Day 9 was the first full day exploring Kyoto, starting at the famous Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion Temple) and ending at Kodaiji Temple.
Breakfast at Nakau
We started the day by having breakfast at Nakau (Shichijo Shinmachi), a Japanese fast food chain that offers cheap, home style dishes. My breakfast set came with grilled salmon, beef, miso, rice, seaweed and green tea.
The first stop of the day was Kyoto Station: so we could purchase a bus pass and catch a bus to Kinkakuji.
Kyoto’s tourist attractions are quite spread out across the city and will require some travelling between them. Unlike Tokyo, the subway system in Kyoto is quite limited with only 2 lines.
Which is why I opted for the Kyoto Bus Pass, which provides unlimited bus trips (within the flat fee area) for the day. As of October 2019, the One Day Pass costs ¥600 which is really good value considering that a single bus ride is priced at ¥230.
After a 40 minutes ride on the Kyoto City Bus number 101 (you can also catch the 205), we got off at the Kitaoji Street bus stop and walked towards the entrance of Kinkakuji.
Kinkakuji is a three storey zen temple with the top two floors covered completely in gold leaf and overlooks a tranquil pond. Unfortunately, we arrived at 10:30am which was peak hour and the grounds was packed with tourists.
Admission is priced at 400 yen and the temple is open from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
After some strategic maneuvering, I managed to capture a few shots of the stunning temple without any tourists.
We circled the entire temple grounds and then we headed back to catch a bus into the city. Our next stop would be the Gion district for Kyoto-style sushi and hopefully some Geisha spotting.
While waiting, I came across a vending machine and bought this unique looking ice cream called Coolish. To my pleasant surprise, it was vanilla soft serve ice cream in a squeezable pouch. The smart packaging ensures there’s no mess while the screw cap lets you pause your snacking. Japan seriously has the best snacks!
Lunch at Izuju Sushi
Having done my research, I learnt that Kyoto style sushi was very different to Tokyo sushi. Due to Kyoto being an inland city, when sushi was firstly developed most of the fish used was cured and not fresh. Also instead of using rolling sushi or shaping it my hand, Kyoto style sushi was pressed in a box.
Izuju is one of the most popular Kyoto style sushi restaurants and has been around since 1912. It’s also situated in a prime location, right opposite Yasaka Shrine, which means there’s a constant line of guests waiting.
Once the wait is over, you’ll be generously rewarded with very unique and delicous sushi. My friend and I opted for Sushi Set B which contained:
- saba sushi (cured mackerel)
- inari sushi (tofu pockets)
- deluxe hako sushi (pressed box sushi)
After a filling lunch, we wandered around the Gion district in search of dessert, specifically matcha (green tea) flavoured sweets – which Kyoto is known for.
One of the most popular matcha desserts is actually a German cake. The Kyo Baumkuchen from Otabe is a light, moist cake that features matcha and soy milk flavours. If you don’t want to eat an entire cake, you can fortunately order a single portion that’s served on a stick.
Tsujiri is a famous chain of tea shops that originated 150 years ago in nearby Uji city – the heart of Japan’s green tea industry. They serve a wide variety of green tea drinks, sweets and ice cream.
We managed to explore most of the alleys and streets in the Gion district but unfortunately didn’t see any geishas! With the sun slowly setting, we leisurely made our way to Kodaiji temple to see it’s special night time illuminations which run from late October to early December.
Kodaiji Temple (高台寺) at night
Kodaiji Temple (高台寺) was established in 1606 and belongs to the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddism. During the day, visitors can see it’s famous rock gardens and enter the main hall.
If you have the chance, I’d highly recommend visiting Kodaiji temple at night – the illuminations are quite stunning to see in person.
Dinner at local izakaya
After such a busy day, we decided to have dinner back near our accommodation. We ended up at Onishi Yakitori Bar (大西) which serves up yakitori aka chicken skewers grilled over charcoal.
Each skewer was very reasonably priced ranging from ¥100 to ¥150, so we ordered a dozen to share. Every skewer was perfectly cooked with just a touch of char to create a moreish smoky flavour.
After finishing my whisky highball, I decided to go for it and order the sakura niku (桜肉) aka raw horse meat from the menu. Surprisingly the horse meat tasted very similar to beef but slightly gamey.
And that wraps up Day 9 of the Japan trip, tomorrow would take us all the way to Hiroshima and Miyajima island.
Day 1 – Tokyo (Tsukiji Fish Market, Ginza, Asakusa, Shibuya)
Day 2 – Tokyo (Akihabara, Roppongi Hills)
Day 3 – Tokyo (Ueno Park, Tokyo National Museum, Odaiba, Tokyo Tower, Genki Sushi)
Day 4 – Matsumoto (Matsumoto Castle, Kobayashi-Soba, Hirayuno-mori)
Day 5 – Takayama (Takayama Morning Market, Menya Shirakawa, Sumiyoshi Ryokan)
Day 6 – Shirakawa-go
Day 7 – Kanazawa (Kenroku-en, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Omicho Market)
Day 8 – Himeji Castle 姫路城, Osaka (Dōtonbori)
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