Japan, Day 2: Kimono Rental

I was really looking forward to wearing a kimono since that is part of my bucket list. Despite previous trips in Japan, it was not a top of mind activity due to the extreme cold weather (winter and early spring).

One of the popular kimono rental shops in Kyoto is wargo and I chose their branch in Gion as they have a bigger selection of kimono designs and it was the area where I wanted to go around while in kimono.

So as I mentioned in my previous post, I was really looking forward to wearing a kimono since that is part of my bucket list. Despite previous trips in Japan, it was not a top of mind activity due to the extreme cold weather (winter and early spring).

NOVEMBER 22, 2018

One of the popular kimono rental shops in Kyoto is wargo and I chose their branch in Gion as they have a bigger selection of kimono designs and it was the area where I wanted to go around while in kimono.

I got the standard kimono plan and paid an additional fee for basic hairdo + curling of fringe/bangs.  I made an online reservation so I got everything cheaper than doing it walk-in. But more than the lower cost, online reservation secured me a sure time slot for wearing the kimono. There was no time limit as long as I returned the kimono by 18:30.

It took me some time to decide which kimono to wear because they had a lot of designs that I liked. Eventually I settled for a design that had a prominent red color to match the autumn season. I was also torn between two obi (sash) so I asked for the staff’s reco which one best matched the kimono I chose.

After choosing, I was told to sit in one of the chairs and they handed me a chart which showed the options for basic hairdo. I pointed to the one I liked and the hairstylist proceeded to do her magic – she was done in less than 10 minutes! Including curling my side fringes… how was that even possible?

I went to the dressing room afterwards and got assigned to Noriko-san. The whole process of wearing the kimono was complex. There were a lot of layers to put on so even if I only had one thermal top, Noriko-san assured me that I would not get cold. At one point though during the fitting, her knot was too tight so I was racking my brains for the Japanese translation… I couldn’t think of it so I just said “Sumimasen… too tight.” Good thing she understood so she loosened the knot a bit. After Noriko-san’s magic with my kimono, I placed my important stuff in the small bag I chose then selected a pair of slippers that would match my look.

TIP: Choose a pair of slippers that is either the exact same size as your foot or one size smaller, whichever you will be more comfortable in walking.

Once dressing was complete, the hairstylist told me to pick a kanzashi (hair ornament). I was so confused which to choose because everything looked nice so I asked her to pick for me. She chose two kanzashi and I decided on the one with pink and red flowers.

It was time to go out and I chose the side of GION nearest to wargo. There was a shrine nearby with other people in kimono too so it felt like I was in another era. What else to do here but take pictures. 😊

It was almost sunset so the golden light effect was really nice. Still can’t believe that I looked like this with the magic hands and skills of wargo staff!

After going around, I remembered the Gion area I visited back in 2017 – the one near Gion-Shirakawa and Tatsumi Bridge (read it here). I had to thank my memory and cognitive map because I was able to reach it without getting lost. Yay!

These two shots from the area are definitely my favorite:

Other shortlisted pictures:

I can’t read the kanji writings in each part of the fence but this added to the traditional vibe of Gion.

After almost 2 hours, I went back to the rental shop and I returned to being an ordinary-looking tourist in Japan. I headed back to Kyoto Station to hop on a normal train ride going back to Nagoya – about a two-hour trip with one transfer in Maibara Station. Taking another shinkansen would make a dent on my pocket money already. LOL.

Back in Nagoya, even when it was past 9PM, my hair still looked really good! Can’t stop raving about the magic hands of that hairstylist… or maybe it’s because I’m a noob when it comes to fixing my hair. Haha!

I didn’t know where to eat dinner so I just went to the direction near our hotel that I had not yet explored.

Earlier during this day, I was chatting with my friend – J. She recommended that I try the grilled marinated beef in MATSUYA. So it was a surprise when I found out there was a Matsuya near the hotel.

I got the smallest size for the grilled marinated beef set (¥650), and ordering was a breeze with their vendo machine that had an English menu option. I only waited for a few minutes before my order was served.

I wasn’t too hungry that night though so it was a bit of a challenge to finish the serving of meat. After dinner, I got a random ice cream from the convenience store which turned out to be vanilla. Yay for a non-weird flavor!

Aaand that wraps Day 2 of my 2019 autumn trip in Japan. 😊

Japan, Day 2: Yasaka Shrine (revisit)

Highlight of the afternoon in Kyoto was wearing kimono but since I arrived an hour earlier than expected, I decided to visit Yasaka-jinja (again).

I was surprised to see that there were still food stalls even if there was no festival or illumination night. The stalls were fewer though compared to our visit in 2017 when there was Higashiyama Hanatouro.

