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Five Reasons to Discover Kyoto’s Magic in Winter

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Discover the hidden secrets of Kyoto in winter – the magical but least-known season that the locals love. From enchanting illuminations in beautiful temples to seasonal dishes bursting with flavour; vibrant New Year celebrations to “onsen” hot baths beneath snow-capped mountains, here are five favourite Kyoto winter warmers as curated by the team at Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto:

1. Ume (plum): Winter’s Secret Blossoms

Despite spring being the best-known season of blossoms in Japan, winter visitors are in for a delightful surprise with Kyoto’s profusion of delicate ume (plum) flowers.

Decorating the city’s plum trees in shades of snow white through to verdant pink, ume blossom’s sweet fragrance and pretty five petalled composition inspired ancient nobility from the Nara period (AD 710–784) to write haiku while gazing at them.

Blooming plum trees, once a prosperous trade with China and now savoured for their unique beauty, can be seen across Kyoto from mid-January. Kitano Tenmangu, just 25 minutes from the Hotel, offers some of the best viewing, with 1,500 plum trees blossoming through to mid-March.

2. Warming Winter Dishes

Warm up from within with Kyoto’s wide variety of steaming hot pots and sizzling Yudofu 湯豆腐.

The Japanese have long adapted their diet to the country’s dramatically different seasons, and winter offers up plenty of delicacies. Try Kaburamushi かぶら蒸し, a fragrant composition of grated turnip, egg white, lily root, gingko and mushrooms atop a white fish – locals liken its appearance to a melting snowball.

Originating in Kyoto, Steamed Sushi 蒸し寿司 is a hot dish with unique seasoning while Tanuki Udon calls on the spicy warmth of ginger on a base of chopped fried tofu with thick ankake sauce.

Celebrate new year in Kyoto with festive favourite Mochi ぜんざい (Zenzai), a dainty, chewy rice speciality available in tea houses and traditional cafes across the city.

3. Inspiring Illuminations

As the sun sets low on the wintry horizon, Kyoto comes alive with twinkling lights.

From January to February, lanterns are lit only on snowy days at Kifune Jinja Shrine, making it a rare but exquisite experience to see the shrine’s pretty red steps and tree boughs aglow.

Discover an illuminated Hanatouro Bridge in Arashiyama (from mid-December for about ten days) and explore the nearby Kimono and Bamboo Forests, where LED lights create a magical woodland trail.

From the end of January for a week, marvel at the mountainous heritage site of Kayabuki-no Sato as the entire village of thatched houses gets festive with handmade snow lanterns, food stalls, dance performances and cultural activities from mochi pounding through to traditional handiwork.

Bringing seasonal enchantment to Kyoto from late November through to late December, electrical company Rohm is behind the city’s largest illumination event featuring over 800,000 lights and loved by locals and visitors alike since 1995.

4. Dive into Kyoto’s Bathing Culture

An integral part of Japanese culture, bathing is considered a daily ritual of both purification and pleasure.

Guests at Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto can enjoy a complimentary soothing “ofuro” hot bath and sauna on the hotel’s wellness floor, B2 as well as at THE SPA.

Bathing has long been considered a social activity with locals heading to one of the city’s “sento”銭湯 or public baths to catch up with neighbours. A few sensational sentos remain in Kyoto, such as art-rich Funaoka Onsen Sento and Goko-yu Sento with its scalding hot sauna, perfect after a long hike.

Chase away winter’s chill with an invigorating soak in one of the city’s nearby “onsen”温泉, a natural hot spring. Kurama Onsen, 40 minutes from the Hotel, offers the exquisite experience of being surrounded by forested mountains while Arashiyama Onsen, just 30 minutes away, has views of Arashiyama.

5. Exclusive Winter Activities

Make winter your season of discovery in a country rich with specialities.

Fushimi, a sake-brewing district fed by the pure clean water of the Horikawa river, is a great place to start your winter Kyoto experience. From December to January, the breweries make fresh sake from the newly harvested Fall rice, and offer sake tastings, perfect for warming the body on a cold day. Ask our Concierge to recommend and reserve the best sake breweries at the time of your visit (there are 50 to choose from in Kyoto, including 19 in Fushimi!)

Throw yourself into the jubilant spirits of Hatsumode – Japan’s first shrine visit of the new year – by joining with locals in beautiful traditional dress Kimono to pray for a good year, enjoy food stalls and play games with prizes. Japanese people traditionally go to temples and shrines from January 1-15 – a unique experience to be a part of, if your trip allows. Our Concierges will be happy to share their insider knowledge on the best places to go.

