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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

#carmenxjapan Day 7: Red Tori Gates and Silver Pavillion at Kyoto

Bid farewell to my friends early in the morning, carried my pink suitcase and tripod to Tokyo station and boarded a train to 318 miles away. At that moment, part of me couldn't believe all this is happening. Me, just me, sitting next to the window, on a train to somewhere I've never been to. There was a very complicated stream of emotions. Basically a mix of fear and excitement. Unlike many others' adventurous solo trip, I'm not gonna say I'm on some soul searching journey, but just a single tourist who just want to have an enjoyable time. And what is enjoyable? I define it :) 

From Tokyo to Kyoto
To save time, I decided to splurge for the Shinkansen bullet train (Nozomi) which allows you to reach Kyoto Station from Tokyo Station in less than 2.5 hours for 13,190 yen. If you want a cheaper option, you may take an overnight bus which is half the price or less. No regrets man despite being probably the most expensive train ticket I have ever bought in my entire life. Got my tickets at Tokyo Station on Day 5 and the ticketing staff selected a window seat at the back of the coach where you can put your luggage within the space behind. And I'm not sure if it's because I bought tickets in advance, no one sat beside me and I pretty much have the whole row to myself. 2 hours passed in a flash and I reached Kyoto Station. 

The bullet train is so comfy and stable that they have this special platform right beside the window for you to place your beverage and you don't have to worry about it toppling. 

Traveling around Kyoto
Most of the major tourist sites are accessible by bus and so I bought two pieces of one-day bus pass which costs 500 yen each. Bus fares are at a flat rate of 230 yen if I remember correctly. So if you are going to take the bus for more than 2 rides, you should get the bus pass and don't forget to get the Kyoto City Bus Map as well. Besides bus, I took the train to travel to Fushimi Inari Shrine and Uji City.   

Fushimi Inari Shrine 伏見稲荷大社
Checked-in at my hostel first to deposit my luggage and head out right away for the first tourist destination. Fushimi Inari Shrine is pretty much the equivalent to the word Kyoto. I doubt there's any who doesn't know about the much famed Tori gate archway. Bet you've seen it on your instagram, those tightly packed red archways that seemed never ending. Looks like it will lead you to some magical world. Was totally excited to have my head below the archways but those instagram didn't really tell me that the tori gates are lined along a mountain. Most of the photos I see looked like just a straight path of tori gates, but the truth is, it's a long hike up. And especially if you want to take photos without someone photobombing, you will have to climb for at least 1 hour. I salute to those who went all the way to the top, I totally gave up halfway after raining sweat and settled for minimal photobombs. 

FYI, Inari is the God of Rice, there are many shrines all over Japan that worships Inari but this shrine at Fushimi is the head shrine. 

The fox with rice in its mouth is the messenger of Inari

before the thousands of tori gates is the main shrine complex, with many visitors ringing the bells are saying their prayers. 

Tori gate wishing plates

now let the tori tunnel begin. True enough, the first 1km of the tunnel was pretty much flooded with people. It's like we're trying to 取西经 or something haha

Along the path, there are smaller shrines on the sides

There are also teahouses along the way where you could take a rest and enjoy the serenity of the forest. 

see this slope, that's where I decided to give up haha. 

On the way down. 
all these Torii gates are the result of donations and the smallest Torri gate along the path costs 400,000 yen omgggg. The names of the donor are inscribed on the back of the Torii gates. 

Just next to the shrine's entrance is a market street with plenty of street food

my friend recommended Hiroshimayaki, which is a variation of Okonomiyaki
didn't take me too long to find the stall, the smell was so good

Hiroshimayaki (500yen)
Similar to the usual Okonomiyaki with loads of crunchy cabbage and veggies but there's a layer of noodles and some chilli . Instead of a pancake, it taste like yakisoba with loads of bonito flakes. 

Ginkakuji 银阁寺
From Fushimi Inari Station, took a train back to central Kyoto and took a bus to Ginkakuji temple which is located at the east side. When I first step into the gardens, all I can think of is the word Zen. The lush greens, the mossy grounds even the water in the pond was calm. I'm not really into visiting parks, but it really was a fresh sight for me, and the chilly weather made the whole tour around the park pleasant. But I was disappointed that the temple buildings is not opened for visitors. So basically, it's just a walk around a park/forest and admission costs 500 yen. So honestly speaking, this is not on the top of my list. I guessed Nanzenji would have been a better option. 

The Silver Sand

It was almost dusk when I left Ginkakuji, took a short stroll down Philosopher's Path, which is a walking path along a canal. Lining the sides are cherry blossom trees. Though the flowers are nowhere to be seen, the green trees are soothing. 

Three Little Bears enjoying their leisure time next to the canal. 

Yasaka Shrine 八坂神社
Was kinda tired after visiting Ginkakuji and decided to take a bus to Gion. Saw this bright red shrine right at the junction and decided to pay a visit. Admission is free, so why not? Similar to the Inari Shrine, it's also a shrine to worship deities in Japanese myth. 

Kyoto being the city of ancient heritage, it's no surprise to see people in Kimonos, experiencing the living history. 

The dance stage with many lanterns  

awkward posing infront of a tripod

Ended the day early due to extreme fatigue. Imagine sleeping at 2am and waking at 5am. But not gonna skip dinner of course. Went back to my hostel and asked for recommendations from the friendly staff. And her advice, a Udon bar in a quiet alley.   

Gotta love Kyoto, even a stream nearby looks poetic. 

Udon Noodles (910yen)
The price of the Udon depends on the toppings you choose. Mine has only veggie and yes it certainly is not a cheap Udon, but it is delicious. The sweet clear soup, with the springy yet chewy noodles. Is like Panmee but more springy. I gulped the soup down. 

That's all for day 1 in Kyoto. I would have to say Kyoto is really different from Tokyo, love the nostalgic vibe. All the beautifully preserved shop houses, the majestic shrines and temples and the variety of food omggg It's gonna be fun. 

Btw forgive the awkward photos of myself haha, using a tripod is not easy haha. 

**Accomodation in Kyoto**
To save on accomodation, I chose to get a bunk bed in Haruya Hostel which costs 1980yen per night. The hostel is located at Higashiyama Station, which is around 15 minutes walk from Gion district. Initially I was attracted by the fact that the hostel is a 100 year old building. True enough, the hostel's interior kept the traditional Japanese home decor. Wooden staircases, sliding doors and the smell of tatami mats, really gives you a little taste of Japanese homes. But I think the best thing about the hostel is their staffs, super friendly and helpful. When I checked in, the front desk staff took the initiative to provide a local map and explained the various tourist attractions nearby. I got my Kyoto bus pass from the front desk as well. Their attitude is just so nice and kind that I never hesitate to ask them anything. The complaints I have is just the dorm room I stayed in is super small, lack of space and lack of power points. I suggest staying in their tatami rooms which looks more spacious and comfy. 

Go to Haruya Hostel's website to find out more. 

The common area that looks like the living room of Japanese homes
with the wooden bookshelves and the seat cushions. 

The common area on the first floor. 

despite having only one dorm room in the hostel, was lucky to make acquaintances with my dorm mates. 
Maiko on the left is a sweet Tokyo girl and Tinie in the middle is from Malaysia as well!
So glad that we got to exchange so much thoughts and learned alot about Japan thanks to Maiko. Forever grateful of the two nights of laughter and chats. 

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