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Sunday, 16 December 2012

Japan Day 3: Kinkakuji, Yasaka Shrine, Kiyomizudera & Gion, Kyoto

Lots of sightseeing to do on our third day here!! Anyway, our first stop for the day is the famous Golden Pavilion, or Kinkakuji in Kyoto. We boarded a bus at a bus stop nearby our hotel. The bus fare for all stops within the Kyoto city centre itself costs 220 yen each and is paid only when we get down at our stop. It's quite easy to take the bus here as they display the names of the stops in both Japanese and English on the bus itself.

The famous Golden Pavilion is set overlooking a pond, and is said to be covered with gold leaf, as you can guess from the name. Pictures below as proof, hehe ^.^ So pretty right? We were lucky that it was quite bright and sunny on this day, as all the pictures turned out nicer too =) 

Entrance fees to see the pavilion and the surrounding gardens cost 400 yen and we got the tickets at the counters before heading in with the crowd. Not too sure if it's the school holidays in Japan around May? There were lots of schoolchildren here, all busy taking pictures of and with the famous pavilion.


We followed the trail around the pavilion, and further around the gardens area as well. The garden area was quite large and in certain parts, there were steps which we had to climb. We just slowly walked along and enjoyed the scenery (though it was quite hot then).

Towards the end of the path, we came upon a little shop(?) selling matcha and sweets. There's seating places outside at the garden as well as inside which also overlooks the garden. We decided to get a cup of matcha and sweets each (500 yen per set) and settled on sitting inside ^.^

Enjoying some matcha and sweets ^.^


The matcha we get here is definitely different from the ones we normally get here in Malaysia, thick and slightly bitter to the tongue. It goes quite well with the sweet served, which was quite sweet. Not sure what it's made of, but they really do put a lot of effort in decoration. The top of the sweet shows a design of Kinkakuji and even has a little bit of gold flakes on top!! =p

We took our time here, just sipping on our tea and relaxing with the view of the gardens. Noticed quite a number of tourists doing the same thing as well.

Anyway, after our short break, we took another bus, this time heading to Yasaka Shrine. Stopped here to explore a bit before we head on to our next destination. It was quite quiet here on the day we came, though I've heard it gets very busy during festivals as well as in spring, when the cherry blossoms bloom. Unluckily for us, we were only here in late May, way past the blooming period of the cherry blossoms.

Yasaka Shrine

Though we didn't get to see any cherry blossoms, still had a nice time exploring here. Will definitely try to come back here in future to see the cherry blossoms =) The grounds here appears to be smaller than that of Kinkakuji, so we didn't spend too long here.

From Yasaka Shrine, we turned left and walked along the road to Kiyomizudera. It's about a 20 minutes walk uphill, and there are a number of signboards along the way to point tourists in the right direction. It was quite interesting looking at the quaint little shops and buildings we passed by along the way.

On the way to Kiyomizudera

Further along the road, we started to come along shops. Got more busy here too, as we saw lots of school students and other tourists. Many were wearing kimonos as well..so pretty @.@ There are a number of places in Kyoto where you can actually rent the kimono for a day to wear while sightseeing. Quite interesting, as you get the chance to wear a kimono..we decided not to in the end though.

We were getting a bit hot as the walk to Kiyomizudera was on an uphill slope so we stopped for some ice cream ^.^ Got one matcha and sesame ice cream for the both of us. We also saw a number of restaurants there but most were packed as it was lunch time. We decided to head on to see Kiyomizudera first instead before coming back to the shops for lunch.

1. Matcha ice cream!! So refreshing =)  
2. & 3. Love the architecture of the buildings here 

Finally got to our destination, and our first stop was at the Jishu Shrine. This shrine is quite famous as it seems lots of people come here to pray for love. There are two love stones here, and it is said that if you can make your way from one stone to the other with your eyes closed, you will be successful in love. Hehe, noticed quite a few young students there about to try it out =)

Other than that, there are also stalls selling a variety of amulets. Apart from wishes for love, I noted a variety of amulets for health, happiness and success. There was even one for "Strong legs"!! Bought some amulets here as souvenirs for family and friends as well.

