu.


Ryori Yu 料理遊
Opening hrs: 1700 - 2300 hrs

How to get there?
Restaurant is located near Takamatsu Mitsukoshi Departmental Store; about 15 minutes walk away from Takamatsu JR Station.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Cafe Salon Naka Oku カフェ 中奥

Visited 14.11.2014

Followed the signs to reach the cafe which is situated in a quiet and peaceful environment.
Left some room in our stomachs for dessert after a satisfying lunch at Aisunao. Decided to change to a different venue and came to Naka Oku. This cafe is also located in Honmura area but in a more secluded spot; about 10 - 15 minutes walk from the heart of the town. There were wooden signboard displayed along the route that led to the cafe. Followed a narrow path up a small hill and found an old wooden house with a beautiful noren (curtain) hung in front of its door - a way of supporting art in Naoshima. Upon sliding open the door, the strong aroma of coffee welcomed us to the cosy environment. Refurbished from an old residential unit, Naka Oku retains some of the original fixtures both inside and outside the house. Owner stood behind the bar counter, working hard to keep up with the continuous beverage orders. We were led to a table in an adjacent room with tatami mats. Window seats were also added for customers to enjoy their coffee and scenery at the same time. The owner was also a fan of antique - as one of the rooms was dedicated to old toys display. Though it was past lunch hour, business was relatively brisk in the cafe and was popular with foreign visitors. 

Bottom left and center: Chiffon cake and baked cheesecake. 
Coffee time. Curry rice, omelette rice and sandwiches were available on the main food menu. Dessert selection is limited to baked cheese cake, chiffon cake and milk gelatin (from Yasutomi Farm in Okayama). Ordered a baked cheese cake, chiffon cake, accompanied with their original house blended coffee and tea. The baked cheesecake was served in a tart; a nice and rich cheese filling with a crunchy biscuit on the outside. Was taken aback when I heard that the chiffon cake was soy sauce flavour - a combination that I would never think of. Passed the taste test: cake was very light and still tasted sweet because of the brown sugar and the caramel sauce drizzle, while the soy sauce flavour appeared as a subtle aftertaste. Coffee was superb - captivated by strong aroma and tasted slightly acidic. We spent the rest of our afternoon here, catching up with one another over desserts comfortably. Though desserts were not exceptionally spectacular, the comfortable and nostalgic ambience here will still make this humble little cafe stands out on this small island of Naoshima.


Cafe Salon Naka Oku 中奥
761-3110 香川県香川郡直島町本村字中奥1167
Opening hrs: 1130 - 2100 hrs (Closed on Tuesday)

How to get there?
By town bus. From Miyanoura Port (宮浦港) Bus Stop 2, take the bus heading for Tsutsujiso (つつじ荘) at Bus Stop 2 and alight at Nokyo Mae (農協前). Walk for another 10 - 15 minutes. Along the way, you will pass by some residential houses and will see clear wooden signboards leading to the cafe.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Genmai Shinshoku Aisunao 玄米心食 あいすなお

Visited 14.11.2014

Best food? One of the best memories I had of this smallest main island of Japan is the numerous delicious food it has to offer. Aisunao is one of the many restaurants that I will recommend or even return again if I ever visit Naoshima again. Located in Honmura area (本村エリア) of Naoshima where most of the houses are still preserved in its original state - some are part of Art House Project which converted some of the abandoned old houses here into contemporary art exhibition. Aisunao serves vegetarian cuisine and this 80 year old traditional Japanese style house it resides in was formerly a residential unit. The restaurant is easily recognised by this eye catching noren (curtain) with a picture of a bowl of brown rice is hung in front of its doors.

Menu. Dropped by here for lunch and was given a window seat. Menu comes with pictures and English translation. Ordered Aisunao lunch set (アイスなおセット), which comprised of a bowl of fragrant brown rice, miso soup and several seasonal vegetable dishes - steamed carrot and sweet potatoes, crunchy burdock root, radish and cabbage salad with Japanese dressing/vinegar, beancurd with enoki sauce. All the dishes were well seasoned, appetising and even meat lovers like myself enjoyed the meal very much. Ordered a hot somen set (すすりこセット) for my parents and they liked it a lot as well. Set comes with a bowl of hot somen soup, a brown rice ball and beancurd with enoki sauce. Somen is thin wheat noodles and Aisunao uses good quality somen manufactured from the nearby Shodoshima. Smooth noodles accompanied with a soy sauce based soup filled with vegetables and flavoured with sesame oil. Aisunao also serves desserts such as cakes and soy milk ice cream. Overall, this vegetarian lunch meal was very satisfying; and even my mother will reminisce about the delicious bowl of hot somen she had every now and then and hope to eat it again!

