Thursday, July 2, 2015

Japan: Kyoto Day 1

Hey Wanderlusters,

Finally here's our first day trip to my most favourite city in Japan, Kyoto. You can read another day trip to Kyoto here and previous post about Osaka. So much to see that one day wasn't enough.  Glad that we made a decision to visit this wonderful down to earth city. Despite being a huge city Kyoto still maintains its tradition and heritage. There are lots of places here ending with "ji" meaning temple or shrine. If you are interested about Japan I have more entries under the Japan tagline.

Here's a golden pavillion. It's one of a famous landmark in Kyoto.

Here's a summary of where we went on the first day trip to Kyoto. Basically we circled around the north part of Kyoto then on the second time we circle the south side.


 Start our day with a typical express breakfast. That dorayaki muffin is so yum! No wonder Doraemon loves them. But I hate those triangle onigiri. They have a sourish taste

Having breakfast while waiting for our train at 7am. It was estimated 1.5 hour from Itami to Kyoto. We didn't stay overnight in Kyoto as this was only a day trip like Penang to Ipoh or Alor Setar. Do read my other post about why I'm staying at Itami.

The pink stripe is Tozai line. Don't take this one. You should take the blue one that goes to Hikone or Maibara if you want to go to Kyoto. Rapid will skip small stations and save time while local will stop at each station. Read more about how to ride a train in Japan.

It's ¥1280 because in order to ride the Torokko Kameoka scenic train, we have to reach Umahori station which is along Sagano line. Interchange needed at Kyoto station. Our plan was to ride downstream from Kameoka to Arashiyama but another option is you can ride from Arashiyama to Kameoka. Anyway, it took us 1 hour 15mins to get to our destination from Itami. It's a shorter distance when you're staying in Kyoto.

One of the beautiful scenery towards Kyoto. Housing areas are compact that you can barely see undeveloped land. I prefer Korean countryside coz the houses are more sparse and cuter. You should check out my South Korea honeymoon.

You can see here hubby is surrounded by Japanese schoolgirls lol. It's a  typical guys dream rite? As soon as we arrived Kyoto main station we rushed to transfer to Sagano line at Kyoto station because it was already 9am. We did take photos of the magnificently grand and modern station when we return. 


Lo and behold the scenery changed drastically. We passed by tunnels after tunnels and rivers after rivers. It would be a lot more beautiful in autumn so I always advise everyone to visit Japan during November when all the leaves turn red, orange and yellow.

As soon as we got down at Umahori station, we went whoa...

Aaaahhh!!! I can't get enough of the sawah padi. Malaysians will be like c'mon la your own country pun ade sawah. Ok ok next time I will try to wake up early and go to a paddy field and see how it feels like.

Here's the station to take the scenic train.

Torokko Kameoka opens at 9:35am but it was only 9:15am at that time so we explored its surroundings.

If you are feeling extreme, you might wanna glide down Hozu river. Actually, there's another way to ride down the Hozu river that is to take the 2-hour Hozugawa River Cruises (保津川下り). The cruises utilize traditional style, flat bottomed boats piloted by boatmen who guide the craft with oars and bamboo poles. So it's fully manpower, no motor. If not mistaken it costs ¥4000 for one-way!


Let's buy the tickets. Unfortunately you cannot choose your seats and cabin. If you are lucky you might get the seat facing the river.


It costs ¥600 per person per way on a 30min ride which is why I suggest you to take JR up to Umahori station then ride from Kameoka to Arashiyama then straight to the bamboo groove (the one you see on windows wallpaper). Smart plan isn't it?

These racoon dogs known as tanuki are natives to Japan. You can find their figurines almost at every shop and restaurants in Kyoto. Notice the male ones have large hanging balls. Tanuki is a type of Japanese racoon dog. Similar to kitsune (fox spirit), tanuki has been significant in Japanese folklore since ancient times. The legendary tanuki is known to have reputation of being mischievous and a master of disguise and shape-shifting.

 Hozukyo is a mid-station between here and Arashiyama. You have the option to get down.

 Across the station, we can see the villages of Kameoka.

