Koyasan is another of those places that appears on almost every Japanese itinerary I looked at – it’s a small town full of Buddhist temples which double up as tourist accommodation, way up a mountain. Much like our earlier trip to Hakone, it appealed to me because it was a brief foray into nature for some peace and quiet between big cities, and also because it was a chance to have a massive vegan feast in traditional accommodation (more on that tomorrow!).
We travelled from Osaka by train, cable car (if you are scared of heights, it’s quite a terrifying experience), and bus, and finally arrived at Koyasan feeling hungry. Most of the temples serve vegan food, but there were also a few cafes with vegan options too, so we made a beeline for Bon On Shya Cafe which is located on the main (only?) road through town. It was a lovely place, which was a gallery as well as cafe. There was limited seating, but we managed to squeeze in.
There’s a daily lunch option, and if you specify when ordering they will bring the vegan set. It was one of the best lunches we had on the trip! The star of the show was the aubergine quiche, which had the most beautiful thin pastry. The accompaniments were also fun: bread topped with delicious pesto; potato and pumpkin salad in a creamy tofu dressing; refreshing quinoa with tomato and tofu; spicy beans; mock meat with green peppers; and the usual brown rice and green salad. There was an exciting variety of dishes, and we found them all really great.
There was also a vegan dessert, which would have been rude to turn down. We ordered it with soy milk chai masala, which was absolutely bursting with flavour! I’m not a big fan of Japanese tea, so this was exactly what I’d been waiting for. As for the cake, it was a berry tofu cheesecake which had a fruity, creamy topping, and…
…a biscuit base! FINALLY! A vegan cheesecake with an actual biscuit base is essentially the Holy Grail as far as I’m concerned, and here it was. It was perfect. Why can’t this be the standard? Nobody wants a soggy, flimsy little base.
I’m sure some people travel to Koyasan seeking enlightenment and a spiritual experience. I felt like I got everything I was searching for in that piece of cheesecake.
Have you ever found the perfect cheesecake where you least expected it?
I have never actually had vegan cheesecake. However, a friend did prepare a raspberry chocolate tart once that made me absolutely swoon. The nutty crust, the creamy filling, the fresh berry topping…ah. But I definitely know what you mean saying you got everything you were searching for in a piece of cheesecake. Maybe that IS a spiritual experience!
Hearing about the mostly vegan food near all the temples makes me think of the article I read about seitan. The author was Asian American (I think Chinese?) and wasn’t vegan, but always loved eating the mock meats when visiting the temple to pay his respects to his relatives. It was pretty much an ode to seitan, and how it is overshadowed by these new super fake meats.
I think the best vegan cheesecake is the daiya one. I wasn’t expecting it to taste so good. But I don’t eat too many desserts when out so I don’t know what I am missing out on. lol
There’s a lot to be said for good old-fashioned seitan!