Aisunao lunch set - 850 yen
Hot somen set - 900 yen

Genmai Shinshoku Aisunao 玄米心食 あいすなお
香川県 香川郡直島町761-1
Opening hrs: 1100 hrs onwards

How to get there? 
By town bus. From Miyanoura Port (宮浦港) Bus Stop 2, take the town bus heading for Tsutsujiso (つつじ莊) and alight at Nokyo mae (農協前). About 3 mins walk from the bus stop.
Bus timetable:

Friday, July 22, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Yayoi Kusama's Red and Yellow Pumpkin 赤いかポチャ、黄色カボチャ

Visited 14.11.2014 (Fri)

Red Pumpkin 赤いかポチャ

The most widely publicised art piece on Naoshima has got to be Yayoi Kusama's famous interpretation of pumpkins. These pumpkins which are covered with black polka dots, a motif commonly seen in her artworks, have been replicated and displayed in numerous places in Japan. In Naoshima, you can find two pumpkins donned in red and yellow colours respectively. The first one, red pumpkin, can be identified easily upon reaching Marine Station. The red pumpkin is more plump than the yellow and visitors can enter this gigantic pumpkin through a huge hole, which is often mistaken as a large polka dot when seen afar. Apart from being an artwork, this is also a playground for kids, where they can hide inside the pumpkin or put their heads and hands out from the smaller holes.


How to get there?

Located just beside Miyanoura Port - Marine Station.


Yellow Pumpkin 黄色カボチャ

Photos containing the yellow pumpkin never fail to pop out when I search for information regarding Naoshima online. I can say that this yellow pumpkin is already analogous to this island. The location where the iconic yellow pumpkin is situated makes this the most popular photo-taking companion on Naoshima. It sits on the end of a concrete platform which juts out from the beach (just like a jetty). The contrast of the bright yellow colour of pumpkin against its panoramic surroundings which is free from manmade obstructions, brings out its presence and prominence further. Not sure whether anyone has the same feeling as well; while admiring this silent pumpkin, a subtle sense of loneliness crept onto me unknowingly and I wanted to give it a good hug when I stood beside it.


How to get there?

Board the Naoshima Town Bus from Marine Station and alight at the last stop, Tsutsukji-so つつじ荘.

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Naoshima 直島

Visited 14.11.2014 (Fri)

Seto Inland Sea (or Seto Naikai 瀬戸内海) refers to the water way between the main Honshu island and Shikoku. There are numerous islands sprouting out in Seto Inland Sea and islands within Kagawa Prefecture include Naoshima (直島), Shodoshima (小豆島), Teshima (豊島), Inujima (犬島) and Ogijima (男木島). For my trip to Shikoku, I managed to visit both Naoshima and Shodoshima over two days.

Island of art. Setouchi Triennale is an international art festival held every 3 years; where artists from all over the world come together to showcase their exclusive creations, utilising the 12 islands in the Seto Inland Sea as the stage for their artworks. Island hopping becomes a ritual during the art festival period, attracting more than a million visitors in 2016 when the most recent Setouchi Triennale was held. In Naoshima, you can see, breathe and touch art everywhere you go. As soon as we alighted from the fastcraft, with a detailed map in hand, we set off on an art expedition to visit all three major sites in Naoshima.

Naoshima-cho website:
Setouchi Triennale:



Naoshima can be divided into three main areas - Honmura, Miyanoura and Benesse Art Site.

(1) Honmura 本村

About 30 minutes by foot or 5 minutes drive away by car/bus from Miyanoura Port, this district is where Art House Project is featured. If you are utilising Naoshima town bus, please alight at Nokyo mae (農協前) to access Honmura area.

Art House Project 家プロジェクト
Operating hours: 1000 - 1630 hrs; closed on Mondays
Admission fee: 410 yen/house, or set ticket of 1,030 yen to visit all six houses.

