November 4th, 2014. I’m not quite sure where I am anymore. Across the street a lady in a kimono bows low to a departing customer. Behind me there’s a McDonalds where a girl is handing out flyers. We make our way across the bridge. Salary man, samurai, salary man, samurai. I look down the river, it’s banks are dominated by huge bank buildings. I look the opposite way and find hundred year old homes. I can’t keep the grin off my face.
If you only visit one city in Japan, Kyoto is the place. This ancient capitol epitomizes Japan, and the wonderful juxtaposition of the ancient with the modern. It’s home to Japan’s oldest and most refined restaurants, and macha green teas. It’s also peppered with ancient Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. If you’re looking for a glimpse and a taste of ancient Japan, immerse yourself into Kyoto.
My cousin Tsuyoshi having a smoke in his apartment in Kobe before our trip to Kyoto.
Making our way through Osaka station, looking for the train to Kyoto. Is Tsuyoshi in a boy band or Yakuza(Japanese mafia)?
Osaka central station.
One hour and 800¥ later, we arrived in Kyoto.
First stop, Kiyomizu-dera. A Buddhist temple and a collection of buildings from ancient Kyoto. This world heritage site truly makes you feel as if you’ve traveled back to ancient Japan.
Looking up towards the mountains at a lone temple. Fall is on it’s way.
Many Japanese and Gaijin (foreigners) wear a traditional Kimono when visiting Kiyomizu-dera.
At the entrance of Kyoto Jishu Shrine or the “cupid love shrine,” a place were you can deepen your current relationship or pray for a new one.
Soba noodles, Amazaki (sweet fermented rice drink), hot mugi (wheat) tea and a brisk fall day. For me, this is heaven.
Tsuyoshi rented a car like he was buying a drink at a vending machine. He put his card up to the window and the door popped open. 8$/hour. Next stop Fushimi Inari Taisha or the shrine of 1000 gates.
Working on my Japanese pose at the entrance to Fushimi Inari Shrine.
That’s how it’s done!
There has got to be more than 1000 gates here!
This shrine is dedicated to the Shinto god of rice. The gates or Tori mark the transition from the profane to the sacred or from earthly to heavenly.
The fox is known for being the messenger of Inari aka the rice spirit.
After watching the sun set over Kyoto’s Kamogawa river, it was time for some food.
We made our way down a street in Gion district, a place known for it’s traditional restaurants and Geisha houses.
After salivating at every restaurant window, we finally decided on a joint specializing in Kyo-yasai or Kyoto vegetables.
A kind of eggplant with a miso based sauce.
The best Tempura I’ve ever had. Crisped to perfection, remarkable flavor.
On the way back, Tsuyoshi somehow started getting Diarrhea pangs. Vegetables don’t do that to people.
Thank god for Japanese public toilettes. Unlike SE Asia, they actually want you to throw the used paper in the toilette. Bit of reverse culture shock for me and I still felt guilty flushing it down.
Our 5,000¥ /50$ traditional vegetable meal was delicious but just not filling enough. So…we went for 700¥/7$ ramen and boy was it palate altering. No more New York City diner Ramen for me. Nah-ah, not once more, not never. Too spoiled now.
I can’t even express how much I love this country. Everything, from the cuisine to the nature to the insanely polite people makes me giggle with a kind of childhood joy. I just wish it wasn’t so dang expensive. Fortunately, I’ve got an amazing family, Tsuyoshi, Miki, Akina and Yoko Aikawa up in Yamanashi-ken, who always take care of me. I hope that one day I can take care of them too.