Here comes the choo choo train which took like 10 minutes since we spotted it coming through the whimsical tree tunnel.

 I wasn't quite happy with the seating but we moved upwards to cabin 5 the semi open air cabin later on.

 Imagine if you ride on the ¥4000 man-powered sampan I mentioned earlier would be quite an adventure.

See the JR train on the bridge? We crossed this spot when we came earlier. You will pass the river 5-6 times on your way to Umahori station when you are on the JR.

 At Hozukyo mid station but we did not get down.

 After half an hour, it's time to get down at Arashiyama.

 You will be told to get off at this station which will lead you directly to the awesome bamboo groove.

Just outside of the station you will see arrows leading to the world famous bamboo forest that you can find in most wallpapers. But first must walk uphill.

 Wahhhh!!! It looks exactly like a poster!

 We thought this was a police car but it's a cab. I didn't know cars could use this narrow pathway.

 Romantic stroll with your loved ones at Sagano bamboo park is a wonderful experience.

After 10 minutes of strolling in the bamboo forest, you will come upon Nonomiya Shrine.

You can write your name and your wish on the wooden plates.

Most temples and shrines in Japan have large bells for you to make a wish but you should donate some coins into the box in front. After you made your wish, ring the bell by swinging the rope. Don't worry, it's not loud.

Do you know how Japanese pray? No matter Buddhists or Shinto, they clap their hands once or twice then only pray.
 
 Similar to Taiwanese and Koreans, Japanese also embrace this make-a-wish culture.

Why Japanese pray to fox as their deity? They are referred as "kitsune". Folklore depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. Among these is the ability to assume human form. Kitsune have become closely associated with Inari, a Shinto kami or spirit, and serve as its messengers. The more tails a kitsune has (they may have as many as nine) the older, wiser, and more powerful it is. Because of their potential power and influence, some people make offerings to them as to a deity

Besides Kitsune (fox spirit), bells and wishing corners in Japanese shrines, Tsukubai is another significant thing you can find. Tsukubai is a small basin provided in Japanese temples for visitors to purify themselves by the ritual washing of hands and rinsing of the mouth. This type of ritual cleansing is also the custom for guests attending a tea ceremony but I saw that it has become a tourist thing to saja-saja wash hands and drink.

This was outside of the entrance of the bamboo park.

Must try mochi and macha (green tea) ice-cream if you visit Japan.

Yummy! This half mocha half macha was only ¥250.

A puppet museum and a beautiful random restaurant. I was frowning because my ice-cream melted.

Child guardians by the roadside. If you are a Japanese do enlighten me about this I am interested to know more.

We detoured into this Unesco heritage temple, Tenryu-ji. Entrance fees about ¥500 but we just hang around the garden.

This was along the path to Tenryuji temple so I wasn't sure if it was a house or a part of the temple but it was so pretty and calming.


A building outside of Tenryu-ji Zen Temple. We did not go in because we were out of time.

Here's a small shrine outside of the main temple. As usual, there's always a wishing bell.

After a short walk of around 5 minutes (if you can ignore the attractive tourist stores around) you will reach Togetsukyo a.k.a Moon Crossing Bridge.

 Spot the wooden raft. That's the ¥4000 2-hour man-powered sampan I explained in earlier pics.

 Hubby dragged me to this spot and I went whoa didn't know there is a beautiful hidden spot.

Actually I saw a very cute mascular penarik beca but I was too shy to take his picture then he got away. Basically the trishaw carriers are very young and fit but not all are handsome. It seemed like my mission in Japan is to manhunt =.="

Random girls in yukata. Anyway the whole stretch of this road is filled with touristy souvenir shops and restaurants. If I had more time I'll explore one by one.

This is Arashiyama Randen which is a tram station. According to my itinerary we are supposed to ride this but I don't know anything about the lines and stops so we dare not take the risk

We walked like a kilometer to Saga Arashiyama JR station and went through some housing area with pretty cute cottage and traditional houses.

This is Saga Torokko where you can ride the scenic train I took earlier to Kameoka. Its just a reverse of my journey.

