And we arrive on our last full day in Kyoto, it went by so fast, we didn’t get to see everything that we planned but I won’t complain about the pacing as I feel it was not too bad, we didn’t rush ourselves too much. Originally I wanted to visit Sanzen-In and Enko-ji to the north, near Ohara, as well as Eikando-ji and Nanzen-ji (on separate days of course) but time did not permit and we ended up only visiting Eikando-ji as we spent a lot longer at Ginkaku-ji than I expected. I’d seen pictures of Ginkaku-ji and didn’t think much of it, compared to Kinkaku-ji’s brilliant pavilion, Ginkaku-ji didn’t seem to stand out. But then we arrived, and we started wandering around, and we saw it for its true beauty.
The surrounding garden is definitely one of the best that we’ve seen, and overall, I would definitely rate it higher than Kinkaku-ji. The colours of the trees, the rocks, the water features, and the layout is all just perfect, the walking route takes you around the garden giving you all of the best viewing angles without having to do anything.
Emmy, who is so very proud of her all-seeing eye (for photos) would take a picture and then tell me only to realise that the picture I had already taken was more or less the same, you just can’t lose here, take a picture and it will almost certainly look a million bucks. It didn’t matter that it was raining when we arrived, it certainly didn’t matter that the sun came out halfway through our visit, we just got more variety to our pictures.
Perhaps it doesn’t have the large pond of Kinkaku-ji or Tenryu-ji, but everything else seemed to be a notch above (having said that, maybe Kinkaku-ji in Autumn is even better?), definitely a temple highlight and all the better because I didn’t expect it. I’m very glad that we decided to visit and very happy that we took our time, even if it came at the cost of visiting Nanzen-ji.
We then made our way along the Philosopher’s Path heading toward Eikando-ji and Nanzen-Ji, I’m wondering if the path is actually only nice in Spring cherry blossom season as it didn’t seem to be particularly photogenic to me, perhaps I didn’t have a wabi-sabi enough view of it. Anyway, when we finally arrived at Eikando-ji we had a decision to make (as it was almost lunch time), visit here or continue on to Nanzen-ji.
We decided to just visit Eikando-ji rather than risk more walking and then having to wander another large temple complex with a hungry toddler. So with that we paid the ticket price (1000¥ quite expensive) and headed in.
As with most temples and gardens, this one had a walking route which made things easy and meant that we didn’t have to think too much, but that we’d also probably end up with mostly the same pictures as everyone else. The Autumn colours were definitely out here and it was probably a good decision to visit here rather than heading for the larger Nanzen-ji. We managed to stroll through reasonably quickly (they had some pretty amazing goldfish? koi? swimming in the pond) but also captured all of the views (even the security girls warming their feet!).
It was a very nice garden/temple and the bridge pond and the water feature near the end of the route were quite eye catching indeed. So it turns out that both temples were winners and well worth the entry price this day, good for us! Afterwards we headed back to the city centre to look for lunch (Coco curry, more on that in a later post) and then do some shopping in Teramachi and Shinkyogoku shopping streets since our last day we wouldn’t have time to do much.
That’s it for Kyoto, second time around, we paced ourselves better than the first, weren’t too rushed and while we didn’t see all that we planned to, we did see quite a few things, and also enjoyed some fun activities as well. I think this is how we will look to plan future trips as well to try to avoid burning ourselves out too quickly and not enjoying the holiday as much as we should. Next stop, Kawaguchi-ko, will we see Mount Fuji?
After arriving at our Kyoto airbnb at about 6.30pm on a Saturday evening we were pretty tired and just wanted to settle in a bit, so we didn’t do anything but plan the next day. Having checked the weather forecast and our own plans for Kyoto we decided to head to Arashiyama for the morning/day trying to take it at a slower pace. One of the places that we didn’t visit our first time around in Kyoto, the bamboo forest of Arashiyama has been on my wishlist ever since.
Originally, the plan was to visit Arashiyama and Koko Dera which are both on the western side of Kyoto, but we visited Tenryuji in Arashiyama and that took up quite a bit of time, so we left it at that for the west. I’m not really sure if we saw all of the bamboo forest as it didn’t seem to be that big (just a few lanes) before we came across Tenryuji and decided to visit for some temple goodness.
This was a very popular temple and it was easy to see why, it had a beautiful pond with viewing area, and a nice easy strolling garden. The koyo was starting to show around the pond giving some amazing photo opportunities, which everyone was lapping up.
The garden was full of colourful flowers and some very well maintained trees, I like to call them giant bonsai for lack of a better term (I am not well versed enough to know what to google to find the actual tree type), and also some mossy areas. But certainly the highlight was the pond with zen garden and viewing platform.
