Tag Archives: Kyoto

Japan Top 10

1. MariCar

This was by far the most fun I had the entire trip

2. Nagashima Spa Land

I was able to fulfill a 17-year old dream of riding Steel Dragon 2000, plus the day was a lot of fun

3. Tokyo DisneySea

You kinda can’t beat Disney Parks

4. Tsutaya Daikanyama T-site

I could have spent an entire day their looking at books

5. Anata No Warehouse

The theming was great and the games were fun

6. Liberty Walk and RWB

Tied at #6 because of how similar the experience was, I was so grateful to meet Kato-san and Nakai-san

7. Gonpachi Nishi Azabu

Not only was it cool to be in a location that inspired a scene from Kill Bill, this was also my most memorable and probably best meal of the entire trip

8. The 5.6.7.8’s

I got to fulfill a long time goal of not only seeing this band, but seeing them in Japan

9. Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium

Whale Shark, nuff said

10. Miraikan

The Art of Disney: The Magic of Animation exhibit brought me to tears

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Japan – Day 6: Kyoto – Day 2

Thursday – April 13, 2017

We started our morning at a breakfast place that Pete had spotted yesterday. Literally, a half block away from our Air BnB, Komeda’s Coffee was this crazy IHOP on steroids with great food and super fair prices. Any of the specialty drinks or coffee orders come with toast. On top of that they have these massive breakfast sandwiches for no money at all. I took half my meal home it was so much.

IMG_5935

Iwatayama Monkey Park

After dropping off the leftovers in the room we hopped on a couple of trains and made our way to the Iwatayama Monkey Park. The park is a bit outside of the city and is located half way up a mountain. Getting to the park requires navigating your way through a small but crowded village down a busy main street with no sidewalk and tons of visitors.

IMG_5940Panoramic view of the mountains near the Monkey Park

There are great views of the mountains as you approach the entrance. Admission to the park is only 550 Yen. Once you pass the gate entrance, you still have to hike 20 minutes up a narrow dirt path with two way traffic and the occasional motorized scooter. The hike is really scenic and is in the woods/forest.

It felt like we were walking through Jurassic Park or something. About 90% of the way up the trail there is a little play-ground area with a small zip-line, swings, a see-saw, and a slide. I obviously tried the zip-line and the slide before continuing up to the top.

IMG_5963Overview of the monkey park

The top was filled with tourists trying to get their best Facebook and Instagram selfies. There was a little section where you could go in, buy food and feed the monkeys. To be honest, the place wasn’t as littered with monkeys as we though it would be, but it’s not like we didn’t see any either, there were plenty of them.

It was also just a great spot to look out at the city and nature below. To top it off, today was the best weather we’ve had the whole trip. Not only was it sunny but it was warm too, about 68 degrees (20c).

Tenryu-ji

After we’d had our fill of monkeys. We made our way back down the mountain and along the water to Tenryu-ji Temple. To be honest, we weren’t super interested in checking out the temple, but I had read that the North exit leads to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.

[perhaps add the bit about how, as usual, Pete, like a squirrel with ADD, got sidetracked by a car in the parking lot and preceded to take pictures of it for 20 minutes while Dan and I waited impatiently.]

Unfortunately, in order to exit from the North of the complex, you need to enter, which means paying, which we didn’t want to do. So, we figured out the general direction we needed go and headed back to the main street to get to the bamboo forrest.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

After passing what should have been an obvious entrance to the bamboo forrest, (everyone was going there), we made our way back and eventually into the grove. The place was packed with people and was, I’ll admit, a bit underwhelming at first. I thought, based on pictures I’d seen online, that the trees would be more tightly packed.

IMG_5996The Bamboo Grove

Eventually however, we found a different section that was closer to what I had in mind. That said, there was one section of the path that we never explored and I’m wondering if that was the section I was thinking of/looking for.

After chillin’ in the grove for a bit we were ready to move on to the next thing. Cut to a montage of us walking back and forth on the main drag looking for the train station to take us to the next stop only to realize that we had to go to the same station we had arrived at in the first place.

Rioan-ji

We eventually took the two trains that got us the closest to where we wanted to go and after a short walk through the local town, we made our way to the Rioan-ji Zen Garden. The place was more than what I expected it to be. Rather than just being an indoor/outdoor Zen garden, it was an entire complex.

Admission was 500 Yen but you got to explore all the grounds. There was a small pond with an “island” in the middle you could walk out to. There were also small paths with these cool little trees and plants in them. But obviously the highlight was the Zen garden itself.

IMG_6024Zen Garden

This was the first place (and last place) we went to that required us to take off our shoes. We walked the wooden walkway out to the opening with the Zen garden. There I waited my turn to sit at the edge and contemplate in silence. Despite the fact that I was acutely aware that the longer I sat, the more people I prevented from doing the same, it was a good moment of “Zen” from the fast pace of this trip.

Once we had all caught up to each other, we made our way to the final stop on the list, the Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion. 

Kinkaku-ji

The pavilion was a 20 minute walk from the Zen garden and I knew it was set to close at 17:00. I was somewhat aware of the time but figured that even if we couldn’t enter the temple, we could at least enter the park.

We arrived at, I shit you not, 16:59. There were guys at the entrance shooing people away. We stuck around long enough for them to leave but we still weren’t able to go in far enough to see anything worth while.

Being that we had a full day, we decided to pack it in and head home. We walked to a nearby bus stop and took a bus that took us to a train that brought us to our station. There we went back to the apartment where I ate my leftover breakfast and, after realizing that we DID in fact have Wi-Fi, posted the blogs from the past two days as well as today’s post.

