Japan Day 8 – Spring in Kyoto (North and East)

April 3, 2016.

Starting today I will not be traveling solo anymore. But there is nothing to be sad about because I am going with Elizio. He wanted to join me in my last 4 days in Japan whatever is in my itinerary. (Are you really sure about this Elizio? haha!)

We woke up around 7am and Chiaki already prepared our breakfast on the dining table because she leaves the house early to go to work.

The daily rate of this homestay comes with free light breakfast but when I looked at the table it does not look light to me haha!20160403_091547There is a basket of bread, different types of cereals, coffee, tea, milk, fruits and the thing that caught my eye, SAKURA MOCHI! Pretty little thing 🙂

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The sakura mochi looks too cute to be eaten but I ate in anyway because I’m so curious how it tastes. It is a pink-colored rice cake with sweet red bean paste filling wrapped with a pickled sakura leaf. I think it tastes better without the leaf though.

So today I planned to start travelling from the northern part of Kyoto to see the famous temples then to the east to see the famous Higashiyama district (Elizio has no choice but to follow me with my planned itinerary haha). It was really detailed when I organized my itinerary before I came to Japan but since I’m travelling with someone now I won’t mind messing up my plan haha! I guess its better to go where our feet take us haha!

First, we are going to Ryoanji Temple. It is a zen buddhist temple most famous for its rock garden. I have seen it on travel tv shows before and I am so curious why people love to stare at an empty garden with just rocks. They say it feels relaxing to hangout there so I have to check it out.

From Chiaki’s home, we took the bus at Iwateko Bus Stop going to Takatsuki Station, about 10 minute ride for 220 yen. Then took the JR Special Rapid train to Kyoto Station for 12 minutes at 390 yen. Then we head to the bus stop outside the station and find the one that stops at Ryoanji Temple. It is a bit of a struggle to find the right bus number heading to our direction but we managed to find it any way.

It took about 30 minutes when we got off the bus stop near Ryoanji Temple. Then before we cross the other side of the road, it started to rain haha! How fortunate for our first destination but since I am such a positive person, I taught Elizio the SUN DANCE! Haha. It is an awkward dance believed to call out the sun to stop the rain. Sometimes it works sometimes it does not but there is no harm in trying haha.

Luckily the rain kinda stopped so we continued to walk towards the entrance and ticket booth of Ryoanji Temple.

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The entrance ticket to Ryoanji Temple is 500 yen.

Though the weather is a bit gloomy today, it did not stop me from appreciating this experience. There is a short walkway of pebbles with sakura trees and a lake in the background so there are lot of things to appreciate before the main temple.

The sakura trees here in Kyoto are in better bloom than what I saw in Tokyo. I have been really looking forward to see more sakuras in full bloom and I’m so happy to be in this place right now.

As we enter the genkan (foyer) we had to remove our shoes and place it on the shoe racks on both sides of the wall.

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We are greeted by a buddhist altar by the entrance

Then we went straight to the famous Rock Garden.20160403_122316The garden is situated beside the Hojo building, in a rectangular lot surrounded by low earthen walls, raked pebble surface with 15 rocks strategically placed with a bit of moss with it.There are alot of people seated by the viewing area so we had to find a spot at an angle to get a good shot of the garden. To know more about Ryoanji Temple you may look into this link.moments_7af1b1d7-8f82-4b8b-9a31-668651eecedbmoments_33b34efd-8bae-44eb-9ab3-c8e138f970a4moments_1e5d55fa-9f2e-4388-b20f-4ea3b3f96bcd

 I appreciate the simplicity and mystery of this zen rock garden. It gives a relaxing feeling if you just take a few minutes staring at it. Though I remember Elizio asking, “Is that it?” Then I replied laughing, “Yes, that’s just it”  I guess we were both underwhelmed haha. But it’s fine, at least I get to see it for myself in person. I’m sure there are still other nice places around the complex.

20160403_122158There is a miniature model of the rock garden.

