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  • Day23

    Kyoto

    October 28, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ☀️ 0 °C

    Our next stop after Tokyo was due to be Kanazawa and the surrounding countryside, however, unfortunately due to Typhoon Hagibis, the train lines were damaged and we were unable to get there. So we changed our plans and decided to go to Kyoto a few days earlier. This was our first chance to experience the Shinkansen (bullet train), which covered the 370km journey in just over two hours. As with all the public transport here in Japan, it arrived exactly at the time it was scheduled to. The journey was really smooth and it didn’t seem like we were travelling at the high speeds we were going. It was a really clear day so we got a great view of Mount Fuji along the way, which was an added treat.

    We stayed in a studio apartment at Kyoto Artstay Nishijunsutematsu, in a quiet area in the north of the city. After checking in we got the bus to the city centre and walked around the Gion and Pontocho area. This part of the city is famous for spotting Geishas, wearing the traditional Japanese dress. There are also lots for lovely little restaurants and bars to visit. We went for dinner in a restaurant called Teppanyaki Manryu. This popular restaurant only holds 14 people with 4 members of staff, two chefs, one cleaning the dishes and one waiter. We were lucky to get a place at the table, as then next people who arrived were turned away. We soon found out why this restaurant was so popular as the food was delicious and we ended up ordering eight dishes between the two of us! We knew that night that Kyoto was going to be an enjoyable place for us.

    Next day, we visited Nijo Castle and the beautiful gardens. Unfortunately it was a very wet day so to escape the rain we went into the Ninomaru-goten Palace (Y1,030/€8.50) on the grounds of the castle. Inside the palace, there were various rooms where the walls are painted with lovely murals of animals and flowers. It was a nice way to stay dry for an hour. We then walked to the Imperial Palace just in time for the one hour English tour. Unfortunately some of the main buildings were being refurbished so we missed out on some of the main buildings. But we got great information about the history of Kyoto and the Palace from the guide.

    That evening we went to the Samurai and Ninja museum (Y3,000/€24.90), where we learned about the history of samurai and ninjas in the ancient Japanese society. We then got to put on the samurai suits and helmets and pose for pictures with the swords. We finished with having a competition where we got to throw shuriken against the wall and blew arrows to hit a target, just like the ninjas would when they were fighting. We ended the day by having dinner in Pontocho alley with Kevin and Shauna.

    The following day was another rainy day so we decided to have a chill out day and went to play pool in Round One. This consisted of five floors of arcade games, pool tables and bowling alleys. Even in the middle of the day it was really busy with students and workers having some fun. We went for a lovely dinner in Salvatore Cuomo, where we sat along the waterfront, watching everyone walking by. After dinner we walked to the Yasaka Shrine which was lovely all lit up in the night lights.

    Day four in Kyoto, meant we moved to our original hotel we had booked which was situated close to Kyoto station. This was great for being able to get the bus to temples on the outskirts of the city. We bought ourselves a bus day pass which cost us Y600 (€5) allowing us unlimited travel for the day around the city. First stop was Toji Temple (Y600/€5), made up of a huge five story pagoda and two buildings with large Buddha statues inside the darkened room. The room was so dark that one of the security guard was falling asleep while standing upright!

    Next we got a bus across the city to Sanjusangen-do Temple (Y500/€4.15), which had a 120 metre long room with 1001 golden statues. There were beautiful gardens outside which we walked around in the sunshine. We then decided to get some lunch before continuing on with our day. The nearest restaurant turned out to be ‘The Grill’ at Hyatt Regency Hotel. So we treated ourselves to a lovely steak sandwich and apple crumble. It was nice to take a break from Asian food and have some Western for a change, even if it was very fancy and we felt undressed in our casual travelling clothes. In fact, at one point when I went to the bathroom, the waiter came over to escort me to the door.

    After lunch, we hopped on the bus to the beautiful Ginkakiyi Temple (Silver Pavilion), where we walked through the lovely gardens while the sun was setting. Then we walked down the Path of Philosophy from the Silver Pavilion to Nyakuoji-jinja Shrine.

    The journey back to town was an interesting one. When we followed Google Maps directions to the first bus stop, the stop didn’t exist. The second one we went to wasn’t in operation on Saturdays. As we were going to the third stop, we saw the bus coming so we ran to it before realising it was full. However as with all the public transport system in Japan, we didn’t have to wait too long for the next one.

    We meet Elaine in Man in the Moon pub where we watched the England v New Zealand (19:7) semi final. When we arrived, I realised that I had got the time of the match wrong and arrived an hour late! But at least we got to see a good second half.

    After the match we wandered around to find a place for dinner. We came across a Japanese restaurant down an alleyway behind some sliding doors. We had to take shoes off before being seated upstairs. After consulting the limited English menu, we ordered a variety of local dishes including beef rolls and chicken sukiyaki hotpot. We also decided to order a bottle of sake (Japanese rice wine) between us. The sake arrived with the starters and to our surprise the waiter brought one huge bottle of sake with one small glass. We realised we should have ordered four glasses so instead we just took a four drinks from the glass to the amusement of the waiter. After a short wait the main course hotpot dish arrived, with a bowl of four eggs. The waiter told us to crack a raw egg into our service bowl first before dishing the hot stew into the bowl and mixing it together. We were all very unsure about it but it actually turned out quite nice! The whole meal including drinks worked out at about €30 each which was very reasonable for the amount of food we got. Before leaving I went to the bathroom where I had to put on a pair of clogs to wear on the tiles in the toilet. More evidence of how hygiene was so important and respected in Japan.

    The next morning we got up and got the JR train to the Fushumi Inari Shrine, which has the famous orange arches. It was really busy with tourists at the bottom taking pictures, however as we walked further up the mountain it was a lot quieter and easier to take photographs without having other people in them. We walked around the 40 minute loop of Mount Inari, getting to see all the beautiful gates.

    Next we walked to Tokukiyi Temple, which was another temple with lovely buildings, however unfortunately half of the gardens were closed for restorations. Then we decided to get the bus to Kiyomizu-deru Temple (Y400/€3.30) but this was again was under restoration, so it was difficult to get a good view of the main buildings.

    We went for lunch at Smile Burger where we got delicious burgers with crisps instead of chips as a side! This kept us fuelled for the rest of the afternoon. We then got the bus back into town to the Manga museum in Kyoto university. Afterwards we walked to Nishiki Market to view the stalls. We finished the day by going back to the Man in the Moon pub to watch the semi final between South Africa v Wales (16:9).

    For our final day in Kyoto, we first went to Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) (Y400/€3.30), where we walked around the beautiful surroundings. On our way out we were stopped by local school children who wanted to ask us some questions in English. As a thank you gift they gave us a postcard and information leaflet about their town.

    Next we went to the Ryoan-ji temple (Y500/€4.15), which was made up of a gravel stone garden and various ponds and gardens. While we were waiting for the bus a group of older school children stopped to practice their English and asked us about our favourite Japanese food. They were also very interested in finding out about Ireland and what it was like. We finished by going to the Bamboo forest and kimono forest in Arashiyama.

    We ended our time in Kyoto by going back to Teppanyaki Manryu for another lovely dinner. Kyoto has been an amazing part of the trip. Lots of cultural things to do and it’s been nice to get away from the madness of Tokyo!
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