We started off the morning with a traditional breakfast at our ryokan. See Chantelle’s pictures. I can say that I’m not the biggest fan of this kind of breakfast but it was more for the cultural experience than anything. The fish was probably the highlight while the sesame tofu wasn’t quite what I expected. It wasn’t that cheap either. Almost $15 CAD if I remember correctly.
Kinkakuji – The Golden Pavilion
After breakfast we headed back out again to the main station to catch a bus out to Kinkakuji. Kinkakuji in a word is beautiful and represents really the glory days of Kyoto and what everyone comes to expect out of Kyoto. This gold laden pavillion right beside a large pond is picturesque and so easy to photograph. It was one of those places where all you had to do was be there when the lighting was good and you’d get that “perfect shot”. The rest of the complex was pretty quick to walk through as it was your usual assortment of temple stuff. The icing on the cake was definitely the café near the exit that served match green tea shave ice with mochi balls. Most of the area was out in the open sun so we were sweating like pigs. The cool down was definitely necessary.
After exiting the premise we found our bus stop to take us to Nijo Castle which is another major site in Kyoto. The grounds were pretty huge as it’s comprised of two palaces, an inner moat and outer moat and multiple gardens. Unfortunately the Honmaru Palace is currently closed but the Ninomaru Palace was really interesting in terms of being the only place in Japan where we were actually able to walk through an entire building with models and signs showing where the feudal lords were, the guards and the shogun’s office and living quarters. Apparently the palace corridors are designed to be squeaky so that guards can be alerted to any movement at night. I guess this stops even the stealthiest ninjas in the middle of the night. There are also many wall paintings gilded in gold that still survive. The rest of the castle we more or less walked through and snapped photos where we could.
Our meals were off-shifted again because of our later start so we didn’t eat lunch until we came out of Nijo Castle. We weren’t sure what was in the area but ended up at a random ramen shop which wasn’t the best but still satisfied our cravings. It also started pouring cats and dogs as we were eating so we had to wait it out a bit before running over to the subway station across the street.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
After lunch we took a combination of subway and JR train to get down to the Fushimi Inari shrine, or more commonly known as the place with millions of torii gates lined up consecutively. I was looking forward to this place the most because of some of the beautiful photos I’ve seen come out of this place. This was towards the end of the day so there weren’t as many tourists and the sun was starting to set so slightly cooler as well. I was able to take a lot of neat shots of the twists and turns within the torii gate paths and some of the wide openings as well. I also enjoyed shooting back towards the entrance as most of the donation inscriptions were facing the other way. We hiked quite a bit up before we came to a part that split in two near the top of the hill that eventually met up around since it was a circle. The bugs were also starting to come out and of course that meant bad news for Chantelle. We also noticed a lot of foxes in this shrine which has some sort of significance. They’re supposed to be messengers with the key attribute of having either a scroll or ball in their mouth (left or right of the gates they guarded)
Heading Back into Town
With the sun mostly down we popped out of the subway on the same main street as the previous night but further west. Along the way we found the Daimaru which was such a clutch move because we then found the basement which was food and dessert heaven! We kind of went nuts just choosing different things to try. The best for me must’ve been this enclosed pancake type of dessert with mochi and then red bean inside. I looked all over the rest of Japan after to find something like this again but had no luck.
After we walked around a few more shopping streets and eventually found this restaurant that looked very local and small. It mainly sold chirashi bowls so we said “hell yeah” and went inside. The food was quite good though I really should’ve ordered a sashimi rice bowl as well. I ended up ordering some sort of fatty cooked tuna which just didn’t have enough variety.
For dessert we found a frozen yogurt place called Snola. Apparently it hails from California or something but who knows if that’s just a marketing ploy. Decent though. They had mochi so that’s all that mattered haha.
And of course I had been talking about checking out these pachinko places which are everywhere in Japan. They’re essentially casinos made legal because you don’t really win money. Instead you win prizes like Chuck-e-Cheese which is even more of a rip. There are usually scandalously clad women outside trying to get people to come in and inside people turn into robots turning their little knob to flick the silver marbles up. Sounds enticing right? There was a pachinko place right beside the yogurt place so we thought we’d try it out. We had no idea what we were doing. I put in 1000 JPY but was still confused so I think the attendant spotted us and tried to explain to us what to do but I couldn’t understand a word. I think he was hesitant to turn that knob for me but he did so anyways because he wasn’t getting anywhere. Afterwards I realized that it’s really a matter of turning the knob gently like a pinball so it drops in the optimal location instead of being flung all the way out. The whole point is to get the ball into some of the special areas which give you I guess more balls otherwise they are lost. If you get it into the really special hole you activate some sort of special game where a slot machine-type thing starts spinning in the display behind. In a way I realized that this is really just a cross between pinball and those CNE games where you drop a ball and as it hit the pegs it changes direction randomly. After finishing my first tray of balls I thought I was done but then the attendant came back and said I could get more by pressing some button. And then the pachinko madness started again. To be honest we really had no clue what was happening even towards the end. You don’t really know when you’re winning and when the special games go on we’re not even sure what we’re looking to get there. All in all, it was still confused fun. I can say I’ve gambled at a pachinko hall.
It was another long and successful day and we hopped on a cab and booked it back to our ryokan to call it a night. Hiroshima here we come!
- In planning this day in Kyoto one thing I knew I wanted to do was put Fushimi Inari at the end of the day. What you’re realize with temples/shrines/castles etc. in Japan is that most of them close around 4PM-5PM. For a tight day like ours and not wanting to run the risk of being shut out of any places it made sense to do the castles/temples/shrines earlier and then do Fushimi Inari at the end because that is the only place that actually doesn’t have a closing time.
- For the photographers out there, Fushimi Inari is absolutely stunning for photos. I wasn’t so sure they’d turn out well but I’m happy with a lot of my shots.
- Traditional Japanese breakfast at ryokan
- Walk to Kyoto station to bus to Kinkakuji
- Bus to Nijo Castle
- Lunch at Shichifukujin (ramen place) by Nijo Castle
- Subway + JR to Fushimi Inari Shrine
- Subway to the Kyoto downtown core for shopping and Daimaru basement food extravaganza
- Dinner at a Chirashi restaurant
- Frozen Yogurt at Snola
- First-time pachinko experience
- Cab back to Ryokan Shimizu
If you’re looking to do any travelling around Japan, I highly recommend picking up a JRailPass. Keep in mind that you’ll need to purchase it before your trip and ship it to your home.
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Check out the Next Day
Want to see how we end up in Hiroshima?
Curious what else I did on my trip to Asia? See the full itinerary and all 89 days.