Beside the rock garden is the Hojo building which used to be the residence of the former head priest. Its main feature is this huge tatami room divided by fusuma (interior sliding doors) painted with scenes of nature.moments_a0988d54-de48-4f3f-88af-5232e08e38ed

People are not allowed to go in the room so we just took photos from the engawa (covered hallway along the perimeter of Hojo building.

The garden surrounding the Hojo Building

I’m happy that I have my own photographer now, thank you Elizio haha! 🙂

Then we went out of the Hojo building and walked around the complex to see more gardens. This is where I get to appreciate the cherry blossom trees. They look beautiful nd charming indeed.moments_98ed7a46-06ef-40d7-b458-b7647a5e194cmoments_e2f629b3-1404-4bd5-bc3f-bfdeedec4ed5Elizio caught me trying to get a good shot of the sakuras haha 🙂

Our first photo together for today. I must admit I was a bit shy haha! (blushing)

I can’t get enough of the sakuras. I love how they match my floral dress #ootd haha!

So we  continued walking and we stop at every interesting spot we find. Just like this pathway which is actually closed to public but we love how mysterious and beautiful it looked.moments_ada85de3-8526-4962-92e2-47d455d08ae1We saw this small temple and it looks so beautiful with the landscape surrounding it.moments_034b9239-7c02-49ea-a1a0-e8b8417c7d09Beautiful landscape with beautiful traditional japanese architecture really gives me a pleasant visual experience.moments_aa9401f6-4ec8-402c-b0ce-62ad499143c8

We also found this spot with a huge mass of moss as groundcover. I love how these moss looks. It’s so dreamy and fairy tale-like.

Here in Ryoanji temple, I love their gardens with sakuras and moss. They are so beautiful.

We also saw a pond with beautiful trees along the perimeter and a small bridge.moments_e4a90185-8459-4241-8456-4e9083661f87moments_34e61e12-6a34-4397-81ef-e1d5672d23f8

Of course we cannot go without taking a photo by the bridge haha!

There was also a small torii by the bridge. Thank you to my photogapher Elizio for taking my candid shots haha. He likes it when I’m smiling and unaware of the camera haha!.

Before we left Ryoanji temple we saw this small buddha statue. It’s interesting that the statue is holding 2 red flowers on its hands.

Now we are off to our next destination, the Kinkakuji Temple or The Temple of the Golden Pavillon. It is one of the most famous temples here in Kyoto and we are expecting a lot of tourists in there.

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Grabbed something to drink from the vending machine while waiting for the bus to Kinkakuji Temple. This is my favorite hot coffee drink. Sweet and creamy coffee.

When we arrived at Kinkakuji there are plenty of people at the ticket counter that I had to use my swerving skills to find the shortest queue haha.

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We got our ticket at 400 yen.

On our way now to the famous Kinkakuji or Golden Pavillon and we already have a feeling how crowded it will be.20160403_13312120160403_133716And yes, it’s really crowded with tourists. Now we have to figure out a way to get a good shot of the famous golden pavillon.moments_b97725fc-24e9-4539-bbd2-31a96c459ee5Thank you to Elizio for this amazing shot of Kinkakuji. Though it is gloomy today, the shining gold leaf cladded walls of the temple reflects through the water. This is a stunning view.

Now I understand why this building is so famous amoung tourists. It is indeed a stunningly beautiful structure built on a pond with the distinct japanese style landscape. It truly is a pleasure in the eyes.20160403_13393620160403_134042Kinkakuji or Golden Pavillon is a zen temple that used to be a villa of a shogun before. Each floor has distinct architectural styles. The first floor is of wooden beams with white plaster walls that are in perfect contrast with the gold-leaf cladded upper floors and topped by a golden phoenix. To read more about this temple you may click here.

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And of course we want a selfie with the Golden Pavillon on the background! 🙂

I just can’t stop looking at it. I have never seen anything like it before.

Then we continued climbing up through the temple gardens.moments_9e88d307-00b8-4a15-975a-ba082e10e001

The view of Kinkakuji from above.moments_fd370c47-57ee-4f33-ac60-ca9bcbc254fc

We also saw this small teahouse. I really love traditional style of houses in Japan.

