Japan | Kyoto: March 23-26, 2018

March 23, 2018

In Kyoto! Interesting journey through busy Tokyo and the Shinkansen (bullet train, which we actually caught the wrong one first but people were very helpful and so caught the right one at the next station), vending machines galore (with ramen), old shrines, cherry blossoms starting to bloom, stores selling samurai armour and walking the narrow byways to our apartment where each building is a few inches apart! (How do they fix the siding?!)

March 24, 2018

Sweet day exploring Kyoto’s must-see spots. Only here for two days, so making the most of it even though travelling for the last ten days is catching up!
1) Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and Tenryu-Ji temple - a secluded grove of crazy tall bamboo trees surrounded us as we walked past throngs of tourists. In spite of that, the sight is quite spectacular to behold and is really tranquil if you look deep into the thicket of bamboos. As usual, Karthik and Kaelen found sticks to pick up and use for walking. Also, explored the Tenryu-ji temple nearby - important for its significance to Zen Buddhism - but we loved the Sakura (cherry blossoms) and manicured gardens with crazy variety of flowering trees. The trail is quite long and a “gem” we found along the way was this musician playing an instrument called the Handpan. It sounded so captivating and the setting against bamboo trees in the background only made it all the more ethereal.

2) The trail takes you to a more commercial, touristy area where we scarfed down some tasty treats - rice balls, custard stuffed waffles, curry bread, croquettes! We then caught the Sagano scenic railway also called the Romantic Train. Some really amazing vistas on this slow train snaking it’s way beside the Hozukyo Gorge!

3) Made our way back into Kyoto to the Ginkaku-ji temple, famous for its golden pavilion set on a small lake. Karthik and Kaelen rang the big gong before we entered and the pavilion was simply breathtaking. Pictures don’t do it justice as they don’t convey how delicate and exquisite it was. Truly deserved the throng of tourists milling about (don’t believe we’ve come across more tourists concentrated in one place).

After coming back to our apartment, Karthik then took a bike (courtesy of our Airbnb host) and brought us back some super delicious Japanese curry and rice. We all inhaled it in a hurry... with Kaelen almost finishing an adult sized portion!

March 25, 2018

Went to this magical place in the heart of Kyoto (Fushimi-Inari), unlike any we’ve seen. Read on if you have some patience!

A Shinto shrine dedicated to the god Inari, it actually sprawls up the entirety of a mountain. The trail is marked by thousands of “Torii” or gates coloured in a beautiful vermillion. It’s really cool walking through the densest portion where it’s a literal tunnel of Torii. Too many tourists again, but that’s to be expected!

We went up maybe a third? Don’t know, but we were fulfilled! And took an unexpected detour off the beaten path to find a bamboo grove we could explore all to ourselves! It was actually Kaelen who found it!

A cool experience, all in all!

And oh - it was Pokémon community day and we happened to be here for the three hours it was on. Couldn’t believe the pokestops lined up here. Pokémon is everywhere!

After Fushimi-Inari, checked out Kyoto’s famed “Philosopher’s Walk”, a path along a canal lined with flowering trees. We are a few days out before the Sakura (cherry blossom) really blooms here in Kyoto, so while it was peaceful, it wasn’t as impressive as it could’ve been. And we were all pooped!

Headed over for a quick visit to the Gion district (also known as the Geisha district). And while there were no authentic Geisha walking about (not that we were expecting it!), it was interesting to see the traditional wooden houses that probably date back many hundreds of years. Ate some great Japanese food again, this time udon noodles and okonami savory pancakes stir fried in front of you. Seriously, Kaelen gobbled it up... we feel he was definitely Japanese in a previous life given how he savours the cuisine!

Off to Tokyo tomorrow.

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