Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Chasing Sakura - Japan (2) - Kyoto

I can't believe I am only starting this series... after all, I am back for almost 2 months!  Hopefully, I will finish this series before leaving for my next trip~  (I am going to Beijing / Inner Mongolia in July for 10 days!!! woot!!)

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After much research, the Haruka+ICOCA combo is still the best value to visit Kyoto from the airport!


A quick recap, we covered at least 90% of the original itinerary (see my previous post) and had a fantastic time.  I really hope that I will be able to go to Japan at least once a year :)  To reduce the length of each post, I am going to try something new for this series.  i.e., making separate posts on places I enjoyed.

We had a pretty uneventful journey and arrived safely at Kansai Airport early in the morning.  Peach Airlines now arrives and departs at Terminal 2, which is quite inconvenient as we had to take a shuttle to go back to the main terminal.  Consequently, we missed the first Haruka to Kyoto.  Regardless, it was still very early and I split off with my friend as soon as I left my bags with the hostel.  They went to the famous Michelin 3-star kaiseki restaurant - Ryotei Kikunoi.  They enjoyed their meal very much and I have asked them to do a guest post.  But it might be faster if you went there yourself :P



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We stayed at Jiyu-jin this time (only 1 night).
Very close to the Gojo subway  station.
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As for me, I rushed for the subway station and headed to the Kyoto Imperial Palace.  It was an impromptu decision when I saw the sign at the subway station.  It's en route to my other destinations anyway and I already bought a one-day subway pass.  


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We weren't allow to go inside any building so that was a bummer.
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I found the exterior of Japanese palaces more subdue.
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Beautiful garden within the Kyoto Imperial Palace

Next I went to the old abandoned railroad nearby Keage Subway Station (蹴上站).  The sakura there was in full bloom and I loved every moment there.  (To me, this is a "must-see".)  Not to mention, it's also very close to my favorite udon place - Yamamoto Menzo (山元麵藏)!  It is a place I have been wanting to come back since my last trip!!!


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I took a short walk by the river on the way back to the subway.

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Snapseed is a good app.

Although lunch took longer than I anticipated, I didn't have time to check out the Philosopher's Path  (哲學之道) and went straight to Daigoji (醍醐寺).  Maybe I was expecting so much I was a little disappointed.  It was the #1 recommended spot for sakura viewing on a few of the Taiwanese blog I read.  Next time, I think I am just going to rent a bike and go to Philosopher's Path and visit a cafe there.



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The connecting bus between the subway station to Daigoji.
JPY300 for a round-trip ticket.
Daigoji was revered by many bloggers and backpackers as the must see place in the sakura season, hence I came despite the distance from the city center.I guess Kaege stole the thunder...  Looking back at these photos, this place is gorgeous but I was slig
It was highly recommended by other bloggers so I went.
It is a lovely place but I have developed unrealistic expectations.
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I still got a little time (my friends and I agreed to meet up at Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺around 6:30 pm) so I slowly made my way from the Higashiyama Subway station to Kiyomizu.  I still feel like I am time-traveling when I walked through the streets leading to Kiyomizu.



So glad I bought the wide angle lens.  Yasaka shrine looks so much better with the extra "mm" :)
Revisiting the Yasaka Shrine
 I should have tried this... regretting...
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Sannen-zaka (三年坂)

After joining my friends at Kiyomizu, we went for the special night viewing together.  It's truly spectacular and an unforgettable experience.  The "must-see" title is well deserved.  (Click here.)  Originally, we wanted to try the tofu restaurant near Kiyomizu but it was closed.  Thus, we ended up walking around Gion (祗園) district and stumbled upon an izakaya - Yuuki (遊亀).


the tofu place b wants to try...
closes at 8pm...  we arrived at 8:10pm...
Gion
The street all tourists go to get a glimpse of the real geishas.
spotted two fully dressed geisha as we head out!  my camera was too slow to focus so I didn't get a good picture of their face :(

Now that we are rested and full, we took a walk at Gion Shirakawa (衹園白川).  It is absolutely gorgeous at night.  Next time, I might try to stay at a ryokan in the area (it is quite expensive).  I think the experience will be worth it :)



衹園白川 - another popular place for sakura viewing at night - so lovely~~~
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We were so tired when we returned to the hostel.  (We had a super eventful day!)  Kyoto is definitely one of my favorite cities.  I was just there last October but I still feel like there are so much more to see!  I can't wait to come back~

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