We decided that that was enough sightseeing in this area and headed back to central Kyoto, grabbing some treats along the way (the hot red bean cakey things are always a winner) before deciding to head to Kiyomizu Dera and sannenzaka/ninenzaka for the afternoon rush.
I don’t know if it was because it was Sunday or not, but Kiyomizu Dera was absolutely jam packed to the rafters, making the whole experience a little bit less than ideal. We’ve been to Kiyomizu Dera three times now and only once it wasn’t bursting with visitors (and that was due to it pouring rain and basically causing a new river to flow through Kyoto), so maybe it’s like that everyday when the weather is good.
To be honest, I’m not a big fan of Kiyomizu Dera, it has the beautiful view of Kyoto as well as the tree cover (still green when we visited, again…) but the temple and grounds themselves aren’t that impressive. I guess sometimes you just need that one thing that trumps all others, and at Kiyomizu Dera the view is quite spectacular despite the lack of Autumn colours. We also left before the sun set so we had a pretty high in the sky sun making it hard to take the best of pictures.
We headed back down the narrow road toward home (bustling as always, which can make for a nice people motion blur shot), but as always, took the detour down these antique streets which genuinely are quite charming. Full of shops selling souvenirs and other goods, as well as services like pottery classes and restaurants it’s definitely a must-visit for its looks as well as what is behinds its doors. We got to the end of the street and walked out on to the main road and realised that it was very near the supermarket that our airbnb host had showed us the previous day, making it very close to where we were staying. So we were staying super close (15 minutes or so walking) to Kiyomizu Dera, Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka, and Gion, I’ll have more on our accommodation later.
Next up, we visit Himeji Castle for a chill Monday.
Hello all, and we’re back, back from the wonderful land of Japan, which means that I’ve got a lot more content for the next couple months taking us into the new year, most likely, YAY! I got lots of pictures to sort through, not sure if I got anything that I’m really proud of but we’ll see, and we also spent some time doing some interesting not sight-seeing things which I’ll try to go through in more detail than my usual overview stuff.
So following the route, we arrived at Narita and jumped straight on the train headed for Hiroshima, in hindsight, this was a bad plan (as we only spent one night there) as we weren’t there long enough for the amount of travel to be worth it. I think next time we may visit Kyushu and go to Hiroshima/Miyajima from there spending a bit more time at Miyajima. From there we moved on to Kyoto for a big chunk (five nights) looking for Koyo (Autumn colours), we tried to vary our itinerary in Kyoto to avoid just visiting shrines and temples which I think we did pretty well.
On to Kawaguchi-Ko and Mount Fuji from there where some very clear weather treated us to some great views of the great volcano for our last two days (we stayed three). I don’t think we got 36 views of Mount Fuji, but we certainly covered quite a few angles from around Kawaguchi-Ko. After that it was on to Tokyo for some “relaxing” time, we usually just end up in Tokyo shopping and eating, that’s mostly what we did, I did actually manage to visit Shinjuku Gyoen for some chill out time (although even that was not too relaxing as I arrived late and had to rush around a bit). I don’t have many photos from Tokyo mostly because eating (mostly relatively boring stuff) and shopping aren’t the most photogenic of things. But we’ll get to all of that in the coming weeks with enough pictures to keep things interesting.
Because I hate WordPress so much, I won’t even bother typing all the stuff we did cos I know that I’ll find a way to accidentally press back in the browser and everything will be gone again:
I wish the pictures didn’t load so badly (I mean it doesn’t even rotate iphone pictures properly >:(), but WordPress is really not working for me lately, any way, this is a bit of a preview, I will start uploading pictures from Vietnam to flickr next week while they are still reasonably fresh and in context, and catch up on the Japan photos after that.
Originally I was going to post a few separate posts of our trip to Japan but having completely lost the motivation, I’m just going to post one overview with the whole gallery of photos selected for this site (photos for Flickr will continue to go up at the normal rate). Tokyo was crazy, just consumerism gone mad, millions of people going everywhere all the time, endless concrete and steel, girls in short skirts/shorts (though not revealing tops), millions of umbrellas (different coloured), shops with absolutely every thing you could ever need (and a million different colour and style options), no rubbish bins, weird and unusual shops, and an amazing train system. We spent most of our time in Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Harajuku, though we did make our way to the Tsukiji fish market for lunch one day where we had some amazing sashimi. We also visited Roppongi Hills to go up the Mori Tower, went to Meiji Jingu, but didn’t see too much else in Tokyo. We decided not to try and climb Mount Fuji and instead just stayed nearby at Kawaguchi-Ko before heading to Hakone for a night in an onsen ryokan (which was bloody great) that included a kaiseki dinner. Hey, we also got some clear views of Mount Fuji so that’s something.
