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Kyoto, Japan

Beautiful City, Beautiful Evenings


View Lebanon 1st Trip - 1999 & Japan 1st Trip - June 2019 & Lebanon 3rd Trip - 2000 on tmulcahey's travel map.

Kyoto is a beautiful city. There. I've said it. Its the capital of the Kyoto Prefecture, and former Imperial Capital. My son and I took the JR Rail Shinkansen to this city. There are three types of train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line: the Nozomi, Hikari and Kodama. The Nozomi is the most frequent, and it is the fastest train. It runs the distance in just 2 hours and 20 minutes. Keep in mind that this train is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. The Japan Rail Pass best choice is the Hikari which takes just two hours and 40 minutes. The Kodama stops at every station en route and so its the slowest and will take about four hours.

After leaving Nikko, Japan we took the regular train to Utsunomiya in the Tochigi Prefecture. Once we'd arrived there, this was where we hopped onto the JR Rail and rocketed south to Tokyo where we exited the line and then hopped onto the Tokaido Shinkansen which will make several stops on the way. The amount of time on the stops is not enough to even hop off the train and stretch the legs, so don't do it. It took about 2.45 hours to reach Kyoto, and we stopped at Shinagawa, Odawara, Mishima, Kakegawa, Toyohashi, Gifu Hashima, and Maibara before reaching the destination. The stops were no less than 3 minutes. That was the Hikari Line.

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The Image is of the Tokyo Station, where we stretched our legs for a few minutes before catching the late morning Train to Kyoto.

Kyoto was awesome. We arrived just after 1pm, and here was where the fun began... ok, maybe not fun, but it was a vacation and an experience. We arrived at it was raining (just a bit). I grossly underestimated the distance between the Kyoto Station and the Hotel that we made reservations at, which was the Glanz kei Karasuma Ebisugawa. The distance was about 3.4km from the station. Although it was literally a straight walk down the road, it took over an hour because we were lugging out stuff with us. Oops! By the time we got there, we were pretty tired, but the atmosphere of the hotel perked me up immediately.

Now, I'm going to plug this Hotel, because the people were incredibly nice, the room itself was spacious, and it was located in a very accessible area and it was just across the street from a nice place my son and I would share breakfast of cold soba noodles in soy sauce with some rice and vegetables. The place was called Nakau. Very reasonable prices, and it filled you up. Of course it was really tasty!
IMG_3298.JPG So here we were in Kyoto. My little brother, who'd joined us for the trip (he was on leave), decided to stay in a hotel in the Gion District. We were not located there, and had to take the Number #10 Bus to get there. The #10 was accessible about 2 blocks north of us, near a shrine. It is super easy to find. Gion is the area where you have a lot of night life. A lot.

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This is an image of Kyoto from the Monkey Park to its southwest. We went here on the first day. It is about 35 minutes to the west of the city, and can be reached via Bus. Its called the Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama, and located near the Katsura River. While the monkeys are human-fed they are still wild. The “don’t stare” and don’t touch warnings should be followed and they are posted all around. Sometimes the monkeys will even 'argue'. I did see some of the friendlier monkeys come just inches from my son. The bus takes about 20-30 minutes longer than the train, when coming from Kyoto Station. The nearest bus station is Arashiyama Koen. Also, keep in mind that you are going to walk over a nice long bridge, and then climb up a sizable hill through a forest. The pathway is obvious and well maintained, but you'll be in for a solid hike.
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To be fair, we spent most of our time in Gion, but in the evenings. Gion has an exciting nightlife, and many establishments to eat at. Everything from Kobe Beef, to Sushi/Sashimi, and even Italian Restaurants. There is also an area that resembles the 1600s Kyoto. We walked around all of these areas. There is a large and excellent shopping area, just over the river. Where the #10 Bus would drop us off, there was a Kubuki Theater that I desperately wanted to go to, but this was something that my son overruled me on. Since it was a vacation for him, I begrudgingly agreed, knowing that in a few days, he would be crawling through the Himeji Castle with me, whether HE liked it or not!

