Saturday, 26 September 2015

Japan Holiday Day 5 - Philosopher's walk and surrounds

The day started with us deciding to find a breakfast that was nearby and we ended up at Estacion - a cafe just downstairs from the main station near Hotel Granvia's main lobby exit. However, the breakfast was a disappointment in a number of ways.

Firstly, this is the display they have in the window.  What they neglected to say is that they only have bacon and eggs for breakfast and not the waffles! We were going there for waffles and were sorely disappointed.

Secondly, there were people smoking inside the restaurant.  Sure, they were in a different section but it wasn't an enclosed section so of course the smoke went everywhere. The kids were complaining about it and I was coughing.  Bleh.

I couldn't wait to get out of there and so we caught the 100 bus to Ginkaku-ji. The bus was packed - we bought a day pass for 500 yen which would be worth it if we caught 3 buses during that day. Most of the bus emptied at an earlier bus stop, for Kiyomizudera, the biggest and most popular of the Kyoto temples.

Ginkaku-ji is a zen temple and I find it strange that it's called the silver pavilion when none of the buildings are silver.  However, it has impressive dry sand garden with a panacotta shaped structure that's pretty unique.

The garden is lovely, and has a walk around the edges of it.  There are mosses (and mushrooms!) growing abundantly and it was lovely and serene - except for the sound of my naughty son dropping stones into the water and kicking pebbles around and yelling at the top of his voice.

Then we went to the Philospher's walk - which is a short 1.5km walk along the canal between Ginkaku-ji and Nanzenji temple. It is so named because Nishida Kitaro, a famous Japanese philosopher, used to meditate as he walked along this path to the university.

Sakura trees and maple trees line the walk, and it is quite beautiful in autumn and spring.

There was also wildlife to entertain the kids along the way, including large koi/carp in the canal, ducks resting along the edges of the water and even this praying mantis which was on the road at the end of the philosopher's walk.

By the time we got to Nanzen-ji, I was hot and bothered and a bit hungry. We walked past Okutan, which hubby mentioned was a famous Yudofu place (ie they specialise in vegetarian cuisine, especially boiled tofu) but he was worried the kids wouldn't like it.  So we went into Nanzen-ji, went around the garden at the back of the temple towards the aqueducts and then headed out to look for some food.

These aqueducts used to carry water from Lake Biwa to the temple!  What a feat of engineering for that time!

 Everyone decided that they wanted tofu for lunch so we went back to Okutan.

In our limited Japanese (and their limited English) the lady managed to convey that there is only TOFU served here, which was probably just as well because that made the crowd nonexistent - who wants to eat JUST tofu, right?  Must be only crazy people!

They showed us to our room, which was upstairs and we had the room all to ourselves!  It was a tatami sit down arrangement and the little kids could roam freely around and we could almost maek as much noise as we wanted.

They started bringing out the courses. I was surprised that the kids actually ate some, but we were quite pleased at having something different, and I really did enjoy my tofu!

First up was the sesame tofu and mountain yam.

Next up was the grilled tofu topped with miso - this was actually my favourite!

Next was the boiled tofu - yudofu - which is served in this big pot over a coal. You then scoop one piece out, put some shallots on it and some pepper, then pour a bit of soya sauce on it and then eat.

Next was the vegetable tempura which was a shiso leaf, pumpkin and nori.

Then rice and pickles. I actually thought it was miso soup until I opened it up.

A quick pic of where we stored our shoes.  The restaurant was a delightful place - not for everyone (especially not people who don't like tofu) but it was definitely well worth a visit, the food was delicious and the staff welcoming (and it was very kid-friendly!)

After that we caught the bus to Kiyomizudera temple, and it was really packed! We had an ice cream on the way up, which gave the kids some extra energy as they were feeling rather lethargic in the humidity.  There are tons of snack places on the way towards the temple, as well as lots of pottery stores and other souvenir stands.

Kiyomizudera is known for its "pure water" and is a UNESCO World heritage site.  It's the most popular temple in Kyoto. The main hall of the temple is dedicated to Kannon, the buddhist goddess of compassion.  One of the amazing things about this temple is this huge verandah supported by 139 wooden pillars, each about 16m high.

There were a few things we wanted the kids to try - one was the Otowa-no-taki (sound of feathers), where three channels of water pour into a pond. There is one for health, longevity and wisdom, and I don't know which is which but I drank and washed my hands in the one furthest from the line, which I hope was wisdom.  The kids drank from it as well.  The queue was HUGE though!

We also attempted to do the walking with your eyes closed from the two love stones but that didn't work out.  Surprisingly it wasn't that packed up there - though if you look at this picture you wouldn't believe that was the case.

Going back down after the temple wasn't any less crowded though...

We headed towards Gion and we came across a Studio Ghibli store and when I went inside to investigate there was a Hello Kitty Cafe inside! Well, we just HAD to go stop there and get something to eat!

We ordered a wide variety of things just for photo's sake:

I can't remember which dessert is which but they all look pretty similar.  Tons of cream, and cute little hello kitty shaped sweets and jellies and biscuits.  Oh and on the trays!

This is the children's meal. If you ask me, every meal could be a children's meal... but seriously, this one has chicken nuggets and egg wrapped rice and cute fish stick shaped like hello kitty. And egg and tofu with hello kitty faces!
Hello Kitty Soba set. This one comes with free chopsticks you can take home but unfortunately there is only hiragana written "Hello Kitty" on it, and no pictures or anything so a bit of a dud present there.
Even the bathroom has Hello Kitty Decor!  From the signs on the toilet to the ribbon mirror and the Hello Kitty on the basins.  The toilet seats were pink!

They even put a giant Hello Kitty to sit with you when you are eating - here's a pic from the LA Times of Hello Kitty at the cafe.

The place was full of girls dressed in kimonos - at first I thought it was Japanese people dressing up for something, but I actually think most of them were tourists doing the kimono dress up thing.

Overall it was a nice experience for a quick afternoon tea - the food was not spectacular, and the desserts a bit boring (and the price tags a bit much) but just the Hello Kitty overload was awesome.

One couple had some family come visit so the remaining two families went out looking for meat to eat. We came across Toku in Gion, and had a lovely evening doing BBQ Wagyu.

There are three types of Wagyu in Kansai - there's Kobe beef (which everyone has heard of) and there is Ohmi beef (which is very similar) and Matsusaka Ushi beef.  We had a meal of Ohmi beef and the meat was heavenly (but pricey!)

These 5 different cuts of beef we had here tonight.  In order they were hele (Helle?), sirloin, rib rows, ramushin (ok not sure about that) and cream.  The last 2 were marinated.

We ordered an extra sausage and some beef tongue. We must be in holiday mode because nowhere else would you play $7.50 for ONE SAUSAGE.

And some vegies to chuck on the roaster.  The meat was amazing - the typical wagyu that melts in your mouth and the third one was sweet - it is amazing that fat can be sweet.  The service was brilliant, everyone was so friendly and tolerant to the children and engaged with them quite readily which was nice to see.

Now that was a day of overeating!

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