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.)
I thought I had finally escaped the pork insanity of Okinawa... nope. Turns out tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet) is a Kyoto specialty.
I settled with a fried soba dish
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.
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.
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.
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
View from the temple
The sunset was pretty spectacular, even if I was slightly bitter at it for overexposing so many of my photos (priorities, am I right?)
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).
Long walk back
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.
Yasaka shrine gate overlooking the Gion district
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.
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.
- May January
- Mon 29 December 2014Temples, shrines, and Irish pubs (oops)
- Sun 28 December 2014Temple run and too much sake
- Fri 26 December 2014Hiroshima
- Wed 24 December 2014Things I've noticed since coming to regular Japan
- Mon 22 December 2014Last day in Okinawa
- Mon 22 December 2014A very Okinawan Hanukkah
- Sun 21 December 2014Onna Industrial Festival
- Sun 21 December 2014Last week at OIST
- Tue 16 December 2014A surprisingly good time to go to Russia
- Mon 15 December 2014Cape Hedo and Hiji Falls
- Mon 15 December 2014Vires Acquirit Eundo
- Mon 15 December 2014Chicken skin (and other assorted delights)
- Sun 14 December 2014Bread 1.0
- Sun 14 December 2014More things I've noticed since arriving in Okinawa
- Tue 09 December 2014The Heart Attack Murder Burger
- Tue 09 December 2014Spongebob and the birthday pig
- Mon 08 December 2014Kourijima
- Mon 08 December 2014Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
- Sun 07 December 2014Americana teppanyaki
- Sun 07 December 2014Searching for yeast on a Friday night
- Mon 01 December 2014Pineapple Park
- Sun 30 November 2014Castles, pancakes, Naha and more
- Fri 28 November 2014Attempted drive to Ishikawa
- Thu 27 November 2014Walk through Tancha
- Tue 25 November 2014Things I've discovered since arriving in Okinawa
- Tue 25 November 2014Settling in at OIST
- Mon 24 November 2014Accidental business class
- Sun 23 November 2014Delayed in Hong Kong
- Sun 16 November 2014A Siberian adventure