Marvel at nature’s majesty from the comfort of a heated boat on the Hozu-gawa river: winter views include intriguing geologic formations covered with snow alongside colossal boulders, glimpses of the surrounding mountains, mysterious deep pools, and local flora and fauna.

Soak up the splendour of rare Japanese art at the ‘Kyo no fuyu no tabi’ (means Kyoto Winter Trip, 京の冬の旅) exhibition held at fifteen different city temples every year over more than 50 years. It is a unique opportunity to see each temple’s secret treasures, usually hidden from private view. Open from mid January to mid March.

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Do and Don’t Tips When Going Traveling by Backpacking

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There are many ways that tourists can enjoy a tour. For some people who like activities with clear plans, they can travel together with tour guides or travel packages, but for those who prefer activities without a schedule and more free, they can travel by backpacker way. Both are equally used to enjoy travel, only the method and process is different. If you use tour guides & travel packages, they are usually more time bound and need extra costs to pay for tour guides/buy travel packages at a predetermined price. Meanwhile, for backpackers, it is a tour that is carried out without the use of a tour guide. Usually individually or in small groups of 2-4 people. Backpacker can also be interpreted as someone who travels on a limited budget. So that in doing this trip usually many unexpected conditions can occur. However, backpacker travel has many advantages such as being able to feel the essence of travel more, getting to know many new people during the trip, practicing independence, and being able to more freely manage time and costs during the trip. In addition, because backpacking is carried out without a tour guide, there are usually infinite obstacles that can occur.

To minimize risks and problems that are not expected to be able to make some preparations before going backpacking. Here are 6 tips that can be do before traveling the backpacker way:

Do a detailed calculation before leaving. Before leaving for a backpacker, make sure your financial condition is sufficient so that the traveling process can be carried out calmly and comfortably without fear of running out of money. Try to detail any expenses that might occur so that we will not spend money carelessly and can keep costs down. So that travel planning is the first step that must be done to make the trip easier.

Conduct a survey by looking for information related to the places we will visit. This survey was carried out as a whole, namely tourist locations, lodging places, transportation that can be used and the normal range of food prices and transportation costs. This needs to be done in order to make it easier for us to do backpacking and avoid the possibility of being cheated by people or being priced more expensively. Because usually foreign tourists will get prices more expensive if they are not good at bargaining prices or if they don’t know the original price

Limit the items to be brought. This is done to avoid wasting space on the backpack that we use. Because later we will be traveling with a backpack, it is necessary to carry not too many items so that we are more free to travel and not be bothered with too many items.

Bring the important stuff. Important items that must be carried when doing this backpacking include: medicine needs to be carried because it makes it easier for us when sick or in a condition that requires temporary treatment so as to avoid bad things, then there are security devices, just in case it is necessary to bring at least one safety device that small and can be stored in a place that is easily accessible by hand, this is important in case something is dangerous. This safety device can be in the form of pepper spray, electric shock or etc. Then the next item that must be brought is money and cash. Carrying cash in small denominations is also important to make the payment process more effective and fast.

Use promos. When traveling to reduce costs, always check the promos available in various applications, be it promos for travel tickets, promos when buying food, hotel or other promos. As long as the promo can be used, it must be used as much as possible.

Make sure you have a healthy and optimal body condition. Health is one of the important things that must be taken care of before becoming a backpacker because if we travel with an unhealthy body condition, it is feared that we will fall ill at tourist sites so that we cannot enjoy vacation time. This is of course very unfortunate and not expected to happen.

While the above are tips that can be done before backpacking, there are also some things that should not be done when going on a backpacker trip. Some tips that should don’t or even avoided when backpacking include:

Don’t trust people easily. When traveling we must increase our anxiety and be more sensitive to conditions that we can experience at any time. Because crime sometimes arises because of our opportunities and carelessness. So that at any time when we are careless we can be deceived by bad people. Therefore, do not easily believe in suspicious offers and gifts from strangers.

Don’t do things that are not polite and litter when we go on a backpacker trip, both during the trip and when we arrive at our destination. We must be polite and courteous. So that we can travel comfortably without causing problems with other people.

Don’t want to be forced to buy an item, on a backpacker trip to a tourist spot there will be many traders who offer their wares and even tend to be pushy. But if you really don’t want to buy and don’t really need it, don’t buy the item even if you are forced to, this is important to save expenses. Because it would be better if we spend money to buy goods according to our wishes and according to initial planning.

