Monday, February 18, 2019

Japan Travel: Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Shine

Famous for the thousands of torri gates, Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社) is one of the most popular attractions in Kyoto (Japan).



From Osaka, we took Osaka Metro, and then transferred to Keihan Railway to Fushimi Inari Station. If you are taking Japan Rail, then the station is Inari Station. Both stations are just a few minutes walk to Fushimi Inari Shrine.

When we alighted at Keihan Railway Fushimi Inari Station, we actually took almost one hour before we entered Fushimi Inari Shrine! Why? It was because we were distracted by the food street leading to the shrine!



Grilled or steamed sweet corns, crab meat stick, dango, tofu, dorayaki and so on, most of them cost around 400 to 500 yen, not cheap though.






Our favourite street food was the tofu which was covered by bonito flakes. The thoughtful stall owner cut the tofu into smaller cubes as he saw our children.




We also bought a packet of chestnuts that cost 1000 yen, quite expensive, but they were delicious. There was a stall selling beef skewer, I bought one stick and totally regretted spending my money on the tough meat.

Finally, we reached Fushimi Inari Shrine after squeezing through the food street.



Foxes are thought to be the messengers of the god of agriculture and business. Other than statues in the shrines, we also saw many fox-related souvenirs in the nearby shops, as well as on dorayaki!



Well, this photo was taken with great patience! Please forget about taking such photo when you are going up the slope at the lower part of the trail, it was simply too crowded! To take photos among the torri gates, either you visit there early in the morning, or when you are going down the slope. Look out for the bends for the better photo spots without too many photo bombs!



The hike to get to the peak of the hill can take about 2 hours, but as our children could not withstand the cold weather, so we didn't manage to climb very high up.

There is a small shrine called Higashimaru Shrine within the premise for people to pray for academic success. Beautiful paper cranes were spotted inside this shrine! 



We walked back to the food street for second round of gourmet adventure. Then we saw an eatery Nezameya (祢ざめ家), the chef was grilling unagi (eel) outside the eatery. However, we saw a sign that each person must order food, we had to give it a miss as we were too full to have an unagi bowl each.



Finally we settled down at its neighbour Omiya (近江家). The eatery was quite small, and the food was simple. And don't expect good customer service as the eatery seemed to be quite short-handed.




After lunch, we took Japan Rail from Inari Station to Kyoto Station, where we transferred to another train to Arashiyama.


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Sunday, February 10, 2019

Japan Travel: Kyoto: Kiyomizu-dera, Starbucks Ninenzaka

Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺) is a famous attraction in Kyoto. You may have heard that Kiyomizu-dera  is undergoing renovation between 2017 to 2020. Initially we considered giving it a miss, but after some thoughts, the temple under renovation may be considered as "limited-edition"!

From Shimogamo Shrine (read our adventure here), we took Kyoto City Bus 205 to Kawaramachi Marutamachi (South) 河原町丸太町, walked to Kawaramachi Marutamachi (East), then took Kyoto City Bus 202 to Kiyomizu-michi (清水道). On the bus, we purchased Kyoto Bus One-day Pass (adult 600 yen, child 300 yen), which would be a saving if you take 3 or more buses in a day.

After alighting, it was an up-slope to get to Kiyomizu-dera! We were starving as we had not had lunch yet and it was 2+ p.m.! So we bought some dango along the way to ease the hunger. Finally we reached Okabeya (おかべ家) for our lunch.

One of Kyoto's specialties is Tofu cuisine. Okabeya serves Tofu set meals, we ordered one set of Tofu meal and one set of Yuba meal. It cost 5000+ yen (SGD60+), not cheap though. 




The most interesting dish is yuba (tofu skin). We had to make our own yuba - using a stick, we lifted up the thin layer of yuba formed from heated soy milk. Be mindful when you are trying to make the yuba, it is hot to place your hand above the steam! It was a unique and interesting experience for us!



We continued to go up the slope after the late lunch, the street was super crowded! There are many shops selling yatsuhashi 八ツ橋, a triangular Japanese confectionery made from glutinous rice flour, wrapping red bean paste. Some shops offer free tasting and that was our dessert after lunch!

