My Japan Trip Journal: Day 9 – Philosopher’s Walk (Kyoto) and Onsen Experience

This post contains the journal of my Japan trip on day 9, 3 April 2017: Kyoto Temples, Philosopher’s Walk, Yudofu Meal Experience and Onsen Experience.

You can read about the previous day of my trip (Nara and Osaka Castle) here.

This was undoubtedly the longest day in our trip. Again, I woke up at 5:45. This schedule was affecting our mental and physical health. We simply cannot do this every single day. But, since it’s Japan, we had to make use of our time as much as possible! Urgh!!

We depart at 7:15. It took us about 10 minutes walk to Shin-Imamiya station. It took us around 5 minutes to wait for the train to Osaka station. It took us around 18 minutes to Osaka station. It took us around 8 minutes to wait for the train to Kyoto. It took us 30 minutes to Kyoto station. But I have no idea why we arrived at 9:00. My mind simply won’t get the calculation right.

Also, look at this crowd in Osaka station.

You know it’s rush hour when the queue starts even before the platform entrance.

We bought the one day Kyoto bus pass for JPY 500 (US $3.5) and proceeded to our first destination, Nanzen-ji. Inside the bus, I kept awing as the aesthetically pleasing view of Kyoto suburban passed through my sight. We went down on a station inside the suburban. The neighbourhood was very quiet and pleasant. The exterior design of the houses were simply amazing! One thing to note, though. We have to jaywalk almost at all times but the cars were all scary. People in Kyoto apparently drove really fast since the traffic lights were only present in the main roads.

After a little bit of walk while whoa-ing and ohh-ing, we arrived in Nanzen-ji or Zuiryusan-ji. It is a Zen Buddhist temple that was finished in 1291. We walked around the site and took a lot of pictures. It took us a damn 1 hour.

Our next destination is the Philosopher’s Walk itself. We went to the east side of Nanzen-ji and found this photo spot just under the bridge. It took us another damn 1 hour.

Why, you say, did it always take us so freaking long to take pictures? We’re not that skilled in Photoshop, so we always waited until there’d be no significant human being present on the background of our pictures. Time-consuming and stupid, you might say. Yes, I freaking agree. I learned how to remove people on the background with Photoshop just around a month ago. I’m such a moron.

Anyway, we proceeded to the famous sakura trees-filled road leading us to the Ginkaku-ji. It was already 13:30 and I was really thirsty and hungry. Thankfully there was a vending machine and a small diner beside it. We ordered an omurice (fried rice inside an omelette) an rest our feet a bit as we had stood for 4 hours. It was not that good, but I was too hungry to complain.

in a random diner*

The journey has to be continued. Although we knew that there’s no chance the sakura trees would be fully bloomed, we hoped for a miracle. But as we walked toward north down the Philosopher’s Walk, we saw that the trees were all bald. We could only see the buds. Every damn tree only contained buds of the cherry blossom flower. It was a really sad moment. We continued walking until we saw a very tall, magnificent, fully-bloomed sakura tree in the middle of our journey. Of course, we treasure it…by taking pictures, again.

Bald trees.. bald trees everywhere.
A random coffee shop (?)
Pencil sketch by a random street artist.
One of the most beautiful sakura tree I had seen in my entire trip.
A random house.
A random street.

Just a few meters from the sakura tree there’s this red bean-filled small pancake stall so we bought one. It was nice to enjoy a fluffy sweet cake while enjoying the sakura view.

A few hundred meters later we saw this restaurant that serves warabi mochi for afternoon snack. Of course, we went in and ordered the mochi along with a cup of green tea. The mochi was very soft and fairly sweet. I really like the kinako, a form of sweet toasted soybean flour. The green tea was heavenly. I cannot really describe it, but it felt sweet and quite savoury. Then again, my bud taste for tea has been ruined long time ago. I’d even say the regular black tea has a sweet taste. I like my tea strong.

We walked up to Honen-in, a small temple with very little crowd. After enjoying the scenery for a while, the temple was closed at as early as 15:30. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant experience.

Within walking distance, we managed to stroll to Ginkaku-ji or Silver Pavilion. Unlike her sister Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), she is not covered in silver; while the Kinkaku-ji is covered in gold. It was actually built by shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the grandson of the one that built the Kinkaku-ji. He used it as a retirement villa. It was later converted into a Zen Buddhist temple after he died. We took some pictures and climbed up the small hill, to find a view of Kyoto from above. There was also a beautiful pathway we took pictures on.

Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion
Kyoto from above.
The pathway.

Unfortunately when it was my friend’s turn to take pictures, there was this Chinese girl with bright red clothes wanted the spot just about 20 meters from ours. She was waiting for us to go away too because she wanted no people in the background. All of us ended up standing on the same spot for 20 minutes without taking any pictures until the guard drove us away at 17:00, the temple closing time. The thing is, she came much later than we did, and if she would just stepped aside a bit for a minute all of us wouldn’t had waited for that long!

The street during sunset.

On our way from the Philosopher’s Walk to Honen-in earlier, we saw this nice little restaurant called Kisaki that serves yudofu, a Kyoto specialty must-eat meal set of boiled tofu. We decided to eat our dinner there.

There were no other customers when we walked in. We were told to take off our shoes since we chose to sit on tatami floor. We sat by the window to have this serene hill view. The restaurant owner was a lovely old lady that spoke decent English. She nicely explained the menu to us. We decided to take one of the vegetable tempura set (flour-coated deep fried vegetables) along with one of the prawn tempura set (flour-coated deep fried prawns). Then we divide all of those equally. Yes, we’re greedy and embarassing, we wanted to try everything.

The appetiser, the boiled tofu, the pickles, the tofu seasoning and sauces came first. They served a small block of gomadofu (sesame tofu) as an appetiser. And that. Was. The. Best. Tofu. I’ve. Ever. Tasted. It was sweet. It was savoury. It was creamy. It was soft. It was full of flavour. It melted right away inside my mouth. I had no idea such tofu existed in the world. I mean, I love tofu. It is one of the most common protein in Indonesia. But this gomadofu is on another level.

Anyway, our tempura and rice finally came. We waited for several minutes for our tofu to boil properly and ate everything slowly. Everything was perfect. I don’t know whether it was a placebo or not, but the tofu actually had some taste. Boiled tofu usually tastes quite bland. The tempura had the right crispiness and saltiness on it. Everything tasted so simple, yet they went along well with each other. It was a perfect meal.

Our heavenly dinner at Kisaki

After we finished our meal, the old lady came over to us asking how our meal was in Indonesian. We gleamed and nodded quickly like a child and said, “GOOD, GOOD. REALLY GOOD.” Apparently she heard us talking and noticed our language. She said that she and her family loves Indonesia. She travelled several times to Indonesia, and she loves our coffee and beef jerky. Apparently she spoke a little conversational Indonesian, which was quite impressive for us as she said there were rarely Indonesians came to her restaurant.

In the end, we talked for a few minutes and she asked us to write “Nice to meet you” in Indonesian. Although it was quite weird that she can speak a bit of the language without knowing how to say that phrase, she was really happy to learn a bit more and gave us her business card. I knew that it’s one of the Japanese etiquettes to share each other’s business card when you have business with each other or simply befriend each other. Unfortunately, we didn’t carry any…

The meal costed each of us about JPY 2500 (US $22). I felt pretty sad leaving her, to be honest. But we already had plans to try the famous onsen back in Osaka nearby our apartment, and it was already 19:15. We bid our farewells and promised that we’ll come back to her place if we ever return to Kyoto again one day.

The Kyoto suburban area was really scary at the evening. They had very few street lamps and the lights from inside the houses were dim. We walked quietly to the main road to catch a bus. Remember my rant about the confusing bus system in Japan? We didn’t know which stop we should’ve waited on, and after we went in the bus and rode for about 6 stops I realised we were heading towards the mountain up north. Panicked, we went down right away and got confused again on how to catch the right bus. Fortunately there was a subway station nearby with direct line to Kyoto station. Unfortunately, we had to pay for it since it was not JR or a bus (at that moment we had both JR Pass and Kyoto Bus Pass).

I was already planning to buy a new camera battery for that evening, just outside the Kyoto station. Since Japanese power sockets were only at 110 volt, my camera battery wouldn’t last as long as before. We went outside the station to look for BIC Camera building and after about 15 minutes or so, I decided to not buy it since they sold it for a crazy price of JPY 4000 (US $35). I could’ve gotten the same battery in Indonesia for only US $20!!