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Japan – Day 5: Kyoto – Day 1

Wednesday – April 12, 2017

We woke up early (8am) this morning as it was our last day in Osaka and our first of two days in Kyoto. We got the Air BnB tidy before we left and then made our way to Shin-Osaka station. There we took the 10:43 Shinkansen to Kyoto. Being that the bullet train gets you to Kyoto in about 10 minutes I figured we’d get a pretty good jump on the day. Little did I know how wrong I was.

Kyoto

When we arrived at Kyoto station, we had to take two trains to get to Sanjo station; the station nearest to our Air Bnb. It was too early to check in so we put our bags in lockers so we could retrieve them later in the day when we got back from our adventures.

IMG_5848Area near our Air BnB

We then exited the station and crossed the bridge to where our Air BnB was. Our plan, before doing anything else, was to grab a bite to eat. Being that I had done a bit of Google street view snooping a few months before, I knew that there was a quaint breakfast spot right on the corner of where our Air BnB was. I pointed this out to Dan who vetoed it.

We then crossed the street to a pizza place but upon inquiring, the wait was over an hour and this was time we didn’t have to spare. I was getting antsy, not because I had been vetoed, but because I just wanted to pick a place and eat so we could get started on our adventures.

Dan, misreading my frustration, was also getting frustrated because we couldn’t agree on where to eat. Thus, he made the executive decision for all of us to split up and find our own place to eat. I suggested we meet back in 20 minutes and that is exactly what we did. Though this idea was the right decision to make I hated that there was now tension in the air.

That said, I went to the aforementioned breakfast place on the corner. Dan went to a local Japanese place. And Pete, being unadventurous and predictable as usual, went to Burger King. And he says he’s gonna lose 10 pounds on this trip… yeah… right.

IMG_5849Area across the street from our Air BnB

I got this makeshift pizza thing which was very good but not very filling. Needless to say, I finished first and so I went into this designer t-shirt store I saw across the street. They had all of these really cool t-shirts. Though another t-shirt is literally the last thing I need, I might grab one I was eyeing before we leave Kyoto because, fuck it, I’m on vacation.

We reconvened at 12:40 and made our way to train station. This is where things went from bad to worse. I don’t know how it happened but despite us all reading the same sign I somehow managed to make us take the wrong train. We went all the way to the end of the line and then had to backtrack to fix the problem.

I was very disappointed in myself and felt the weight and anger of the others pressing down hard on me. I was super depressed and knew that Dan in particular hated me. Eventually however, we made our way to Daigo station where a woman helped us figure out where we needed to go, and we took the bus to Daigoji temple.

However, to add insult to injury, because I only had large denomination bills and not smaller 100 Yen coins, I didn’t have the bus fare to pay for the ride. I literally gave the driver all of the change I had and, thankfully he let me off without hassle.

Daigoji Temple

We arrived at Daigo-Ji temple around 14:00. We walked straight to the mid section of the park (btw the temple is basically part of a big park) only to realize that we needed to buy a ticket to access the various sections.

We went back to the front where I broke my 10,000 Yen note to pay the 1,500 Yen fee to get a ticket. This gave me the change I needed to pay for the bus ride back. We then made our way to the back of the park, specifically to the Bentendo shrine.

As we made our way through the nature paths I felt a lot of the stress start to dissipate. The trees, cherry blossoms, shrines and running water were all very tranquil. This was why we came to Kyoto. Everyone’s mood lightened. Then, suddenly, it was right in front of us.

IMG_5874Bentendo at Daigo-Ji

The Bentendo Shrine is like something out of a Japanese fable. Nestled in the woods on a pond with mountains in the background, you simply don’t see things like this every day. We made our way further into the park and then back out through the other few sections before moving on to our next stop.

Fushimi Inari Taisha

We took the bus back to Daigo station and took two trains to get to Inari station. We arrived at Inari around 16:15 and literally crossed the street to get to the Inari Shrine. When we arrived we found it was packed with tourists.

I really hated seeing that many white people in one place. I hated hearing so much English being spoken. I came to Japan to get away from Americans, not to interact with them. In any case, we made our way up the first of many stairs and were faced with yet another famous Kyoto site, the Tori gates.

IMG_5903Tori gates

As we walked through them, they were packed with people. However, the higher up we got, the thinner the crowds and soon it was possible to stop and take pictures. Eventually we got to a high point on the path where there was a lookout where you could see the city and the mountains in the distance. It was there where we realized we had a ton further to go to reach the top.

Because there was so far to go and because I was cold and hungry and because it was getting dark we decided to head back down the mountain. We took a 18:07 train back to Sanjo station and grabbed our stuff out of the lockers so we could finally check into the Air BnB. Once there I immediately dropped my stuff off and went out to grab food because I was starving.

Air BnB/Avocado Restaurant

Earlier, when we were all on our own food hunt for brunch, I had found a Mexican restaurant called Avocado that looked interesting so I decided to try it out. The place was a little hole in the wall but was exactly what I was looking for. I grabbed three orders of tacos; beef, pork and shrimp.

IMG_5929Bar at Avocado restaurant in Kyoto

Each order came with two tacos and I made sure to get one flour tortilla and one corn tortilla. I also got a Day of the Dead Hefeweizen beer which was delicious. As much as I want to have Japanese food while I’m here, it was nice to have something I know I love.

The place was a bit pricey for the amount of food I got, but since I’m on vacation and I had budgeted and I hadn’t had lunch and I was hungry as shit, I didn’t care. After I ate, I came back to the room and wrote yesterday and today’s blogs before organizing my shit for tomorrow and turning in for the night.

PS While walking back from Sanjo station to the Air BnB, Pete spotted a Midnight Silver “Spectre” Model S.

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