Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Japan Kyoto || Day 6 KoHiKan, Sagano Scenic Railway, Arashiyama (Bamboo Forest), Nijo Castle, Philosopher's Path, Mumokuteki

Brown sugar au lait, 560 yen
We got up bright and early to grab breakfast at KoHiKan before setting out to take the Sagano Scenic Railway.

Having learned my lesson on how bad Japanese soy coffee can be, I tried their Brown Sugar Au Lait, which was a bit too sweet, but much better than soy.

Container for bags, woots!
We met a Taiwanese uncle who told us where to go for sakura-viewing and gave us tips on how to get to JR Saga-Arashiyama (where the Sagano starts) by bus. With typical Taiwanese warmth, he walked us to Kyoto station.

Never mind that we got utterly lost, maybe because we fell asleep on the bus.

We stumbled out at the final stop, bleary-eyed and confused, then began Google Mapping our way to JR Saga-Arashimaya (which is linked to the first stop of the Sagano - Saga Torokko station).

Of course we got there safely *^-^*

We bought the earliest one-way tickets available, which is kind of dumb, because we should have bought a later session so we have time to explore the Arashiyama area.

We only had time for a short wander and some photos before it was time to embark on our journey.

I didn't take any photos because we wanted to get off at the second stop where the Arashiyama bamboo forest is, but was told we couldn't. When we got back to our seats, somebody had taken them, so we had to stand the rest of the trip.

In hindsight, we should've just gotten off anyway. What were the conductors going to do? Call the cops?

Eunice's photo
Third stop on the Sagano
The view from the train reminded me of the view from the Death Railway in Thailand. (Both were commissioned by the Japs, duh.) If we'd managed to catch the Sagano when the sakura were in bloom, the mountains would have been pinkish. Sagano is also famous for maple viewing in autumn. I really wanna go.

Because we'd missed the Arashiyama bamboo forest (a must-see, also used in a scene in Memoirs of a Geisha) we decided to catch the JR from Torokko Kameoka station (the final stop of the Sagano Scenic Railway) back to Saga-Arashiyama then walk to the Arashiyama bamboo forest.

Pardon this ugly photo, it was quite crowded
Online artistic interpretation of the bamboo forest
The better way would have been to sightsee in Arashiyama before boarding the Sagano Scenic Railway, then catch the JR straight to Kyoto from Torokko Kameoka, but what to do.

Arashiyama area is quite beautiful -

Japanese schoolchildren on a field trip
Everywhere we go, there are Japanese schoolchildren on field trips.

Entrance of a soy restaurant

Snacks for sale
Rice and rice products are the bane of my dieting life - or would be, if I dieted.
I love mochi, which is not only high in carbs and calories, but also not easy to digest.

We were hungry, so we shared snacks from stalls on the walk back to the JR Saga Arashiyama.

Chocolate mochi with a strawberry ((drools
Eunice stopped by a secondhand kimono store on the way back to the JR Saga Arashiyama to buy a set for her mum. Admittedly, I was a bit seduced by the idea and romance of owning a kimono, but common sense prevailed. Plus, I was eager to be on my way to Nijo Castle.

Eclairs at a railway station
On the way to Nijo Castle (my favorite sightseeing spot in Kyoto!) I saw this eclair kiosk and couldn't resist buying a couple - chestnut and matcha.

At Nijo Castle we hurriedly bought tickets and dashed to the main Castle so we could experience the nightingale floors before the building closed at 5pm.

The nightingale floors were as awesome as I'd expected - the chirping of the floors as we walked on them entirely natural and convincing. (Although a part of me can't believe that tourists are allowed to walk on the floors just like that, won't the squeakiness run out?)

Photos weren't allowed - I would describe Nijo Castle as a bit dark (they filter out the sunlight to prevent fading of the murals) but intricate. The place, to me, is filled with romance.

After finishing our tour of Nijo Castle, we ate the eclairs at the food court at Nijo - they were pretty good, as are most Japanese desserts. Then, with yummy food in our tummies, we explored the rest of the Nijo Castle estate.

Rice store at Nijo Castle
The grounds of Nijo Castle

After Nijo Castle closed for the day, we caught a bus to the Philosopher's Walk, a prime hanami location. I wasn't expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised by how serene the walk was, even with only the sparsest of blossoms.

Other tourists seeing us taking photos for each other would ask us if we would like them to help take a photo of us.

Golden hour

The above 2 photos were taken by a really tanned (Taiwanese) girl.

She was posing for what felt like a full 5 minutes in front of a blooming tree, and being me, I'd remarked in Chinese, 'Whoa, she's still going!' because.. share the freaking tree!!!
(I suspect I have a secret love of making enemies.)

I forgot the details, but somehow a bunch of tourists were taking turns to take photos at this vantage spot, and an angmo who couldn't speak much English had asked me to help her take a picture by handing me her camera and snapping, 'You! Take photo!'

I was shocked, but still commented in Mandarin, 'Whoa, so fierce!' at which the tanned girl and other Chinese speakers had burst out laughing. Oops, the tanned girl understands Chinese.

(That angmo seems a bit psycho, she'd shrugged off her coat and dropped it into Eunice's arms, snapping, 'You! Hold this!'

And after the photo was taken, she'd snarled, 'Thank you!' and marched away. I think that's her standard speaking style. I thought she was with another couple of angmos, but she was alone.)

The tanned girl then offered to take photos of Eunice and I, and Eunice had hissed, 'She's Taiwanese, she must have heard and understood you when you made remarks while she was taking photos!'

Well, she was hogging the tree.

Still, the Taiwanese girl took good photos, then asked to take a photo with us as well (?)

Monk (restaurant)

Love the simplicity of this restaurant.

Rivers in Kyoto are clear and clean enough for fishes to live in.

Because it was getting dark, we decided not to continue walking to the Silver Pavilion.

The Philosopher's Path is within walking distance to a lot of temples and shrines, so it should be nice to spend a full day there. (This might be my second favourite spot in Kyoto.)

After walking the length of the Philosopher's Path, we caught a bus to Raw Edge to buy trendy Anello backpacks. Eunice is full of kangtau (Hokkien for 'ideas') and has been sending me links about these fashionable backpacks. I didn't get much feels looking at photos of the bags, but they were pretty cute irl so I bought one as well.

Eunice was taking so long buying Anello backpacks for her friends that I almost spent another 5,000 yen at the pharmacy next door.

Dinner was at Mumokuteki. Mumokuteki was recommended by Yujim, my friend who lives in Osaka. Because she's not vegetarian, we weren't expecting Mumokuteki to be a vegetarian restaurant, so it was quite unique experience, seeing as Eunice and I would have never actively seek out a vegetarian restaurant otherwise.

There was a wait, then finally we were seated with hot towels to freshen up.

I found this big face shot on my camera, and can think of no other explanation except that we were testing my camera's BeautyFace function.

Or maybe we were starving. Or really buzzed from spending money.

Tofu-based vegetarian meal! Looks and tastes yummy!

Vinegar + sesame oil & sesame paste
We didn't discover these babies until we'd almost finished dinner - these are the perfect accompaniment to rice.

Finished with a hot soy milk, which Eunice obsessed over. (Japan is a soy lover's paradise, as long as you avoid soy coffees.)

Then we dragged our weary bodies back to Capsule Ryokan, because we were going to beat the crowds at Fushimi Inari the next day - meaning I'll wake at 5am, and Eunice at 6am. We'll be exhausted but wearing full makeup and taking fabulous photos. I'm insane.

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