Monday, 14 December 2015

Kyoto Day 3 - Northern and Western Kyoto

The famous torii of Fushimi Inari Shrine

Today's aim was to tackle northern and western Kyoto. We headed out to Arashiyama on the JR line and after a short walk, found ourselves wondering through the famed bamboo forest. It is reported to be one of the most popular place for proposals in Japan. Malcolm though, stated that he did not feel like proposing at the end of the walk. Whilst it was different and pretty, it was not as awe inspiring as we expected. Nonetheless it was a pleasant stroll. At this time of the year, the path and bamboo are lit up at night, so it well may look very different in the evening. Tenryu-ji Temple (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), built in 1339, was conveniently along the way. The current layout of the garden is the work of a Zen monk dating back to the 14th century. As you can expect, the children enjoyed exploring the various paths of the gardens. The specialty of this garden appear to be moss.

Buses were our main mode of transport for today. Obviously not built for people like Malcolm!

Bamboo forest. Perhaps it is difficult to feel romantic with 3 children running riot around you...


The children were busy looking for carp

Seemingly endless garden paths

Strolling down the mountain

toward the water

Pleasant stroll along the river

Boat platform

We continued our walk down toward the river and onto the Monkey park. It was a steep 20 minute climb up the mountain and I started to wonder if this was worth the effort. With severe warnings on our entrance tickets, I was worried that the macaques would be aggressive. What they have done is to only allow feeding from a dedicated building with the people feeding from the INSIDE. And the macaques know to come here for food rather than attacking people on the outside. It was rather nice to sit and enjoy the view after the exercise!

The "gentle" section of the climb up the mountain

Instructions for the Monkey Park

Top of the park

View back down of Kyoto

Macaques everywhere

Everyone loves the baby

Enjoying the warmth of the roof grooming each other

The macaques are only allowed to be fed through the cage so they don't take food from people

The baby that Jonah was feeding

Lunch was a simple noodle house by the river. It was cheap and cheery comfort food in a peaceful setting. We would have sat outside, however that would mean sitting on mats and eating off a low table. Malcolm, unfortunately, had not mastered the art of sitting cross legged nor sitting with his legs tucked under him in any sort of fashion! Dessert was from a vending machine. The selection was unusual with flavours such as yuzu and ginger sherbet, anno sweet potato, milk with apple strawberry and walnuts. Best of all, each ice-cream was only 150 JPY and the children thought we were awesome parents. We saw everyone eating ball like objects on a stick and bought some too. They turned out to be rice-balls/dumplings, roasted and then glazed with a sweet sauce. Very nice!

Niku udon (beef)

Baked rice balls with vegetables. Very simple but tasty!

Just love the vending machines!

The sweet dumplings

We changed directions for northern Kyoto to visit another must-see. Kinkakuji is also known as the Temple of the Golden Pavilion and it is very obvious why this is so! If you are a scrapbooker, you would love the entrance tickets. Scroll below to have a look!

The entrance to Kinkakuji

The most beautiful entrance tickets ever!

Voila! Gold!

So delicious the first dumplins were, we tried the matcha, chestnut and black sesame versions!
With rain forcast for tomorrow, we decided to ditch the two lesser known temples and instead traipsed to the opposite side of town to Fushimi Inari Shrine. The shrine was awarded first prize in Trip Advisor's "2015 Japanese site popular with foreign tourists" category for two years in a row. And they weren't kidding. There were people everywhere! Taking a good photo was very difficult!!! The thousands of red gates were impressive and we could see why this shrine is so popular.

There's a photo of me!

With fading light, we headed back to the massive Kyoto Station for dinner at the well known Ramen Koji. It offers eight regional styles of ramen restaurants all on the one floor. The hardest part was choosing a store! They were all simple restaurants. You choose what you want from the vending machine outside, pay for it and then present the ticket to the staff member. The food was cheap and delicious. The toyama black soy sauce ramen is super tasty and you can purchase it as set with an interesting dish of a broth poured into a rice dish, with a side dish of chicken and dessert of yuzu jelly, all for 1000 JPY! We finished the evening with a Japanese dessert restaurant. There were western style parfaits with Japanese ingredients which would suit most palates and then more Japanese type offerings for those more adventurous. We ordered a dish which had a combination of seasoned kelp, mochi balls, red beans, chestnut and sweet potato. It was a surprise hit! The contrast between salty and sweet in the mouth was unique. By the time we came out, there was a line waiting for tables.

The giant Isetan complex at Kyoto Station

Ramen mecca on the 10th Floor

Vending machines are still a hit

Toyama black soy sauce ramen. Amazing!

The ramen came with this as a set for a mere 1000JPY! 

Malcolm's extra spicy tantanmen


Mochi balls, matcha ice cream and matcha sauce with noodle like jelly

matcha powder tea, seasoned kelp, mochi balls, red bean, chestnut and sweet potato. An amazing combination

The line outside!


  1. Im taking notes! Quick question. We've only got a day in Kyoto (from Osaka). What would be your top spots to see. I thought the bamboo forest, but maybe it's too much of a hassle for what you describe. We have 2 boys ages 12 and 15. They're more into anime and robots than gardens and temples, but I think Kyoto will be one of our main places to see the latter.

  2. What kind of travel pass (if any) will you have? Kyoto isn't as easy to get around as Osaka or Kyoto. My favourite temples unfortunately are all spread around different parts of the city! I loved Kinkakuji, Fushimi-Inari Shrine and Kiyomizu-dera. It is very easy to get "templed-out". If you have only one day, I would say stick to eastern Kyoto. I believe you will be there in cherry-blossom season? The philosopher's path is lined with cherry blossoms and will be beautiful. So maybe visit Ginkakuji, walk the path, see Gion and then go to Kiyomizudera. I hope that helps!

  3. I would second eastern kyoto. I would train to fushimi-inari, earlier in day quiter is is. Easy to train from here to river in Kyoto then bus or walk up to junction near hill that leads to kyomizu-dera, visit temple, walk through old district here then walk philosophers path to Ginkakuji then catch bus/train back. Big day but teens will be fine. Kyoto web sites have lots info on transport in Kyoto.

  4. Thanks Ladies! There's so much to see and not enough time (as always). We do have one spare day in Osaka, so I guess if we feel we haven't seen enough on our Kyoto day, we can use some of that day to go back.