Near the exit gate there is a small temple hall beside the souvenir shops. We saw people praying at the temple and ringing the bell by pulling the ropes hanged by the facade so I went to try to ring a bell as well. 20160403_135609

Me trying to ring the bell but it’s really hard haha!

After that we went down the exit stairs and saw some food stalls. We tried this Matcha Soft-serve Ice cream for 300 yen which I think is a must try here in Kyoto. It was really good! I’m not a fan of matcha or green tea ice cream back in the Philippines but this one is delicious!

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We walked down the road as we decide where to go next. In my personal itinerary, I was planning to go to Menbakaichidai to eat the unique fire ramen I saw on tv then go to Arashiyama bamboo forest, but we think the time won’t be enough so I asked Elizio where he wants to go (of course, I consider my companion too where he wants haha). So we both agreed to go to Gion next. We took the bus and we are off to Gion, the famous geisha district.

We got off at a bus stop somewhere near Gion and decided to just walk around and look for our way. Elizio wanted to bring me somewhere and said it’s better if he walk, so we walked.

It was raining a bit but we didn’t care. If I was traveling alone I would not do that but when I am with Elizio it seems like I am okay and I don’t care whether its raining. It’s a joy walking with him.

We walked along the narrow alleys which I believe is near the Pontocho area, it’s a famous area at Gion district lined with restaurants and izakaya. I love walking through these narrow alleys for some reasons. It gives a certain feeling of nostalgia.

After crossing the narrow alleys of restaurants we arrived at this beautiful long street with a canal lined with sakura trees! This is the first time I saw plenty of sakura trees in full bloom like this. This is the place where Elizio wanted to show me and I am so thankful to him for bringing me here. This place is so beautiful!moments_d4057148-79af-40c0-bb6a-3b4ef744dbdeThough it’s still a bit rainy, we didn’t mind. We took a slow walk along this beautiful street. I think this is called Kiyamichi Street. The cherry blossoms are really amazing. To me they look so ethereal when seen in a bunch. Really beautiful!

I was feeling cold because of the rain so Elizio offered to let me wear his jacket but I refused because I don’t want him to get wet and cold as well. I really appreciate that sweet gesture of him. Such a gentleman 😉

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We paused for a while because Elizio wanted to smoke for a bit. While he’s smoking, I’m taking some selfies haha! There he is by the bridge haha!

This is our first selfie with our cheeks so close together haha! 🙂 I’m just happy I’m with this amazing man.

As we continue walking, we passed through Kamogawa River.20160403_155910Then Elizio brought me to another beautiful spot here in Gion, the Shirakawa Canal.

Elizio took these photos of me along Shirakawa Canal lined with sakura trees. There is one thing I learned from him today. Before I met him I am used to having my photos where I pose like crazy and always does this model pout or smirk, I told him it’s called “quality control”. But when he took my photos he always asked me to smile, he prefers to capture me on my most candid moments where I am smiling. He makes me laugh when he says “Where’s your smile?” Then he captures the photo. Then I realized the difference, from that moment I learned to smile more on my photos. Thanks to Elizio 🙂

moments_a9d98134-752d-4dc3-b2b1-67a829df882dWhat a beautiful place to live in. Wooden houses along a clean canal lined with charming cherry blossom sakura trees.

After spending some time appreciating the sakura trees at Shirakawa Canal, we walked back to the main road. Elizio then brought me to another place called Yasaka Shrine. He said it is beautiful inside there so he wanted to take me there. moments_462fe493-9932-4076-9cf1-fcd0747e2137The entrance to Yasaka Shrine. There are alot of people especially now that it is the cherry blossom season. I love seeing the tourists wearing kimonos and yukatas.

There is no entrance fee in this shrine. Upon entry, we saw plenty of food stalls selling all kinds of japanese food from takoyaki, okonomiyaki, grilled seafood, desserts, etc. We were so hungry but tried to save our appetite for the fire ramen later haha.

As we walk further we saw a dance stage on center of the courtyard. The dance hall has hundreds of lanterns all around. At that time there was an on-going singing performance, group of old women are singing opera-style one by one. Beside the stage is the main hall of Yasaka Shrine.

