This morning, the sun has come out to greet us even though the temperature is still low. Everyday, before we depart from our apartment, we will check the weather first. Since coming here, we has lower our expectation to see full bloom of cherry blossom as this year due to colder weather, the cherry blossom has not fully bloom yet. I have been following the cherry blossom report from japan-guide.com a week before coming to Kyoto. The cherry blossom in Kyoto had just started the first bloom during our arrival day. It takes at least 7-10 days to become full bloom.
We still haven’t forget that we have to book the popular Sagano Romantic Train ticket. Just as expected, all seats are sold out and we have to try our luck on the day after tomorrow. The Sagano Romantic Train is a sightseeing train heading to Arashiyama. The train ticket can be bought at JR office. Since we did not secure the seating ticket, we still can buy standing ticket or the opened-air car No. 5 at the train station. I shall further elaborate in my Arashiyama post. Therefore we only buy the ICOCA card (2,000 yen = 1,500 yen pre-charged + 500 yen deposit) which is very useful throughout our journey.
Today will be our full sightseeing day. We are going to visit many cultural historical places in Higashiyama Districts, Gion Districts and shopping near Sanjo Dori. Our first stop is Kiyomizu-dera Temple, an over 1,000 years Buddhist temple which is listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple (清水寺)
Entrance fee : 400 yen / RM16
Direction: Kyoto City Bus No. 206 from Kyoto Station to Kiyomizu-michi bus stop or Gojo-zaka bus stop or optional Raku Bus no. 100. Bus fare – 230 yen/ RM9.20. Note: Gojo-zaka stop which will be announced as the stop to get down for Kiyomizu-dera Temple. You can reached the temple from both bus stops.
After getting down from the bus, cross the road, then turn right. Just a short while you will see the signboard for the temple. After seeing the signboard, turn left and walk uphill the road to Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
Before we reach Kiyomizu-dera Temple, there is an intersection road where Sannen-zaka path meet. This is where we spotted the first well bloom cherry tree.
Whenever we spotted crowd, there will be blooming sakura tree in front.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple is currently undergoing major renovation. The outer structure of the main hall is fully covered but it is still permitted to go in for praying. The renovation is expected to be completed in June 2017.
Beside Kiyomizu-dera Temple main hall, there is another shrine, Jishu Jinja Shrine, which is co-exist in the similar compound. This shrine is popular among worshipper for matchmaking. Admission is FREE….
It doesn’t take long to walk around Jishu Jinja Shrine. When more crowd coming in, we leave the shrine and continue walking to toward the waterfall.
The Otowa Waterfall is actually a three water channels, which is believe to have wish granting power. Visitors can scoop the water with the cup and drink it. Each streams represents wishes for success, love and longevity but there is no sign on which stream is granting for which wishes. I think just choose any one, wishes will only be granted if you really believe in it. This place is crowded with curious visitors who wish to try their luck or maybe for pictures to be upload in social media.
We walk back to the street where many souvenirs shop lie in between. We get attracted to this symbolic snack of Kiyomizudera Temple – Kiyomizuyaki Manjyu. Since now is cherry blossom season, there are two types of fillings to be choosen.
We pass by Sannen-zaka and walk toward the direction to Ninen-zaka, another preserved street.
Before we proceed to Ninen-zaka street, we walk slightly in front to see the Yasaka Koshin-Do, a 5-storey pagoda.
Suddenly our eyes get attracted to this Caucasian dressed like Geisha. We actually met real geisha in the evening when we visit Gion. The actual Geisha that we met, their makeup is not that thick and more natural.
We follow them to Ninen-zaka…. oops just kidding. Coincidentally, we’re heading to the same direction.
Fried rice cake (70 yen/ RM2.80 per piece)
Snacking all along the way. Both Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka are stone-paved slope with many souvenirs shops, cafe, restaurants and street food. Towards the end of Ninen-zaka, we turn left as we’re heading for our lunch at Hisago.
Before reaching Neneno-michi, there is a narrow street that connects to our lunch restaurant, Hisago. Known as Ishibe-kouji, it’s name derived from the fact that both sides of the road are lined with wood and stone walls. (Source: Omotenashi Travel Guide: Kyoto).
Upon existing Ishibe-kouji, turn right and we’re at Hisago. Hisago is a well-known old shop that offers rice bowls and noodles. It’s signature dishes, Oyakodon Chicken & Egg Rice Bowl attracted many local and tourists everyday.
