Our first day in Kyoto was pretty tiring......I gotta admit, I get pretty wiped out when we travel; but man, the Missus was totally fried as well. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow and up before 5am. After encountering the crowds at Fushimi Inari the day before, I just knew that the best way to experience the place would be early in the morning or late at night. So we got on the Tozai line, transferred at Yamashina to the Biwa line, got off at Kyoto Station, which wasn't quite as confusing as the previous and got on the Nara line....getting off at Inari Station. Fushimi Inari-taisha is literally right across the street.
Fushimi Inari is the head shrine of Inari Okami, the Kami.....which is hard to describe in English, let's just say it's the spirit, god, or deity of most importantly, rice, but also fertility, sake, and foxes...... which, if I recall serve as messengers for the Kami. At the entrance of the shrine, you'll see a statue of a fox (no, it's not a "doggie") holding the key to the granary. I remember learning about the kitsune serving the rice god in elementary school....funny what you recall at odd moments in life.
For most folks......us included, the most stunning feature of Fushimi Inari are the 30,000 plus gates that line the paths up the mountain, which is also named Inari. Each torii (gate) is paid for and donated by businesses....which you totally forget about when you see it.
It is both beautiful and haunting seen at dawn with nary another person around. Just the sound of your footsteps and the wind whispering through the trees.
No loud chatter or folks brandishing "selfie poles".
This is what I saw in my mind's eye when I thought of Kyoto.
After taking in the atmosphere of Fushimi Inari, we headed back to Inari Station, got back on the Nara line, getting off at the first stop at Tokufuji and hopping on the Keihan line, getting off at Kiyomizu-Gojo. from there it's about a 20-25 minute walk past all the shops.
And a shrine or two.
Up the mountain to Kiyomizu-dera.
This most well known feature of this temple complex is the veranda of the main hall, which has great views of Kyoto. Though, I think more people take photos of people taking photos on the veranda.
I understand that not a single nail is used for any structure in the temple complex.....
Heading past the three story pagoda and down below the main hall is Otowa Waterfall. Drinking of the water from the waterfall is supposed to bring good health and a long life.
Heading back down the mountain, you'll notice some steps and a sign to your right, this leads to Sannenzaka, then Nannenzaka. Two well preserved neighborhoods.
This was one of the most pleasant walks we had on our trip. It was early, with few tourists, so you could really enjoy the restored structures. It felt like a trip back in time.
The coffee....all pour over, was great and restorative. We made plans for what we'd do on our next leg. It was nice respite.
We'd head up to Maruyama Park and Chion-in Temple.
Somehow, we got a little of course and ended up at Higashi Otani Honganji. There was a large service going on.....
As we righted our course and headed toward Maruyama Park, we could hear country and western music playing.....the singing was of course, in Japanese. Apparently there was a Country and Western Music Festival close by....it was just another one of those strange and rather surreal moments.
Past the park is Chion-in Temple, which was going though some major restoration at the time of our visit.
By now we were "hitting the wall". We'd seen the places we really wanted to see and temple fatigue was setting in. It was time to change our focus.....so we headed bacl to the machiya to freshen up...and then off to lunch.
We had decided on a ramen shop I had heard off named Karako. The address 12-3 Okazaki Tokusei-cho was a bit difficult, but it looked like it was right on Higashioji-dori....which is kind of where we found the place.
We were the first customers to arrive and the older gentleman pointed to some seats at the end of the counter.
We quickly placed our order and he spoke the only English I heard our whole time there, pointing to the hijiki, tofu, and green salad on the counter he said, "helpu you self....."
The prices were very reasonable - ¥650 for the Kotteri Ramen.
The chashu was wonderful, full of flavor, just melt in you mouth delicious. The noodles were fine, just chewy enough. In spite of being "kotteri", as in extra rich, the broth really lacked the tongue coating texture and the richness in flavor I enjoy. This was my least favorite bowl of ramen during our trip.
The Missus got the Chashu Rice Bowl ¥320 - which had the wonderful chashu.
The one item which was a total surprise was the karaage. It has got to be one of the best I've ever had.
This was just fantastic fried chicken......probably worth a side trip to Kyoto!
A few minutes after we sat, folks started streaming in. The older gentleman ordered the special, which was a bowl of ramen, a bowl of rice, and chicken....which turned out to be an entire order...five pieces for ¥880!
We kept watching to see how he heck he was going to finish his food...well, he's got his own system down. He ate the ramen and took the rice and chicken to go!
We actually tried to return to Karako the next day, but they were closed.....bummer. But hey, next time we know what to order, don't we? As in this old saying.
12-3 Okazaki Tokusei-cho
There was of course, a requisite short nap after this lunch, so we headed back. Little did we know that we'd be having another wonderful experience for dinner.