Saturday 25 November 2023

Kyoto ~ Japan

Early in the morning we caught the Hikari Bullet Train to Kyoto.  Kyoto is like Japan in perfection. No other place on our entire journey through Japan made us feel as immersed in Japanese culture as Kyoto. You can be sure that a trip to Kyoto will result in days of being amazed by geishas and gardens, temples and shrines, history and tradition.

We made our way to Kyoto Granbell Hotel Gion, a beautiful hotel with chic modern rooms oozing Japanese vibes, in the heart of Kyoto’s downtown district. The hotel also had a stylish restaurant & bar, and an onsen-style bath which was perfect after a day of sightseeing.

Nishiki market is a foodies paradise in Kyoto! I love food and it is an essential part of how I travel. I am not alone in this journey, my mum is the same and many of our travel-related decisions are made around food. We absolutely loved this place! We ate everything from fresh seafood to Mochi (Japanese sweet) and much more!

We explored the Gion Corner walking through narrow alleys and brick-stone-covered streets, surrounded by old wooden teahouses in the classic Japanese style. Our walk takes us along romantic canals with charming bridges and it feels like we have stepped back in time. Gion is also known as the geisha district, and with good reason: the chances of meeting a geisha is rather high here. and what can we say…We were lucky and actually walked past a real geisha!

Time to grab dinner on Kyoto's most iconic dining street Pontocho. It is a narrow alley packed with restaurants on both sides offering a wide range of dining options.

Today was actually my mum's birthday so we wanted to do something fun and special. I had booked a table at Kamehameha for dinner, a very small teppanyaki style restaurant. Here you can watch the cook preparing your meal. Being able to watch the chefs at the counter adds such a great experience. We enjoyed the food, service and the atmosphere a lot. The prices were reasonable and the food was delicious. The restaurant only hosts about eight people at the counter, so be sure to book ahead.

It was an early wake up the next day as we made our way to Fushimi Inari Taisha to beat the crowds.  We got there around 6am and even though there were a few other people around, it was so peaceful and serene. I love getting up early before the tourists. We really felt like we got to experience this special place all to ourselves for at least an hour. It was magical. As we left, the place was absolutely packed! So glad we came early! 

Back to our hotel we had breakfast and headed out. I was super excited about this day as we had something super special planned! I got transformed into a geisha for a day! This had been high on my bucketlist of things I wanted to try while in Japan and there’s nowhere better to do this than Kyoto. 

Wearing local attire is one of the best ways to fully immerse yourself into the local culture. I booked myself a slot in a rental spot called Kimono Miyabi which provided me with everything I needed for the epic transformation. I picked this particular spot purely based on proximity to our hotel and closeness of things that we wanted to photograph while wearing a kimono. There are tons of kimono rental places in Kyoto, so do your research and pick the one that suits your needs. The rental place provided me with everything I needed. They had a variety of beautiful kimonos, accessories and even hair styling!  Overall, I had so much fun walking all over Kyoto dressed as a geisha. 

We took these photos while exploring Yasaka Shrine while imagining what life would be like in Kyoto back in the day.

We also went to Kennin-ji Temple. It is actually the oldest Zen temple in Japan, a less crowded but beautiful temple to visit. We got to enjoy the zen atmosphere in peace, without any crowds. I truly felt like I was on a set of Memoirs of a Geisha with so much beauty surrounding me. 

Kyoto is fast proving itself to me as being a major destination for foodies!

For lunch we went to AWOMB which offers this unique sushi style platter set meal which is kind of like a deconstructed meal. It comes with instructions on how to eat it.  It looked really complicated when actually all it really was trying to convey was to mix everything and eat it together! The atmosphere in this cosy place is gorgeous and filled with light and the meal itself was so intricately put together with so many different flavours, textures and combinations. There are two AWOMB branches - the one we went to was AWOMB Karasuma Honten.

That evening we went to Panel cafe which had a beautiful riverside terrace and served up burgers, fries & fluffy pancakes, plus fruit teas. You can't come to Japan without trying their famous fluffy or souffl√© pancakes.  Whatever you call them, these light, airy and cloud-like pancakes have become an iconic Japanese dessert. The ultimate sweet treat!

Early the next day we went to Ninenzaka, an ancient 150m stone-paved pedestrian road. The road is lined with traditional buildings and shops. We headed to Yasaka-dori street for what could be considered the most iconic Gion photo spot. At the end of the road there is a dark five-story pagoda, which is the pagoda of Yasaka. It is said that Yasaka Tower was built by Prince Shotoku 1500 years ago. It is the oldest five-story pagoda in Japan.

We also visited Kyomizu-Dera Temple. You definitely cannot miss the Kiyomizu-dera temple as it is one of the most important temples in Kyoto. The Kiyomizu-dera Temple is located on a hill, so you can enjoy a stunning view from up here.

Next we went to cuddle adorable micro pigs at the popular Mipig Cafe in Kyoto. Guys these little pigs were so dam cute, look how this little guy snuggled himself into me.

Right next door to Mipig Cafe you will find Koe donuts which is the perfect place to pick up a sweet treat. 

Lunch was an experience not to be missed in Kyoto. Ichiran Kyoto Kawaramachi is located in downtown Kyoto. One of the most eye-catching features of Ichiran is that guests won’t need to speak to any staff throughout their whole dining experience unless they choose to! When you step into the restaurant, you’ll purchase your ramen ticket from the vending machine, then you’ll be ushered into an individual booth that has dividers on both sides so you can enjoy your ramen in peace and quiet. The ramen itself was delicious!

After lunch we visited the Gion Komori, a quaint traditional Japanese dessert shop facing the river. I was really excited to try their famous warabi mochi dish that is made fresh every morning. It looked a bit strange but tasted delicious with its fluffy texture that is soft on the tongue. I love trying different foods, especially when travelling.

Then it was time to catch the train to Osaka! See you soon for more Japan adventures. 

1 comment:

  1. Fluffy pancakes are a delightful symphony of textures and flavors. With a light and airy interior, they melt in your mouth, creating a sensation of pure indulgence. The exterior achieves a golden-brown perfection, providing a subtle crunch that complements the softness within. The taste is a harmonious blend of sweetness, as the batter caramelizes on the griddle, and a subtle hint of vanilla or other flavorings. Each bite is a comforting embrace of warmth, evoking a sense of home and happiness. Whether topped with maple syrup, fruit, or whipped cream, fluffy pancakes offer a blissful experience that transcends the simple combination of flour, eggs, and leavening agents.