Trip Report: Japan 2012 – Day 8 – Bicycling through Kyoto, Turtle Dinner

The hotel had bikes for rent so we decided to impromptu change things up and ride around town. Kyoto is relatively flat and its streets are laid out in a grid formation, which makes it perfect for bicycling. See if your lodging has access to bicycles, or there are a number of options around town, as well. The Kyoto Cycling Tour Project is one option, and they provide rentals as well as guided tours. Things started off a little wobbly, but improved towards the end.

Wobbly Start. Image Credit: Ryan.

Crossed the Kamo River (which, incidentally, also has a bike path alongside it).

Kamo River. Image Credit: Ryan.

And on to Sanjuusangendou. Yet another beautiful Buddhist temple. Unfortunately, this is one of the many places in Kyoto where they don’t allow you to take photographs. But trust us, the statues and artwork inside are something to behold.

Sanjuusangendou. Image Credit: Ryan.

You’re free to wander around and take pictures of the grounds and garden, however.

Random Temple Shot, Sanjuusangendou. Image Credit: Ryan.

The temple name means “hall with thirty three spaces between columns,” describing the architecture of the main hall. An archery contest along its length has been held since the 1600s. And a famous duel between Miyamoto Musashi and Yoshioka Denshichiro, the leader of the Yoshioka Clan, was fought here as well.

Ryan Practicing His Ninja Skills. Image Credit: T.

After 33gendou, it was a short bike ride to Kyoto National Museum and its adjoining Karafune-ya Cafe. The museum was undergoing renovation, so we were just here for the cafe.

View from the Museum Cafe. Image Credit: Ryan.
Kyoto National Museum from the cafe. Image Credit: Ryan.

A banana chocolate mousse pancake thing with coffee.

Banana Chocolate Pancakes. Image Credit: T.

Special presentation for Blue Mountain Coffee.

Blue Mountain Coffee. Image Credit: Ryan.

Unattractive, but tasty, omuraisu (omelet-rice).

Unattractive Omuraisu. Image Credit: Ryan.

And we’re off to find Kiyomizudera. First, pagoda shot.

Pagoda Shot. Image Credit: Ryan.

Okay, we overshot Kiyomizudera and found ourselves at Kodaiji. But we’re pretty sure that Kiyomizudera can be accessed right through that alley.

Kodaiji not Kiyomizudera. Image Credit: T.

But let’s check out Kodaiji, since we’re already here. This is yet another Buddhist Temple with exemplary zen gardens.

Kodaiji. Image Credit: Ryan.
Tea House, Kodaiji. Image Credit: Ryan.
Dragon Rock Garden, Kodaiji. Image Credit: Ryan.
Random Temple Shot, Kodaiji. Image Credit: Ryan.
Pausing at a Rest Stop, Kodaiji. Image Credit: Ryan.
Mattcha and Sweets, Kodaiji. Image Credit: Ryan.

Moving on… Maiko alert!

Maiko Alert! Image Credit: Ryan.

This must be the way. Side note: look for the vehicle and bicycle parking at the foot of the hill; since we emerged from a side alley, we totally missed it, and went all the way up and were not allowed to park our bikes anywhere near the shops or temple.

The Way to Kiyomizudera. Image Credit: Ryan.

Maiko out in force!

Maiko Out in Force! Image Credit: Ryan.

Everyone taking pictures of the same sakura (cherry blossom) tree.

Lone Cherry Blossom Tree. Image Credit: Ryan.

Kiyomizudera-zaka. Or yet another marketplace to sell trinkets to tourists. Actually, it’s a really neat place to explore. There are a lot of food and omiyage vendors, hidden places to eat, art shops, etc.

Kiyomizudera-zaka. Image Credit: Ryan.

T about to give alms to a monk.

T and the Monk. Image Credit: Ryan.

The monk shows his appreciation.

T and the Monk, Bowing. Image Credit: Ryan.

