Kyoto, Japan: Two Years and Counting

I would tell my husband not to buy me stuff for anniversaries. Instead, I would like him to bring me somewhere we’ve never been before. It’s always nice to experience something together for the first time. And because my wish is his command, we celebrated our 2nd year wedding anniversary in Japan. (Thank you, Mahal!)

Based on my readings, it’s better to go see Kinkakuji or the Golden Pavilion early in the morning or late in the afternoon due to crowd. Since it’s almost an hour bus ride from where we’re at, I made it the first stop for the day. It opens at 9am, so we took our time and was able to sleep in a little bit longer. When we arrived a few minutes after nine, I’m slightly surprised that the crowd’s already forming. Aside from tourists, there’s a lot of students too.

After entering, there were staff members directing people where to go first. The viewing area of the Golden Pavilion was already crowded when we came, but it wasn’t difficult to get a spot to take photos. People usually spent just a short time here, enough to get photos taken and they continue through the path. Kinkakuji is a Zen Buddhist Temple and one of the most frequently visited. The two floors of the temple are covered with golden leaves. Sadly, you cannot go inside.

After getting enough photos of the pavilion, we continued walking. We stopped by a couple of statues with a bowl to toss coins for luck. Luckily, he got one.

At the end of the path was the Fudo Hall. It’s a small temple that houses one of the Five Wisdom Kings. It took us more or less an hour to finish the path. There’s only one way so it’s hard to get lost.

It was only 11am when we arrived at Steak Otsuka, but we were already 10th on the waiting list 30 minutes before the restaurant opens. The restaurant serves wagyu sirloin steak, which is a must try. The place’s small and can only accommodate 30 people at a time if I’m not mistaken. It didn’t take long before we were seated. We didn’t mind sharing a table because we came to eat. And because it’s our anniversary, we splurged and ordered Grade A5 wagyu and murasawa sirloin steaks.

We don’t know who got which, but man, it was so good! They didn’t ask our preference on how well we want the steak, but I thought maybe they have a certain way of cooking it? The steak was still pinkish, but there was no raw taste. The meat literally melted in our mouths. It’s safe to say that it’s the best steak we’ve had to date. We tried each other’s order, and I can’t tell the difference. All I know is that it’s so darn delicious. I wish we could find something similar in the States. It didn’t take long for us to finish our food, but it was definitely unforgettable.

After the wonderful lunch date, we headed to Tenryu-ji, a World Heritage Site.

We were asked to remove our shoes before we enter the inside halls. The temple was built in the 1300s by a shogun to appease a former emperor’s spirit.

After visiting the different halls, we continued with the garden. The first part of the path was a dry rock garden. Fascinating how they did it!

The path then leads to the Sogen Pond Garden. Isn’t it amazing that the garden retained it’s original design even after 700 years had passed? It only shows how well Japan protects and preserves the historic sites.

At the end of the path is the Garden of Hundred Flowers or Hyakka’en. And because it’s Spring, the flowers were blooming!

We may have missed the full bloom of the weeping cherry trees, but the garden didn’t fall short on other beautiful flowers. And other species of cherry flowers just reached their peak. It was only then did I learn that there’s different kinds of sakura.

Just before exiting, I already saw the towering bamboos. We weren’t at the grove just yet. But, how pretty are they?

Just by following the bamboos and the crowd, we made it to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. And as expected, it was crowded. But that didn’t stop us from taking cutesy photos!

We didn’t finish the entire grove and walked the other way to find the nearest train station. We passed by the train tracks, a temple, and another bamboo grove. I think it would have been more enjoyable if there’s less crowd. But, we had more places to visit so we had to move on.

We arrived at Nijo Castle with just an hour left before closing. I really wanted to hear the chirping sound while walking on the nightingale floor.

We didn’t have enough time to rent an English audio guide. So we just went ahead and entered the Ninomaru Castle. There’s already a one way path inside so it was easy to follow. What’s so cool about the nightingale floor is how even a very light step could make a sound. It was the alarm system of the shogunate against ninjas who attack at night. It’s really very interesting to hear firsthand. Unfortunately, photos weren’t allowed inside.

We still had 30 minutes to get around the garden. As much as we wanted to explore more, our feet were getting weary. So we just made a brisk walk around the garden until we reached the main gate again.

Our last destination was the Kyoto International Manga Museum. My husband reads manga. And because we still had time, I added it to the itinerary. I’ve never read a manga before, so it was interesting to learn that you read it from the back to the front. Photos weren’t permitted inside due to copyright. Most of the books were in Japanese. There was a section for translated mangas, but we couldn’t find the ones he was looking for. The online catalog was also in Japanese, so it wasn’t of much help. After checking the museum a bit, we headed to Takashiyama Kyoto Store for pokemon souvenirs. Although, my husband ended up not buying anything.

It was starting to get dark, and we figured to just get dinner before we head back to the hotel. I didn’t know where to eat, so I searched for an okonomiyaki restaurant nearby. Fortunately, Donguri was just around the corner. It was a little tricky to find since it was located on the lower ground. We were then seated in a bar. I’ve never had okonomiyaki before, so I had no idea what to order. The English menu and photos helped a lot. We ended up ordering a mayo-mentai yakisoba and a veggie okonomiyaki.

The food were already cooked when served, but they still placed them on the hot plate. There was also an instruction on how to add seasonings and spices, which was very helpful for newbies. The servings were enough to make us full. And as our last night in Kyoto, it was a great dinner date. Next morning, we’d be traveling to Tokyo.

Kyoto, you’re such a stunner. The food… the sites… the ambiance… everything was perfect! You will surely have a piece of our hearts. Until we meet again!

P.S. Our hotel room number was coincidentally our wedding date, how surreal!

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