The Kyoto station was quite big, although not as big as the Shin-Osaka station. We had to walk more than 1 kilometre to get to our train platform from the BIC Camera building. After we sat inside the train, we immediately fell asleep. We were incredibly exhausted. We transferred in Osaka station afterwards. After we got into our train and sat, I played with my phone and my friend fell asleep once again. I didn’t notice anything weird before because the train system in Osaka was even more confusing than in Tokyo. It was already our 4th day in Osaka, and I finally noticed that the stations name were not familiar. We finally stopped at this station as the last destination of the train and I carefully looked outside.

There were 2 girls wearing Minion t-shirts, carrying Marvel themed plastic bags.

A lot of kids, families, couples, and a group of teenagers entered the train car with loads of Harry Potter, Minions, and Marvel goodies.

Bloody fucking hell.

Somehow we ended up in the Universal Studios station.

Firstly, we took the wrong bus. Secondly, this.

Why wouldn’t my journey just run smoothly?! My friend nagged me on how I didn’t notice anything. We waited for about 15 minutes before the train started to run again. It was already 22:10. The onsen place, SpaWorld, will charge you an additional JPY 1300 (US $11.50) if you check out pass midnight. I was frustrated. We finally checked in to the onsen place at around 22:45 and paid JPY 1000 (US $9). At that moment I was already willing to pay the additional yens because I felt like I needed about 2 hours for a nice, relaxed, hot water bath.

We had to take off our shoes and put them inside the shoe locker they provided. Then we hastily went up the lift to the 5th floor. Both of us came from a quite conservative environment, so we didn’t want to see each other naked at all cost. I had my friend stare at the locker for a long time as I frantically searched for big towels for us. We had our body showered by an automatic spray and entered the onsen area.

We immediately went to the outdoor Japanese-themed onsen area and I soaked in the regular bath. That felt exceptionally pleasant. With the warm breeze above (14 degrees celsius, and yes, it was already warm for us, considering the cold hell we had to go through from the previous days) I managed to enjoy the bath for a good 10 minutes. Since the place had around 7 different onsen theme, I had to try them all.

We went to the indoor Japanese-themed one and had ourselves a quick bath, Japanese style. You know, the sit-on-the-wooden-stool-and-use-shower-and-water-scoop style? Before I soaked into the regular hot bath, I noticed there was a sauna beside the shower area.

Okay, so the real sauna is not all about sitting inside a really hot wooden cubicle. You have to go back and forth to a cold water pool and to the wooden cubicle for a good few minutes. I tried to get inside the cold water pool but the moment I dipped my foot, it felt torturing. Sauna is not for me.

After I soaked inside the bath, I saw this granny lying on a wooden pillow and just slept her ass off like it was her own bedroom. I tried to do the same but I simply cannot sleep inside that extremely moist and hot room. It was a good 10 minutes lie, though.

We went around and kept trying all the baths inside. In the end, we went to the outdoor area once again and just enjoy our time in there. I truly wanted to do this for another hour, but my body was only ready to sleep on a nice bed. We took a look at the clock. 23:40. Hmm.. We still had time to check out without getting fined. We rushed to put on our clothes immediately and proceeded to the 1st floor, where the front desk was. Being as a slob as I am, I forgot to grab my shoe locker key inside my clothes locker. I ran all the way through, found my keys, ran again, put on my shoes NOT properly, and checked out at 23:58. Whoa, that was close!

Surprisingly there were still a few people walking down the road. We went to the Family Mart to grab some drinks and walked another 1.2 km back to our apartment.

Well, that was a really long day. We were out for solid 17 hours. We were actually planning to go to Kinkaku-ji on the same day, but our picture-taking sections took unusually long of a time. The next day was going to be our kimono-renting day; we booked a 10:30 appointment. The journey from our apartment to Kyoto station took more than one hour. We wanted to go to the Fushimi Inari Shrine beforehand. After a remotely thorough calculation, I realised that I had to wake up at 5:15 for the next morning. Again, we had this little regret about our decision for not staying in Kyoto….

 

Next day: Kimono Day (Kyoto)

 

Disclaimer: All of the pictures above were taken by my friend and me using Nikon D5500 and iPhone 5s. I reduced the quality of the pictures and videos to save my WordPress storage.

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