Highlight of the afternoon in Kyoto was wearing kimono but since I arrived an hour earlier than expected, I decided to visit YASAKA-JINJA (again).

NOVEMBER 22, 2018

I was surprised to see that there were still food stalls even if there was no festival or illumination night. The stalls were fewer though compared to our visit in 2017 when there was Higashiyama Hanatouro (spring illumination night; read it here).

The dance stage, with hundreds of lanterns, can be easily spotted when you reach the main area of the shrine. These are lit during the evening of Higashiyama Hanatouro. Maybe during Gion Matsuri  as well since that is a very popular summer festival celebrated every July in Kyoto.

Not far from Yasaka shrine is MARUYAMA PARK. I was curious how it looked like during autumn because it was beautiful during spring. Some parts had nice autumn colors but there were trees that were already bare. I’d say that the best time to be here is, yes, during spring.

There were a few people around so it was quiet in the park. I decided to sit down and stay there while waiting for the reservation time in the kimono rental.

Japan, Day 2: Tenryu-ji (revisit)

While planning the Kansai Region trip last year, I read that this temple is at its best during spring and autumn so my expectations were high… and it did not disappoint! Even at the parking area, people were already having their pictures taken.

I bought the ticket for both main hall and garden (¥800) entrance passes, with the temple being my first order of business. No shoes allowed, by the way!

The last stop in my revisit to Arashiyama was TENRYU-JI (UNESCO Heritage Site).

NOVEMBER 22, 2018

While planning the Kansai Region trip last year, I read that this temple is at its best during spring and autumn so my expectations were high… and it did not disappoint! Even at the parking area, people were already having their pictures taken.

I bought the ticket for both main hall and garden (¥800) entrance passes, with the temple being my first order of business. No shoes allowed, by the way!

I liked the area where they have a large sitting hall and you can just admire the view of the pond and autumn trees. It was just so beautiful plus having that sense of inner peace while looking at the surroundings. I guess no surprise why Tenryu-ji is regarded as one of the best Zen temples in Kyoto.

I spent some time there before exploring the rest of temple buildings.

Once finished, I returned to the ticket booth to wear my shoes and then headed to the next area. Tenryuji’s garden was created by Muso Soseki, a famous Zen Buddhist Monk who was also the first head priest of this temple.

During my 2017 visit, I thought that I already saw the whole garden so I was shocked to learn that there was a huge area that I didn’t get to see last time. I also didn’t know that there was an exit from there that would lead straight into the bamboo grove… So how did I not know these things? I remembered that at that time, we were in a hurry to catch the Sagano Torokko Train so our visit was cut short.

Anyway, pardon for having lots of photos after this because I just found everything really beautiful, especially because I was surrounded by a mix of colors (red, orange, and yellow). It was just so surreal!

I hope you enjoyed a bit of a tour in Tenryu-ji’s famous garden during the peak of autumn. ❤

Not sure if my face says it but I am one very happy kid!

Japan, Day 2: Togetsukyo Bridge (revisit)

Good thing the rain stopped after finishing breakfast so I got to enjoy the view at Togetsukyo Bridge.

While it was a gloomy weather, that didn’t stop me from feeling happy because of the autumn colors. During my 2017 visit, the trees were either green or bare since it was still early spring.

NOVEMBER 22, 2018

After exploring Sagano Bamboo Grove, I wanted to eat breakfast and I remembered that there was a Lawson near the intersection to Togetsukyo Bridge… and my memory didn’t fail me, yay!

What else to buy for breakfast but this pair – tuna mayo onigiri and hot tea. This is my go-to breakfast in Japan, to the point that some friends find it weird that I can eat tuna mayo onigiri everyday.

I wanted to eat by the Katsura River but it was drizzling. Good thing the rain stopped after finishing breakfast so walking to TOGETSUKYO BRIDGE was not a challenge…

Close up shot of trees in autumn colors

The weather was still gloomy but that didn’t stop me from feeling happy because of the autumn colors I could see. During my 2017 visit, the trees were either green or bare since it was still early spring (read it here).

Here is Togetsukyo bridge with the view from the opposite side (without the nice landscape scenery):

Back to the nicer view in this area:

I read before that there are river/boat tour being offered here. I wanted to try it but the thought of being splashed by water – even if just a tiny bit – on a very cold day already made me shiver. Haha!

Just on my second day in Japan but autumn already captured my heart. It made me understand why a lot of people love this season. ❤

Japan, Day 2: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (revisit)

I wanted to visit Arashiyama again without a crowd so we got the earliest Shinkansen from Nagoya i.e., the Nozomi line at 06:20.

It was good that it wasn’t too crowded yet so there was still some semblance of tranquility despite tourists talking to each other. There was some drizzle but not enough to get us soaked.

