We started the day early in an attempt to beat some of the rush at the major attractions in Kyoto. We took the Shinkansen to Kyoto station and bought a bus pass to use for the day. Kyoto's public transportation system was by far the worst in Japan that we used. For a city of its size, you would expect to get to most major tourist destinations via train or subway, but with Kyoto you get overcrowded, hot, and slow moving buses.
We found the bus stop for the bus that was headed to our first destination and had to wait about 20 minutes for one to show up. Then it was full, so Tyler had to sit on Erin's lap and I got to stand for 45 minutes. About 20 minutes into the ride, I accidentally leaned onto an old woman's arm to catch my balance. She gave me a nasty look and seemed pretty mad at me for the rest of the ride. I was just about at my breaking point when we finally made it to our stop. From the stop, it was a few minutes walk to our first temple of the day, Ginkakuji.
We paid our entrance fee (¥500 per adult, ¥300 per child) and headed inside.
Ginkakuji is the silver temple. It isn't actually covered in silver unlike the golden temple (Kinkakuji) which actually is covered in gold. The temple does have some really nice gardens around it, including some really awesome sand sculptures.
Ginkakuji Sand Designs
We then walked through the gardens and got to see the silver temple.
We followed a nice path through the peaceful garden and stopped to take a few pictures.
Ginkakuji Garden Path
The path winds around the buildings and some small ponds. It wasn't very busy, so it was actually pretty serene and definitely what I needed to relieve the stress of that unpleasant bus ride.
The path then goes up a small hill which offers some nice views of the temple and it surroundings.
Ginkakuji from the hillside
There were also a few trees that were blooming with some nice flowers on them.
Flowering trees in the garden
The path ends with one more nice view of the main temple building.
Ginkakuji Main Temple Building
As we left the temple and headed towards the Philosopher's Path, we noticed a little shop with a great sign. How can you pass up your chance to eat a potatornado? It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity that couldn't be missed. We ordered one and I thought he would give us a cold/stale one, but he fried one up fresh for us. We all thought it would taste like chips, but it was cut thick enough that it actually did taste more like french fries. It was surprisingly good, but a little expensive for the portion size.
We turned onto the Philosopher's Path which is a famous walking path that follows a small stream. It has many cherry blossom trees surrounding it, but we were just a week or so too early to see them blooming.
We walked down the path and every so often there would be a sign to another temple or shrine. We stopped at a few of them to take some pictures, but there really are so many to see in Kyoto that it is hard to keep them all straight.
This one had a particularly cool looking twisted up tree that I liked a lot.
Twisted, gnarly tree
We continued down the Philosopher's Path stopping to take a few pictures along the way. There are lots of small bridges over the stream. We saw one section where someone had planted a bunch of flowers in the wall.
Flowers planted in the wall
There were a couple of early blooming cherry blossom trees that were on display.
Early cherry blossoms
Towards the end of the path, we came across a large set of buildings from another temple complex. We stopped to take a few pictures, but didn't spend too much time as we were starting to get hungry for lunch.
Another Kyoto Temple
We started looking around for a restaurant. It was one of the those times when we couldn't seem to find anything that looked good. Most of the restaurants we found were very expensive and served set lunches that didn't appeal to the whole family. We ended up walking up and down several streets trying to find something that we could all eat at. By the time we finally found something, we were all starving. The restaurant was a sit down place where they took your order at the table. A lot of the sit down place we ate at in Japan had a doorbell at the table, which we discovered was to call over a waiter or waitress to take your order or to ask for your check. It was a really great system and you never had to wait around when you were ready to order. I had ramen, Erin tried some fried rice, and Tyler had some fried chicken.
Now that we were full, we headed up to Kiyomizudera. Kiyomizudera is a large wooden temple perched on a hillside with great views of Kyoto. There was a nice Pagoda and a nice pink blooming cherry tree near the entrance.
We paid our admission (¥300 per adult, ¥200 per child) and headed into the packed grounds. The main building is a really cool wooden building with a giant porch overlooking the city. The porch was a little unnerving as it had a definite downward slant to it. It didn't make me feel very comfortable standing on it in the huge crowd.
Kiyomizudera Main Building
We followed the path around and it took us to the base of a nice pagoda.
3 story pagoda
The path then heads down to a sacred waterfall that flows over a building and is split into 3 separate streams. There was a huge line of Japanese people waiting to drink some of the water. It is supposed to have healing properties, but we didn't feel like standing in line to try it out.
We finished walking around the grounds and stopped at a nice little pond with a partially blooming cherry tree before heading back towards a bus stop.
We started down the street and I took a picture to give you a feel for the crowds in the area.
Crowded street around Kiyomizudera
While walking to the bus stop, we came across an ice cream vending machine, so we stopped and got Tyler a snack. We had heard about how many vending machines there were in Japan and how you could buy just about anything in a vending machine. We did see tons of vending machines, but almost all of them were just beverages. We also saw a couple of ice cream vending machines, but overall we were a little disappointed compared to the variety that we were expecting.
Ice cream vending machine
We walked down the hill and caught the bus. Thankfully, it was only about a 20 minute ride back to Kyoto station. We took the Shinkansen back to Osaka and then the subway back to Namba station.
Namba station is connected to the Takashimaya department store which has an amazing food court in the basement. We really wanted to try some domestic Japanese Wagyu beef while we were there, but most restaurants that serve it are very high end and we really didn't have the correct clothing to eat at them. We also checked a couple out, but none seemed to have an English menu and the menus they did have had prices ranging from $75-$200 per person. If we were going to spend that kind of money, we definitely needed to be able to read the menu.
Since we had a small kitchen in our hotel, we decided to buy some beef at the Takashimaya food court to bring back to our hotel to cook it. They had several different kinds, which we couldn't read, so we picked some stuff that was a medium price and ordered about a half pound of it. The prices varied quite a bit, the most expensive stuff they had was about $400/pound. I tried to ask the man at the counter how to cook it, but he didn't speak much English. He understood enough to know what I was asking, so he gave us some fat, some seasoning, and tried to explain to us how to cook it.
Japanese Wagyu Beef
Erin cooked it up for us and we tried it. Initially, I didn't want to give any to Tyler because he had never liked steak before when he had tried it and this stuff was so expensive I didn't want to waste any. He finally convinced me to let him try it, and he absolutely loved it. I don't know how you couldn't love it. It was so well marbled, it basically just melted in your mouth when you ate it. I wish we had been able to go to a restaurant and have it properly prepared, but what we got to taste was still phenomenal.
Of course, a half pound of steak wasn't enough for us for dinner, but we had already spent so much on it, we just headed across the street to grab a quick bite at McDonalds. After dinner we headed out for one last night in Osaka. We walked around the Namba covered shopping area and picked up some snacks and candy. I also ordered a cream puff type thing at a small stand. It wasn't exactly a cream puff. The pastry was some kind of rice based shell, which they took and filled with cream when you ordered it. The rice shell seemed slightly overcooked, otherwise it would have been excellent since it was really filled with a great tasting cream. We went back to the hotel and tried to get packed up to get ready to head back to Tokyo, before heading to bed.
Continue to Day 10
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