This project converted and restored old, abandoned houses into contemporary art exhibition venues. This concept was initiated in 1998 and completed in 2006. Currently, there are six houses participating in this project. For my trip, I visited Benesse Art Museum (where the entrance fee is also quite costly at 1,030 yen) instead and decided to gave this a miss unfortunately. One feature to look out for in Naoshima is the numerous beautiful "noren" or curtain hung at the entrance of many houses in both Honmura and Miyanoura area. Initiated as Naoshima "Noren" Project, the garments were created by textile artist, Yoko Kano, who created each curtain based on the origin of the house and store, inspiration she received from the owner of these houses and conversation with the locals.

Ando Musuem 安藤ミュージアム
Operating hours: 1000 - 1600 hrs; closed on Mondays
Admission fee = 510 yen

The museum is housed in a hundred years old traditional wooden house refurbished by famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Here you can learn about Tadao Ando's work and Naoshima history through photographs, sketches and models. This is another attraction which I decided to give it a miss as well.

More sights of Honmura area...


(2) Miyanoura 宮浦

As the name suggests, this is where most people will land on if they are traveling to Naoshima by ferry from Takamatsu. Marine Station is the ferry terminal for Naoshima and houses a tourist information center where useful walking maps and brochures can be collected from. The bus stop to board Naoshima Town Bus, if you are heading to Honmura area and Benesse Art Site, is just beside Marine Station as well.

Naoshima Bath I Love Yu 直島銭湯「I ♥ 湯」
Operating hours: 1300 - 2100 hrs (on weekdays); closed on Mondays.
Bathing fee: 510 yen

I have already seen photos of this building in many travel guide books and decided to detour to see this mind blowing architecture in person just before I head back to Miyanoura Port. The building reminded me of a scrapbook instantaneously; when extremely different components are put together, a harmonious piece of art work is created miraculously. Such a stunning outcome!

Designed by contemporary artist Shinro Ohtake, I have to compliment this public bathhouse is unusually beautiful and alluring. From the photos featured on the webpage, the same universal theme is also extended to its interior as well; wished I could have entered the bathhouse back then!

More sights of Miyanoura area...


(3) Benesse Art Site ベネッセハウスサイト

If you are utilising Naoshima town bus, please alight at the last stop, Tsutsuji-so (つつじ荘). From here, you can hop onto a free shuttle bus which operates between Tsutsuji-so and Chichu Art Museum, making a brief stop at Benesse House Museum and Lee Ufan Museum.


How to get around? 

(1) By Naoshima town bus 直島町営バス.
Apart from rental bicycles, the most convenient way to get around the island is by their town bus. The place to board this town bus is located just beside the Marine Station.
Fare per trip: 100 yen
Bus schedule (English):
Bus schedule (Japanese):


How to get there?

There are two ports in Naoshima - Miyanoura Port (宮浦港) and Honmura Port (本村港). Ferry allows bicycle and cars to be on board, whereas fastcrafts/passenger boats do not.

Took the fastcraft from Takamatsu Port to Naoshima.

Miyanoura Port - Marine Station.
(1) From Shikoku 
Ferry and fastcrafts are operated between Takamatsu Port and Miyanoura Port. Do take note that the boarding area for ferry and fastcrafts are different at Miyanoura Port.
- Fastcraft: There are about 3 trips/day, journey takes about 30 mins. Fare = 1,220 yen (one way)
- Ferry: There are about 5 trips/day, journey takes about an hour. Fare = 520 yen (one way) and 990 yen (round trip)

Admiring the sunset at fastcraft boarding area.
(2) From Okayama 
Ferry and passenger boats are operated between Uno Port and Miyanoura Port.
For ferry, there are about 13 trips/day. For passenger boats, there are about 2 to 3 trips/day.
Journey takes about 20 mins. Fare = 290 yen (one way) and 560 yen (round trip).

Passenger boats are operated between Uno Port and Honmura Port.
There are about 5 trips/day, journey takes about 20 mins. Fare = 290 yen (one way) and 560 yen (round trip).

Video: An excellent promotional video on Naoshima produced by Japan Tourism Agency.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Day 2 Naoshima 直岛 

Day 2: 14.11.2014 (Fri)

 Yayoi Kusama's Yellow Pumpkin
Breakfast: Takamatsu Terminal Hotel 高松ターミナルホテル

Takamastsu Port 高松築港 (0915 hrs) > Naoshima Miyanoura Port 直島宮浦港 (0940 hrs)
by speedcraft. [1,220 yen, 30 mins]

Visited Yayoi Kusama's Red Pumpkin 赤いカボチャ, at Marine Station.