By implementing do and don’t tips when traveling by backpacking, it is hoped that it can reduce problems that arise when backpacking. So that the tour can be enjoyed comfortably if no problems arise and enjoy the holiday according to their respective goals. Because everyone’s vacation goals can vary, some want to get to know new cultures, relax their minds, heal and rest in new places they have never visited.

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Kopi Luwak and Black Ivory Coffee: The Most Expensive Types of Coffee in The World

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In this world there are so many unique foods and drinks that come from every country. The uniqueness of this food and drink is often an attraction for other countries to visit to see the process of making and its unique taste. Because of this, many countries are competing to create unique food and beverage product innovations that can be recognized by people from other countries. Including in the field of coffee. Coffee itself is familiar to everyone and has become a universal drink in every country in the world. The original coffee taste has a bitter taste, but now there have been many modifications to the coffee blend, so there is also coffee that has a sweet and slightly sour taste. With a unique taste and distinctive aroma, coffee connoisseurs are increasing every year and as coffee connoisseurs increase, many coffee shops have sprung up. So the demand for coffee beans is also increasing rapidly. At first people enjoyed coffee with the aim of reducing drowsiness, but nowadays the purpose of people enjoying coffee is wider, such as starting activities, drinking with friends while relaxing and doing work to make them more concentrated and some people even make drinking coffee a lifestyle. This, of course, has to be seen from both sides, the positive side is that more coffee connoisseurs can increase sales and create more jobs. But the negative side of consuming too much coffee can be bad for health. Some diseases that can arise when consuming coffee exceeds the body’s tolerance limit, including insomnia, digestive problems, palpitations and headaches. Even though it has side effects, if you don’t consume too much coffee, it can be a drink that makes the mind relax.

There are many types of coffee in the world and they come from various countries. And for coffee lovers they will always want to taste the famous taste of coffee from each country to get personal satisfaction. Because usually people who like coffee have a tongue that is more sensitive and sensitive to the taste of coffee so they can give an assessment of whether the coffee tastes good or not. No wonder if a coffee can be priced very expensive if it is judged to have a uniqueness in terms of aroma, taste and manufacturing process. Among some of the most expensive types of coffee in the world, there are 2 types of coffee that come from animal waste and managed to become the most expensive coffee in the world. The meaning of animal waste here is that the animal is fed coffee and then it will be digested in the animal’s stomach and when the animal poops, the coffee beans will come out along with the animal waste, but the coffee beans are still intact or not crushed so they must be cleaned with special techniques to separates coffee beans from animal waste, before being processed into coffee that can be enjoyed. The 2 types of coffee that come from animal waste are black ivory coffee from Thailand and kopi luwak from Indonesia.

The first is black ivory coffee which is a type of arabica coffee. The price for this coffee is around $1000 per pound. Crowned as the most expensive coffee in the world because the process is quite complicated and unique, this is because this coffee comes from elephant dung. With the high price, this coffee can only be found in exclusive places. The reason why coffee is so expensive is because elephants have ineffective digestion. Of the approximately 33 kg of coffee beans that are fed, only 1 kg remains which can be further processed. In addition, the process of making coffee is quite long because elephants take about 15 hours (Joe Chang, 2017). For its own taste, this coffee has a unique taste and is not too bitter. This taste is created from the manufacturing process where elephant digestive enzymes can reduce the protein in coffee beans. Protein has a role to make coffee taste bitter. So the less protein in coffee, the lower the bitter taste. With a taste like this, elephant coffee can be combined with additional flavors or enjoyed with its original taste so that it makes the coffee taste even more delicious.

The second is kopi luwak. Kopi itself comes from Indonesian which means coffee, while luwak is civet. So this kopi luwak means coffee that comes from civet droppings. In the country of origin, kopi luwak comes from Java and Sumatra. kopi luwak costs around $160 per pound. The reason for the high cost of this coffee is because the process is quite complicated and its availability is not much. Civet has a unique habit of eating coffee, he only wants to eat coffee that is good quality so that the civet will choose good quality beans for himself. The fruit that is eaten will be digested by these animals, strangely the digestion of these animals cannot destroy the layer of coffee, only the flesh and skin of the fruit. Furthermore, the seeds will undergo a fermentation process (Sasame Coffee, nd). For its own taste, this coffee has a subtle and not too sour taste with a delicious distinctive aroma. This coffee has been exported to many countries and many coffee lovers like the taste of this kopi luwak. But there are also some who don’t like it because they can’t tolerate the process of making civet coffee. Like coffee that comes from elephant dung, civet coffee is also processed by repeated washing processes to ensure its cleanliness so that it is safe for consumption.