At Saga Arashiyama JR station to our next destination, Nijo Castle. Believe it or not this was our lunch.

We got off at Nijo-jo mae via JR and had to walk for about 12mins to reach Nijo Castle. Its very easy to spot the castle. Once you see the fortress and moat then you are not lost.

As written on the board behind me, adult is ¥500 per entry. Most tourist spots open from 9am - 4pm.

 After the ticket booth entrance there's another entrance.

The main entrance to the main palace...so grand kan?

Finally here's the main palace shot at the same angle as the brochure.

The landscapes are fantastic here. Eve better when it's spring or autumn. Do take note you are not allowed to setup tripod here and many other tourist attractions.
We climbed up one of the fort and ha this awesome bird's eye view. Maple trees started showing signs of autumn.

There were two paths that lead to the exit and I chose this one coz it looked so attractive. Then I regretted coz found out the other path has a beautiful pond. You can find similar path like this at Philosopher's Path (哲学の道).

We sat for nearly an hour in Kyoto City bus and it was damn crowded.

Here's the entrance to Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion). Opening hours 9am - 5pm. Entrance fees ¥400.


My goodness! So many tourists despite the rain.

Everyone wanted the best spot to take this shot.

The magnificently golden temple walls are covered in gold leaves. I'm not kidding. However, you are not allowed to enter the pavillion.

We followed the crowd as well as the arrow guide and it lead us up a slope. Here's a mini waterfall.

We came upon a temple. Everybody's smelling the fragrant from the josstick but when I tried, I smell nothing but usual smoke smell.

After like an hour ride on the city bus again because it had like 20 stops along Shijo street, we arrived at Gion.

Here's another entrance with white lanterns. Prettier than the first entrance right?

 The main temple of Yasaka.

 So many shrines here.

Here is the main stage where performances are held during festival. If you come in mid July like 14 - 23 you'll be lucky to experience the Gion Matsuri. There will be massive parade and endless activities and food for you to try. Remember to put on a traditional yukata and join the fun!


 In the same area, walk further up from Yasaka shrine and you will arrive Maruyama park.

 I don't know if they were warriors or philosophers.

From the entrance we went in just now, just walk across the road for geisha sighting which is what makes Kyoto special from other cities. Remember not to point camera directly at them.

 Now we are on our way for geisha sighting along Shijo Avenue. Peak hours from 5 - 6:30pm.

This hanamachi (geisha community) is full of ochaya (tea house) and machiya (traditional townhouse). There you go, learn a few Japanese terms. It took me less than 2 months to learn up basic Japanese.

Thanks to the angmo guy who was standing at this junction for a very long time. Must be geisha hunting like we did coz there's a small lorong where taxis drive in and out every minute.

Haha we saw some...maiko (apprentice geisha) are usually accompanied by onee-san (mentor). It's very rare to see a geisha nowadays coz the taxi drops them right in front of the tea house and they walk super duper fast.

But you can easily see wannabes wandering around the streets dressed up like them but not in full makeup and hairdo.

 The sky was getting dark so we had to give up geisha hunting and start hunting for food.

 Minamiza theater where geisha perform. It's just at the end of Gion main road.

 This restaurant looked cozy and attractive so we just went in.

It's a very typical small Japanese restaurant with affordable set meals. That blue file was my masterplan but now throw away already.


Hubby had chicken cutlet and udon set.

I had a very delicious katsudon.

We finally arrived back at Kyoto Station. Here's Kyoto Tower which looks like our Menara KL.

View my Instagram for a short video of this musical fountain. It's one of the earlier videos maybe more than 80 weeks or so. Or you can simply search for these dancing fountains on YouTube.

 Tower and bus station.

 Exterior of the station. So huge and contemporary right?

 Interior of Kyoto main station. We walked around the mall on another day coz it's getting late already.

¥950 to go back to Itami from Kyoto and it took about 1 hour plus because we transited at Osaka-eki.

Supper after our tired day in Kyoto. You really must try instant noodles, bento and amazing selection of desserts in Family Mart. See you on the next post about another day trip to Kyoto where we visit the famous Fushimi Inari and Kiyomizudera.

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