When in Shiga: Yokarou 翼果楼 @ Nagahama, Shiga – Savour A Time-Honoured Local Delicacy with Parental Loving Roots

We visited this place in November 2019, prior to Covid-19. Do check for pandemic-related updates and precautions before making your visit.

Other than a bustling town square and vibrant port, Nagahama, Shiga is also home to a wholesome and delectable local delicacy – yaki-saba somen. But even if you have not heard of this delightful dish prior to visiting Nagahama, you would definitely pick up on its distinct aroma walking past Yokarou 翼果楼, one of two eateries that specialise in it this quaint castle town.

yokarou-nagahama-Saba-Kaido-with Yakisaba-Sushi

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When in Shiga: Station Front Bar Okura 駅前酒場 御蔵 @ Otsu, Shiga – Japanese Style Izakaya Located 10 Min Walk from Lake Biwa

We visited this place in November 2019, prior to Covid-19. Do check for pandemic-related updates and precautions before making your visit.

There is something charming about the experience of walking into a nondescript hole-in-the-wall, ordering local delicacies off the menu, and watching your food being prepared in front of you while soaking in its unpretentious atmosphere. Station Front Bar Okura 駅前酒場 御蔵, a Japanese-style izakaya that was highly recommended by the hotel’s staff, served as my pit-stop for a late bite during my stay in Otsu, Shiga.

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When in Shiga: Honke Tsuruki Soba 本家 鶴㐂そば @ Otsu, Shiga – 300 Year Old Soba Restaurant; English Menu Available

There are long-standing businesses that you grow up with as a child. Then there are those that have been established long before your parents’, or your grandparents’ time.

Honke Tsuruki Soba 本家 鶴㐂そば has been serving up traditional hot and cold soba in Otsu, Shiga for close to three centuries. Located a brief 10 minute walk Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine, the restaurant is housed in a sizeable building overlooking a quaint neighbourhood.

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7-Eleven x Coca-Cola Crossover Store @ The House of Eden, Raffles Place – Two-Storey Store with Retro-Themed Photo Ops

7-Eleven has come a long way from being an ordinary neighbourhood convenience store, to an exciting chain boasting its own line of snacks and ready-to-eat meals that are unexpectedly palatable. And now, the convenience store chain has partnered with Coca-Cola to launch a collaborative store meets experiential space for just about anyone to hang out at.

Here’s what you can expect!

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When in Kyoto: % ARABICA Arashiyama @ Ukyo Ward – Touristy and Overrated? Iconic Kyoto Coffee Shop Overlooking the Togetsuko Bridge

Togetsuko Bridge. Tenryuji Temple. Bamboo Forest. These are just some of the must-see spots for any tourist worth his or salt at Arashiyama, Kyoto. But for coffee aficionados, there’s one more item on the checklist – %ARABICA.

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Opened in 2014, %ARABICA is the brainchild of Kenneth Shoji,  a coffee farm owner and coffee machine distributor whose love for coffee sprouted during his time in the “unique fusion of beach hippie culture” in Venice Beach, California. Since then, the coffee chain’s minimalist stores have sprung up around locations ranging from historic to iconic, as well as fashionable cities like Shanghai and Abu Dhabi.

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When in Kyoto: Menbaka Fire Ramen @ Kamigyo Ward – Explosive, One of a Kind Experience with Live Torched Ramen

Fancy watching your ramen go up in flames before your very eyes? Or how about a side of dinnertime theatrics along with your meal?

Menbaka Fire Ramen in Kyoto is no stranger to both. Nestled deep in Kamigyo Ward to the north of Nijo Castle, the eatery has been serving up it torched ramen since 1985, when its founder discovered the fiery taste from combining green onion with extreme heat. Needless to say, the eatery opens to swarming queues of curious tourists right up to closing time!

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When in Shiga: Staying at Hotel Koo Otsuhyakucho @ Otsu, Shiga – Award-Winning Hotel Converted from Old Teahouses with a Muji-esque Vibe

For my most recent trip to Japan, I decided to trade the swelling crowds in Kyoto for a serene weekend at her eastern neighbour, Shiga.

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Compared to tourist-ridden Kyoto, Shiga Prefecture is a much quieter place that remains relatively undiscovered compared to her far more famous neighbours. Most visitors, mainly domestic with a scattering of tour groups from China and Hong Kong, head for a lake-side hotel or ryokan to enjoy commanding views of Lake Shiga. However, to experience a real slice of life, I highly recommend a couple of nights at Hotel Koo Otsuhyakucho in Otsu. 

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