15 November 2012

V in Japan - Day 13

Day 13: Sightseeing in (and around) Kyoto

  • Date: October 25
  • Weather: Sunny and nice
  • Mood: Okay, but getting quite tired near the evening

The Fushimi Inari Shrine and Torii Gates

We woke up, refreshed ourselves and walked to the Sukiya place we went two days ago to have some Japanese breakfast again. Since the Curry I had here last time wasn't that great, I search the 2 or 3 different meal cards and spot a cheap Japanese Breakfast menu, with rice, miso soup, an egg and some salmon (though no natto :-P).

After breakfast, we went to the station to get some cash. I tried my bank card again, but it still refused to work (I cursed at it) and thus I ended up borrowing some more cash.

We took the train to Inari (a 3-minute trip or so) to check the Fushimi Inari shrine and the many torii gates.

You can't really miss the gates, since you encounter by them the moment you leave the train station (together with one of the many fox statues).

First up is the walk to the shrine itself. Then once you get to the shrine, there is the walking course through all the gates. Quite a nice walking course.

Each gate is donated by somebody (their name is carved into the gate) and we spotted a sign saying you could buy a gate yourself. For about 193.000 yen (or about 1930€), you could buy a 5-meter gate (the bigger the gate, the more expensive it gets). We thought that was quite cheap, but didn't have enough money to actually buy one (lol).

And it goes on forever like this...

After walking a few kilometers through gates and stairs, we take another route down and walk back to the station.

Sanjusangendo - The temple with 1001 Buddha statues

Back in Kyoto itself, we all bought a bus pass (all buses for 500 yen a whole day) and we looked at the map we got in the bus company office. We ordered everything we wanted to visit today and then drove to the temple with 1001 Buddha statues (Sanjusangendo).

As usual, no pictures allowed inside, so only a picture from the outside. The many statues are quite a nice sight to see. If you woukld go to Kyoto, you should visit this temple.

And for the fourth time on this trip, Steven tried another fortune note here and finally he got some good fortune (good for him!).

Ginkakuji - The Silver Pavilion

Afterwards, we took the bus to the Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavilion).

There’s a big walkway to the temple with (once again) lots of souvenir shops and lots of people. The Pavilion itself is not that great (you can’t enter it, but you pay for entering the garden), but the garden surrounding it is very beautiful. If you’re short on time, this is a place you can miss, but it’s a nice sight if you have some spare time on your trip in Kyoto.

Nijo-jo palace site

Next up, we went to the Nijo-jo palace site (which is apparently a site with 2 palaces, Ninomaru Palace en Honmaru palace).

Only the Ninomaru palace is open for visit, but you can walk around the other palace. Again, no pictures inside, you’re not even allowed to sketch it (lol, seriously?)! But it’s certainly worth a visit, although it takes a lot of time to see everything.

Kinkakuji - The golden Pavilion

Last on this day tour was the Kinkakuji (the golden pavilion).

The Kinkakuji is the original temple with gold coating (real gold, yes). And the Ginkakuji (the silver one) was inspired by this building. We saw the temple in the sunset, making it a very nice sight for the eyes (but not that great for the camera’s to take decent pictures)

When compared the two alloy temples; on this site the temple is a lot more beautiful... but the surrounding gardens here were a total mess.

Even Steven is not impressed by the temple "garden"

End of the trip - Let's have a drink!

After the long bus ride home (26 stops or so, it took an hour), we walked back to K’s House.

For our last night, we had some new guests in our room (3 Canadians: 2 girls and a guy). After meeting with them, we met with Colette one last time (she remained a bit longer in Japan, we had to leave the day afterwards).

First off, one last time to Manzo's for dinner (we all ordered special dishes. I had some fried potato (the sweet one) and a fried shrimp with mayonessa (which took long to prepare, but was very good).

After our visit to Manzo, we went back to the Zen cafe, where we drank some more Belgian beers and I ordered some more Takoyaki (it’s really good). Apparently, it was appreciated, if you spot the message in the photo.

After a while, I started to feel really tired (it's been a long day of touring). I went to bed, while the others had some more beers. This time, it was my time to crash early. I said my goodbyes to Colette and off I go.

Tips when traveling Japan - Experiment with unknown flavors

One thing you probably remember about Japan's culture is the variety of weird snacks and drinks. And yes, it IS true: Japan DOES have an enormous amount of weird snacks and drinks. And you can find them EVYERWHERE!

You probably heard of the awfully-named Pokari Sweat? It's almost a classic in Japanese vending machines and it's really not bad. It just tastes like other sport drinks, like Aquarius or Gatorade.

And next to weird names, Japan has also lots of variety in weird tastes. So much, that you often can not find snacks or drinks with classic tastes (like regular cola, salted potato chips, or regular peanuts).

Given brands like Coca Cola, Fanta or Minute Maid are often only available in weird, experimental flavors like: Strawberry Cream Fanta (I like strawberries, but this is horrible!) or Minute Maid with Aloe and White Grapes with actual pieces of real aloe inside (this was surprisingly good).

And certain snack brands experiment like you've never seen before. For example, Kitkat has dozens of different flavors in Japan, way more than here in Europe or in the States. And you should try some of them. Some taste weird, others are amazingly good.

This aloe and White Grape juice was surprisingly good.

My advice: think outside of the box and leave your classic tastes behind. Experiment! Pick some random potato chips, some random drinks, or some random snacks and see what happens.

Some will taste good, others will taste bloody awful.

But if I can give you one piece of advice: Beware of fish snacks!

Japan is a fisherman country and thus a LOT of their snacks are fish-related or have fish-taste. Don't be alarmed if your salami has an unexpected fish flavor, or if a random bag of potato chips appears to be anchovy-flavored. The easiest ones to spot are the dried fish snacks. They not only taste weird, they look disgusting as well. But you should try it (although I will forgive you if you don't like it).

On a side-note: If you are allergic to fish, I do advice you to analyze all snack wraps carefully for traces of fish.

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