We continued walking and the next thing we saw was the famous weeping cherry blossom tree.moments_1bf05e30-3b14-4b2e-9b14-fa04f35aebebThis is a famous hanami spot during cherry blossom season in Kyoto.  At night, this tree gets lit up so I told Elizio I wanted to come back here later tonight to see the illumination.20160403_163635We continued walking further. Sometimes it is really great to just walk and let your feet take you to places you never planned. You will surprise yourself where it takes you and it’s a great experience.

Along our way we saw this interesting Samurai flute musician with a dog dressed in a cute samurai outfit as well. How adorable!

Then we continued walking up a hill and we entered this temple with tall stairs. We are not sure what this temple is called but we love its beautiful landscape and halls.20160403_165114We also saw this pretty floral arrangement forming some kanji characters. We don’t know what it means but we love it and asked some tourists to take our photo. It’s funny because when we hit our pose, the lady who took the photo together with her friends giggled in delight when they saw me and Elizio holding each other haha!

We continued walking even though we don’t know where exactly we are. We just let our feet take us anywhere. We are sure we can find our way back to the main road. WE just love to take our time walking and appreciating the beauty of sakura trees and buildings around this area.20160403_165213

Along the way we saw this interesting shrine flocked by tourists. We have no idea what it is but they are doing something fun I want to try as well.

There is a huge stone cladded with white paper with kanji characters, and it has a small hole where people passes thru. It looks cheesy but I am willing to try it for fun. You can see how much I struggle passing thru the small hole haha! I can imagine Elizio laughing at me as he took these photos haha!

After that I found out that this shrine is called Yasui-Konpiragu. It was said that people come here to pray and by passing thru the small hole from the stone you can wish for love and shield away from bad relationships. Haha that was an interesting experience!

After that we continued walking again finding our way back to the main road. We saw this restaurant with a beautiful landscape garden in front so walked towards the door, when we are about to open the door, a girl opened the window and said “Hey, this is my house, you know?” We were shocked in embarasment and apologized for our trespassing haha! We walked out and laughed at ourselves because we thought it is a restaurant! Well we admire that house for having such a nice front garden or maybe we are just too hungry? Haha!

It’s past 5pm and we decided to head to Menbakaichidai to eat the famous fire ramen. Their dinner service starts at 6pm so it would be perfect time to go now to avoid long queue.

I saw this restaurant featured in Sarah Benjamin’s show, Must Try Asia and I was blown away with the amazing ramen experience here. When the ramen is served, the chef will set it on fire before you eat it! So I made sure to check this restaurant out when I arrive in Kyoto.

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When we arrived before 6pm there was already a queue, mostly foreign tourists who are also curious about the fire ramen. While on the queue outside I was already feeling cold. Honestly I had no idea that spring in Kyoto would be this cold, good thing I have Elizio with me who made me feel warm and comfortable while waiting.

In about 30 minutes of waiting we finally got our seats inside.20160403_191923What we love about Menbakaichidai is that they are tourist-friendly. They have an english menu and english instruction cards in different languages. Also, they know that their customers would love to take photos or videos so they provide phone holders by the counter so you can capture the amazing firey experience here. How ingenious!20160403_192109First, we are asked to put on our bibs. Elizio is such a gentleman who made sure I can tie my bib properly. Then the head chef gave me a pink pony to tie my hair to protect it from the big fire!! He said my hair might get burned with his cute japanese accent “Dangerous! Dangerous!” I tied my hair myself but it seems wrong so he did it himself. I felt honored that the head chef is tying my hair haha!

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And look what he did to my hair! Haha!

So we ordered for the classic fire ramen at 1,150 yen per bowl. They also have a set with gyoza and rice but we think its too much so we ordered a single bowl.

Our bowls were first served on the counter with the broth, noodles, leeks and pork before the chef pours the flaming leek oil in it (It is literally on fire!)

Then one of the staff started to record the video. Unfortunately since I’m using a free account here in wordpress, I can’t share videos so I’m just going to share with you guys some snapshots.

Look at our faces we all look nervous haha! I was thinking if the fire would be so big that it will burn my face or what haha. And there goes the head chef with his flaming pot of hot oil into our ramen bowls!!