This is a very small shop therefore the queue will be long. However this shop has a very systematic queuing system which is fair to every guests. There is a seating area besides the shop. Benches are arrange in square shape. The line starts at the end of the benches (top) then the guest will move on to the other benches when the front person enter the shop. So everyone have a chance to sit on the bench. We waited for almost 1 hour before we get to go in for dining.
The rice is very flavorful when I started eating. But after I have finish the eggs, the bottom left only rice. The amount of rice is a lot for my usual eating portion. So I felt very full toward the end……Overall still a good meal to try.
After lunch, we return to Ishibe-kouji and walk toward Neneno-michi.
The street will lead us to another hot spot for viewing cherry blossom, the Maruyama Park. As expected no full bloom yet but the locals are already partying at the park. The street food vendors are all around the park.
Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社) is connected to Maruyama Park. Yasaka Shrine which formerly known as Gion Shrine was established around 656. During summer, in the month of July, Gion Matsuri will be held here every year. It is also serve as the gateway to Gion district.
We met a Japanese couple wedding at the shrine. I think they have just finished their wedding ceremony as they were posing for picture with their family and relatives. It is so funny that besides their own photographers, the curious tourists are also busy taking their pictures. Phssttt… I’m also one of them…. hehe. They have become one day celebrities.
Just right opposite Yasaka Shrine, we have enter to another districts rich with Geisha culture, Gion. Gion district located between Yasaka Shrine to Kamo River. Gion is best known as the birthplace of Geisha culture. Geisha are female professional entertainer in culture and art. In Kyoto, they are more prefer to be called as Geiko and their apprentice sisters Maiko.
The main street at Hanamikoji Dori are the most famous and crowded place in Gion. While walking along the street, there are cafe, souvenir shops, theaters and machiya townhouse.
Just for sharing, if you’re interested in Kyoto made cosmetics products, have a visit at Yojiya. The treasure of this shop is Yojiya Aburatorigami (Oil-blotting facial paper). I bought a small pack of the oil-blotting paper as souvenir but they gave me a nice paper bag. How generous….
We’re going to the street which is often appears in movies and tv shows. Located to the north part of Shijo-Dori, Shirakawa-minami Dori is another street full of traditional feel. The Tatsumi-bashi Bridge makes the highlight of this street. It appears in the movie ‘Memoirs of Geisha’ before. It suppose to be less crowded compare to Hanamikoji-dori, but I think not currently. Many couples take their wedding photos here. So it is very hard to properly snap pictures at here.
After some discussion, we decides to walk to another shopping district in Sanjo-Dori. Our main aim is to visit LOFT, a Japanese department chain store selling household items, stationery and gifts. It is also a tax free shop and apart from that for foreigners, you are also entitled for 5% discount for any purchase above 1,080 yen/ RM43.20. Just show your passport to the cashier and the total bill will be deducted for the discount.
LOFT Kyoto is located in a shopping mall called Mina. Besides Loft, it also house Uniqlo, GU and etc. Sorry no pictures of the mall but I have pictures for my shopping haul from LOFT…..
By the time we finish shopping, our legs are begging to stop walking. We end up having early dinner at Nakau, the third budget friendly chain restaurant we have so far in Kyoto. Their menu is extensive and value for money. Remember to purchase food ticket from the vending machine and then pass to their waiter.
Let’s me share our surprise encounter with real Geisha. After dinner, we decided to return to Gion for night view. Remember Tatsumi-bashi bridge? We met the first Geisha while on our way to the bridge. As Kyoto is an ancient city, many tourists like to be dress in Kimono and stroll along the streets. Therefore we were not on high alert when we first saw the first Geisha walking pass by us. She walked very quickly and we only managed to catch a glimpse on her and she disappeared within a few seconds.
We met the second Geisha just right in front of Tatsumi-bashi bridge. Just like the first Geisha, her movement is very fast but this time we can see her clearer due to better lighting and she was making her way through the crowd. We quickly recognized her as Maiko due to her long sash (Obi) and taller clogs. Many tourists actually spotted her but her sudden appearance cause everyone forgotten how to react. It is considered rude for abruptly taking their pictures, stop them or try talking to them. Therefore it is better to stay silent as it an act of showing respect to them.
Then I realised why we have such luck to meet not only one but two Geisha at the same time. It is because their quarters are located nearby. So in future if you want to meet real Geisha, increase your chance by visiting this area around sunset.