Marine Station (1008 hrs) > Tsutsujisho つつじ荘 (1022 hrs)
by Naoshima Town Bus. [100 yen]

Visited Yayoi Kusama's Yellow Pumpkin 黄色カボチャ, near Tsutsujisho.

Visited Benesse Art Museum ベネッセハウスミュージアム. [1,030 yen]

Benesse Art Musuem ベネッセハウスミュージアム > Tsutsujisho つつじ荘
by free shuttle service.

Tsutsujisho つつじ荘 > Nokyo mae 農協前
by Naoshima Town Bus. [100 yen]

Lunch: Genmai Shinshoku Aisunao 玄米心食 あいすなお

Tea break: Cafe Salon Naka Oku 中奥

Explored Honmura Area. Visited Honmura Lounge & Archives.

Nokyo mae 農協前 > Marine Station
by Naoshima Town Bus. [100 yen]

Visited Naoshima Bath 直島銭湯「I♥湯」.

Naoshima Miyanoura Port 直島宮浦港 (1630 hrs) > Takamatsu Port 高松築港 (1655 hrs)
by speedcraft. [1,220 yen, 30 mins]

Dinner: Ryori Yu 料理遊

- End of Day 2 - 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Yoridori Midori 寄鳥味鳥

Visited 13.11.2014 (Thu)

Keep a lookout for the restaurant located on the second floor of one of the shophouses.
First dinner in Shikoku! Apart from Sanuki Udon, another local favourite gourmet food in Kagawa Prefecture is grilled chicken thigh. This dish is a specialty of Marugame, a city approximately 30 minutes away by rail from Takamatsu. Speaking of its origin, we have to trace back to 1950. The idea came from a restaurant owner in Marugame city after he watched a scene of a woman eating a fried chicken heartily in a Hollywood movie. He wanted to create a similar dish that would give his patrons that level of satisfaction as depicted in the scene; and the recipe of the grilled chicken was perfected after multiple trial and error. There are two different chicken to choose from: the young chicken (wadori わどり) or the mature chicken (shindori 親どり). Each type has its own fan base - young chicken meat is more tender and juicier while the mature chicken meat is much resilient yet flavourful. Scissors would provided to cut the mature chicken for easier consumption.

Cabbage served together with grilled young chicken thigh. Look at the amount of chicken oil on the plate.
Did not intend to visit Marugame but manage to locate a restaurant in Takamatsu offering this similar dish. In Yoridori Midori, Kagawa grown chicken which are served on that day is only butchered in the morning for guaranteed freshness. We chose the young chicken as we were afraid that the matured chicken meat was too tough for our teeth to handle. The chicken was seasoned with large amount of salt and pepper and was grilled in the oven till the skin became crispy. Tender and juicy meat could be peeled off from the bone effortlessly. If not for a travelogue program I have watched previously, I would not have know how to deal with this separate plate of chopped raw cabbage which was served together with the chicken without any sauces drizzled on it. The correct way to eat the cabbage is to dip it into the chicken oil (left on the plate where the grilled chicken thigh is placed) before consumption. And surprisingly the savoury chicken oil helped to enhance the sweetness of the cabbage! Ordered a bowl of chicken rice (torimeshi とりめし) and it tasted completely different from the one I am familiar with back at home. Reason being the rice is cooked with chicken meat and flavoured with soy sauce. Overall, this was a very satisfying dinner which left us a pretty good impression of the food in Shikoku on the first day of our trip.

Very delicious and refreshing eggplant and tomato salad. 
Chicken rice, completely different from the Hainanese version.

Yoridori Midori 寄鳥味鳥
香川県高松市兵庫町1-24 2nd floor
Opening hrs: 1700 - 2300 hrs (Mon - Fri); 1700 - 2230 (Sun), closed on Saturdays.

