Today we spent a day in Kyoto! Here are some fascinating facts about Kyoto-
1. Kyoto used to be the capital of Japan and was known as “Heian-kyo” in the year 794.
2. Some of Japan’s oldest traditions such as tea ceremony, flower
arranging, and geisha schooling are said to originate from Kyoto.
3. Kyoto is located in a valley. It is located only 1,000 meters
above sea level. Kyoto sits on top of a large natural water basin, this
is where most of the city gets its water wells
4. Kyoto is so beautiful and fascinating because it is one of the best preserved cities in Japan due to the careful stewardship of the Japanese people and the fact that it was not bombed beyond recognition during WWII.
5. Kyoto has beautiful bamboo forests (I wanted to go see! But ran out of time to do so 🙁 ). I really wanted to go check out Japan’s forests because there are several plants that are native to Japan such as the Hinoki and Sugi and forest animals like the adorable Tanuki (also known as racoon dogs but are not related to racoons! Haha. So cute!) and the Japanese Serow.
On a sidenote,
these are the adorable Tanuki that I was talking about and these…
are super ugly re-creations of it that they always put outside Japanese restaurants! WHY!!! The Tanuki is traditionally known as shape shifters which assume a human form and trick weary travellers and monks etc. Today they are considered to be playful mischievous little cute things that like to eat and drink in vast quantities and then pay with money that turns to leaves after they made their escape!
It befuddled me then why so many Japanese bars and restaurants would want to put a statue of a Tanuki outside their restaurant. Did they want people to drop in and pay with leaves?!
Further googling led to the fact that instead of being evil and cunning, the Tanuki is now known as a harmless and amusing little fellow who is happy to encourage generous spending and cheerfulness among friends having a good time drinking and eating together. He also takes on the role similar to Maneki Neko, (you know, the fortune/ beckoning cat) to entice and welcome people into eating establishments. More interestingly, you would notice some Tanuki statues with hanging sacks in between their legs (that look like their testicles) that are painted in gold. This is probably due to the fact that in the olden days, Tanuki skin was also used to wrap around gold to hammer them into sheets and since “the Japanese for “small ball of gold” (kin no tama)
is very close to the slang term for testicles (kintama), the eight-mat
brag got stuck on the tanuki’s bag. Soon, images of a Tanuki began to be
sold as prosperity charms, purported to stretch one’s money and bring
good fortune.” (referenced from japantimes.co.jp). Well I guess now we know why they are always outside restaurants! 🙂
Anyway, (wow, I went on and on about Tanuki haha) so this is what I did have time for- visiting Kinkaku-ji, the Inari Shrine & Gion.
It was an insanely bright and sunny day. 🙂
First up, the tree lined path way to Kinkaku-ji.
This is how the entrance tickets look like. You’re supposed to keep it and within the premises there is a box for you to slip it. Sort of like a prayer for happiness and peace.
Really gorgeous up close and in real life. I love zen gardens and the really beautiful shimmering reflection of the golden palace. This was the only decent shot I could get of the place though because there were many tourists and I didn’t want to take up too much time and space. Although I love taking photos for keepsakes, it’s more important for me to just stand in that time and space and soak up the atmosphere and sights with my own eyes instead of jostling and feeling upset and anxious I cannot get a good spot for a photo. Even if I view a crap picture I took of the place after, it makes me happy to just remember the place and the image of it I have in my heart and mind. Now when I think of this place, it brings up a sense of peace and calm and beauty and makes me very happy 🙂
Budding sakura blossoms! I love the promise of new life 🙂
So green and beautiful, really 🙂
This was really cut. People could throw money at it and maybe their wishes would come true (?) but I think it’s just to derive arcade-esque amusement.
At the end of the walk round the place there are rows of stalls selling nuts and random snacks. If you have the chance too, please buy the wasabi nuts! I don’t like wasabi normally but those nuts were REALLY good. They offered a lot of free samples so I gave in to my Singaporean instincts and sampled freely. Haha. I also purchased get a pack of roasted chestnuts while my dad bought 3 packs of the nuts! (The nuts were gone before I could take a picture of them though! They were THAT good.)
Love love love all these delicate reminders of life’s beauty even in the midst of all the metal wiring and steel beams.
The famous arches!
Little Japanese kids are always too cute.
