**Ahem** Right, anyway.. we got a 10am Shinkansen from Shinigawa, having picked up breakfast croissants and lunchtime sandwiches from Viron in Shibuya en route… Hello Deliciousness!
Once we arrived in Kyoto, we maintained the whole ‘avoid taxis’ routine (with a US$7 starting fare, rides very quickly add up) and wandered over to the bus station. They have volunteers near the main station to help you figure out which bus you need but unfortunately, the man helping us put us on the wrong bus. Moral of the story: Don’t feel like you have to hurry off when someone has told you where they think you need to go – take your time and figure it out properly! When using the buses here, you enter from the back entrance and leave from the front, paying your fare (usually 230JPY) as you leave. Buses only accept exact change, but each bus has a note converter at the front. Top Tip for buses: When you leave the bus on your first journey of the day, don’t pay the single fare and ask the driver for a day ticket instead – 500 JPY per person. You have to validate the ticket the first time you use it and on subsequent journies within the city ring, just show the side with the date on it to the driver. Buses do end earlyish in Kyoto – around 9 or 10pm, so decide whether you need a pass based on when you arrive.
Kyoto is considered the cultural capital of Japan and with its plethora of temples, gardens and other sights it certainly lives up to it. Next time I’m tempted to fly straight into Osaka and spend a few more days in Kyoto and the surrounding area. Just a thought.
It was glorious weather in Kyoto when we arrived, so like all good tourists, we headed straight to The Golden Pavillion. Now here is something that I hadn’t thought of before: tourist hot spots such as the Golden Pavilion will likely be busy whatever time you go to see them, but places such as Arashiyama and Fushiama Inari Taisha are likely to be quieter in the morning as they are a little on the outskirts, so plan your trip accordingly.
From here, we visited the Daisen-in temple garden in the Daitoku-ji complex – some of the temples close at 1630, with last entry at 1600, so we weren’t able to see a lot and where we did go, photography was prohibited, but actually, it was really nice to just look with your eyes and take in the view, rather than rushing to see it through a little camera or iPhone screen. Japanese Zen could teach us all a thing or two.
One of my favourite things about Japan is the Ramen, but as you know, finding the veggie stuff for Raj is often a challenge. Having spent some time on tripadvisor, we realised that the chain Ippudo had a branch nearby, and although there was nothing veggie on the menu, trip advisor assured us that you just had to ask. So we went and asked and they got it – big thumbs up for the international chain that caters to all diets!! We ate here two nights so enamoured with the Ramen we were and I tried both types of Pork Ramen which I loved! I ordered a side of veggies as well, which I thought was the perfect accompaniement.
A quick stroll though the Nishiki Market and Karawachi area and bed made a lovely start to Kyoto.
The next couple of days were spent day tripping, and on Wednesday, before we left back to Tokyo, an early start was planned, but I was super tired, but despite a later start to the day, we managed to fit most things in. We started off at Fushiama Inari Taisha Shrine, which is also home to the pathway of Torii. It is a mild uphill hike to see all of it (I went about a quarter of the way) so dress appropriately and don’t forget the inset repellent! Next stop was Arashiyama (which we had to go to via Kyoto Station. But note: you can’t use Arashiyama Station on your JR pass, but the nearest JR station was close enough). Arashiyama is SUCH a gorgeous (short) walk and no pictures can capture the beauty of it, so spend time looking. Of course I did take some pictures, but the memory of it is what will stay with me.
Our penultimate stop was the Ginkakuji Temple, to see the Silver Pavilion & gardens. Much simpler than the Golden Pavilion, I think I might have liked it better! The only thing we didn’t manage to fit in was the Philosopher’s Path but there is always next time. The last thing we did in Kyoto was have some Ramen on the 10th floor of Kyoto Station – there is a weird ‘token’ system – you buy a token at a machine and exchange it for Ramen at one of the restaurants. We picked the one which had a huge ‘VEGETARIAN (NO MEAT OR FISH) RAMEN AVAILABLE’ sign outside it and were not disappointed.
After slurping (yes, slurping – it is considered polite to slurp in Japan) our fill, it was time for the last SHINKANSEN to Shinigawa for a quick overnight before an early flight home.
Although I have one more post to write about our trip to Miyajima Island and Hiroshima, this seems like the right time to say that although we only spent a week in Japan, it is one of the best places that I have ever been to, and I can’t wait to go back. Love you long time Japan xoxo