At the Jishu Shrine...Lots and lots of amulets or owamori sold here =p

We headed on to the main hall of Kiyomizudera, which was also full of the people. One thing about Japan though, even with the large crowd, you don't see any pushing or shoving, or even shouting. One of the things I really like about Kiyomizudera is the view it affords us. Since it's located on the mountainside, we have a pretty great view of the surrounding area.

Considering that the entrance fees are cheaper as well, at 300 yen per person, this is definitely a place to visit if you're in Kyoto.

Kiyomizudera

While continuing our walk in Kiyomizudera, we came upon a bunch of people lining up in front of a spring. It says on the board that if we drink the water from the spring, our wishes will come true. So of course we lined up....hehe ^.^

When you get to the front of the line, there are long ladles provided to collect the spring water. You're then supposed to pour out the water into your hand, and drink the water from your hand while making your wish. Wonder how effective it is =p

Otowa Spring

While we were lining up previously, we'd been attracted by the delicious smell wafting from a shop which was set up just next to the Otowa Spring. After our turn, we went to check it out and found that it sold noodles as well as other dishes such as tofu. Since we were hungry, we decided to settle our lunch here and ordered a simple bowl of udon as well as a portion of cold tofu to share.

We sat down and waited for our food, which was served to us in a jiffy. The warm bowl of udon arrived first, followed by the tofu. The bowl of udon was simple with just a piece of beancurd but was still good nevertheless.

As we ordered cold tofu, it came in a bucket of iced water to keep it cool. If you can see in the top right picture, the bottle of sauce there is actually submerged into the bucket to keep it cool as well. We mixed the sauce together with the wasabi and chives before dipping our tofu into the sauce. The tofu was really, really smooth and just slid down our throats.

Lunch of udon and cold tofu...nom nom nom...

After our lunch, we headed back down the hill to look for our next destination. I saw several recommendations online for a shop which sells yummy matcha chocolate fondue. I love chocolate and matcha, so couldn't resist going to try it =p

The name of the shop is Jouvencelle, and it's about a 10 minutes walk away from Yasaka Shrine. There's a map on the website which we used to find the place. It took us a little bit of time to find the shop as the shop itself is not located along the main road. You'll know you're at the right place when you see the entrance in the picture below (top left). Just walk in along the corridor and take the lift up to the 1st floor where the cafe is located.


We took a window seat, and were each given a menu. Luckily for us, there was one waitress who was able to speak a little bit of English and she came over to take our orders. We ordered one set of the matcha fondue, costing 1,260 yen as well as a cup of coffee to share.

Afternoon tea at Jouvencelle, Gion

After making our orders, the waitress served us with a piece of matcha chocolate each just for us to try..this was super yummy. I really loved the strong matcha taste. I wanted to buy this chocolate back home at first, but the waitress told us that the chocolate needs to be kept cold and also cannot be kept for a long period of time, so we couldn't get any =( You'll just have to go and eat it there directly.

Anyway, the main attraction for me was the fondue. The fondue set comes with a cup of melted matcha chocolate, as well as two trays of fruits and desserts such as cakes. We were provided with forks to dip the items in the matcha chocolate before eating, just like a normal chocolate fondue. Didn't really like the melted matcha chocolate though, it was a little too bitter for me.

What I did like though, was that they would add warm milk to any remaining matcha chocolate in the cup after we were done with the fondue. Thus, we managed to get a cup of matcha milk at the end, which was much better for me as it wasn't that bitter with the addition of the milk.

Gion area

After our tea, we decided to visit Gion, which is where the geisha's are!! Hehe, unluckily for us, we didn't manage to see any geisha while we were there though. Think it was still early then as we were there close to 5pm and I heard that the geisha's are normally seen heading for dinner engagements, etc at later times.

Anyway, we still managed to look around the area, which still has a lot of the traditional feel. Kinda feels like we stepped back in time...until we see the cars driving past us.... xp

Strolling along the streets of Kyoto after dinner of Kyoto style okonomiyaki

After the long day, we took a stroll back across the Kamogawa towards our hotel to rest. As we had no set plans for dinner, we decided to just stop by at a shop on the way and decided to try some Kyoto style okonomiyaki. The way they prepare this is quite different from the ones we normally get here in Malaysia. It was good but I still prefer the okonomiyaki we ate subsequently in Osaka.

That's the end of our third day in Japan, and we're headed for Arashiyama next!!

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