Kyoto... Former capital of Japan

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October 13th 2015
Published: October 23rd 2015
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Day 1

We got up at 5am from our hotel in Tokyo and checked out, we then headed to the train station to catch the amazing and world famous Bullet Train, we were early so we grabbed some sort of breakfast before getting on the train. Like excited kids waiting to get on "its a small world" at Disney, we ran up and down taking photos and admired the awesomeness of the train!

I popped in to a shop to pick up drinks, Joe a coffee and me a tea. Coffee is easy, Tea on the other hand, well, she kept pointing at what looked like bottles in a fridge, I said "no, Hot tea" and she kept nodding and in the end took a bottle of green tea out of the fridge and guess what? it was hot!

Our ride on the bullet train was fun, it didn't feel as fast as we knew it was going. I ran from seat to seat taking photos out of the window until the train filled up and then I had to behave. An older lady tapped me, she pointed out of the window and said FUJI, and there it was, Mount Fuji, a far better view than we had had when we trekked to Hakone so this was amazing "Arigato" I said probably too many times 😊

When we arrived in Kyoto we were due to find "Cycle Kyoto" hence the reason we left so early, we had instructions to follow and we managed it quite easily. so far Kyoto was looking a bit like Slough trading estate but this is around the station, we were glad we booked the cycle tour as we wouldn't know where to start.

We met with Sam who fitted us with bikes, Sam has lived in Japan for nearly 20 years and gave us a great view of Kyoto, we cycled through the back streets and along the Kamo river path, we were able to see many places we wouldn't have seen on our own as we would not have had the time.

We saw the Toji temple and Ryukoku university which looks very western - this was to encourage the west to take Japan seriously.

We visited the Fushimi Inari Shrine which is the world famous shrine with the red Torri gates, this shrine is dedicated to the gods of Rice and Saki - it was extremely busy and it was a working shrine, sadly we were not allowed to take photos except of the torri gates, apparently it is a very haunted shrine.

we also visited Tofukuji Temple and Gion.

so we were very busy and our bums hurt! once finished we took our bags and headed for the hotel, Ana Crowne Plaza where we rested for most of the rest of the day except when we ventured out and found a mos burger - result!

Day 2

We rested in a bit before having breakfast in the hotel, Crowne Plaza never lets me down for breakfast! After Breakfast I was in a hurry as I knew this afternoons visit was going to take time to get to so I wanted to get on with the day quickly. Nijo-jo castle was our first stop, across the road from the hotel which was a super location. The castle was the home of the Shogun of Nijo-jo, the warlords effectively ran japan for centuries. The castle didn't look like much on the outside but on the inside it looked like Japanese buildings that you see in the movies, with wall hangings that contain pictures of tigers and cranes, the floor squeaked as you walked, this is called "nightingale floor" this is to detect intruders.

The garden was beautiful with a lovely lake and wonderful acer trees around it.

Next we were off to Arashi on the outskirts of Kyoto to visit the world famous bamboo grove.

we headed to the station and asked several people if they spoke English until finally an old grandmother shoved her grandson in front of us, he helped us buy a ticket to get there, phew. The next step was finding the right platform, again we asked several people until we were sure, once on the train we were chatting and admiring how well dressed the train driver was with his white gloves and hat when about three people in the carriage shouted "HERE" to us and pointed at the station, Did I tell you how wonderfully helpful the Japanese are - they are troopers!

There was a big sign pointing to the Bamboo Grove, it may as well have said "tourists, this way" we followed it with everyone else as if on a pilgrimage. along the way we decided to stop for food, we popped into a place called STEAK, the food was amazing and not expensive either and we had some great entertainment when some American's tried to pay in US dollars.

we headed back on the trail of the Bamboo Grove and it seemed quieter which we were both pleased about but sadly as we arrived it was jam packed with Chinese tourists (Chinese bank holiday) most of them too busy staring at their phones to admire the wonder of the bamboo, we walked through and it seemed really short, there were people getting wedding photos in there and others just ticking the grove off their to do list. We then came across a marvellous but small temple, Tenryu-ji temple. its garden is known to be the most attractive in all of Kyoto and because of this it is packed but you could find a space and really admire its beauty, especially as some of the leaves were turning red and brown, it was stunning.

As we left the temple we realised that there was more to the Bamboo Grove, infact its the bit you recognise from the pictures in guidebooks and magazines. It wasn't quiet but it wasn't as busy either so we could really enjoy its mystical magic. Bamboo have been known to grow a metre a day, it was used by the Japanese as a form of torture apparently (start at the bum hole and let it grow)

We visited several other small temples before heading home again for ockynomiyaki (Japanese Pizza) try it if you ever get a chance!

Day 3

today was a day for shopping, we wondered around the local area shops and also visited Nishiki Market, this is originally where locally produced food and products are sold for restaurants but now I would suggest it is a major tourist attraction and maybe where householders may buy food.

In the Market there were live fish, Octopus on a stick, pickled or marinated vegetables including a cucumber that can be eaten after 90 days - yuck!

In the evening we chose to visit Gion, this involved more fun on the train and buying tickets - not as easy as in Tokyo.

Gion is the old quarter of Kyoto where if you are lucky, you might see a Geisha. Wondered around for a bit and then decided to get food, we headed off the tourist track to find somewhere when Joe said "look a Geisha" so I snapped a picture of her back, they go so fast but look amazing in all their Kimono and white face, very mysterious.

We headed into a restaurant and sat down, they had a English menu - result! Octopus or Conger Eel eeek not so much of a result. I found steak on the menu so we both went for that with rice - phew and it was fantastic - you haven't had good steak until you have been to Japan. Some Americans popped in to get their dinner and they were pretty loud, until they saw the menu 😊 I pointed out the steak and the look of relief on their face was hilarious.

We had some drinks in the hotel bar before heading off to bed as it was another early start for us, Hiroshima next!

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