In Gion, if you walk around long enough you will see actual Geisha. It is customary (and the proper thing to do) to leave them alone. If you see them, then there is a very good chance that you are seeing them heading towards a job or a task. While no one has a problem with taking photos of them, you will be frowned upon if you try to stop them to talk to them, or ask them to take a picture with you, etc... it is best to simply let them head to their work. But, oh wow... they are a lovely sight to see! I, myself, saw three. I managed a photo of one of them, but it was a bad shot and blurry... even for an iPhone 7. So I did not include it in this blog.

There were a large number of sweet shops that could be found here and there along the main road. You will instantly recognize the main road through the Gion District because the sidewalks are covered on either side. In the evening, there were (while we were there) some street musicians with guitars and drums, playing music for passersby. A lot of people go for walks around the area, and in particular across the large and wide bridges that separate Gion from the main business district of Kyoto.

One evening, we ate at a lovely sit-down Sushi bar. It was called the Sushi Izakaya Yataizushi Gionhanamikojimachi.
You can look this place up on Google.

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The place had the best Sushi in Kyoto as far as I was concerned. My son, little brother and I, sampled quite a few. I especially loved the Shrimp Sushi (I'm biased, admittedly), but they have probably 40 different types. After my 4th bottle of Saki, you probably could have put Fugu in front of me and I would have eaten it. I highly recommend this place if you're out with a few friends. Also, its just a few blocks off the main road on the opposite side of the Edo Period section with the Geisha.

One of the big things that I intended to do while here, was to purchase a late mother's day gift for my wife. Before I left for Japan, I did some research to locate someone who handmade quality cooking knives. Well... I found one. A very, very good one. I bought it from a kindly older man and his wife, not six blocks west of the main road leading from the Kyoto Station to my Hotel. I do not know the name of the place, because everything is written in Japanese. What I can tell you is that this blade is incredibly sharp. It cost me about $200 USD (20,000 Yen). Thankfully, my wife loved it. You will be able to see the craftsman ship in the picture. From the discussion I had with the man in my halting Japanese, he makes the blades, and his wife makes the handles.
image1.jpeg The shop itself is very small, although it is on a major road, and you might find yourself walking past it if you don't know what you are looking for. Inside the shop are some of the finest cutlery I've ever laid eyes upon. Everything from meat cleavers, to specialized sushi and sashimi cutting knives. I didn't see anything under $100 USD in there, but before you dismiss it, I should point out that the craftsmanship and the quality are beyond phenomenal and any blade you purchase from this small shop is worth every penny!

While in Kyoto, we visited the Monkey Park as well as the Nara Park. Both of these are quite delightful. I have added some photos here for you to see:
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At Nara Park, the deer are tame to an extent. Because they live near and around a temple, they have long been considered sacred, so no one bothers them... except to give them snacks which can be purchased.
I should like to point out a few things about these deer. First; its awesome to be able to walk around them and pet them if you like. They typically don't mind being petted, but do be careful. They do have horns and they do know how to use them.
One of the more interesting things about these deer is that they will actually bow to you, if you have a treat for them. No... you didn't misread that, and it is no joke. The deer will bow to you if you offer them a treat. If you go there, that's all you'll see. Bowing deer and people running back and forth. I say running because once the deer realize you have treats, they come for you in large begging numbers. They also expect you to feed them. If you withhold the tasty snacks, they can and do bite. So don't tease them. I myself got a few bites while I was holding treats, but they did this because they wanted my attention so that they could show me a bow, and get a treat. It hurts, but not as much as you'd think. Don't let that discourage you, though. Nara is a place that you should visit, and not only for the bowing deer, but also for the beautiful pagoda and temple complex that they live around, which I have a picture here:
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Incidentally, this image is just what was in front of me. The complex itself is huge. The Pagoda you are looking at is over 1300 years old. There are about six more temples that are behind me from where I am standing to take the photo. If you are a temple and shrine kinda person, and love looking at the architecture, then this place is a must. Bowing deer and all!

The shopping areas in Kyoto are fairly interspersed. One of the main ones happens to be close to the Kano River, running north and south between the Sanjo-dori and the Nijo-dori on the western side of the river. Additionally, the Kyoto Imperial Palace is quite lovely to visit, and the gardens are impressive.

Posted by tmulcahey 05:23 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo kyoto nara rail gion jr

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