I went to the shrine not knowing anything about it so I asked my younger brother about the many dog/wolf(?)/ fox statues we saw and the purpose of the shrine and he said…
” Oh people came to this place to worship the god so that he wouldn’t sneak into their village homes in the middle of the night and EAT THEIR CHILDREN”
It was only much later that I found out that the shrine was dedicated to the Inari (that statue pictured) who is the Japanese kami of
foxes, sake, fertility, agriculture like tea and most importantly- rice. People would pray to him for general
prosperity and success as well.
SO MUCH for eating children. Blasphemy! Being a naive sister is very dangerous. Haha.
The entire walk would take approximately 2 + hours if you were to head all the way up. We went half way then retreated down to walk along the roadside stalls.
They were also selling these adorable adorable foxes. Foxes are the Inari’s
minions messengers so they were sold everywhere on the premise. Only these were cute though! The rest were very very serious looking foxes that look like they would totally do a good job passing messages or killing anyone that got in their way carrying out the Inari’s bidding. This one looks a bit blur like it would get lost (which is what I love about it haha)
Non of the stalls selling a bunch of sugary treats appealed to me. THEN- there was this stall. The smell of freshly grilled beef was just wafting down the street. Have you ever watched those cartoons before like Tom and Jerry etc and the smell of food becomes this little white smoke wisp that curls towards you, and has a little finger beckoning you over?! This one seriously smelled like that!
Can’t wait 🙂
In the mean time, in order not to stay around and salivate around The Man Very Intent on Grilling, I wandered into the shop that sold lots of fresh meat and homemade spice blends.
AND there! Amazing meat on a stick. SO tender (actually some parts were a bit undercooked) and the salt and pepper blend was so amazing I wanted to return to get it but we were quite far off by the time I ate enough to decide I was completely in love with it!
If you do go to the shrine, this stall is to the left (when you are facing the arches) of the street where the main entrance is located, a couple of stalls away from FamilyMart.
We ended the day exploring Gion which is a MUST visit in Kyoto because it’s Kyoto’s most famous geisha district. It is a really lovely place as well- so beautiful and calm with great architecture.
Not going say much about the place- just enjoy the pictures. The place was really beautiful in the setting sun.
I love my parents 🙂 and am always in awe of the love they have for each other 🙂
This is a geisha institute where the geishas train/ entertain. It’s really rare to ever see a (real) geisha because they shun the limelight but we saw one hurrying in!! So many people immediately whipped out their cameras and tried to block her way in. You could almost see the relief on her face when she finally made it to the entrance where a man was waiting to guide her in ( You can actually tell when a geisha would be arriving if that man comes out to wait for her.) Didn’t take any photos because if she doesn’t like her picture to be taken then it’s not very nice to snap one right? Haha.
This is Kinana and it sells the best kinako (roasted soy bean) ice cream in Gion and you really should try it if you happen to be in Gion. (I love any sort of dessert that is not just pure face and sugar. Some protein into the mix is always a welcome addition for a more balanced treat!) From the outside it looks really quiet but open the door and you’ll be greeted with bustling activity and snaking queues for a table on the second floor. It’s pretty insane and we were there 15 min to closing time!
There is bar standing on the first floor and table seating on the second floor. No takeaways from any restaurant within the Gion as well because the people are trying to preserve the cleanliness and culture of the place which I think is fabulous- imagine if there was an abandoned ice cream cup in front of the geisha institute! I would be so sad!
Standing at the bar offers a view of the ice cream masters whipping up the most delicious parfaits etc
but we didn’t order any of it as we only wanted to sample the famous kinako ice cream 🙂
Here it is! Gorgeous and perfect and sooooo smoooooothhhhhhh. It’s just really unique. Please try it if you have the chance to 🙂
Kyo- Kinana (きなな)
11am – 7pm (6:30 pm last order)
Kyoto-shi, Higashiyama-ku, Gion-machi
Minami-gawa 570-119 (京都市東山区祇園町南側570-119)
After dinner we went to explore the areas around and the lightings were all insanely pretty 🙂 They had some sort of ‘Welcome Spring’ fair going on behind this temple/ shrine which we explored and took a small trek up the steep slopes to more elevated areas behind Gion as well. Lot of lights, gorgeous architecture as usual and a carnival-esque atmosphere. No more pictures because my camera ran out of battery so it was a good chance to just enjoy the moment there 🙂
and that’s it for my 1 day in kyoto Will share about the dining places I went to in Kyoto tmr! I can’t wait to share all the sakura photos as well!! Till then, I hope you find little pockets of beauty in your day today 🙂 See you soon! 🙂