京都… KYOTO! (Day 1)

Ahhh! I AM SO EXCITED for these two posts because this is probably my favorite trip so far in Japan!

So lets get ready for…. KYOTO!

One thing about teaching is that booking vacation can be difficult, especially if you are not into solo traveling… But Justin and I had overlapping midterm weeks and were able to book time off for a two night and three day trip to Kyoto from October 14th to 16th! We took some Limited Express trains to Kyoto from our area, bypassing the Shinkansen for a more affordable journey. The train trip out there was beautiful, and we got to see a lot of really gorgeous scenery out our windows. We took a half day at work and left early, and it was a really, really exciting feeling! It was also the first time I felt like I was on vacation in a while. There is something about having your suitcase packed and going to a completely new place to explore…

Some views from our train! The countryside in Japan really is beautiful!
FIRST THING we saw when we stepped outside of Kyoto. Kyoto Tower!!
So getting into Kyoto Station was super surreal beacuse we both had not been to a big city in a while, and there was just something about arriving in Kyoto that was super magical. We got into the city in the evening, and headed to our hostel. We stayed in a hostel called Shiori-an, or 栞庵 (they have a website, facebook, and we booked through booking.com here). It was very nice! It was a 15 minute walk from the station, and we got these nice private little wooden cubbies where we slept. They were pretty spacious compared to some other hostels I’ve stayed in, and we had curtains for privacy, which was really nice! Even the mixed dorm was quiet too. You sleep on a Japanese futon (a thin mat) which is placed on the wood, so if you are used to beds, it might be a little different of a sleeping experience than you are used to.
Anyway, we met some nice people, and after we got settled, we walked around the area little bit!
We were trying to find the historic district… Don’t think this was it…
But all we had to do was look around and we would see the history! There were all these cute little side streets with cobble stones.
We went down one of those little cute side alleys and found a German restaurant with German beer!!
Haven’t had salad like this in a while. (‘:
We got SAUSAGES!!!
And these REALLY delicious garlic potatoes. My mouth is watering just looking at them.
Kyoto is so beautiful, oh my goodness.
We eventually found the historic district and saw a few geishas moving between buildings! There were a group of tourists running after them, it was a little funny, although annoying, I am sure, for the geisha. :(
During our wanderings, we found these ADORABLE little stone hogs.
Another alley… And I think people actually live here. :'( So gorgeous.
A magical little storefront with all these plants!
A little path from which apartment doors opened (I think).
Kamo River at night!!
We ended the night at this cute café next to our hostel, where we had some kind of… I forgot what this was, but check out the pig leg behind it!
And I believe this was Spanish toast?! It was DELICIOUS.

The next day, we headed out bright and early to Arashiyama, which is located in western Kyoto. We hopped onto a subway (figuring out each new city’s transportation system in a foreign language can be so difficult… it took us a while :'( there were other foreigners there who looked equally confused and tried to figure it out with us) and successfully transferred onto a trolley that brought us to the Arashiyama district! This area of Kyoto is known for it’s bamboo grove/path, Togetsukyo Bridge and Tenryuji Temple (the largest temple in this area of Kyoto as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site). There are many little shops around here, and the area has a pleasant, vacation-like atmosphere. The weather was beautiful while we were there as well, so we were really lucky!

I love trolleys omg.
We stopped on the Togetsukyo Bridge to get some fresh air and take pictures! (JF)
Then we went into Tenryuji Temple!!
This art was amazing… I couldn’t really read anything so I’m not sure what the significance is but it was beautiful!

