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We had a pretty packed itinerary today, Fushimi-inari Taishe (the temple and path with all the gates), another temple with a good view and Gion. Three big Kyoto hitters in one day.
Breakfast required first. Breakast is quite a fancy affair at the new hotel, where you can choose western or Japanese options with very attentive wait staff.
We both went for western to kick the day off (better the devil you know and all that). Eggs (scrambled & fried – half each) with bacon, orange juice (me), apple for Adam. A salad and some fruit for each of us (salad for breakfast has become less random).
Coffee, water and bread self serve – all nice enough with a nice little garden next door.
We were a bit later than hoped heading out (surprise surprise) and got to the station around 10am, where Adam was already considering his first grape Fanta of the day. Obsessed.
It was pretty easy to get to the temple – subway from just down the road, and then 2 stops on the JR line to Inari station. Simples. Outside Adam spotted more Fanta and decided the time was ripe. He has problems.
Going into Fushimi Inari its looks innocuous enough. Well busy – but pretty. We got up to the temples with the hordes of people and found a map, directing us to the famous torii gate walkway. Off we trundle, with no idea whats in store.
A few (maybe five) hundred (not even joking) gates ahead, and the crowds had thinned somewhat, though it was still busy. All the way up there were shrines where people rang bells and prayed. I wish I could tell you more about this, but being a typical Guijin I know nothing about the cultural significance of these shines.
Seriously flagging and it felt like we had been walking for a few hours through the gates when we found another map. WE WERE ONLY HALF WAY. WTF . We had plenty of stops for photos (probably why it took so long) but it felt like we should be so much further up.
Now Mr Barrowsmith and I love a good challenge so we were adamant that we were making it to the top. Come hell or high water. We needed some sustenance though so stopped off for some peanut crackers.
This was quite frankly, a mistake. That mountain is huge. And extreme ramblers we are not. We also decided the 30 minute gentle route up with the more steep 15 minute descent was the right way forward. (To get half way its more leisurely, not so steep but takes longer).
This was the right call but jeesh the last 10 minutes hurt big style. My legs still havent recovered and that was a few days back. Not only that but when we got up there, we saw people in 6 inch heels and others lugging wheely suitcases! WTF!
At the top, aside from a pretty good view was another shrine and a burnt tree. Here’s us, with said burnt tree.
Thankfully on route up we’d found a cafe with seating area that served ice creams so had vowed to grab one of these on the way back down, I think it was this that kept us going! Which to be honest is probably a good thing as had there not been an incentive we might have just stayed up there to avoid the trek back down.
It took us another hour of carefully climbing back down (with more photos… standard).
I think all in, it took us about 4 hours getting there, up the mountain and back down again. We didn’t make it to the next area until about 2.30!
Getting to our next attraction was not quite as simple. I hadn’t grasped that our bus & subway tickets wouldn’t work on the electric railway or some of the other lines that run through the city – so instead of catching a nice simple bus we ended up on a train we had to pay more for. Fail. On that note – if you’re thinking about visiting Kyoto, just get a bus pass – you really don’t need the subway addition and its quite pricey.
We made it over to the next temple (Kiyomizu-dera) area and then had a 25 minute walk up the hill to the temple itself, through winding roads with plenty of Kimono clad women (and men).
By this point it was hitting 3pm and we still hadn’t eaten. I was getting grouchy and Adam would have likely eaten anything.
He managed to spot a sign up a little alleyway for a lovely restaurant which we climbed up to, which served nice set meals though a little on the pricey side. It was nice to be one of the few guijin (foreigners) for once as it was a bit hidden this one.
I opted for tempura prawns with rice and noodles (I know I’m going heavy on the rice… its naughty… i’ll stop). It was served with soup and carved vegetables as well. The prawns were excellent, the batter crunchy and full of flavour. The noodles were unexpectedly cold though which I was disappointed with – though they were still tasty. I’d just not understood they were served cold. Google translate fail.
Adam went for duck (the only thing on the menu he would eat) with rice. He ate my soup as well as I am still not a massive fan.
After we’d replenished our energy levels (climbing a mountain apparently really takes it out of you), we went back up the street to try and find the temple. It was pretty simple as it was freaking huge.
Now its listed as the second or third best attraction in Kyoto – the home of temples – but I wasn’t a massive fan. I mean yes it was pretty and the gardens were nice but many of the others are significantly better, and my favourite is still zenkojjie. I can see how it would be amazing if all the blossoms were out or if it were autumn as its quite high up and you’d get stunning photos. But as its closing and the sun is going down its actually a bit stark. Maybe we were just tired.
We ambled back in the direction of the shops for a pootle and a snack (Adam was eyeing up steamed buns… he’s always eyeing up buns of some sort), and ended up with two traditional japanese ‘meat’ buns. I always er on the side of caution with things classed as ‘meat’. Why aren’t they more specific??
This time I just went for it and am so glad I did, these were well fit and a bargain at Y350 each as well. Might try find some more over the next few days.
Though everything was shutting, our itinerary was not quite finished with us. We knew we needed to see Gion to have ‘done’ Kyoto properly and we weren’t far away, so with one final push, and a promise of a coffee and cake set (set… we’ve got that down now… ), we walked another 25 minutes or so over to the old entertainment district.
I really expected this to be far more traditional and was kind of disappointed, but the area near the station looks just like a normal city to be honest. Though all the better for finding cake and a decent coffee…
Cafe comme ca was the first cafe we came to that we fancied. We were sat separately from the other customers. I felt this was becoming quite common and have christened this the ‘guijin corner technique’.
Still we weren’t fussed as we had not only a great view of the lovely little zen garden, but also of the cake counter. My favourite type of counter.
We both went for the chocolate orange option, and I had a good old OJ (drink… not wife beater), and Adam a latte. I can confirm both items in my set were oi-she.
Post snack break, I was determined to find the often photographed Gion so back streeting we went. And by that I mean wandering down alleyways… nothing else. Rude.
There were plenty of odd shops round here, filled with cat or owl specific items (my cousin would have loved these).
At one point down one of these little back roads we actually spotted a Geisha! She was very young though and chatting to another girl in jeans so was either a Maiko or a tourist who had been done up. Either way quite exciting.
As we walked closer to the river it became more what I expected, and out came the tripod (I mean that in a literal sense, not the hard on sense) and I managed to get some photos for your enjoyment. And maybe my wall back home.
After a day of excitement, with geishas (maybe), mountain climbing (definitely) and a heap of tasty treats (for sure) we hopped on a bus (very easy to do in Kyoto) and trundled home. Ready for another full on day of exploring tomorrow. We were both knackered but it had been a good un.