Our second day of Kyoto sight-seeing was a day trip we caught from Osaka. On our first day we covered the sights that we wanted to see that we considered less walkable, meaning our second day back was more city-centre focussed and mostly walkable.
From the station we walked firstly to Sanjusangen-do Temple. It cost ¥600 each to enter, and it was worth every cent. We took our shoes off and entered this major corridor which was packed with 1001 wooden statues and a giant Buddha right in the middle. It was a striking sight; it looked like one big homogenous army – intimidating to say the least (no photos were allowed, sorry).
From here we left and headed towards the Kiyomizu-dera temple, passing the Kyoto National Museum on the way. It was about a 20-minute walk, and pretty straight forward to find. We walked the last 5 minutes up a steep street called Chawan-zaka (translating to Teapot Lane) which is lined with shops selling various snacks and souvenirs.
We explored the grounds of the temple and got some good photos of both the bright orange pagoda, the gates and the scenic views. The place was buzzing with tourists, so we decided not to pay the entry fee (¥400) instead opting to mill around the outside a bit longer before moving on.
We left via the Ninen-Zaka and Sannen-Zaka areas, following the sign posts down the main street and swinging a right not long after. These areas were super cute – mostly pedestrian streets, very picturesque with old wooden houses and authentic shops and cafes. Having Kyoto as a backdrop made for some pretty gorgeous photos.
We wound up at Maruyama-koen, a large park which houses the Yasaka-jinja Shrine. The park was very lush and peaceful with ponds, birds and people lazing about – we stopped for a picnic by the pondside and definitely appreciated the tranquillity.
Our last stop in this area was the Geisha district of Gion. It is also known for its nightlife and general entertainment district. It was pretty cute. We walked along Shimbashi (supposedly one of Kyoto’s most beautiful streets – it was hard to disagree) and found ourselves at a cute little French feeling chocolate shop. We couldn’t resist!
Next on our agenda was a visit to Kinkaku-ji. This was a bit trickier, as it is situated in Northwest Kyoto, i.e. nowhere near where we currently were. We contemplated a taxi, but first decided to cross the road from the chocolate shop and see if the station could give us anything. There was a bus stop right there, and bingo, #59 was headed to the temple. It cost ¥230 each, and took probably about 35 minutes to get there, but we got a brief tour of Kyoto as we journeyed, so we were happy enough.
Kinkaku-ji is a pretty famous temple in Japan, and it was easy to see why. The ¥400 entry fee is totally worth it, because the temple is jaw-droppingly beautiful. It is GOLD and it sits above a stunning pond on which it reflects. It was pretty crowded, but basically we just had to be patient and wait our turn for that perfect photo. There is a walkway that we followed which eventually leads to the exit.
Before we headed back to Osaka, we had dinner plans to meet. For Christmas, Andy’s brother Tom had gifted us a dining experience at Kitchen Rakuraku, which had come highly recommended. We walked there from Kinkaku-ji and were there as its doors opened at 5.30pm. We hadn’t made a booking, so we wanted to minimise our chances of being turned away. We were lucky: we were the first there and the only ones there for the duration of our meal.
Kitchen Rakuraku is a one-man show, where after checking whether we had any dietary requirements, Akira just cooked us a whole bunch of food (right in front of us) and laid it all up on the benchtop for eating. It was fabulous – we had tuna sashimi, tempura, Kobe beef, prawn and smoked salmon – there were basically a million different things to try and everything tasted incredible. It made for an incredible experience, and Akira was extremely friendly, interesting and an awesome chef. A definite highlight of our time in Japan (thanks Tom!).
Having taken the local line in the morning (about 70 minutes), we opted for the shinkansen home. It took a mere 15 minutes!