So recently the weather here has been not-so-hot and pretty damp. I’m not really complaining as I’d rather it be a bit chilly and rainy than hot and humid but it does mean the traditional sightseeing activities of Kyoto aren’t on the menu. Luckily ice cream is always on the menu. One of the best things to do on a rainy day in Kyoto is to go to one of the thousands of restaurants, cafes and ice cream parlours. I must confess I have eaten ice-cream for three days in a row now and I’m not asking for forgiveness.
Japan seems to carry this stereotype of being non-dairy. People say that Japanese are lactose intolerant so you can’t find milk, ice cream or cheese. This is totally untrue. Yes, Japanese cheese is not to be trusted – mostly rubbish and expensive and occasionally mixed with fish (there are things that look like cheese strings in the convenience store which are a mixture of processed cheese and fish. Yup. Also the Philadelphia I bought suspiciously doesn’t seem to go off until next year and is weirdly thick…) Other than cheese, Japan excels in the dairy department. There is milk available in both convenience stores and supermarkets and they sell Häagen-Dazs ice cream too! However, this is not a tale of cheap convenience store ice cream. No, this is a tale of Karafuneya.
Karafuneya (かれふね屋) is an ice cream cafe in Sanjo (三条) near the shopping districts. What struck me the first time I laid eyes on it was the gigantic ice cream in the window. I’m talking 2 ft tall. Of course, like all window food in Japan, its made of plastic, but it gives you an idea of how big this monster is. The picture doesn’t do it justice. It’s also 50,000円 (£278), slightly out of my price-range. Thankfully there is also a wall display of the hundreds of normal-sized ice creams you can try. These are by no means tiny but aren’t quite so colossal. They have a huge variety of sundaes which includes traditional chocolate and strawberry; more Japanese flavoured green tea and sesame; and then the downright weird that is pork cutlet and fried prawn.
I went to this Mecca of ice cream on both Friday and Saturday. The first time I had a chocolate and banana waffle sundae, which seemed to have a whole waffle cut up into it. As I’m an idiot and thought I’d still be hungry I also had a katsu sandwich (fried pork) with chips, which proved to be too much (the picture on the menu suggested it would be small, this was a lie) but still delicious. This is definitely a place to go to for lunch, not just for the sundaes. The chips are the best I’ve had in Kyoto, hands down – thin and really crispy. The second trip I had a ‘strawberry festival’ which, as you would expect, was overloaded with strawberries and strawberry ice cream. It was glorious.
The ice creams range from about 700円 (£3.90) to 1000円 (£5.60) and are pretty good value considering how huge they are. Chips are 460円 (£2.60) and worth every penny – the portions are huge and I would eat them all day if I could.
So if the weather’s not in your favour when you’re in Kyoto, Karafuneya is definitely a solid choice. Another option for the sweet toothed is ‘Sweets Paradise‘ which I went to today. As you can guess, they specialise in cakes and ice-cream. Just over an hour of all-you-can-eat (食べ放題) is 1,530円 (£8.50) and so worth it. I would suggest booking if you go at lunchtime because its pretty popular. They are also based in Sanjo. They have soft serve, chocolate fountain, a wall of cakes and even pizza and pasta. I took a picture of my first plate but quickly succumbed to just eating everything without stopping to document it. Perfect for a rainy day or if you’re just craving cake (or both).
Thus ends my confession. I ate too much and it was glorious. I will now return to eating udon and okonomiyaki (japanese pancake-type thing, will explain in a separate post) cooked on my crappy single hob in my room. Hopefully more exciting touristy posts coming soon, don’t worry!