… And this one. (JF)

Too tall to stand straight under the divider! (JF)

D: (JF)

The temple had some really beautiful gardens too, which we explored after we were done with the indoor portion and lunch!
And this is where and how we ate our lunch! It was so nice, and such a quiet break from the tourists. At first we thought it was probably a tourist trap, but most of the people around us were Japanese and it had the most delicious tofu I had ever had in my life, so we made our peace with it.
And all of the tofu and dishes we were given in the set meal! This is where I tried koyadofu for the first time (haven’t had it since either omg) and it was probably the best tofu I have tasted in my life.
Second half of the set meal!
For dessert we had mochi wrapped in LEAVES. :o
Post-lunch full-of-delicious-food-and-thus-super-happy-selfie!
After lunch we explored the gardens!
These little plaques describing what each plant was were so cute. :)

We followed the gardens until they led to the bamboo groves… which were surreal. We were able to get some good shots even with the amount of people there were! The bamboo shoots were so tall, and they kind of swallowed you so you forgot about the world beyond them! It was really magical. :’) I feel like I’m overusing the word magical for this trip but seriously, there is no other word to describe it hahaha!

Americas Next Top Model wannabe. (JF)
A shrine we found a the end of the bamboo groves!
And this guy!!
And more!!!
After Arashiyama, we headed over to Kinkakuji (金閣寺), which is also known as the Golden Pavilion.  It is also a UNSECO World Heritage Site! The top of this Zen Buddhist temple is covered in real gold!  There were a LOT of tourists here… Probably the most we saw during our vacation, or perhaps they were just the most aggressive tourists we saw during our stay…
If you want to read, here is some information on Kinkakuji!
Everybody was taking pictures of this tree… So I did too. D:
Ready to head in!!
And voila! It was beautiful seeing it in the afternoon sun!!
From the back!
Some of the pond that surrounds the temple.
The gardens were beautiful!
A woman praying at Fudo Hall, a small temple hall near Kinkakuji.
Too tall for the railings… D: (JF)
Then we went to Rioanji Temple (龍安寺), which houses a famous rock garden!  It is a rectangle of small, white pebbles, in which there are 15 large rocks laid out in clumps, with some moss surrounding them.  The interesting part about it is if you sit along the viewing area, you are unable to see all 15 rocks at the same time.  Nobody really knows what the rocks mean, so it is up to the viewer to decide what it means to them! Justin and I thought that if you saw all 15 rocks it meant you reached enlightenment, and I stood up and was able to see ALL 15?! But when I went back to Justin and really excitedly told him about that, he said that you had to look from the viewing bench.  But maybe I just reached enlightenment… thinking outside the box?!  Anyway, this temple and its gardens were extremely relaxing. There weren’t as many people or crowds, and there was so much greenery that it was a very nice break from all the craziness of that day.
A purification station.
One of the rocks in the background! (JF)
The rock garden!
There were some beautiful illustrations inside this temple too!
A little garden! I sat here for a while just looking at the trees. I love wooded areas like this. (:
Hallway inside the temple!
This little shrine was on an island in the pond! (JF)
These strange little trees caught our eyes!
Getting tired… (JF)
So we came during a time where the leaves weren’t really turning red… but Justin changed our camera settings as if they were. :D
This tree reminded me of the redwoods in Santa Cruise!! <333
We found a bakery that had mushroom bread! That flat thing on top is a mushroom! It was pretty good! :)
A cute little shop!
Then… that night Justin found this ramen shop that he wanted to visit, and something about fire ramen. I wasn’t really sure what we were getting ourselves into but…
This is what it looked like from the outside!
The last bit in red made me laugh. :)
I love the way some kitchens look!
We had to put our bangs in a little hairband to make sure they didn’t get splattered in oil… and burst into flames. DDDD: Justin had to put his hair up as well. The owner came over and did it for him, which was pretty funny. :)
After shot! You can see how hot it got in there by how red my cheeks are!
And so ended our day!! It was PACKED with things, and what did we do? Go home, hit the sack, and wake up the next morning at 7am. We were out the door at 8am! But I will save that for the next post because this one is already a monster. Anyway, so far so good Kyoto! Next up will be the Silver Pavilion, the famous red gates of the Fushimi Inari Shrine, and Kiyomizudera!

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