Japan, Day 3: Kyoto (Fushimi, N. Higashiyama)

MARCH 8, 2017 (WEDNESDAY)

Another early start for us since our first stop for our 3rd day in Kyoto was in FUSHIMI INARI TAISHA and we wanted to avoid the crowd. The place is well-known for its senbon torii (thousands of torii) spread across an entire mountain. The whole hike usually takes 2-3 hours according to those who have already experienced doing it. This Shinto shrine is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, with foxes as the messengers.

There are two lines that can take you to Fushimi Inari Taisha – the nearest one to the location is the JR Line. We rode this one and right after exiting the station, we can already see this big orange torii.

 

Upon entering, we passed by the main prayer hall. We saw a map and a few signs that pointed to the start of the famous line of orange torii. A few minutes of walking and we finally saw it! There were only a few visitors around at that time so we were able to enjoy walking slowly along the torii-lined pathway.

 

 

We only reached a third of the hike when we decided to go back. It was too cold already and we had not yet eaten breakfast so we knew that we were not going to last the hike.

 

By the time we reached the area with the main hall, there was a huge crowd already due to students on a field trip.

We decided to exit via the road with food stalls so that we could also buy breakfast. Unfortunately, they were still closed – most likely since it was still early. We looked for the nearest convenience store and bought the usual: onigiri, sandwich, hot tea and coffee. There were no seats inside the store so we went back to Fushimi. Luckily, when we got there, the food stalls were already opened. I wanted to try the yakisoba but the serving size was too big! I ended up buying karaage shared with my friends. Might be weird to eat something that heavy for breakfast but it was really crispy and delicious!

 

TOFUKU-JI was our next stop, which is a place famous for maple leaf viewing. Unfortunately, most of the trees were bare since it was still early March. We only visited the Sanmon Gate (oldest Zen gate) and Hondo (main hall) since these were free. Access to Tsutenkyo Bridge and the gardens have corresponding charges. Our trip here was just short.

 

We headed to Ginkaku-ji although we had a hard time getting a cab from the station we got off. Not sure why there were very few cabs in the area since it did not look like a rural part. We finally got a cab and I was a bit surprised that the driver was a lady. She spoke good English and we saw that there was a “Foreign Friendly Taxi” sign inside her car – though the fare was more expensive than the usual. She toured us a bit by pointing interesting places we passed by such as the road to Nanzen-ji and an expensive restaurant with really good food.

We had to walk going to Ginkaku-ji since vehicles are not allowed anymore at some point. But before entering, we tried mini cream puffs from GENMAI – vanilla, matcha, and sakura flavors. Not sure what to feel about the sakura flavor – it was okay but it tasted like vanilla with pink food coloring.

As we had more energy to do activities again, we headed to GINKAKU-JI, another UNESCO site in Kyoto.

It is also known as the “Silver Pavilion” – similar to Kinkaku-ji without the gold colors on the structure. Near the pavilion is the Dry Sand Garden, which has this massive sand cone named Kogetsudai (Moon Viewing Platform). I took a panorama picture with my phone but the quality was crappy as usual.

We were able to easily follow the path since it was just straightforward and there was a big crowd anyway in front of us. We passed by the main hall, Sengetsusen Waterfall (although it was not a huge one), moss garden, and the overlooking spot which gave us a breathtaking view of this side of Kyoto.

 

Before our DIY tour ended, we got another glimpse of the Silver Pavilion but this time seeing the back side.

The street that would take you to Ginkaku-ji reminded me of Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka because of the various shops along the sides – food, souvenirs, etc. We were looking for Omen to have our late lunch and we were relieved to find out that it was just a few minutes away on foot.

 

OMEN is popular for its handmade udon and since the weather was cold, we opted for the hot version. We got the set meal which included appetizers we did not know – everything tasted okay except for the green vegetable with a small slice of raw fish. It was too bitter! J and I also got an additional order of sabazushi – too big to eat in just one bite but it tasted really good! Definitely recommend getting this one.

 

Omen recommends experimenting with the four spices on the table when eating their udon. However, I recommend eating first the udon without any of these so that you can get compare more precisely which you prefer. There is also a brochure with English instructions on each table, and each spice has an English name so you kind of know what you’re putting in your dish.

 

We headed to GION afterwards. Since it was mid-afternoon, there were only a few people around. We were not hoping to see real geisha or maiko at that time but we encountered three women who dressed up like them.

We went back to our Airbnb early again as we were too tired to go around. I’m curious how Gion looks like at night so I will surely be back here. Shirakawa area might also be at its best during spring season because of the willow trees lining it (+ Shirakawa Canal). I also want to do the Kurama-Kibune hike so I think that’s another reason to go back to Kyoto? 🙂

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