Saturday, November 3, 2012

Traveling Solo - Japan (4)

Day 2 - I was waken up by one of the roommates and I was glad... apparently, I had forgotten to set my alarm!  Originally I planned to move before I start my day sightseeing but since it was already 830am by the time I was ready, I decided to move later in the afternoon... Hindsight #1:  should have waited after the Monster Street Festival!

Took the bus to Kiyomizu-dera using a day pass.  It's one of the the landmarks of Kyoto but it's currently under repair.  I probably would visit again if I go to Kyoto again during the sakura or maple season at night.  Hindsight #2: should have visited Jishu Jinja on my way before going to the Kiyomizu platform for pictures.  I ended up walking a long flight of stairs... :'(

A dressed-up maiko posing with travelers
Kiyomizu-dera, landmark of Kyoto

there was a Japanese tour gathering around the temple's cleansing water
the different columns of the temples for historical purpose
view from the main building
the worms did a great job making the leaves look artistic
the most photographed spot at Kiyomizu-dera

even more people lined up for the holy water
this is why you should visit the Jishu Jinja first... the route beyond the Kiyomizu platform is a one-way
Jishu Jinja
per my friend, if you need love / good marriage, here's where you need to go....
fortune readings on love
see, it's popular among girls...
i was too cheap to pay JPY1,000... lol!!
There were two of these stones.  It was said that if you were able to walk from one stone to the other with your eyes closed, you will be rewarded a good relationship (or something like that).  Since I am a skeptic, I couldn't do it.

Kiyomizu-dera have special viewing hours in the evening during the mimoji season.  It's a must see!!!
I strolled the Ninen-zaka and Sannen-saka, shopped a little and passed Kodaiji along the way.  Since I was running short on time, I decided to pass Kodaiji this time and move along to Yasaka Shrine (by the way, I wouldn't recommend Converse for intense walking trips...)  There are rickshaws for hire if you don't want to walk but their charges are steep.  Hindsight #3:  should have known there was special viewing hours in the evening at the Kodaiji!!!  The pictures looked so beautiful!

I bought a octopus fish cake from this shop.  It was pricey (JPY400) but delicious!
Wasn't going to buy this at first but the packaging is too cute and it was an ingenious idea to use on chips
I felt like I walked into a different time period
the puppy is so cute!  kind of reminds me of Dexter (my friend's puppy)
Yasaka Shrine (side gate)
it must be the custom for the shops in town to hang their shop lanterns at the shrine

Yasaka Shrine (main gate)
Lunch on weekends in Gion means long lines, which I wasn't prepared for... I waited approximately 90 minutes in line at Tenshu.  Luckily, there was a parade sponsored by the police department which provided some entertainment and made the wait bearable.  Hindsight #4:  should have made sure to visit popular lunch spots with a reservation or avoid peak meal hours.

this was the restaurant I spotted yesterday - my foodie radar tells me this place is good but I didn't expect it to be this popular
an unexpected parade while waiting in line for my turn at Tenshu

I finally saw some real smiling geishas under the broad daylight!!! (the Kyoto police department should be able to afford 3 geishas for their parade, right?)
I think she is so pretty
so cute!
I ordered a mix tempura donburi (2 anago and 1 shrimp) which is very delicious.  (the popular kakiage is sold out already.)  I praised the chef who had to stand and fry all the food for us to consume.  It's definitely a tough job!  I typically don't like to stand in line for my food and this is no exception.  However, seeing that every other place is so crowded I think this is not a bad choice for lunch.  For the price, I definitely think it's worth a try :)  However, I don't think I would be able to eat a full dinner course here at JPY5,000.

the lunch menu
my lunch!
Even though I was full, I went for dessert at Kagizen just a few shops down the road.  There was a line here as well but wasn't nearly as bad as Tenshu (15 minutes tops).  I ordered the 黑糖 くずきり (first item from the right on their menu) and I am very impressed.  You can tell they are dedicated to providing an excellent product down to the ice.

my dessert
this is what I called dedication!
It was around 1430 and I decided to move my stuff from Waraku-An to Hostel K's before heading up to the Kinkakuji area.  The traffic was so bad I didn't arrive at Hostel K's until almost 1600!!  I left the hostel around 1620 hoping to at least be able to visit Kitano Tenmangu Shrine before meeting up with a girl from Couchsurfing at 1730.  Google map said I should arrive around 1710 and I didn't arrive at the Kitano Station until 1800.  I swear I was only 3 minutes late (I checked my watch and my phone) when I got to the Kitano-Hakubaicho station.  The station is just across from the bus station, and of course they closes at 1800.  I heard Japanese are nortorious about their operating hours but it still frustrates me when they refuse to sell me my value ticket for Arashiyama!

