We woke up the 4th day refreshed in our tiny hotelroom and took the elevator to the public shower room. The hotel-breakfast was alright, but probably not as great as it would’ve been if we had booked the right hotel (if you don’t get the reference see day 3).
This would be the big sightseeing day. We had planned to see a lot of temples and shrines, and the first place on our agenda was Fushimi Inari-Taisha. To get to Fushimi Inari-Taisha we took the Nara line from Kyoto Station to Inari Station, which was JPY140. Once there the first thing we noticed was that we were not exactly alone, the place was packed with tourists. This was probably the site where we encountered the most tourists during our trip. The Fushimi Inari-Taisha is famous for their iconic Torii, which is kind of a passage structure made of of red/orange logs. Due to the amount of tourist it felt like we were sheep walking in a pack through the passage. For the first 100 meter or so everyone was taking pictures, us included, and it was impossible to take pictures without other people in the frame. We don’t really like being at such a site with a lot of other tourists. However, we discovered that the Torii continue from shrine to shrine up the mountain for 4 km, and you can take several paths that go further up or back down from the mountain. We decided to walk further up, potentially to the top, to see if we could find something interesting. To our relief the further up we got, the fewer tourists we found, and we could enjoy a less crowded journey through the passage. The view did not disappoint along the road, we went past shrines and the nature is beautiful up in the mountain. It was absolutely astonishing.
After walking for about 30 minutes we found a map that revealed that we were not even half ways. It would probably take another hour to reach the top, and thus we decided to turn around at that point because we had a lot of other plans that day. We took a different passage on the way down, and the nature kept us amazed all the way down from the mountain.
When we arrived at the foot of the mountain we walked down a street with lots of street food stands. Japan has so much amazing street food to offer, so we bought a Dorayaki filled with custard and Dango. It was so incredibly delicious, getting them made on the spot is so good. Straight from the heat the texture and taste is so perfect. Turtle could have kept eating until he easily would roll down the mountain if he was left unsupervised for a little while. Thankfully Ottor kept a close eye on him. We had a special lunch plan so we headed back to the Inari Station to take the train to Arashiyama Station, which cost JPY240.
When we arrived at Arashiyama Station we were puzzled about these men in tight shorts and t-shirts that were approaching tourists and trying to sell something. As soon as you got eye contact with them they immediately tried to get a hold of you. It turned out they were actually pulling these 2-person carriages. It looked quite nice, but we enjoy exploring on our feet. Also, we can’t miss out on a lot of steps! Maybe Turtle will beat Ottor for once. We had planned on going to this small coffee shop called %Arabica Kyoto Arashiyama, but while walking the weather started to pick up. It became more and more windy, and we could see grey clouds approaching in the distance. We realise we had to hurry to not get drenched before reaching our lunch place, so we decided to go directly there and even then we had to pick up the pace.
We were extremely lucky and made it to the restaurant just in time before the rain started poring down. This day we were eating at Shoraian. It is a restaurant in the mountainside overlooking the river. They serve traditional Japanese tofu based food, and you have a few options to select different amount of courses. We had booked a table in advance, which seemed to have been a very good idea as a sign outside said that the restaurant was fully booked for he rest of the day. We had pre ordered the Shorai set menu, which turned out to be a perfectly sized lunch meal. Even though it was only lunchtime Turtle ordered some Sake that did suit the meal well. The food did not disappoint. The entire meal was like a harmony, the tofu dishes had a gentle texture, and had good balance between a clean mild taste of the tofu combined with a distinct taste of the different ingredients they were paired with. With the exception of the assorted tofu and seafood dish all of the dishes had a quite simplistic appearance to them, though yet still elegant. Needless to say, it was delicious, we had a very good stay at Shoraian. Not only did the food taste amazing, but the atmosphere was so relaxing. We found it quite meditating to sit on the floor in this old Japanese house, staring over the river, and listening to the gentle touch of raindrops hitting the roof.
By the time we were done with our meal the rain had stopped, lucky for us. We wanted to visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, which is a road within a bamboo forest that we had heard is very beautiful. The people at Shoraian was kind enough to give us a map and point out where we had to go to get there. It was only a 10 minute walk from Shoraian.
When we arrived at the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove we were obviously not the only ones that had heard of this place, it was quite a lot of tourists there. It was not as bad as at Fushimi Inari-Taisha, and we were able to get some moments by ourselves and shoot some nice photos. Even with all the people the sight of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove did not disappoint. It is magical how the sunlight break through the top of the bamboo plants and play along the stems. The feeling you get by walking on that road is quite spiritual. The rain from earlier made the grove even more special, as the water droplets on the leaves made the light down in the grove very playful and put the forest in a mystical mood. We walked through the bamboo forest, and it gave us a peaceful sensation.
Thankfully we made it to the temple in time. The Kiyomizu-dera temple area has plenty of pretty shrines, spires, and other buildings and statues. To our disappointment the temple itself was under restoration, so the entire temple was covered with wooden scaffolding. We could still go through the temple, but we could not really get an impression of the temple. However, as the temple is placed on a hillside the view was absolutely gorgeous. While we were there the sun decided to peak out from the skies, and the beauty of the red tower on the plaza were really shining in this sunlight.
The dinnerplan for this day was to eat somewhere in Pontocho Alley. This area is a rumoured to be a hip area, where a lot of Japanese eat their after work meals. We had planned on going to ISOYA but we had not booked a table and it was full once we got there.
We roamed around the area to see if we could find another cool place to eat our dinner. We saw this hole-in-the-wall restaurant, which seemed to be very popular among the local population. It was full of people, and was quite noise. The place was really busy, people were sitting in a U-shape around the open kitchen and could observe everything that was going on. The restaurant was quite worn and looked old just like the chef that seemingly owned the place. It was obvious that it was his kitchen, the younger chefs scattered out of his way when he was walking around. The atmosphere was really fascinating. We got a couple of seats, and quickly realised we had no idea how we would order anything. There were no English menu nor any pictures. Our translation apps didn’t really seem to help us much either. However, out of all the people in the restaurant all but one person was native Japanese, this one western-looking guy was sitting right next to us, and he was fluent in Japanese. We asked him to help us, and he was kind enough to order 4 random dishes for us. We ended up getting one seafood dish, one meat dish, and two vegetable dishes. The food was good, it wasn’t the most exciting food we had during the trip, but since we were starving it felt absolutely amazing. By the time we had finished our food the translator had left, but we were still hungry. We had enjoyed our stay there, but ended up leaving for another place to eat more. We wandered around and ended up at Tsukemen Mori Kyoto where we had a rather quick and simple ramen meal. The meal did what it should, it filled our bellies and tasted relatively alright. Though it doesn’t deserve any more explanation than that.
We ended the day a bit earlier this evening, so we had some drinks while watching Netflix in our enourmous hotel room before we decided to go to sleep. This day Turtle walked 23,650 steps, while Ottor walked 26,285 steps. The follwing day we would travel to Kobe, which we were really looking forward to.
See you in the next one! Turtle and Ottor out