Finally, my trip was coming to an end. After days of perfect sunny weather, the weather on Kyoto day 2 and 3 reflected my mood: cloudy.
Compared to Osaka’s complicated spider web of a subway system, Kyoto’s subway routes are more on the simpler side, to say the least. There aren’t that many lines running through the city, and many of the landmark must-see locations in Kyoto cannot be accessed by subway.
However! The Kyoto buses, on the other hand, boast an incredibly intricate system that run throughout the city. We used our last day of our Kansai Thru Passes, and instead of buying the JR pass (which does not go to many of the major sight-seeing locations throughout the city and is quite expensive) or any other subway pass, we decided to go for a one-day bus pass which cost 500 yen per person. If you’re staying at a hotel, ask the front desk if they are selling any bus passes. That’s where we got ours.
The front desk provided us with a English bus map, which was incredibly useful considering many of the signs and route maps at the bus stops were completely in Japanese. We got on a bus to get to one of the most famous landmarks in the city, Kinkakuji, a Zen Buddhist temple and garden complex.
The bus stops right in front of the complex.
After paying a fee of 400 yen per person, they give you each a paper talisman.
The three-story Golden Pavilion is famous for its distinct golden sheen, being covered completely in pure gold leaf.
The pavilion is surrounded with water, with trees lining the area.
When the sun shines, they say it really looks like the pavilion is glowing.
There is a phoenix roof ornament on the top.
There were lots of huge koi in the pond, and suddenly one would come up to the surface.
There was an area where you could try to throw coins into a small metal pot.
There was a pine tree with a flower, which I had never seen before.
Overall, even though I’m not a Buddhist myself, looking around the area made me feel quite calm and peaceful.
There was an area where you could light some incense and make some prayers.
I was very interested in a vending machine of English fortunes. There were of course Japanese fortunes and also Korean fortunes as well.
Thus, I received a written oracle.
My fortune was excellent, which actually made me pretty lucky throughout the day.
business: Do not buy now, or you’ll lose. Wise words.
I passed by another temple, which also seemed quite beautiful and ancient, but alas we needed to get going to our next destination, Arashiyama, famous for its mysterious bamboo grove.
On the way, I stopped by Yojiya, a Kyoto cosmetics brand famous for its oil blotting papers.
I had to get this little make-up pouch.
Waiting for the train.
The station was very old-timey in a good way. Old fashioned, but very clean.
The train was more of a tram then your average subway train in Osaka.
After arriving at Arashiyama, we stopped to get some food before trekking around.
Fried silken tofu in a dashii broth with various toppings.
Came with rice, tsukemono, tamagoyaki, and other delicious little bits.
I tried chilled macha soba.
After shopping around and buying various cooking vessels made of bamboo, I came upon this quaint little sweets shop called Nozura.
Instantly fell in love with the interior.
Looking through the menu.
Ground bean powder shaved ice with red bean paste and three little rice cakes. Nutty and refreshing.
I got chilled warabi mochi which came in a bath of cold water.
With two kinds of dipping condiments: a syrup made of black sugar and ground bean powder. So refreshing and delicious. Perfect on a hot day.
There is a river that runs through the area.
You can also rent a hand-pulled carriage. I really enjoyed the shoes/socks the carriage-pullers had.
Although there weren’t that many people on the boats, I can really imagine people flocking to the river during the springtime.
Finally, the place my dango dreams came true. I always imagined how authentic toasty mitarashi dango on a stick tasted like, and after taking a bite, I almost shed a tear because it was so good.
Different sweets, or okashii, but I knew what I was getting.
Like toasty little unicorn buns. The mitarashi sauce was just the right amount of salty and sweet.
Finally, the bamboo grove. Actually, to me, I wasn’t that blown away by the garden. There were huge straw fences that stood between the path and the bamboo, and it really took away from taking beautiful pictures of the bamboo itself. I also felt like it would have been much more pleasant if the weather was a bit cooler.
After looking around the area a bit, we left for our next destination, Nishiki Market.
Lanterns in the market.
Nishiki market is famous for its large variety of pickles, but all kinds of food can be found throughout the market.
We stayed in a traditional ryokan by the name of Hirashin. It cost about 15,000 won for one night (two guests). The ryokan was very clean, the staff hospitable, and there’s even a public bath. Click here for details. The ryokan is very close to Shijo-Karasuma station.
We were greeted with a hot pot of green tea.
In the evening, staff will come in to lay down the futon, the bedding.
After going to the department store at approximately 7:30 and buying 80% discounted bentos, and sleeping like a baby in the thick futon, it was finally time to head back to Korea.
But first, a coffee break.
Chiffon cake from Starbucks.
My last meal was one of my favorites, a bowl consisting of white rice, natto, okra, tuna, ground mountain potato, raw egg, a pickle of some sort, and nori. All my favorite sticky, gooey foods in one bowl.
It doesn’t look that appetizing, but if you can learn to embrace the texture, is incredibly delicious.
After our meal, we tried to pay with credit card but found out they only accepted cash. The lesson to be learned is, just because a restaurant looks like it might receive credit card doesn’t mean they do. Please save enough cash so you don’t have to run around the area like a crazy person trying to look for a atm machine that accepts foreign cards.
All in all, even with minimal planning, I felt my trip to the Kansai region was informative, beautiful, and most of all, delicious. If you live in Korea and only have a few days of vacation, I would highly recommend heading to this region. It’s quite near (1 hour 30 minute flight time), and the ticket prices are quite reasonable (200-300 thousand won during normal time, but can inflate to 700 thousand during peak time).