Temple run and too much sake a manic afternoon in Kyoto

Travel ?? Comments Sun 28 December 2014

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Kyoto train station is amazing. It's almost like a city in and of itself - nevermind the rest of Kyoto, just visit the train station and you're done. No, not really, that was terrible advice, please don't follow it - Kyoto has tonnes to offer.

But the train station truly is massive - there is a 7 story electronics store (BIC Camera), an 11 floor Isetan that includes two food courts (The CUBE and Eat Paradise) as well as a basement food floor (confusingly also called The CUBE), an underground shopping center, a hotel, a massive variety of restaurants, and an amazing design with panoramic views of Kyoto. Oh, and it also contains the Japan Rail (JR) local lines, shinkansen, Kyoto subway, and a bus terminal.

So, arriving in Kyoto at 2pm, starving hungry and with check-in not until 3, I made my way up to Eat Paradise in order to sooth my growling stomach.

(Funny story: I had bought a sandwich at Hiroshima station, only to clumsily drop it onto the tracks as I was boarding the train. Oops.)

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I thought I had finally escaped the pork insanity of Okinawa... nope. Turns out tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet) is a Kyoto specialty.

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I settled with a fried soba dish

Temple run

After checking in at my hostel (Piece Hostel Kyoto, a fantastic almost-brand-new hostel), I asked if there was anything worthwhile visiting for the rest of the afternoon (I mean, it was only 3pm). We walked over to a giant map of Kyoto on one of the adjoining wall, and slowly worked our way through the temples pictured.

'Hmm, closes at 3, closes at 4, closes at 4.30, closes at 3.30, closes at 5...'

I was becoming more and more dejected. Are none of them open late afternoon in Kyoto?

'Oh wait! This one is open until 6!'

And that's how I found myself making a mad run for Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple overlooking the city and built in 1633.

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After a long walk up a (very) touristy hill, I finally made it. Unfortunately, the main hall was under repair - the perils of travelling in the low season.

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Selfie time

Wondering around the gardens, there were so. many. tourists. Everyone was clamoring for the same touristy shots and selfies, which really makes you question your individuality when suddenly you have the urge to take the exact same photo from the exact same angle ('I've got to document this, it's important!'). Still, it is a UNESCO heritage site, so it was pretty interesting to see. I just wish I'd gone early in the morning to avoid the crowds.

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I must've found the one orange tree still remaining - as did millions of other tourists as we all gathered around it, cameras in tow

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View from the temple

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The sunset was pretty spectacular, even if I was slightly bitter at it for overexposing so many of my photos (priorities, am I right?)

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On the walk back down, I couldn't help but try a matcha (green tea powder, a Kyoto specialty) custard pastry - it was pretty delicious (as is all food in Japan).

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Long walk back

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Matcha pastry


Next up: Yasaka-jinja, a Shinto shrine dating from 656, that overlooks Gion district (Kyoto's famous geisha district).

This one was much more peaceful, with only a few tourists passing through here and there. Instead, a majority of the visitors were locals, passing through to ring the bells give prayer.

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Yasaka shrine gate overlooking the Gion district

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Too much sake

Returning to the hostel, I started talking to some of the other travellers; Kristiaan (a TV reporter from the UK), Camille (doing her PhD in Montreal), and Baron (an architect from the US), amongst others. Hungry for dinner (and drinks), we set out to try an izakaya suggested by the guy at the hostel reception.

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I ordered seared beef on a hot plate via the always reliables 'point and hope fo the best' method


We quickly worked out that two sake bottles should be enough to get us through the night (and relatively cheap as well), and buzzed the waitress over to make our order.

The food was delicious ('You all have to try the horse sashimi!' implored Camille, to a relatively unenthusiastic table), much sake was consumed (after we worked out how to combine it with the ice - a process that lead to much discussion before we ultimately buzzed the waitress back), and conversation was plentiful; ranging from topics as diverse as selfie sticks, animal testing, studies, travel, and the Russian mob ('You see, there is the old mob, and the new mob...').

We finally walked back to the hostel at 2am, the last ones out of the izakaya, kept warm by the (quickly) dissipating glow of too much sake.

Tags: japan kyoto



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