Finally I got to Kitano Tenmangu Shrine at 1810 thinking she must have left already since I am like 40 minutes late at this point.  Thankfully she waited!!!

Together we headed toward Ichijo and watched the Monster Street Festival.  I am just going to post her write-up about the parade here since it's very well written and I can't think of anything better :P
The yokai are the spookiest Japanese monsters you've never heard of. They say that for centuries they've stalked Japan's fields, forests, rivers, and coastlines. Some are human-like, some are animal-like. Some are helpful and some are mischievous. They're Japan's bogeymen. So forget Godzilla. Forget Sadako from The Ring and forget Pocket Monsters. When the lights go out, the yokai come out.

In Ichijo Street, on the northern tip of Heian-Kyo (one of the old capitals of the country), there lies the border between our world and theirs. Legend has it that on a dark night during the Heian period, old things and goods thrown away by humans transformed into yokai. One after another, a throng of monsters marched into the old capital through Ichijo Street.

These days, for many years, the yokai comes alive again in this tiny street near the Kitano Tenmagu Shrine for an annual celebration of parades, flea markets, and really yummy street food, because apparently the people in the past started reselling their old belongings before they turned into monsters!
he was so friendly :)
she is the most spirited and in character of all the participants in my opinion (I only guessed that it's a "she", if  it was a "he" then sorry!)
that mask is pretty creepy...
scared little kids... it's almost more fun watching the crying kids then the actual parade... haha!

this kid wasn't scared at all... he was borderline bored XD 
so many people!
most of the snacks look better than they taste... 
I think he wants to go home :P
at first I thought it was senior bingo... but then it turns out to be a rice raffle... 
We also tried a few of the street food before heading back to Kyoto Station for dinner at the Ramen Path, 10th floor at the Isetan department store.  Later that night, I enjoyed my egg roll and sushi as a late night snack at the hostel's common room.  It's definitely a day full of hindsights :/

10th floor of Isetan @ JR Kyoto Station
the walkway was really cool
so many choices
we settled on trying this one this time
it's packed!

beer + ramen + fried chicken = dinner can't get any better
Shopping of the day:

My thoughts on the acommodation I stayed at so far:

Waraku-An is a very pretty ryokan.  The owners really made an effort to make it look nice.  It's close to bus stops and very near Heian Shrine.  You can see the before and after pictures in the album in the common room.  The receptionist was a bit cold at first when I arrived at the ryokan but she warmed up the next morning I saw her.  One of my roommates was from Hiroshima and she is very friendly.  Since the building is all wood and the walls are thin, it could be noisy at night when people walk around the hallway.  However, my room was in the corner and my bed was at the corner, it wasn't an issue at all for me.  There was only one shower room and a very small bathroom so taking a shower was an issue, unless you opt for the public bath nearby.  All in all, my stay at Waraku-An was too short to make a constructive accessment but it's overall positive.  I really like the small garden and could see myself returning and enjoying an afternoon there just drinking tea and reading a book.

Hostel K's is a very organized hostel.  It's close to the Kyoto Station and bus stops.  It's very bright and clean although in my opinion, it lacks character.  The staff were polite but they didn't seem very friendly.  The best part, they have an elevator in the building and free wifi on every floor.  I stayed at a 6-mix dorm for 2 nights.  The room is roomy and the bed is actually quite big.  I was actually surprised when the Korean girls were the ones snoring instead of my male roommates... None of them were very talkative / friendly.  A guy from New York was trying to make some small talks the second night but he got no response at all.  I wasn't too happy with the fact that the previous user of the laundry facilities left her clothes in the washer for at least 40 minutes after it was done (at 30 minutes, I was too fed up and moved her clothes into the dryer).  Nevertheless, the dryer is powerful and my clothes were drived within 20 minutes.  I am not sure if I would return since there are so many other choices in Kyoto.  The vibe just wasn't right for me.


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