Friday, November 9, 2012

Traveling Solo - Japan (5)

Day 3 - I met up with my new friend from CS at the Kyoto Station and a French couple joined us as well.  We got to Umahoru and walked to Torroko Kameoka Station and successfully bought our cart #5 tickets on the Sagano Sightseeing train! yay!  (in fact, those were the last 4 seats)

Around 30 minutes from JR Kyoto
very good signage leading to the Sagano Sightseeing Train Station
we were lucky, the line wasn't too long that morning
cart #5 on the first train!
Since we have some time before the train departs, I explored a little at the station and got myself a cute souvenir.  The station is decorated with these raccoon statues which I am not sure if there is any particular meaning. 

see the crane?

misty morning

our train is here!
The scenery is awesome and we have a very fun conductor.  Although it was rumored the even number seats give better view, I disagree.  I think the standing tickets are the best.  Otherwise, the best view are from the odd number seats towards the end of the ride.

a very lovely train ride!
We got off at Torroko Arashiyama and walked the famous Sagano bamboo grove.  It was just as pretty as I have imagined and it led us to the Nonomiya Shrine.  As there is the annual Saiku parade later today, there were having a ceremony so no visitors were allowed until 1230pm.  So we kept on walking and had a late breakfast at a soba shop followed with ice-cream on the streets of Arashiyama.

Sagano Bamboo Grove
Fall is almost here!
ceremony in session
delicious food at very affordable price!
herring soba
sesame tofu
4-flavor ice-cream from next store
We also visited the Tenryuji Temple and enjoyed the beautiful garden.  I can see how much prettier this place will be when the height of the mimoji season hits!

Tenryuji Temple

tickets to go inside the building is JPY100 extra
breathtaking garden

Since the parade was about to begin, we waited just outside of the Tenryuji.  A friendly Japanese man, who spoke perfect English, told us where we could get the best view of the parade.  As we were watching the glamorous parade, I can't help but wonder the lives of the princesses who were chosen to become the  "Saiō".   Do they see this as a divine appointment and feel honored for being chosen or do they resent it?

the annual reenactment of the Saio parade is held on every October  21st

in the past, there will be around 500 people leaving together with the princess
After the parade, I parted ways with my new friends as we all have different destinations.  I had lunch at Hirokawa and tried the Unagi-ju set.  The unagi was one of the best I have ever tried.  It was full of flavor and the fat of the eel just melts in your mouth.  I also enjoyed the grilled eel livers a lot.  Definitely one of the best meals I had during this trip.  I can't wait to return but I am probably going to stick to the unagi-ju instead of the set as it was quite pricy and the star of the meal was no doubt the unagi.

Today's unagi is from Shizuoka and Miyazaki
unagi liver skewer
unagi-ju - the eel is so good I don't know how I am going to be able to eat unagi elsewhere again
clear soup with a hint of yuzu - yummy!

I also tried the croquette from Nakamura.  It wasn't bad but it wasn't a must-eat.  Togetsukyo bridge is very pretty and I wish I had more time to walk around the Arashiyama park.  However, since I want to see Kinkakuji more, I have to leave Arashiyama.

Togetsukyo Bridge

like father, like son

gorgeous Japanese lady
I took the Randen, which has a foot onsen within the station.  I was really looking forward to it after 3 days of non-stop walking.  It was a disappointment.  The water was hot and soothing but the amount of dead skin suspending in the water was also disgusting.  If my feet weren't so tired and I didn't just pay JPY150 for it, there is no way I would put my feet in it.  Luckily there was an area where I can wash my feet before putting back my socks on.


ready for the foot soak
the foot soak is in the station just next to the tracks
there were floating skin peels so it was actually pretty gross...
The Randen trains are nostalgic, a striking contrast from my morning JR ride.  After arriving at the Kitano station, I hopped on a bus that took me straight to Kinkakuji.  Kinkakuji is a shining beauty on the lake and you can hear the "ooo..." and "aaaa..." from the visitors upon entry.  I purposely went there in the late afternoon since Kinkakuji is the prettiest when the afternoon sun shines on the golden surface of Kinkakuji.  It was so pretty nobody wanted to move and pictures can only do so much to capture the beauty we experienced in that moment.

the 5 commandments?
Kinkakuji entry ticket
so crowded...

best time to visit is during late afternoon

After leaving Kinkakuji, I realized I still have time to visit Kitano Tenmangu Shrine so I walked there (too cheap to pay another JPY220 for a 15 minutes walk).  The shrine is a subtle structure compared to Kinkakuji.  The shrine is popular among students praying for success in exams because the deity was in his life a man of literature and knowledge. The best time to visit this shrine is actually in February when the plum blossoms are in season. 

On the way, I also passed by a well-known Japanese dessert place but unfortunately, there were closed since they have already sold out their desserts for the day :(

sold out for the day T_T
I took the bus and returned to the hostel.  After a bit of resting, I met with a Taiwanese traveller and had dinner at the nearby Gyoza no Ohsho.  The food was alright for its price.  I just didn't felt like going far that evening as I needed the rest and enjoy the highly anticipated Kurama Fire Festival tomorrow.  (It's the main reason why I didn't visit Kyoto in November, during the peak of the mimoji season.)

Gyoza no Ohsho
fried chicken
fried rice


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