So, here we are at the Nio-Mon Gate fronting Kiyomizudera (check out their cool website!). It is almost impossible to get more Japanese than this picture unless you throw in Mt. Fuji and snow monkeys.

Kiyomizudera Gate. Image Credit: Ryan.

The grounds of Kiyiomizudera. Under normal weather conditions, this whole area would have been covered in cherry blossoms. Alas, at the time we were there, it was too cold.

Kiyomizudera. Image Credit: Ryan.

At the base of Kiyomizudera’s main hall, you’ll find the Otowa Waterfall. There are three separate flows of water, and each is supposed to have its own benefit – longevity, success at school, or a good love life. But, choose wisely and don’t be greedy like that guy from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Otowa Waterfall, Kiyomizudera. Image Credit: Ryan.

Moving right along, we made it to Gion, an area known for its architecture, its entertainment district, and geisha.

Gion by Day. Image Credit: T.

In the day time it appears all there is to do is skulk around and take pictures of empty streets.

Gion by Day by Tourists. Image Credit: Ryan.

This was interesting at a shrine we passed, Yasui-Kompiragu. Apparently, to cut old relationships and create new ones, you crawl both ways through that hole.

Yasui Konpiragu Shrine. Image Credit: Ryan.

So eventually, we made it back to our hotel in one piece. Freshened up and headed back out to our Big Dinner (or, one of them, anyway).

Drinks and the View from Our Room. Image Credit: Ryan.

Here we are in our private tatami room at Daiichi (Tabelog Top 1000) awaiting our dinner – suppon (fresh water snapping turtle). They’ve been serving this meal the same way since the late-17th century. And if you’re hungry for something else, you’ll have to go elsewhere, because this is all they serve.

Sitting at Daiichi. Image Credit: T.

Your dishes are presented with a towel draped over them. As if to hide the shame.

Towel Over Dishes, Daiichi. Image Credit: Ryan.

What it looks like uncovered and with the appetizer and sake brought in. First course: assorted turtle pieces and vegetables.

Uncovered Dishes, Daiichi. Image Credit: Ryan.

Then they bring in this sizzling, sizzling hot hundred-year-old pot of boiling liquid. The server, clad in full kimono, spoons out a bowl of turtle and a cup of turtle juice and sake. Note: they heat these pots up to 2,000 degrees CELSIUS with coke (steam baked charcoal) in order to release the collagen within the turtle. This is a special cooking technique only practiced by this restaurant in all of Japan (according to their website, Japanese only). Eat and handle with care.

Boiling Turtle Pot 1, Daiichi. Image Credit: Ryan.

And here that is.

Turtle Parts and Turtle Juice, Daiichi. Image Credit: Ryan.

A moment to reflect on art and poetry and life and stuff.

A Moment to Reflect, Daiichi. Image Credit: Ryan.

Then a second pot of sizzling turtle is brought in. Why in two parts? So that you can enjoy the experience ever the more.

Boiling Turtle Pot 2, Daiichi. Image Credit: Ryan.

2nd round of turtle parts and turtle juice. The turtle drink is unlike anything you’ve ever had. You could probably charge $100 a bowl if you threw in some ramen and char siu.

2nd Round, Turtle Parts and Turtle Juice, Daiichi. Image Credit: Ryan.

Sizzling turtle juice and rice and a raw egg cracked over it and mixed in. The rice gets all brown and crispy at the edges; it’s called okoge and it’s delicious.

Okoge, Daiichi. Image Credit: Ryan.

Turtle okoge and tsukemono (pickled vegetables).

Turtle Rice and Tsukemono. Image Credit: Ryan.

Finally, dessert. In this case, grapefruit that has been scraped off its rind and sugared up. This was the best citrus fruit I have ever had and a perfect way to finish the meal.

Dessert, Daiichi. Image Credit: Ryan.

And that was our evening. I leave you with one last picture to demonstrate that although the Japanese do a lot of things right, they don’t do everything right. Notably, washing machines and water and light shows.

Water and Light Show, Kyoto Station. Image Credit: Ryan.


Questions, Comments or Criticisms?