We forwarded luggage onto Kyoto to save us having to wheeling suitcases through the Kyoto streets. On the way we paid a visit to Hiroshima castle.
It didn’t take long to get to Kyoto, we had tonkatsu at Kyoto Station. The station is a beautiful station. It’s also one you can get lost in, which we did when we left Kyoto. The hotel we had this time had a fancy feel to it, it was in the less touristy area but it was still close to the tourist spots.
That night we walked to the main Gion shrine and wandered around that area. We saw a Maiko walking to/from an appointment, it was a real one not a tourist dressed up.
We spent the evening eating and drinking. Stumbled across a whisky bar and I had to go in. They had an amazing collection of Scotch and Japanese whisky. They had all of the Yamazaki whisky. I talked myself into having a Yamazaki 18. It was so good! And at nearly £600 a bottle I’d expect it to be! They also had the Yamazaki Cherry Cask which was even more expensive, I could only smell that one, there was no way I was affording a drink of it (it’s nearly £7k a bottle).
The next day I had an actual cultural experience – a sushi making lesson with the Women’s Institute of Kyoto. They made it seem so easy!
After lunch I met up with my friend and we headed to Kinkaku-ji or the Golden Pavilion as you may recognise it. There were tourists everywhere and everybody was jostling for position to take photos. My friend didn’t enjoy the jostling part and decided to act as my blocker so I could get good photographs for the two of us. Anybody that got too close was photobombed.
We ended up in a Japanese style German restaurant watching the rugby world cup while celebrating Oktoberfest. A truly international night. Again, there were no other tourists eating at this place and the food was amazing, and the beers were decent too.
Following breakfast the next morning we ventured through the Nishiki market and saw a donut shop, we had to go in.
These fuelled our walk to the Fushimi Inari Shrine. We did stop in a second hand video game store to look at all the old consoles.
Being one of Kyoto’s most busy sites, you can imagine how much fun we had photobombing everyone at the shrine. People would just stop dead in front of you to take a selfie, I managed not to stand on anyone or push them down the steep steps.
About 3/4 of the way to the summit we stopped for a beer and some people watching. Everybody was taking pics at one spot as you could see Kyoto in the distance. It was mostly peaceful with the hustle and bustle of people chatting and hiking. That peace was shattered by an American guy. He bellowed to who we think was his wife ‘BABE, TAKE MY PIC’, it got better, it was followed by ‘GET IT FROM THE OTHER SIDE’. I think all the other tourists were trying not to laugh at him, especially when another tourist had to ask her if she wanted a photo of her with Kyoto in the background!
Most people seemed to stop at this one part of the hike as they could see far into the distance. We didn’t. We took a slight detour to the summit and only a short distance away from the masses we had a clearing to ourselves and had a much better view of Kyoto.
We had another beer break closer to the summit. Unfortunately, at the summit there wasn’t a great view, so we headed back to the train station. Not before stopping for an ice cream though.
From Fukushimi Inari we headed towards an area where they make sake. We saw this tiny kid, must have been maybe 4-5 years old on the train taking himself home from school. We must have picked the wrong day because the sake breweries seemed to be closed. We did however, find a brewery that also brewed beer that was open. They had a great selection in the gift shop and a nice courtyard where you could enjoy a drink.
Having drank a fair bit over the last few days we decided that the following day we would go to Kurama Onsen and have a nice relaxing day. Instead of getting the train direct to the onsen we got off the train the stop before and hiked to the onsen. What we did realise at the time was that the hike was over a mountain and it was quite steep. Fortunately we had lunch in Kibune where we got off the train.
At the top of the mountain is Kurama-dera temple and signalled to us the start of the easy part of the hike. Gravity was with us! It took us a couple of hours to do the hike but we felt we had earned the outdoor hot spring soak. Soak we did; spent nearly 2 hours in the hot spring watching the sunset and my friend trying to convince me to learn to play ice hockey.
Suitably relaxed, we headed back into Kyoto and had a yakitori dinner with a peaty whisky – Hakushu.
We parted ways in the morning, my friend back to Canada and I to Nagoya.