Pleasant Meal after an Unpleasant Ride

Kyoto - Saga-Arashiyama Train Station

16th July 2010. Written by Xin Li.

Trains are an indispensable part of Japanese daily life. The iconic Fuji-san scenery always comes with a shinkansen streaking past the famous snow-capped mountain in postcards, tourism posters, desktop backgrounds, magazine covers and more. Travelling by train in Japan is part of the Japanese travel experience.

Haruka Express : Kansai International Airport to Kyoto

The train ride from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto wasn’t cheap. It cost about 2980 – 3200+ yen and takes about 78 minutes via the Haruka Limited Express. However, cheaper alternatives (and longer travelling time) can be found in the OKK Bus, Airport Limited Express + Transfers from Osaka to a train heading to Kyoto.

Kyoto - Saga-Arashiyama Train Station

Thankfully, there is a JR-West Rail Pass (Kansai) which you could purchase for 2000 yen (1 day) to take the Haruka Express from the airport to Kyoto (and use it to go Uji, Arashiyama or Biwa-ko within the same day by JR for free) It was convenient and designed for travelers like us.

Kyoto - Sagano Line

On to the intra-city travel via train, my companions and I got the chance to observe the train conductor at the front of the train on our way back from Saga-Arashiyama Station to Kyoto Station. It is quite interesting to watch with all his hand actions such as pointing at some button in front of him and giving a field signal to advance forward while shouting out some commands and the likes of it out loud alone as the train travels from station to station.

Kyoto - Sagano Line

Enough with the train conductor, the most frightening part about travelling by train is how packed the train can get. In our case, due to the rainy weather and it was time for workers to knock off. The passengers boarding the train were grossly disproportionate to the passengers getting off the train. In short, we were packed like sardines!

Kyoto - Sagano Line

There was even a poor kid whose face was being squashed against the window. It was something unseen of in Singapore. Girls (or maybe even guys in this century) have to watch out too. Those squeezing and pushing provides opportunities for some mischief on the train, be it theft or lust.

Kyoto - Sagano Line

When we finally reached Kyoto Train Station, there was a mad rush to get out off the train for precious oxygen and breathing space. Think of it, when I got back to Singapore and saw the news about the complaint about MRTs in Singapore getting more crowded, I thought it was nothing compared to the situation we had in Kyoto. But, hopefully our MRTs won’t be like that.

You can probably read this in Lonely Planet, Frommers, Fodors etc. Train rides within Kyoto would cost around 210 yen to 260 yen, the JR lines would be free as long as it is being covered under the JR West Rail Pass or the Japan Rail Pass. There are also quite a few private rail lines. The Keihan lines are quite useful for travelling between Inari, Gion and Sanjo. A train ride from Kyoto Station to Saga Arashiyama Station would have cost you 230 yen for a single one-way ticket.

UCC Café Plaza - Interior

After the ordeal on the train, I had dinner with my brother and his girlfriend at the UCC Café Plaza located at Karasuma-Shichijo Dori near Higashi Honggan-ji Temple. The café was managed by UCC company, a supplier of coffee in Japan found in 1933 in the city of Kobe. UCC stands for Ueshima Coffee Co. Ltd and you will find many of their coffees in cafes and restaurants around Kyoto, Japan and perhaps around the world.

The café interior would remind you of those of Starbucks with a bit of Delifrance in it. The main course menu doesn’t offer many choices about only 6 items in contrast to the dessert menu which offers crepes, waffles, cakes etc. Each of them comes with a drink which you could request to be taken out, hence slashing the price to about 2 thirds or half.

UCC Café Plaza - Yaki Curry

My brother had the Yaki Curry which came with a bowl of salad costing 600 yen (without drink). The Yaki Curry is actually baked rice with Japanese curry and cheese. It stood apart from those Swensen’s baked rice with its nice balance of cheese and curry. The curry flavour was actually toned down a bit so that it won’t taste so heavy together with the cheese. The only downside of this dish is the scarcity of chicken or beef in the baked rice. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the curry.

UCC Café Plaza - Beef Curry

My brother’s girlfriend had the Beef Curry for 550 yen without drink. The beef curry was very fragrant and extremely tasty with generous chunks of tender beef.

UCC Café Plaza - Hamburger Steak

From the looks from it, the Hamburger Steak (630 Yen with salad + bread) looked quite rough but it turned out to be deceptively delicious! I thoroughly enjoyed my hamburger steak, a thick patty of well-seasoned minced meat with not hint of fatty bits and every slice bite was a delightful sensation of juicy, smooth and tender beef melting in your mouth. The experience was heavenly. The savory sauce that came with it was equally good. The vegetables were nicely cooked and the patty was consistent throughout.

UCC Café Plaza - Hamburger Steak

The salad that came with my main course deserves to be commended for the fresh crunchy vegetables and I like how corn was used instead of the usual croutons. It was a light and refreshing salad, I could taste citrus in it.

UCC Café Plaza - Salad with Bread

I normally don’t expect much from chain restaurants and stores. However, UCC Café Plaza is actually quite good and reasonably priced, for less than 1000 yen you could have a decent western set meal here. They also offer western breakfast meals.

UCC Café Plaza - Salad

Unfortunately, for people with sensitive noses, smoking is allowed indoors. But, there is a non-smoking area located at the entrance area. You could still sniff out the faint smell of cigarettes there. Nonetheless, when compared to elsewhere the air here considered better than a few cafes visited in Kyoto which smelt like a smoking den.

UCC Café Plaza - Hamburger Steak

UCC Café Plaza - Higashi Hongan-ji Branch
UCCカフェプラザ 京都東本願寺前店




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