Second day for this autumn trip was dedicated to Kyoto. I wanted to visit Arashiyama again without a crowd (read my 2017 visit here) so we got the earliest Shinkansen from Nagoya i.e., the Nozomi line at 06:20.

NOVEMBER 22, 2018

I was running at just 3 hours of sleep and the day didn’t start well because when we were already at Fushimi Station (nearest station to the hotel), I realized I forgot my mirrorless camera. Train bound to Nagoya Station leaves at 06:04 and it was 05:53. I had 11 minutes to run back to the hotel and then back to the station… and so I did with a bit of beating the red light at pedestrian stoplights. ☹ I was able to return to Fushimi Station at 06:02 then continued running up to the ticket gate. But, instead of swiping my ICOCA card, I swiped my BEEP card instead (for Metro Manila trains). WTF. I had to exit the gate and swipe the correct card instead. We reached the platform at 06:03 and I was so relieved because if we didn’t catch the 06:04 train, the next one was at 06:16 and we wouldn’t be able to ride the Nozomi train… which we already paid for. I didn’t mind the muscle ache I got after because that was nothing compared to shelling out ¥12,000 for two new tickets.

We were able to make it to our Shinkansen ride with still plenty of time before it left for Nagoya Station. It was my first time to ride a bullet train, by the way! The ride to Kyoto Station only took almost 40 minutes whereas non-Shinkansen would take about 2 hours. From Kyoto Station, we transferred to JR Sagano Line to reach Saga-Arashiyama Station and from there, there are two options to reach the entrance to ARASHIYAMA BAMBOO GROVE: take a cab or walk.

I initially wanted to take a cab because that was how we did it in 2017 but the cab driver probably thought I was asking for directions when I showed him the picture of the place. He told me, “2 minutes only”. Haha, I was too embarrassed so I ended up walking for less than 10 minutes.

You’ll know you are at the start of the trail when you see food stalls selling oden, ramen, mochi, daifuku among a variety of Japanese food. Picture below was at past 10AM when the shops were already open.

Not sure if it was due to autumn being a peak season in Arashiyama but I was shocked to see plenty of tourists at 07:40. During my visit back in 2017, there was only a couple aside from our trio at that time in the morning.

It was good that it wasn’t too crowded yet so there was still some semblance of tranquility despite tourists talking to each other. There was some drizzle also but not enough to get me soaked.

Always in awe of this place and how I can feel small with all these towering bamboo around me. Glad to be back here and still find peace here.

Interesting to see the difference of 10-15 minutes in this place. Pictures below show the increase in number of visitors.

Upon reaching the end of the trail and retracing our steps back to the entrance, I walked more slowly and this time, without so much distraction from my camera – taking in the sight of this majestic bamboo grove that seemingly sheltered me from the noise and chaos of the world.

I wouldn’t get tired of going back here again and again, even if I have to wake up really early just to enjoy its quietness. I highly recommend visiting this early in the morning to avoid the crowd. ❤

Japan, Day 1: Hida-Furukawa

It’s the continuation of the Kimi no Na wa seichi junrei (聖地巡礼 – anime pilgrimage) in Gifu Prefecture – but this time in the town of Hida-Furukawa.

Just in the area of HIDA-FURUKAWA STATION, I was already able to capture 3 shots similar to Kimi no Na wa frames!

It’s the continuation of the Kimi no Na wa seichi junrei (聖地巡礼 – anime pilgrimage) in Gifu Prefecture – but this time in the town of Hida-Furukawa.

NOVEMBER 21, 2018

Touchdown Hida-Furukawa Station!

Just in the area of HIDA-FURUKAWA STATION, I was already able to capture 3 shots similar to Kimi no Na wa frames:

No train was passing by at the time though…

Then from the train station, it was a 5-minute walk to HIDA CITY LIBRARY. I showed an image of the Kimi no Na wa poster to one of the librarians and she gave me an ID pass. Picture taking was not allowed and complete silence must be observed. Not surprising though that the area for Kimi no Na wa fan dedication was already gone during this visit as it has been 2 years already since it premiered.

Look who I met in the library again!