As soon as the flaming leek oil landed on my bowl it just blew out an explosion of fire right infront of my face, so close that I can feel how hot the fire is! WOW! This is really a ramen experience on fire!

Next was Elizio’s bowl! You can see on my face how much I want to pull my face away from the hot fire! Yet, I can still manage to smile haha!

Look how amazed I am from that incredible experience and look at Elizio’s face, he looked pissed off haha! 😛

After all the bowls have fired up, the head chef yelled at us one by one saying “Eat! Eat!” But I still need a moment to breathe from that heart raising experience haha!

20160403_193111So this is the famous fire ramen of Menbakaichidai. It looks like a typical shoyu (soysauce-base) ramen with plenty of leeks and slices of pork but what I love about this is the flaming oil gives it a unique smoky flavor. That fire thing is not just a gimmick.

While eating, one of the staff took my phone and asked us to do the Menbakaichidai signature pose on how to eat the fire ramen haha! The staff said “Look up, look up! Big mouth! Big mouth!” It was so hilarious look how funny we look haha!

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Gochisosama! That was a good meal! After paying the bill I approached the son of the head chef to have a photo with him and told him that I saw them on tv thats why I came to try their ramen. And I would highly recommend Menbakaichidai to any one who plans to travel to Kyoto. It’s a must try experience or maybe the best ramen experience I had so far!

After dinner, Elizio and I thought it’s too early to go home and we would like to take more walk so we decided to come back to Maruyama Park to see the illumination of the famous weeping cherry blossom tree.

We have been waiting at the bus stop for so long and I felt so cold. But Elizio kept me warm until the bus arrives, such a sweet guy. I never thought that the weather would be that cold and I never thought I would have some company to keep me warm.

So we were back at Maruyama Park and the weeping cherry blossom tree looked beautiful.moments_cd015ea1-6a7a-4da0-a581-8df0631a504dIts bright and dainty flowers contrast the darkness of the night. It stands out perfectly.

We walked again in this area but this time we wanted to see the illumination at Kiyomizudera Temple, another famous cherry blossom spot in Kyoto.

moments_17fa4b95-18ef-4052-972c-25266741ccd2We walked along this street lined with traditional japanese architecture. It feels like we were walking back during the Edo period.

Then we realized we were walking along the famous ninezaka and sanenzaka stairs of Higashiyama district! I love this place because it feels so nostalgic and feels like we were transported back in the old times. I love how they preserved their traditional architecture.

At the top of the stairs we saw the entrance gate to Kiyomizudera Temple. Unfortunately it was already closed and we did not realize that it was already 9pm that time and usually temples close during this time. So we just took photos of the entrance gate of Kiyomizudera.

20160403_211546moments_52f32387-f75a-4768-8db3-bdabab5a887cThe beautiful entrance gate to Kiyomizudera Temple. I love the streak of blue light against the bright red gates contrasting the dark background.

And of course, we cant go without taking a photo with the background. Again, Elizio makes me laugh and captures my candid moment haha! I went from stiff to natural and candid.

After that we decided to go home. We waked to the bus stop along the main road going to Kyoto Station. Then ride the JR Special Rapid train going to Takatsuki Station. When we went down at Takatsuki Station to take the bus to Chiaki’s home we noticed that the bus terminal is empty. It was around 10:30 and we can’t seem to find any bus around. Then we realized that the last trip of the bus for today left just a few minutes ago! I didn’t know that the buses here have a curfew haha! So we agreed to just take the taxi so we can go home.

What a day it has been! It was amazing and I enjoyed it so much. I have planned this day as a solo traveler but I didn’t know it would be more enjoyable with a great company, that is Elizio. I am really thankful that he joined me today and brought me to places I have never thought of but I ended up enjoying it so much. We walked for almost 25 miles in total today, what a crazy distance, but our feet may be tired but our souls are so happy because we both had a great day today and I’m looking forward for the coming days with him. Thank you for today Elizio and thank you for always keeping me warm 🙂

Some photos courtesy of Elizio 🙂

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