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.
Crossed the Kamo River (which, incidentally, also has a bike path alongside it).
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.
You’re free to wander around and take pictures of the grounds and garden, however.
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.
A banana chocolate mousse pancake thing with coffee.
Special presentation for Blue Mountain Coffee.
Unattractive, but tasty, omuraisu (omelet-rice).
And we’re off to find Kiyomizudera. First, pagoda shot.
Okay, we overshot Kiyomizudera and found ourselves at Kodaiji. But we’re pretty sure that Kiyomizudera can be accessed right through that alley.
But let’s check out Kodaiji, since we’re already here. This is yet another Buddhist Temple with exemplary zen gardens.
Moving on… Maiko alert!
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.
Maiko out in force!
Everyone taking pictures of the same sakura (cherry blossom) tree.
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.
T about to give alms to a monk.
The monk shows his appreciation.
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.
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.
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.
Moving right along, we made it to Gion, an area known for its architecture, its entertainment district, and geisha.
In the day time it appears all there is to do is skulk around and take pictures of empty streets.
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.
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).
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.
Your dishes are presented with a towel draped over them. As if to hide the shame.
What it looks like uncovered and with the appetizer and sake brought in. First course: assorted turtle pieces and vegetables.
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.
And here that is.
A moment to reflect on art and poetry and life and stuff.
Then a second pot of sizzling turtle is brought in. Why in two parts? So that you can enjoy the experience ever the more.
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.
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.
Turtle okoge and tsukemono (pickled vegetables).
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.
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.
- Japan 2012 – Introduction, Day 1
- Japan 2012 – Day 2, Part 1 – Tsukiji and 3 Breakfasts
- Japan 2012 – Day 2, Part 2 – Asakusa, Kappabashi
- Japan 2012 – Day 3 – Tokyo Disney Sea and a Journey to Nostalgia
- Japan 2012 – Day 4 – Odaiba and Hometown Tonkatsu
- Japan 2012 – Day 5 – Ueno, Meiji Jingu, Yoyogi, Omotesando, Shibuya
- Japan 2012 – Day 6 – Travel Day by Shinkansen, Kyoto
- Japan 2012 – Day 7 – Kyoto and Nara Day Tour
- Japan 2012 – Day 9 – Kyoto Imperial Palace, Ginkakuji, Travel Day to Hakone
- Japan 2012 – Day 10 – Hakone Circuit and Onsen-ing
- Japan 2012 – Day 11 – Travel Day Return to Tokyo and Sushi at Kyubey
- Japan 2012 – Days 12-13 – Akihabara Craft Beer Festival and Our Goodbyes to Japan