So after two days of country-ish life we headed for Kyoto where we would spend the majority of the next six days, this was certainly a very good decision in hindsight. Kyoto is a reasonably small city with an abundance of world heritage listed sites and a great selection of food options, and is also near many other beautiful and significant tourist sites. We loaded up our JR passes and used them every day we were in Kyoto (except one when we travelled around on the bus), visiting a bunch of temples and shrines including Kinkaku-Ji, Ryoan-Ji, Tofuku-Ji, To-Ji, Kiyomizu-Dera, Fushimi Inari, we spent a day in Nara wandering around the sites there and saw the Daibutsu at Todai-Ji as well as a few others. We also went to Osaka for a day trip as well as Kobe, where we sampled Kobe beef teppanyaki style, which was bloody sublime! Osaka wasn’t particularly interesting, like a smaller Tokyo, while Kobe was at least a bit less frantic. After all that, and some shopping, we headed back to Tokyo for one more day before flying back home (via Singapore where we visited the Gardens by the Bay near Marina Bay).
The weather was as you would expect at the end of Summer, start of Autumn, pretty warm and a bit humid, it seemed like every second day it would rain (even though the rainy season had already passed), but it was at least warm. The bullet train was something else, fast and comfortable to sit in, and exhilarating to watch fly past. The food was amazing, I think we had one bad meal during the whole trip which is a pretty amazing hit rate, the portions weren’t as small as everyone (not sure who, but that seems to be the stereotype) says, and you gotta love the plastic food displays outside the restaurant looking exactly like the meal that was served. Favourites? I don’t know, udon of any kind, sashimi (super fresh), Mister Donut custard donuts, tempura, katsu don, white peach sorbet, they don’t seem to eat any vegies we noticed, next time I think I will try some different stuff, non-traditional stuff like Japanese burgers, pizza and/or pasta, just to see what it’s like there, as we ate (except for one meal where we were tricked into Korean Nabe) Japanese food for every meal. I would be remiss not to mention the amazing people, so polite and so neat and so nice, I have to add strange as well, but I’m sure that comes from living on a remote island, and it’s not like they’re really strange, just a bit peculiar, very funny. Any way, I’m sure I’ve missed a million things here, but let’s let the pictures speak for themselves, I wish I had more pictures of food to post here, but I already put them on facebook.
In Tokyo for our first go-round, we stayed at Hotel Villa Fontaine in Shinjuku, we booked it online before going, I think it was a book early special price, and because we booked for four nights we got a discount for that too, it was ok, had breakfast included (a sandwich delivered by the staff), an awesome bathroom, and a nice enough bed, a cosy room. We stayed at K’s House in Kawaguchi-Ko for just one night, and stayed in a private tatami room which was nice, and had free wifi so that was good, nice enough place and it’s a chain throughout Japan so I think you’ll be safe with them throughout Japan. We stayed at Fujimi-en Lodge (the onsen ryokan) near Hakone for one night, the onsen was hot, but had a view of Mount Fuji (when it was clear), every room had a view of Mount Fuji, no breakfast but I would recommend to book with the kaiseki dinner option as the dinner was absolutely super! In Kyoto we stayed at Capsule Ryokan, pretty close to the train station as well as the two (free admission) big temples (Nishi Hongan-Ji and Higashi Hongan-Ji) near the station, pretty reasonable pricing, with free wifi in the lobby and a nice shower :D. Also had a nice free kimono dress up which is nice for the ladies :). We didn’t stay in any ultra-budget places, and I’m not sure there is anything that is really cheap in Japan, but all the places we stayed were very clean, neat and tidy.
We used the train system in Tokyo solely (as well as walking), and fount it pretty easy to work out after our initial apprehension, although not super cheap to be buying tickets all the time, perhaps the SUICA card might have proved better value. We got a bus from Tokyo to Kawaguchi-Ko, and then a bus from there to Hakone, from Hakone, we got a bus to Gotenba, and then one more bus to Odawara station, before we pulled out our JR passes to use the train for the next week. With a JR pass travel is reasonable between big cities (and fast), and also on the JR services within the cities it is very useful. Transport is super safe and clean in Japan so you never have to worry about any of that, just making sure you get on and off at the right stops/stations and on the right buses/trains of course.And that’s it for my lame Japanese overview, now for the pictures, also remember to keep an eye on my flickr stream as I’ll be uploading (around 70-80 I’m guessing) pictures there over the next few months.