One of the great things about train stations in Japan is the abundance of storage lockers. For about five bucks US, you get a good sized locker for the whole day. Since we left Tokyo quite early in the morning we arrived way before check in time at the residence where we were staying. We managed to stow our bags....we travel light, I have a Tri-Star and the Missus an Aeronaut 30, which She loves. How the Missus ended up agreeing with me about Her Aeronaut is a story for another day. Anyway, these two bags are European carry-on size and we can easily travel for a month (or more) with what we pack in these bags......mine weighed out at 9 kilos for this trip.
For some reason, we found Kyoto Station to be bit confusing....Tokyo Station was a slam dunk; but Kyoto Station just seemed like a maze at first. After finding the gates to the JR Nara line, which wasn't that hard, we got on the train.....which ended up being the Express, which bypasses the Inari Station! We actually didn't feel too bad, since there were at least a dozen people (all Japanese) who did the same thing. We got off at the first express stop after Inari Station and headed back...with the other folks who took the wrong train and made it to Fushimi-Inari.
Our first impressions of Fushimi Inari-Taisha? It was so strikingly beautiful.......and so crowded!
And while we could enjoy the vibrancy and character to the shrine; the packed crowds, the noise (remember we had spent a couple of days in Tokyo, so it's all relative), and the lines to walk through the colorful torii (gates), were just a bit too much for us. I told the Missus that the shrine opens at dawn.....if we woke early enough, we could get here at dawn, and really enjoy the place.....so we decided to return the next morning. We'd bundle Fushimi Inari and Kiyomizu-dera for the next morning.
Having read enough about our travel, I'm sure you realize that the Missus was not going to stop and proceed to sit on Her hands. She decided we should walk up the street...... It was an interesting walk as the shops gave way to temples, several of which we walked through.....ending up at the impressive gate of Tōfuku-ji.
This massive Sanmon is the oldest in Japan and is considered a national treasure.
The Dragon painting on the ceiling in the Hondou (Main Hall) is by famous Kyoto-born artist Insho Domoto.
The temple is known for the stone and moss gardens and the Tsuutenkyo Bridge.
I can just imagine what this view would be like during autumn when all the leaves turn color!
There are many temples and shrines in the area.....
So we just meandered around.......
We ended up at Shorinji Temple.....
It was nearing noon and our check in time, so we headed down the hill to Tokufuji Station, back to Kyoto Station, where we got confused again....this time trying to remember where our locker was. Once located we headed off to our destination. A Machiya in the Southern Higashiyama area.
First off, the owner wasn't kidding when she said it was one minute from Higashiyama Station....it was literally one minute! Located in a shopping arcade - Furukawacho shopping arcade, this is among the top ten places we've ever stayed....it was huge; two floors, a large kitchen, an awesome bath....of course the sleeping arrangement was traditional Japanese.
Masae was fantastic, so organized, she even had a map of the area around the arcade, with restaurants and shops listed. There was a typhoon, Vongfong headed our way....she kept us appraised via emails. She made our stay wonderful.
Meanwhile, we had asked Reiko about things we should buy in Kyoto. While on the way to the Machiya, Reiko mentioned getting a Furoshiki. And Masae knew just the spot. A few blocks away was Kakefuda. The Missus was taken with the various patterns. The young man here did a demo....a couple of times, showing the Missus how to do some of the basic tying methods. Somehow, no matter how many times She's practiced....it just doesn't look quite right. That's alright though......the Missus got something for herself from Kyoto.
We then headed West, over the Kamo River, finding Nishiki Market. Man, this placed was packed. It was wall to wall people. My first instinct was to bail....but the Missus was hungry and getting a bit grumpy, so we decided to hunt for some "snacks", starting out with an ok Takoyaki....kind of too soggy for my taste. It was just meh......very dull...so I'm thinking a black and white photo describes it best.
We came across a stand selling Hamoyaki; grilled conger eel brushed with a tare. They had a little standing table and we really wanted a respite from the masses. This was actually pretty good. Hamo is very mild in flavor, so it's basically a palette for the tare. We really enjoyed the light texture of the eel.
We made our way further down the market and something caught the Missus' eye.
This place made yakimanju and yakimochi....grilled rice cakes. We tried a yakimanju....
I have to say....I love the fragrance of these....but as a whole, I'm not a fan of yakimochi and this was basically the same thing.
Nothing amazing, but enough to keep us going......we spent the rest of the afternoon shopping around Shijo-dori. When it was time to head back, I asked the Missus what She watned to do for dinner. We'd had a long day; I awoke at 330am and actually did a post. We'd need to wake by at least 5am tomorrow and we were bushed. So, Daimaru's resutoran-gai ("restaurant town") just made sense, especially since the Missus was craving salad, which is rather hard to come by.
This stuff ain't cheap, but the variety is staggering.....as I mentioned previously; large department stores have an entire floor full of food stands and vendors. It's easy to get lost in all of this.
Dinner in hand, we made our way back to the house. Not directly of course......
This thin, alley-like street is named Ponto-chō, it is one of the Hanamachi, Geisha districts in Kyoto. The street runs parallel to the Kamo River and is full of restaurants, bars, and, after being absolutely shocked to see a Geisha walking down the street, Geisha houses I guess?
The wooden buildings and hanging lanterns sure adds to the atmosphere.......
Having come from Shijuku and seeing the Robot Restaurant, then Shibuya and the goth-Hello Kitty chicks, to this in less than three days is something to wrap your head around.
I can see why.......
The sound of the water; the wooden buildings, the trees.....take a photo and ask someone where this is and they'll say, "well, Japan of course....."
Getting back to the machiya, the Missus decided a nice long soak in the wonderful tub was on the agenda. I went upstairs to the sitting area.
I had some tea while watching the folks pass through the marketplace below. There's a meat market and a small convenience type store right across the walkway from the house.
Dinner was a a simple affair......but perfect as we were pretty tired.
As you can see, the Missus got Her "salad fix".
Here's the rather unique Furoshiki the Missus chose. She said it would always remind Her of Kakefuda.
After dinner, we took a walk up Sanjo-dori and some of the side streets in the Gion...packed with bars and Izakayas. There was a Family Mart and a Grocery Store right around the corner from where we were staying as well.
Life is full of happy coincidences. When we arrived, Masae told us that she had just opened a craft beer bar in the same arcade, a few yeards from where we were staying. Really? A craft beer bar? Awesome!
We headed over for a nightcap. The tiny spot was busy, but they found us a small table. Looking at the beer list, I had to crack up; Stone, Lagunitas, Pizza Port, Saint Archer.... you gotta love it!
I mentioned that we were from San Diego and had recently visited Belgium to Masae....who apparently loves her beer. we had a nice conversation about San Diego breweries, along with a promise that if she visits San Diego, the beer is on us!
Man, it had been quite a long day; from Tokyo and a view of Mount Fuji, to temples, then shopping, and finally a nice quiet self catered dinner, followed by a visit to a craft beer bar......
So this was Kyoto, huh? Though we were dead tired, we were having fun.
Thanks for reading!