How to get there?
Restaurant is located in Takamatsu Shopping Mall, along Hyogomachi 兵庫町. Takes about 15 minutes to walk from Takamatsu JR Station.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Ritsurin Koen 栗林公園, Kikugetsu-tei 菊月亭

Visited 13.11.2014 (Thu)

North entrance of Ritsurin Garden - where our exploration begun!
History. Ritsurin Garden has been around for more than four centuries. Strategically located with Mount Shiun (紫雲山) in the backdrop, it was constructed as a feudal lord garden during 1620s by Takatoshi Ikoma who ruled Sanuki (the former name of Kagawa) at that time. Matsudaira family inherited the garden in 1642 and expanded the garden by successive generations to its current state in 1754. Ritsurin Garden became open to public on March 16, 1875 and was designated as a "National Place of Special Scenic Beauty" in 1953. Ritsurin Garden was also ranked three stars (the highest possible) alongside Dogo Onsen in Michelin Green Guide Japan in 2009. 
Michelin Green Guide Japan:

Ritsurin Garden itself is an artistic masterpiece originated from the past. One will exclaim at meticulous and well thought out landscaping features while strolling in the garden. More than a thousand resilient pine trees, some have been around for more than a century, are carefully tended by the gardeners here. And it was because of Ritsurin Garden, I developed a liking for parks/gardens and from then onward, started to plan visits to parks/gardens on subsequent trips to Japan (such as Kourakoen in Okayama and Adachi Museum of Art in Shimane). May sound a bit exaggerated here but seeing is believing and I will sincerely recommend all to pay here a visit to fully appreciate the beauty of such garden for yourselves. 



Tsurukame-matsu (鶴亀松).
Started our exploration of this 16 hectares sized garden from the north gate. Ritsurin Garden is divided into two areas - North and South, and it takes at least an hour and a half to complete both routes. Tsurukame-matsu (鶴亀松), otherwise known as the crane and turtle pine tree, is one of the most precious pine tree in the garden, made up of a black pine with 110 stones. The combination resembled a fluttering crane standing on the back of a turtle, which explained how its name came about. As there are numerous maple trees planted here, the garden is also beautifully decorated by shades of red during the autumn season.

Autumn foliage; though not at its best state yet.
Hokko (北湖).
Hokko (北湖), or North Pond, has a surface area of 7000 m2 and is located in the South Garden. Photo was taken while standing on Bairin-kyo bridge (梅林橋). The largest pond in the South Garden in Nanko (南湖), or South Pond, with a surface area of 7,900 m2 and a 30 minutes traditional boat ride known as wasen can be enjoyed in this pond. Boat ride cost 610 yen for an adult and tickets can be purchased from ticket counter at the east gate. Gave the boat ride a miss due to time constraint.

Leisure boat ride in Nanko (南湖).
Best view of Ritsurin Garden from Hiraiho.
Climbed up Hiraiho (飛来峰), a landscaped hill which commands the best view of Ritsurin Garden, overlooking the South Pond with Mount Shiun in the background. From here, capture the view of a symmetrical reflection of Engetsukyo (偃月橋), otherwise known as the crescent moon bridge, in the waters and a love shaped azalea bush on one of the small islands in the pond. Was totally blown away by this picturesque scenery at the very first sight and even waited for the overcast to move away in order to capture a well illuminated picture of the view! Though it was already the autumn season, we were still one week early before the leaves turned completely red; could imagine in my mind how mesmersing the scenery would have been... 

Can you spot a heart shaped bush?
Experience tea ceremony at Kikugetsu-tei.
Stopped by at Kikugetsu-tei (菊月亭), a traditional Japanese sukiya style tea house to rest our legs. Sat down to enjoy a bowl of matcha accompanied with a biscuit filled with chestnut paste (set cost 700 yen) and indulge into a laidback moment, soaking into the tranquility and admiring the refined landscaping right in front of the tea house. Ended our exploration at the east gate. There is a local souvenir shop named Ritsurin-an (栗林庵), located just outside the east gate, stocked up with a wide range of products (agricultural items, wine, sweets, handicrafts, etc) originated from Kagawa Prefecture.

Nothing beats having a bowl of hot matcha in this cold weather.

Ritsurin Koen 栗林公園
1-20-16,Ritsurin-cho,Takamatsu-city,Kagawa Prefecture 760-0073
Opening hours differs from month to month, please check the schedule on their website:
Admission fee: 410 yen

How to get there?

(1) Train
- 10 mins walk from Ritsurin Koen Kotoden Station.
- 3 mins walk from Ritsurin Koen Kitaguchi JR Station.

(2) Bus
Take the Shopping Rainbow Bus ショッピングレインポー  (Anticlockwise route 反時計廻り or Nishi Mawari 西廻り) from the bus terminal at Takamatsu JR Station and alight at the bus stop in front of Ritsurin Koen.
Bus schedule:


Video: Scroll to 2:00 for feature on Ritsurin Garden.