Friday 13th January 2023
I start the day off with what a posh restaurant would call fusion cuisine; a pizza bao bun.
On today’s itinerary are a temple and a bamboo forest. The old man says the bamboo forest sounds boring. I tell him if he wants to go somewhere else, he should choose a location and plan a route. So, on today’s itinerary are a temple and a bamboo forest.
First up, Kinkaku-ji; the ‘Golden Pavilion’. There is an easy way to reach the temple and a way which is free with our JR Rail Pass. The JR bus, which doesn’t appear to have a number, runs every 30 minutes. There is a far more frequent Kyoto Bus no 205, which we would have to pay to use. The scheduled time for the JR bus comes and goes. We try to decide how many 205 buses we will watch drive pass before we admit we don’t know what we’re doing and give up and catch one. Just then, the numberless JR bus appears round the corner.
We reach Kinkaku-ji; called the Golden Pavilion because in the centre of the complex there is, indeed, a pavilion covered in gold which reflects in the adjoining pond.
The original 14th Century building was a retirement villa for a Shogun Warlord. After his death, the building became a temple. In 1950 it was burnt down by a mad monk, however it was reconstructed in 1955.
We walk along the prescribed route, stopping at a lucky statue, where, if you throw a coin and it lands in the bowl, it is supposed to bring good luck. I throw a bronze coin, it lands just short of the bowl, hitting a silver coin, which then bounces into the bowl. Bullseye!
I think this is my favourite temple so far. Even on a overcast, rather smoggy Kyoto winter’s day it’s quite a sight. It’s also one of the cheapest at Y400. You can pay extra to enter the temple, but we didn’t bother.
Temple toilet report; the toilet contains a child seat, to sit your child in while you teach them to use the controls on a Japanese toilet. There are also instructions about not touching with cigarettes or burning objects. I think this means the seat, not the child. Not that I’m condoning burning children, just that I thought that was fairly obvious without reading toilet instructions.
Our next destination is the suburb of Arashiyama around 6 miles west of central Kyoto. We can’t be bothered to mess around with the JR bus any more, so get the 205 to Emmachi station to catch a train to Arashiyama.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
We walk through the quaint, if somewhat touristy, suburb to the Bamboo Grove. It’s a very popular attraction, particularly with young people taking selfies in traditional costume. Adjoining the bamboo grove is Tenru-ji Temple.
Tenru-ji is a Zen temple with a garden overlooking the mountains. The garden is supposed to mimic the overlooking mountains. I can’t see it. But it’s a pretty garden nonetheless. It costs ¥500 to visit just the garden, or ¥800 including going inside the temple.
We continue to Togetsukyo Bridge, apparently Arashiyama’s is most iconic landmark. The bridge is made of reinforced concrete, but lined with cypress to give the impression of a wooden bridge. On side it’s a pretty bridge flowing over a picturesque river with a mountain backdrop. On the other side is a construction site. Once we have taken some quaint bridge photos without cranes and JCBs in the background, we make our way back to the station.
This installation of 600 poles decorated with kimono designs outside Arashiyama Station is worth a quick stop before boarding our train back to Kyoto.
It is supposed to be illuminated at night, but although we visit mid afternoon, there is a storm brewing, so the lights start to come on as we wander around.
We catch the train back to Kyoto Station. This huge building which looks like it belongs in an episode of Star Trek is a tourist attraction in its own right.
There’s even a huge Lego model of the station, which took someone with far more patience than me 720 hours to build.
We take a gazillion escalators to a Skywalk in the rafters, crossing to a rooftop garden towering high above the city.
Dinner at Kokkio
For dinner we head back down to the food court in the underground mall. There are no English menus, so it’s a case of selecting from the photos or plastic food displayed outside. I choose a restaurant which has nice photos. But when we reach our table, we realise that it has a hot plate in the middle and we must cook our own dinner. That sounds like way too much effort, so we try elsewhere and end up in Kokkio, which is a Korean restaurant. Pointing at pictures brings me (as I Google when I’m back in Wi-Fi range) Chicken Dakgalbi. This turns out be a spicy chicken and vegetable stir fry, coated in a thick layer of melted cheese.
We point at more pictures to order a couple of beers. This not go so well and we end up with half a pint of Bourbon and soda.
As our hotel may (or may not) be annexed to the Kyoto Tower, we have been given discounted tickets to visit the observation deck. Normally costing ¥800, we only have to pay ¥300. So we decide to take a look. The Kyoto Tower was built to celebrate the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It is 131 metres tall in total, with an observation platform, reached by two elevators, at 100 metres.
It has good views across the city and beyond, with interactive multilingual boards giving you more information about the things you can see.
There’s also a pretty good view of our hotel, which we return to, via the store to further investigate Japanese fruity alcoholic beverages. Today’s choices; peach, melon & vanilla and grape & cassis. They go particularly well with jelly beans, which I am also working through flavour by flavour. Living the gourmet dream!