Clay and I spent five days taking in all the sights and sounds of Kyoto, the former capital city of Japan. Kyoto was a refreshing change of scene from all the crowded subways, busy shopping districts, tall skyscrapers, and sensory overload (i.e., Akihabara the electronics district) of faster-paced Tokyo. So much history rooted in the city of Kyoto to learn about! There was so much to see and do in Kyoto, that we didn't even get a chance to visit the neighboring cities of Osaka, Nara, or Hiroshima!
Our first day in Kyoto was spent visiting Yasaka Shrine (a shinto shrine located in the Gion District) and Maruyama Park, which had plenty of cherry blossom trees that were still in bloom. There were so many food stalls set up throughout the park. Clay and I bought some grilled tofu on a stick (with all the toppings, please!), as well as some sakuramochi-flavored soft serve to help us cool down in the warm afternoon. As the sun was setting, we walked down to Pontocho Alley (an ancient food alley that has been around for at least 500 years), where we had an omurice dinner at L'oeuf. Afterwards, we walked to Nishiki Market, which had lots of shops, restaurants, and night life.
Day two in Kyoto was spent in beautiful Arashiyama! One could definitely spend the whole day exploring this district. Early in the morning, we headed straight to the Arashiyama bamboo forest, a short but stunning path lined with tall bamboo. The grove, however, was filled with tourists and wedding photo shoots, as expected. After, we visited the Tenryu-ji Temple right next to the bamboo forest. We then walked across the Togetsu-kyo bridge to visit the Arashiyama monkey park, where we saw so many red-faced Japenese snow monkeys. Clay got to feed a baby macaque some apples. Lunch was spent at Yudofu Sagano, a restaurant (with the most peaceful courtyard) that Clay found for us. There, we were given a set course meal involving yudo, soft tofu chunks simmered in broth, served with a variety of side dishes. Even though it was a pricy vegetarian meal, Clay and I were glad to try the tofu that Kyoto is known for! The rest of the day in Arashiyama was spent enjoying some coffee from % Arabica, cookie samples from Malebranche, souvenir shopping, and going on a relaxing pleasure boat ride on the scenic Oi River with its gorgeous mountain backdrop.
Early on our third day, we visited Fushimi Inari with a couple of our friends, Kristen and Danny. Of course, Kristen and I couldn't stop excitedly photographing the stunning vermillion tori gates, as our husbands teased (and modeled) for us. Afterwards, Clay and I sat down for some coffee at the nearby Vermillion coffee shop and then headed to Honke Owariya for lunch. Our lunch spot was the oldest soba noodle shop in Kyoto and has been open since 1496. It even used to serve the Imperial Palace! This actually was the first time Clay and I ever had soba. (And since we've been back home, Clay has been making simple, clean, and light soba noodle meals for us.) Next door to the restaurant, we found my favorite donut shop, Nicotto & Mam Doughnut Cafe. After lunch, we spent the first half of the afternoon walking though Nijo Castle (where some of the last shoguns lived!), before heading back to our Airbnb for a nap. In the evening, we went back out to eat udon for dinner and also visited the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, which was lit up for special night time visits in the spring!
Day four was dedicated to checking out some well-known temples of Kyoto. We started with Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavillion. We also went to Ryoan-ji, a temple famous for its zen rock garden. For lunch we went to Oosakaya, a restaurant I found on Tabelog that served hamburger curry, chicken karaage, and shrimp coquettes. After our yummy lunch, we headed over to Kyoto Yunohana Hot Springs Resort. This was the part of the trip that Clay and I had been looking forward to! Since our trip had been so jam-packed with sightseeing thus far, we were very ready for our one-night stay at this ryokan, where we had a room reserved with our own private onsen bath on the balcony! It was seriously the best...I just wish we could have had a couple more nights there to slow down and relax. The accommodations there were very thoughtful. We were given yukata to wear on the premises. There were so many fun drinks stocked in our fridge. Everything about our room was so comfortable. Our stay came with a kaiseki dinner and breakfast. The dinner was 12 courses and came with great service (there were even heated mats underneath our feet). Clay and I shared several funny moments during this meal -- at one point, as one of the other guests was walking outside our private dining booth, we laughed so hard until we cried. Another funny moment (which Clay recorded on his phone) was when we were presented with our live sashimi course swimming around in a bowl of vinegar.
On our last day in Kyoto, I was very sad to check out of the ryokan after our lovely breakfast (it felt like we had just arrived!). Good thing we had one last special destination on our itinerary to visit: Saiho-ji, also known as Kokadera or "moss" Temple. My cousin Mariko had actually recommended this temple to us, saying that it was one of her favorite places in Kyoto. She was very kind to help us to make a reservation by postal mail 2 months in advanced! Once we got to Saijo-ji, we were asked to gather in the main hall of the temple with the other visitors to quietly copy sutra and observe a chant of the sutra by some priests. After that, we were free to walk around and enjoy the serenity of the temple gardens at our own pace. The temple was beautiful and indeed covered in green moss everywhere! This final stop was a great way for me and Clay to end our time in Kyoto.
Just capturing as I go.