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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When in Kyoto: Nanzenji Junsei 南禅寺 順正 @ Sakyo Ward – Dine On Kyoto-Style Yudofu in an Edo Era Setting

Aside from graceful geisha and ancient temples, Kyoto is also known for her sublime food culture. Elegant kaiseki meals, traditional sweets, and vegetarian fare are just some of the must-dos on every foodie’s list when visiting the former capital of Japan.

Yudofu 湯豆腐 is one such dish that is eaten most commonly around autumn and winter, when the cold temperatures call for comforting, wholesome food that warm from within. While there are countless places where one can sample this time honoured dish in Kyoto, I found myself stumbling upon Nanzenji Junsei 南禅寺 順正, a tofu specialist.

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When in Uzbekistan: Museum of Wine-Making Named After Khovrenko @ Samarkand – Sample 10 Soviet Wines for US $10 In A Room With Wes Anderson Vibes

Mention Samarkand, and the first image that springs to mind is the iconic Registan and Street of Masoleums. But did you know this city is also home to her own Museum of Wine-Making?

Thanks to Uzbekistan’s strategic location along the historic Silk Road, wine has evolved from an item of trade, to a fixture in her local gastronomic offerings, passed down from generation to generation in vineyards scattered across the country. Today, visitors to the Museum of Wine-Making Named After Khovrenko.

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While wine connoisseurs typically flock to the likes of France and Australia, this historic building with a turquoise exterior is worth checking out if you’re killing time before boarding your next inter-city train… which is exactly what we did!

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