We were woken early by the sounds of Kyoto (crows and mopeds!) and the light in our room. Traditional Japanese shoji screens weren’t designed to block the sunshine. We were surprised how well we had slept on our very firm bed. It’s the first queen bed of the trip with a tatami base and a thin futon mattress. When you sit on it it feels like a board, but less so once you’re lying down with your weight distributed evenly. We can’t quite work out why it’s so comfortable to sleep on, but strangely it is!
We decided to eat out for breakfast today, so headed up towards Kiyomizu Temple in search of some food. Most places open quite late here and even on the crowded tourist street up to the temple, there was no food to be found. We headed down a couple of famous side streets “Sannen-Zaka” and “Ninnen-Zaka”. Still no food, but absolutely gorgeous and almost deserted so we just enjoyed being there. We continued through the maze of traditional streets and eventually found a breakfast place serving recognisable food. Fuelled up on Croque-Monsieur and cabbage, we returned to our house to plan our day.
Kyoto has so many famous sights, it’s quite mind boggling trying to decide what to see. We grabbed a bus pass and headed towards one of the many famous temples “Ginkaku-ji”. I had read that the best walk in Kyoto went up behind this temple with great views. The guide books said the actual temple was too crowded to enjoy on spring weekends, but it sounded like the walk gave good views of the temple and gardens. We climbed and we climbed and we climbed some more….we were rewarded with amazing views of Kyoto but none of the temple. It was a bit like being up Skytree in Tokyo, but our legs had done the work not the lift. The trail was quite busy and the Japanese are so friendly, by the time we returned we must have said “Konichiwa” hundreds of times! Our fellow hikers were all Japanese – from serious trail runners dressed in shirts over Lycra to puffing teenagers carrying their shopping.
It was a much quicker trip down and back at the base we found the start of the famous “Philosopher’s Path”. This is a 2km path lined with cherry trees along the side of a canal. The cherry blossoms are finishing but some of the trees were still lovely and it was still a nice walk. We stopped part way at “Cafe Sedona” – a New Mexico themed cafe where we enjoyed pasta and curry!
I’d left the bus map behind so we took our chances on the first bus which was heading to the station. I was hoping it would go past our stop on the way, but no such luck. We did get to see the main downtown area and have a rest on the bus. I took a short break to check out the station’s modern architecture (designed by Hiroshi Hara for those in the know!) and we headed back to the house on separate buses.
After a rest for the legs, we returned to our favourite Zaka streets in search of some dinner. Without the kids, tonight was a chance to be adventurous with food. We found a place with a recommended set menu and took the plunge. The food was beautifully presented. We did have an English description of each piece, but were having trouble matching some of the descriptions to what we were served – possibly there were some variations?! Most of it was delicious, one was a definite thumbs-down (some sort of fish thing stuffed with a huge amount of salt – a bit of a shock for my taste-buds and Andy declined his share) and a couple we weren’t brave enough to eat. But it was a great experience and we left with full tummies.
The sakura season is coming to an end in Japan and tonight was the last night for the Spring festival illuminations at Kiyomizu temple. This temple is built high on a hill just above where we are staying so had fabulous night views of Kyoto. The main hall is huge, built into the side of the hill and standing on a huge wooden interlocking frame. The buildings and grounds were beautiful all lit up and we enjoyed a leisurely night walk through the complex.
Sachiyo and Nao are bringing the kids to Kyoto on the train tomorrow. It will be great to see them again and hear about their adventures.