Food and Fervour in Kyoto, 2016

After our busy first day in Kyoto, my husband found a local restaurant that had fire ramen. Curious to see what this was, we walked the short distance to the establishment and waited in the queue.

When we made it inside, it became apparent that it was not just the food that was the attraction here, but also the showmanship. After donning bibs, making sure our daughter was seated behind us and covering our arms, the chef briefed us on safety instructions and we waited with anticipation.

Fire ramen was poured into our waiting bowls and a large flame erupted from each one. Now I understood the caution. The ramen actually tasted pretty good too and the chef indulged us all by taking cameos of us enjoying our meals.

The next morning we found a local coffee house for breakfast that was owned by a friendly lady. The menu included both eggs and Japanese curry which pleased the whole family at that time in the morning. We liked it so much that it became our regular morning spot.

On the agenda for the day was a historical walk including some of the main temples in Kyoto. First we went to Shoren-in temple, which had a great Japanese raked garden. Here we met a group of school girls who thought our daughter was cute and had to take a photo with her.

Next was the Chion-in temple with the largest entry gate in Japan. This time we followed a group of school children dressed in kimonos and distracted them as they took their group picture in front of the gate. More photos with our daughter ensued.

The gate to Chion-in temple was indeed big, wooden and old. There were many steps leading up to the temple complex that was nestled into the hills, just showing some autumn colours.

Our daughter was very interested in the Buddhist ceremonies. She enjoyed watching the monks as they performed a rite and wanted to join in with the praying.

The last temple was the Nanzen-ji temple with a two-storied gate. The walk to the temple had pretty residential streets with old houses. The usual rock, lantern and moss garden flanked the temple, along with an aqueduct, which was a bit different.

I had also read that there was a waterfall temple behind the main one, so we headed up the hill to look for it. As the path became less trodden and the foliage became thicker, I began to think that something was awry. After we had been climbing for over half an hour and couldn’t even hear a waterfall, we decided it was time to turn back.

Turns out, we had been walking up the wrong hill in the opposite direction. We eventually found the right path, but by then we were done for the day and we left without seeing the waterfall. Our religious fervour had officially faded and it was time to call it a day.

Related posts: Kyoto, 2016Takeyama, 2016Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

Kyoto, 2016

On the train from Kanazawa to Kyoto I snacked on an immaculate take away bento box while we passed a huge lake.

The warehouse apartment that we were staying at in Kyoto was near Goo temple opposite the Imperial Palace Park.

Also known as the pig temple, the Goo temple was a shrine to 300 boars that saved a lord from death. It was an interesting little place.

The Imperial Palace Park was walled with entry gates, long gravel walkways and huge trees that looked pretty in the afternoon sunlight. We saw some cranes and the Tsukushima Shrine surrounded by water.

To get inside the palace itself you need to book ahead and children under 20 aren’t allowed into this, as well as other palaces in Kyoto.

We found a local supermarket that was so bountiful with fresh prepared food that we didn’t need to go out for dinner.

On our first day in Kyoto we went to the two main things I wanted to see here- the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and Fushi Inari Taisha Shrine.

The Tenryu-ji temple marked the entrance to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. The grove itself was very green, cool and peaceful. The trees were truly very high and bent into each other. A couple were getting pictures at the end of the walkway, her red dress a stunning contrast to the bright branches.

Our next stop was the Fushi Inari Taisha Shrine. Thousands of red gates in rows of varying closeness dotted with statues of foxes. We entered through the impressive decorated two-storied gate at the entry, past the main shrine and the place where good luck charms of little red gates are hung.

Where the gates were most close together was the Senbon Torii- 1,000 shrine gates, which led up the mountain to the inner shrine. We stopped just past this point as the road got steeper and the gates more spread apart. The place was one of my favorites in Japan and more than lived up to expectations.

On the way back down we stopped for a tasty kebab, orange juice served inside an orange and a tiny toy fox to take home.

In the afternoon we went back to the Imperial Palace Park. My daughter had spotted a large children’s play park there the day before and wanted to go back. I think she had started to miss playing with other kids, or maybe just being a kid and having a swing.

Related posts: Takeyama, 2016Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

 

Takeyama, 2016

The train to Takeyama wound through rice fields and rocky rivers into the pine forested mountains. The beautiful autumn leaves began to emerge the higher the train went.

We walked around the pretty little town with its wooden houses and an alpine feel. The river water was so clear that you could see koi swimming against the current.

After a little searching we found the Karakuri Museum. This puppet museum showcases acrobatic puppets used on floats in a festival that the town is famous for.

There was a rolling puppet that served tea and one that wrote calligraphy, from which my daughter was lucky enough to be given writings from. The museum also had a huge collection of lion masks.

Takeyama is also known for sake breweries, so we went into a local shop with the cedar ball hanging above the door signifying that the spirit was served there. After a tasting, we purchased a bottle to take home.

We had some rice dumplings on a stick, followed by lunch in a local restaurant. It was a family owned establishment where we had baked curry and a special kids meal with an origami of a flying crane on beautiful patterned paper for my daughter.

The day trip to Takeyama was one of my husband’s favourite days and it definitely made for a lovely sojourn.

It was dinnertime by the time we arrived back in Kanazawa, so we retested the theory of the best food being near train stations with a nearby sashimi restaurant that definitely delivered.

We also purchased our Japanese souvenir- a striking red kimono doll with the unique style of lacquer and woodwork combined.

The next morning we were back at the train station, leaving Kanazawa for Kyoto. While we were waiting for our train, the local TV station interviewed us about why we had come to Kanazawa, what we had done and what we liked. It was quite a thrill to be filmed and even nicer to be asked again at the end of our stay.

Related posts: Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

 

Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016

As my daughter’s choice of activity, we went to a Japanese phenomenon- Shidax karaoke. As we sang along to Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and my pick Iggy Azalea, I thought, these people really know how to have fun. Singing, dressing up and playing games for beer. Why not?

The next day we had planned to go to Takeyama, but all the trains were booked out. So we booked for the following day and headed to the Nagamachi Samurai quarter instead.

Narrow, quiet, cobblestoned streets and long walls hid amazing tall wooden slat houses, some of which were open to the public. We found one with stables and a pretty garden.

The best one was the family of Nomura Samurai House. Samurai armour greeted us at the doorway to the house, which had two levels. The bottom level had detailed walls and a prayer room all set up. There was a translated thank you letter written during war and wooden carvings near the celling.

A winding stone staircase led to a teahouse on the top level, which had a view over the beautiful garden with water features, lanterns and koi.

Outside, we couldn’t find the Murakami candy tree mentioned in the guidebook, though we did find a lolly shop with lollies made in the shape of mushrooms. There was also a local eating a gold leaf ice cream. They are expensive, but lucky.

For lunch we had honten and Japanese curry at Full of Beans– a very funky café. Then we wandered around the shops including The Loft which had strange appliances.

It occurred to me that the best things about Kanazawa had been the unplanned parts where we slowed down, like the teahouse in the gardens, just wandering around town finding local restaurants and people watching. How does everyone stay so thin here with so much yummy food to eat?

Related posts: Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016