Next stop was SAKURA BUSSANKAN/GIFT SHOP where they sell various Kimi no Na wa souvenirs such as the container similar to kuchikamizake and Taki’s bracelet. They also offer a 30-minute kumihimo braiding lesson so that you can craft your own bracelet. Fee ranges from ¥500 to ¥1,500, depending on the type of bracelet. I wanted to try it but I was too shy to ask. 😦

Since there was nothing to do anymore and there was still more than 2 hours before the train back to Nagoya, I decided to go to one of the recommended GOHEI MOCHI places in the tourist map. Gohei mochi is a sticky white rice cake coated in miso sauce and has this grilled/smoky taste. It is a featured snack in Kimi no Na wa as seen in this frame with Taki, Tsukasa, and Okudera:

Apparently, gohei mochi is a popular snack in the region because I saw lots of stalls offering this in the other areas I visited in Chubu region. Didn’t enjoy this so much though… After an hour, it was time to go to KETA WAKAMIYA SHRINE, the last stop in this Kimi no Na wa seichi junrei. It was about a 30-minute walk and I didn’t see any mode of public transpo in the area.

These kids were walking in the same direction and I got surprised when they turned around to say “konnichiwa!”. So kawaii!
Finally reached the shrine!

Still had about an hour left before the train arrives so it was a deliberately slow walk to take in all the sights of this small town before I leave.

Good thing there was a waiting area in the train station because by the time I got there, the temperature was already 5C. There were also vendo machines which had hot tea so I was saved.

Back in Nagoya Station, dinner was supposed to be in a mazesoba restaurant because they had gyoza but the line was still long even if it was already past 9PM. Settled for this restaurant which serves oyakodon, one of the famous Nagoya-meshi. I got this set which had oyakodon + soup + kushikatsu with miso sauce. I also ordered my favorite Japan alcoholic drink – chu-hi. I chose the yuzu flavor since I hadn’t tried it yet.

Everything was yummy and the serving size for oyakodon was big that I had to force myself to finish it. I am not sure if I understood it correctly that the restaurant uses Nagoya cochin for their chicken dishes – a premium chicken breed which has a flavorful meat than the usual.

Before heading back to the hotel, we passed by Club Sega and I saw one of the UFO machines containing Nyanko-sensei pillows (from Natsume Yuujinchou). Ugh, if only I had good skills or at least a really good luck.

NYANKO-SENSEI!

Anyway, that’s it for Gifu prefecture and the Kimi no Na wa pilgrimage. Kyoto adventure will be up next!

Japan, Day 1: Takayama

For the first day of my one-week trip, it was dedicated to doing the Kimi no Na wa seichi junrei (聖地巡礼 – anime pilgrimage) in Gifu Prefecture.

First stop was Takayama and from Nagoya Station, the train ride (reserved seating) was almost 2 hours.

It has been more than a year since my last Japan trip and this year, I chose Nagoya as the point of entry/exit. This year’s Japan adventures were even made more special by the fact that this is my first ever autumn experience.

NOVEMBER 21, 2018

For the first day of my one-week trip, it was dedicated to doing the Kimi no Na wa seichi junrei (聖地巡礼 – anime pilgrimage) in Gifu Prefecture.

First stop was Takayama and from Nagoya Station, the train ride (reserved seating) was almost 2 hours. Plenty of time to catch some sleep especially since I was still tired from the plane ride. I slept during the early part of the ride so when I woke up, I was not surprised to see trees and mountains everywhere – a sign that TAKAYAMA STATION is somewhat near!

When we reached the station, we were greeted by enthusiastic locals and activities: 1) free wet wipes handed out for free (with image of Takayama in front); 2) free ocha upon exiting the station; 3) traditional dragon dance with mostly kids as dancers.

After watching the performance, we walked towards the first destination of this seichi junrei. It was good that the temperature that day was about 8C so walking outside was bearable…


Enjoying ashiyu (foot bath) on a cold autumn day

We eventually reached HIDA-SANNOGU HIE-JINJA after 15 minutes of walking.

First torii
Surrounded by autumn colors
Autumn colors on a bright day

A short walk from the first torii led us to this torii, which was used as a reference in one of the frames in Kimi no Na wa.

The main shrine proper was not big so it only took us a short time to go around. One sight inside that was difficult to miss was the Great Cedar of Hie Shrine, standing tall at 39m. This tree is assumed to be more than 1,000 years old already.

Since we didn’t eat breakfast and it was around 12PM already, we walked to KIHACHIRO BEEF BUN for lunch. I read online that this shop’s beef bun was regarded as #1 in Rakuten as it is famous for being made with Hida beef and Takayama vegetables. I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to try it.

Kihachiro’s beef bun for ¥500
After one big bite — 10x better than siopao!

Not far from Kihachiro was KIBUN-YA, a stall that sells gyu-takoyaki – made from Hida beef instead of the usual octopus. Unfortunately, it was closed during this day (Wednesday).

But I guess that was a blessing in disguise because we were able to catch the 1PM train to Hida-Furukawa. The station master told us that the next train after that was past 3PM. Yikes.

And that’s it for the seichi junrei in Takayama. Next post will be the continuation, but this time in the small but lovely town of Hida-Furukawa.