Hi all! I was a bit under the weather this week, but I'm back with renewed energies, which means, back to the Japan adventure!
This next part takes place in Kyoto, the city of "ten thousand shrines", the old capital of Japan, and one of my favorite places in the world. I was lucky enough to visit Kyoto about... 10 years ago? Whoa, time goes by so fast! I studied japanese for over a month at the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies and stayed for a little while more to travel around. I have such fond memories of that time that I couldn't miss my chance to go back once more, and it was my husband's favorite city from this trip as well! There's that "old meets new" charm all around, and there's a sense of small town's calmness even if the city is quite large; not crazy large as Tokyo, or even Osaka of course, but fairly big.
The trip begins with a ride on the shinkansen (bullet train), for which we missed getting a boxed lunch before the ride, but luckily I had a box of butter cookies (these seem to be pretty famous in Japan, here's Namiko Chen's recipe in case you are interested) and banana milk cans I bought the day before in Kamakura. The ride was nice and fast, so we arrived in Kyoto around lunch time, left our bags in the hostel and decided to walk around. The streets in our "neighborhood" were so tiny and cute, there were several train rails along the way and beautiful traditional shops that sold tofu and sweets.
TRAVEL TIP: if you plan a trip to Japan and want to travel around a lot, say, using a couple bullet trains (like Tokyo to Kyoto, Kyoto to Hiroshima or the sorts), I recommend checking out the Japan Rail Pass, it's a great money and time saver! Oh, and a pocket wifi is a life saver as well.
We made our way to Kyoto Station (which for some reason I forgot to take pictures of), a huge huge place filled with shops and restaurants, to my delight there was a Mister Donut from which I probably gained some weight of, since I ate one of those almost every single day of the trip (and to compensate, I ate two doughnuts sometimes for the days I couldn't buy one; I shouldn't talk about this any further). From there, we walked all the way to Gion, a famous geisha district with lots of teahouses, restaurants and shops. And no, if you are someone that believes geisha is the japanese version of a prostitute, you are confused, this is not a red-light district by no means and a teahouse is not "that kind of place", they are entertainers and women of the arts; which is something you can also say about a prostitute but I don't want to discuss this right now. So anyway, after having a nice dinner and being treated to really tasty sake by an amazingly kind old couple we chatted a little with, we made our way back to the station walking by the river with charming views all along the path. It was indeed a great and welcoming evening.
The next morning we visited one of the most famous photo spots of Japan: Fushimi Inari Shrine. This is the main shrine dedicated to Inari, the god(or goddess) of rice, foxes, fertility, tea, sake, business and merchants among other things; which in numbers means that more than 32,000 shinto temples in Japan are dedicated to Inari. The most photographed part of the shrine is where rows of countless red toori (japanese gate structures) press themselves together to make way up to the mountain. It is a magical place, that while rather crowded along the entrance, it becomes less and less touristy as you make your way up the mountain, where you can breathe the wonderful clean air and find fox statues among the wild nature growing all around.
After a nice walk in the shrine, we made our way north to visit Nishiki Market, a must see place filled with food, spices, textiles and interesting goodies all around. I got some nice looking candies, and after having a great bowl of ramen, I visited the Bento&co shop and bought a beautiful bento box that I'll show off later on! And to finish the day off with a cherry on top, we visited Nara, but I'll leave that bit to the next post because I don't want to drag this one for so long.
I want to go back so badly just writing all of this, so if you find yourself visiting Japan I recommend you spend at least one or two days in Kyoto! I'll be back with the last posts about my adventure in Japan, with Nara, Arashiyama, Mt. Fuji and, finally, West Tokyo. Probably sneaking a Memorial Day post in between if I get to do something post-worthy this long weekend!