Welcome to Day 7 of Janet, Randy and Family Japan Adventure 2016
Wednesday, April 13th, 2016
Had a great sleep, and spent some time working on the journal while Randy went out for a run (it's not every day that I get to run around the Imperial Palace - however, sidewalks are narrow and are shared with cyclists - so ya, it's a bit of a dodging game). We then went out to have breakfast at Starbucks. The closest Starbucks is in an office building near the train station (on the 2nd floor). However, that Starbucks didn't open until 8:30am. What? Don't people here need coffee before 8:30am? (YES!) Luckily, there was another Starbucks a couple blocks further (closer to the Nishiki market), and that one was open.
It was actually a nice place - and wasn't busy for 8:00am. When we got our drinks, they both had a happy face and a 'Thank you' written on them. So, that made us smile. Proper English spelling in Japan. Most times my name is very badly butchered, in North America, Where English is the primary language - 'nuf said.
We headed back to the hotel to meet up with everybody at 9:00am. For today's sightseeing, we were going to be taking the bus. The hotel sells bus day passes (unlimited bus trips for 500 yen), so I picked up the passes for everyone. Then we headed to the nearest bus stop to catch a bus that would take us to the Heian Shrine.
Fortunately it wasn't too busy on the bus, so we were able to get seats for the 20 minute ride to the shrine. We bought out tickets to enter the gardens (600 yen each). I was pleasantly surprised to see that the cherry trees in the gardens still had blooms, so we took quite a lot of time taking lots of pictures (lots).
One of the iconic images of the shrine are stepping stones that meander across a pond. Randy's mom was really looking forward to walking across these stepping stones. But, unfortunately when we got there, there was a barrier preventing people from crossing the stones, which was disappointing to all of us. There were a couple of stones that you could step on that jutted out into the water a bit, so we did get some pictures on those. The picture below is the closest you could get to the stepping stones. I loved walking across those stones. It's very sad, but I'm sure that more than a couple people have likely fallen in and hence the closure.
Since we had last been to the shrine, they had added a little tea shop (near the stepping stones). So, we decided to stop and enjoy a cup of tea while looking at the pond. We tried some sweet green tea - which was quite tasty. While we were there, a group of Japanese people dressed up in kimonos came to get some pictures taken. We also took some pictures of them, and Randy and his parents even jumped in with the group for a few pictures (totally photobombed it !).
We continued on through the gardens, stopping to take lots of pictures. Luckily it still wasn't that busy, so we were able to enjoy the gardens without masses of people.
Once we were done at the shrine, we walked to the nearby Kyoto Handicraft Center. This place sold locally made handicrafts and also had a workshop where you could see some artisans at work. It looked like you also had the opportunity to do your own arts and crafts if you wanted. We spent some time here purchasing some souvenirs, then it was off to our next stop. I think this place had been in the basement of some office building on a previous visit, so it was nice to see them have their own building (actually 2 buildings).
We walked to the nearest bus stop and caught a bus to Kiyomizudera. The bus was quite full, so we weren't able to sit. But fortunately it wasn't too far of a ride. The bus drops you off at the bottom of a hill, and the temple is at the top of the hill. So, we took our time climbing up the hill. As it was lunch time, we kept our eye open for places to stop to eat. We came across a soba noodle restaurant, so we decided to stop there to eat.
Randy and I both had some cold soba, and it was quite delicious (we were also quite hungry too, but it was delish). We even had a nice view out the window of some cherry blossoms. After lunch we continued the rest of the way up the hill to the temple. I don't know if it was some sort of school holidays or national school field trip week - but there were masses of school kids (in their uniforms) at all the tourist attractions. We were actually approached by a group of kids that were doing an assignment for their English class. The spokesman of the group (a gal) asked me questions in English and then she wrote down my answers (she wrote the answers in Japanese - and some in English). She asked things like where we were from and what places we were visiting in Japan. It was fun how her classmates/friends were helping her out, and sometime giggling at her mistakes. We made sure she did good and got the answers correct. By the looks of it her teacher was close by too.
There were lot of other people around as well - way more people than we have ever seen in Kyoto at other times of the year.
One interesting phenomenon we noticed since our last trip was that there are now a number of kimono rental shops - where you can dress up in a kimono for a day. A significant number of young women (and a few men) were walking around wearing these kimonos. Some of the Kimono were stunning patterns and designs.
As it was so busy, we decided not to actually go into the temple, and just took some pictures from the top of the hill instead. The streets leading up to the temple are full of various shops, so we agreed to all meet back at the restaurant where we had lunch within an hour. During that hour, it started to rain, so luckily we had our umbrellas with us.
When we met up again, we headed back down the hill and found a bus stop. There were lots of people waiting for buses, so when our bus arrived, we were crammed in pretty tight. We all had to stand for the first part of the ride back to the hotel, but a few seats opened up later for the aunties and Lil to sit down. We got back to the hotel around 2:30pm and decided to just relax for a few hours as it had been a busy day.
Randy and I took this opportunity to make use of the hotel's laundry facilities to wash our clothes. The hotel only had 2 washers and 2 dryers, and they seemed to be in demand in the evenings. As we didn't have a lot of time before having to meet up for supper, we only put our clothes into the dryer for 30 minutes. They were still quite damp when we took them out, so ended up spreading damp clothes over every flat surface in our room - including draping them over the microscopic TV and even our laptops.
At 6:00pm we met up with the gang and we went out to find a place close to the hotel for something to eat. We ended up at an izakaya style restaurant - which is sort of like a Japanese pub - where they food appetizer-type food. Because it was all just small plates of food that they served, we all ordered a number of small plates to make up our meals. Randy and I had some edamame, skewers, fries and fried chicken (it was pub food, and quality there in).
We ended up sitting around chatting for a while, and then stopped for some snacks on the way back to the hotel. It was after 8:00pm by the time we got back, I tried to finish off the previous day's travel journal and then went to bed.
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