Sunday, November 30, 2014

Kyoto Day 2

Myoho-in Temple
We wasted no time in heading out on our full day in Kyoto. Since we never slept passed 4am, we got up early to start our hike around town. Our first stop, Kiyomizu-dera.

On the way, we saw other temples, shrines and cemeteries.

Nishi Otani

The walk to Kiyomizu-dera took about 30 minutes through the cemetery and up the very long steep hill. This has got to be the largest cemetery I have ever seen. Walking through the cemetery was well worth the trip. The family shrines are beautiful and was nice to see tribute gifts still being offered. There was even a little store to purchase offerings.

I am so happy we got to Kiyomizu-dera early, because had we waited any later I would not have gotten these amazing shots with hardly any visitors.

*Tip: GO EARLY! Walk through the cemetery on the way up and walk down the shopping street on the way out. Most of the stores were not open early in the morning.

Deva Gate and Three Storied Pagoda
Jishu Shrine

Otowa Waterfall


Once the crowds began to roll in we decided to depart for our next excursion. On the way to the main avenue we walked down the shopping street (Matsubara Dori), where most stores were still closed but we managed to find a nice cozy coffee house.

This gal was up early.
So glad we left when we did, the tour buses started to arrive!

Next stop Arashiyama. 

Getting to Arashiyama required taking the subway. While we tried to learn as much as we could about Japanese transportation, we missed the part about there being no English translation on the Hankyu Railways ticket machine. 
We didn't want to bother the station manager so we tried to understand the symbols on our own. Luckily a local lady recognized the concerned looks on our faces and offered to help since she spoke a little English. Man, was she our savior that day! Not only did she show us how to use the machine, she bought our tickets. We offered her money but she wouldn't take it, instead said she was a little rich at the moment and wanted to buy our tickets so we could enjoy the day on her. And she walked us to the correct train and waited for us to board. 
I have no words, but THANK YOU!!!

Once in Arashiyama, we headed straight for the Monkey Park (Iwatayama Monkey Park). This was going to prove to be the most challenging hike yet. From the station to the park entrance is a walk of about 10 minutes, this was the easy part. Once at the entrance of the park the climb to the top takes about 30 minutes uphill. So glad my cold was gone by this point, I would have never made it all the way. But the view from the top was well worth the hike and so was seeing the monkeys!

 The Monkeys have freedom to roam the entire park, the gate is to keep people out! They are not to be approached or face injury at your own risk.

Family brawl

There is a visitor center at the top with restrooms and snacks. There is also food to purchase to feed the monkeys from the enclosure.

*Tip - give yourself a few hours here, the views are spectacular.

 View of Kyoto

Making the descent back down is so much easier and takes much less time. 

Once off the mountain, we headed into town. 

*Tip- This place gets packed, it is a big tourist area, so go early. Also beware that many of the handicrafts are from China! I found that much of the "Made in Japan" items were actually at the airport or small family stores not in the tourist center.

Togetsukyo Bridge
Across the river is the town. Didn't get any pictures because it was packed with tourist, but worth the visit and the food.

Where we were on the mountain, as seen from the river.
One thing for sure made in Japan is the food!

After lunch, was just a matter of wandering for a few hours on our way back to the train station.
First we found the Tenryu-ji Zen Temple.

The pathway from the temple leads to the Bamboo Groves

This pathway leads through a neighborhood, where we met a very nice older gentleman who wanted to tell us about his time spent in America. He also greeted all the tourist as they passed his home.

Before arriving at the train station we found one more frozen dessert place. This time, frozen tofu. This was fun, the clerk handed the cone upside down to show how thick the tofu was, and it's not only thick, very tasty too. 

We enjoyed many frozen desserts, 
you should too!

The walk back to the next train station is about 20-30 minutes; in the winter the Sago Scenic Railway is closed. The closest station is on the JR Sagano Line.

*Tip - we purchased a Suica card as soon as we arrived in Japan. This card can be used on most of the JR lines and some other's they have listed on their site. The Pasmo card is the same concept. So no having to buy extra tickets, just add money to the card as needed.

By this time we were done. But not before trying to find the world famous Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu store. That's right I went to Kyoto for a bag!

I had to borrow this picture (hope they don't mind). After about an hour of walking around Kyoto, we accidentally found the store. I almost cried. I have a thing for bags, not sure why. Not the fancy kind either - no Gucci or Prada or Vuitton. I like the ones that make sense are durable and can be used for out on the town or for hiking.
This is that bag.
My husband bought an amazing winter jacket for his souvenir and I a Hanpu original. I can't explain the weirdness, just go with it. 14 hour flight, fighting off jetlag and hours upon hours of walking, so worth the effort. This is my Made in Japan!

Of course by now the stores were closing and we were very tired and weren't exactly sure of where we were, so we started walking in the direction we thought we should go... Success, familiar scenery.

Problem was a this time of night, most of the shops and restaurants were closing.
Let's just say, it was a very long way back to the hotel.

Because we choose the Hyatt and because they have excellent customer service, their restaurant was still open, and since they were so kind they asked what we were looking to eat and unfortunately a burger was not on the menu. But not wanting to turn their patrons away the chefs agreed to cook us up some burgers. Let me set the scene...Sunday night, fancy restaurant. Guests dressed in kimono and suits (picture formal wedding party). We, dressed in day old clothes and no suit, looking worn out. Maybe a little out of place here, but no matter they served us with pride.
They took our order and not too much later two of the most amazing burgers on this planet were placed on our table. I tried to be polite about the situation and the given environment - really I did. But hunger took over and I demolished that burger in seconds. My husband was able to snap this picture before the destruction:
Just a side note, this was no ordinary beef burger, oh no, this was the famous wagyu beef, stuff dreams are made of!

I think there comes a time in a chef's career when he realizes his pride is on the line, and this doesn't come in the form of a Chef Ramsay review or the number of Michelin Stars awarded, no no, this happens when they know they have made their customers happy.

All I have to say is I didn't let that burger touch the plate once I had it in my hands. These poor people had to witness the fury of a hungry American (slightly on the other side of proper weight) decimate this amazing gigantic burger. Now, when I was finished and so demurely touched the sides of my face with napkin, I looked over at the Chef's, and realized they had watched the entire show without blinking. As I got up to go and turn to say "thanks" they all bowed and thanked me.
Maybe it was out of amusement, could be, but maybe, just maybe this was that defining moment like when Jiro says 'hey, you did a good job"! Thank you my friends for that amazing burger. I know my husband enjoyed his too but not with quite the enthusiasm that I did.

We slept well that night!

Next stop Home :(