More shrines, temples, gardens and food...
21.09.2009 - 24.09.2009 27 °C
Today is our 1st anniversary as a couple!! Oh yah, it was one year ago that eHarmony worked its magic on us, we soooo should be in those commercials.
In the morning, we went to the Nankiji temple which is this huge complex with tons to see. We went up this large wooden temple and got a view of the whole place, it looked quite huge and intimidating, but most of it is actually closed to the public. So what we got to see was this beautiful garden, a very cute little secluded temple and a cemetery where people would come and leave flowers and beers for their loved ones who have passed on. Starved (always!) we decided to go with a Lonely planet suggestion for Udon restaurant (Hidone Udon). Well after getting lost numerous times and walking about an hour, we got to the restaurant to get slapped in the face with a “Sorry we’re closed” sign. Fortunately, we see this really cute place next door. It turned out to be a restaurant owned by these two lovely old ladies, the place really felt like we were just eating in their kitchen which we loved. So after a plate of curry for me and fried rice for Mark, we went walking through the “Philosopher’s Path” which is just a very pleasant stone walkway of about 1 km and it lead to our next destination: the Ginkaku temple. This temple is quite popular and, due to the Japanese holiday, very crowded that day. They made you follow this path which allowed you to see very impressive sand arrangements and very nice views of a part of Kyoto. We took the bus home; a HUGE mistake, there was so much traffic due to the holiday that it took us 1 ½ hours to travel what would have been a 45 minute walk. It was ridiculous!! But the good thing is that when we finally give up on the bus and got off, we ended up in the lively and totally adorable Gion district. It is filled with traditional buildings and restaurants and I believe this is also the Geisha quarter though it was too early in the day to see any.
That night, to celebrate our anniversary, we went to this restaurant where we got to sit on a deck outside along the river. We got this 8-course meal and the only thing we recognized were the sashimi, the rice and the eel. The rest was all fancy, pretty looking tiny appetizers. Though the food wasn’t spectacular that night, we got entertained by the crowd below including this drunken old man that kept on yelling at us and some young dude puking. That night we got all into a deep discussion and didn’t notice that we were the only ones still there and the restaurant had actually closed.
Today Mark betrayed the Canadiens and left after the second period and we went to the Kobosan market at the Toji temple. This market happens only once a month and is basically a huge bazaar/fair/garage sale. People come to sell antiques, books, kimonos and sometimes some trash that they probably picked up on their way there. Oh yah, also tons of food. We explored the market sad that we couldn’t buy anything since our luggage is going to explode. After, we went to lunch at this “conveyor belt sushi” place; good, fast, simple and cheap, we loved it!! We then took the train to the Tenninji temple which we chose not to enter since we were a bit templed-out, but we did visit the superb garden surrounding it, Japanese people really know their garden. At the end of the garden, you come across this magical bamboo forest. They call it the Bamboo path, and I’m not sure how to describe it, but walking through it gives you this soul-cleansing feeling. The path led us to the Ochoshi-sanso villa which was the home of some late silent film actor. This property took 30 years to build and it was beautiful. We didn’t get to go inside the house, but the garden, the views, the feeling of just being there were amazing. This is where I had my first experience with the traditional Japanese toilet; it’s basically a urinal for women. I’ll spare the details, but after not knowing which side to squat, trying to aim and making sure I didn’t pee on my pants or feet, I came out of there quite shaken.
We went back to the Kyoto Station which had tons of shops & food courts and after contemplating all the plastic model plate in front of each restaurant, we decided to go a bit more western for dinner and opted for a sandwich/burger place. I took a beef cutlet/shrimp tempura sandwiches and Mark took a deep-fried beef patty burger. However, his dinner was ruined the moment he ordered a Coke and they informed him they didn’t have any. Really? Burger and fries without Coke? Ah, it was doomed… By the way, Japanese people are not very good at imitating western food. That night, it rained so we stayed in and had ice cream, chips and beers.
Canadiens 4- Pittsburg 3
We decided to go to Nara, a city 45 minutes train from Kyoto, to take a glimpse at all those UNESCO sites it has. Upon arrival, we had lunch on the main strip at a tonkatsu place where everything is basically deep fried in this light batter. It was actually not that greasy and quite delicious. To digest, we walked around the Nara Koen area which is where all the main attractions are. Along with the attractions, there’s also apparently 1200 deer in the area which I totally believe since they were everywhere!! In the enclosures, the streets, the shops, the park and that night, in my nightmare! And you know what else is everywhere? Their freaking pooh!! Urgh. They even sell thin cookies that you can feed the deers with and encourage the production of more pooh. The main sight we visited that day was this temple which is the biggest wooden structure in the world, and it has one of the biggest sitting bouddha statue I’ve seen so far. We also got to shake a wooden box that gave us our fortune. Mine said something about things having double meaning…blah blah blah… no mention about me winning the lottery anywhere. Sucks. Mark liked his, it all made sense to him. Mark also tried this vending machine that sells you Coke in a cup…with ice in it. WOW!!That totally made his day. What a simple man he is. Hehe. We walked around some more in the downtown area and then made our way back to the Kyoto station, had some great ramen soup before heading home.
I really think the crowdiness is getting to me, and China and India are coming up soon. Oh Lord.
This morning, while Mark was preoccupied on the computer, I took a walk down our street and found myself in front of this peaceful little shrine that is not even on the tourist map. There was barely anyone else there. I just walked around the place and I must say, there’s something very zen and calming being alone at a worship place. I met up with Mark again and after a quick lunch of beef-and-rice-in-a-bowl (that’s the translation), we went to the Imperial Palace just to be slapped on the face with a “Closed” sign. Apparently it’s been a holiday since Friday for Japan. So instead, we opted to go visit the Golden Pavilion in the Kinkakuji temple. Even though it’s a very nice temple, I would say the only thing worth seeing there is the Golden Pavilion. It’s not too big and has 3 floors amongst which 2 of them are made of actual gold! We couldn't go inside but they did show us some pictures and it was breathtaking, too bad we couldn’t sneak a peek. I’ve been saving a little jewel for last; the Fushimi Inari shrine. This shrine is dedicated to the god of rice, sake and prosperity. It is fairly nice, but the extraordinary thing about it is its thousands and thousands of shrine gates put one after the other to form the long path leading to the top of the mountain. Those gates, or torii as they call it, are put there mostly by businesses in hopes of prosperity. Since it was getting dark, we didn’t climb our way to the top, but the bit we got to see was pretty cool.
For our last meal, we decided to go for good old traditional sushi at this cute little restaurant with no bathroom (!?!). We had tons of fresh delicious sushi and finally tried the dreaded sea urchin!! It was not too bad, no weird texture or anything, but nothing spectacular. At the end of the meal, they gave us this complimentary fish which was divine, so simple but it tasted so good. Mark thinks they gave it to us because he’s cute and can speak a little Japanese. Uh huh. After the meal, we went home and packed. The clothes we put in the washer/dryer (yes washes and dries in the same machine) was still wet after an hour of drying. So finally it only totally dried our clothes after 8 hours of drying!!! What a fine piece of machinery. Maybe they can spend less time perfecting the bidet and more on this drying business. Just a thought.
Tomorrow we’re off to Hong Kong!!