We finally reached Kiyomizu-dera at around 4 p.m. and the sun was about to set! Yes, the sun sets at about 4.50 p.m. in winter in Kyoto!





We purchased the admission tickets (adult 400 yen, child 200 yen) to enter the main hall.



We were there a few days after the kanji of the year 2018 was picked. The word "disaster" was chosen to describe the mood of the year as Japan was hit by a few destructive natural disasters in 2018.



We walked past Jishu Shrine (地主神社), which is known for god of love and matchmaking.



Let us share with you the "limited edition" of Kiyomizu-dera under renovation! It is amazing that no nail is used in the building of the stage!



Another key attraction is Otowa Waterfall (音羽の瀧). There are 3 streams of waterfall, when you are facing out from the pavilion, the one on your left is for longevity, the one in the middle is for love, and the one of your right is for success. Take note that you can choose to drink water from only one of them. Although the metal long ladles are sterilised by UV light, I think it is better to pour water into our hand, not to drink directly from the ladle. 



After leaving Kiyomizu-dera, we walked along Sannenzaka (三年坂) down to Ninenzaka (二年坂). Many shops were closed by 6+ p.m., and the place became very quiet. It was very cold in the evening, so we decided to get some warm beverage from Starbucks Coffee Kyoto Ninenzaka Ysaka Chaya, which is the world's first Starbucks with tatami!



When we purchased our beverage at first floor, we were informed that there was no more seat, and we were not allowed to wait inside for seat, but we were allowed to take a quick tour of the second floor where the tatami areas were located. There are only 3 small areas with tatami, it happened that someone just left, and so we got to sit on the tatami! We were really lucky!



Yuzu tea was delicious, but the hot chocolate was a disappointment. Anyway, it was a special experience to have a sip at the world's first Starbucks with tatami. As we were about to leave, a big group of tourists rushed over to "chope" the area next to us. They were talking very loudly, breaking the tranquility in the cafe, and they occupied part of other patron's space. So inconsiderate!

The calm and quiet Kyoto ancient street looks so beautiful. Yakasa-no-tou (八坂の塔) has a special charm at night. But we couldn't stay too long to admire the place as it was too cold for the children, and we had to head back to Osaka for dinner.



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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Japan Travel: Kyoto: Kamo River, Shimogamo Shrine, Kawai Shrine, Tadasu-no-mori

The autumn foliage in Japan usually ends by early December, however due to work commitment, we could only leave Singapore in mid-December. A few days before our trip, I tried my luck to check the autumn foliage news website, and to my surprise, I found the last place in Kyoto that still had the autumn foliage! Without hesitation, I revamped the itinerary to spend two days in Kyoto instead of just one!

From Osaka, we took Osaka Metro and changed to Keihan Railway to Demachiyanagi Station (出町柳). We walked quite a distance to McDonald's, hoping to get Dr Yellow basket for the children, but it was sold out! Looking on the bridge side, along the way, we spotted a small bakery selling delicious red bean bread.

We walked back towards Demachiyanagi Station, and saw some people hopping from a rock to another across Kamo River (鴨川). It took quite fun! But we didn't hop across the river, as we were afraid that our children might fall into the river accidentally.



Our aim was to view the last autumn foliage in Kyoto - Tadasu-no-mori (糺の森). Though the best time to view the autumn foliage at Tadasu no Mori was over, the final phase offered a different feel.





Kawai Shrine (河合神社), located at the southern entrance of Tadosu-no-mori, has a special appeal to women who wish to pray for beauty. Ladies can purchase a face-shaped ema (wooden plaque) and draw the ideal face, and they can also purchase "beauty water". Oh, well, I didn't purchase any of these... I may have to get many ema and drink tons of beauty water in order to achieve the effect, sigh.




We actually took almost an hour to admire the lovely scenery along Tadasu-no Mori. Finally we reached Shimogamo Shrine (下鴨神社) at the northern end.




Shimogamo Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Japan and is recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was almost 1.40+ p.m. when we were there, and we had not had proper lunch! So we walked around Shimogamo Shrine quickly, and then took bus to our destination - Kiyomizu-dara 清水寺. Read our next post for details of our adventure to Kiyomizu-dera and the nearby region!

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