Black ivory coffee and kopi luwak are two proud products of their country of origin. Because the type of coffee that has become worldwide and managed to become the most expensive coffee in the world helped raise the names of the two countries, namely Thailand and Indonesia. There are still many unique and delicious types of coffee that we may not know about. In the future, it is undeniable that other unique coffees from various countries will appear following the culture of that country. Given the rapid advances in technology nowadays, it is possible to create new products resulting from the innovation of scientists that can be processed by entrepreneurs and marketed widely.

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A moment of peace in Jaipur, Rajasthan

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What made everything even better for me was the food curated by Executive chef Raj Singh. For every meal, there was a different set up in a different area.The first meal we had was in the outdoors candle lit area overlooking the rest of Kukas. This was during the wedding season so we saw firecrackers light up the sky. It was a beautiful ambience for dinner. The next day, we had breakfast by the pool where a specially curated breakfast menu was presented to us. Their pool side has many peacocks and I could spot them from my breakfast table. It was an Instagram worthy spot for food. Next up, I also had lunch on the balcony of my tented room. It was a great experience in itself.

Being a Rajasthani myself, I have often found myself wondering where I can try the best Marwari food. And not surprisingly, I have always found it in Rajasthan. The aloo dum, paneer masala, dal, batti, churma has unnervingly been the best in Rajasthan. By far, I can also vouch for having tried the best pastas, pizzas and desserts in Rajasthan considering it is now the hub of destination weddings in India. My stay at Rajasthali Resort and Spa was no less and the food was culturally representative of the heritage that I also carry within myself. Speaking of the Marwari community, I am working on a book titled, “The Culture Trap” focusing on Rajasthani culture and the Marwari community. The book should be out later in 2022. It is a great read for everyone planning to visit Rajasthan, especially those who want to know more about local culture and folklore.

Traditional architecture

Another thing I loved about Rajasthali Resort and Spa is their grand entrance gate. As soon as I reached the palace, I felt like I was entering like Rajasthani royalty itself. The grand gates and small sculptures on the way to the gate were mesmerizing. I felt teleported to another century and time. Most people don’t know this but Rajasthan has had many wars in the past, hence it has numerous forts like Nahargarh in the city. During wars, most Kings would live in tents with the best facilities, special chefs, great food, leopard skins, grand mirrors, chandeliers and everything their palace would have. Even now, the tent theme is popular at some hotels in Rajasthan and provides an exotic getaway escapade. Rajasthali Resort and Spa also has tent shaped rooms where people can stay among other properties in the region.

I also experienced some traditional architecture at City Palace and Hawa Mahal in Jaipur, perhaps the two most common spots for travelers in the region. One really needs to keep their stuff safe while on a visit. Pickpockets are common and even more common are overcharging shops selling local handicrafts. Rajasthani hospitality is otherwise one of the best things anyone could ever experience.

Things to do in Jaipur

A famous activity in Rajasthan is leopard sighting. This is increasingly famous in the JAWAI regions of Jaipur. To my dismay, the safari was fully booked when I was there. I would definitely recommend you to book it in advance to avoid missing out on the experience. If you are up for visiting a monkey temple, you can even explore Galtaji Temple on the outskirts of Jaipur. It is a unique experience to be climbing on steps to get a view of a holy lake with monkeys following you around. Just don’t make eye contact. They might steal your phone or sunglasses, anything on the loose. I once lost my milk bottle as a baby and the monkeys never gave it back. Holidays indeed make up for stories of a lifetime. Rajasthali Resort and Spa, where I stayed, had some beautiful cycling tracks around. I cycled amidst nature and viewed peacocks at sunset. It was one of the most mesmerizing and detoxing experiences of my life. For all those who care, peacocks are my favorite birds. They’re magnificent, colorful and beautiful. You might even choose to venture out for a swim and trust me, it will be worth it. Swimming in the pink city with the sun soaking on your body can be more relaxing than even the best spa in the city. Being a Mumbai girl, I need some peace and quiet and gladly I found my spot in Jaipur.

Finding myself

What holidays are about most of all is finding ourselves. I was glad to get a moment of peace from my fast paced life in Mumbai. All I needed was a break and I finally got it close to my native town. Rajasthan is my home. It runs through my veins. “Padharo Mhare Des.” If you know, you know.

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