Key Highlights - Breakfast at Aura Tachibana - Take the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Kyoto - Check into Prime Pod in Kyoto - Walk to Gion District - Lunch at fast food Japanese place - Visited Otowa Waterfall at Kiyomizu Temple - Shrimp tempura udon dinner at Sanshiki - Matcha shaved ice dessert
The night before, Aura Tachibana gave us a choice of a 7:30 AM breakfast at or sometime earlier. My travel partner and I decided that we would take the last possible breakfast time because we wanted to enjoy the Japanese hot springs (onsen) more. We went to the meal in traditional Japanese clothing provided by the hotel. Again every dish was introduced to us and the food was amazing. There were pickled vegetables, squid sashimi, rice, miso soup with a crab claw, a whole fried fish, and some vegetables that we could dip in delicious sauce. By the time we had finished our meal, everyone else had left. The entire hotel staff was waiting for us. As we left they all bowed. It was then that I made use of my Japanese and thanked them for the meal. Check out was at 10:00 AM and we were definitely sad to leave.
This time instead of having to lug our luggage all the way to the metro station, we hitched a ride with a hotel driver. He dropped us off in front of the metro train station. Now that is service! Our next destination was about 5 hours away via the Shinkansen (bullet train) in Kyoto. Kyoto was the capital of Japan until 1868. It is known for its deep history in its Buddhist temples, imperial palaces, shrines and traditional houses. Geishas and female entertainers are often found in the Gion district.
Prime Pod Entrance
We purposely booked our stay at Prime Pod in Kyoto because it was only about a 5-10 minute walk from the metro station. The Prime Pod is a hostel located on the 9th floor of a skyscraper. Across the street are a bunch of street vendors and small shops catering to the large tourist crowd. In Japan there are a lot of these indoor restaurant malls except there isn't a door to get it. It's really just a huge open entrance. You are walking on the road and then next thing you know you've stumbled upon an indoor restaurant mall. Cars actually drive through the area, so it can be quite dangerous if you don't keep your eye out. One of the first things we noticed about Kyoto was that there were a lot more English friendly places than we saw in Tokyo. Maybe because the Olympics was held in Kyoto a couple decades ago?
After we checked into our hostels and dropped off our luggage, we went on a search for food. Lunch hour had passed and it was about 3:00 PM. Most of the restaurants we saw on the streets were closed or on break. Incidentally, we spotted a Japanese fast food joint with a lot of people. My travel partner made it seem like she wasn't hungry and didn't want to eat inside the fast food joint. So we decided to take the meal to go. After ordering an eel and egg with rice dish from the ticket machine, I handed the chef the ticket. We got our food in about 7 minutes.
My brother had warned me that people in Japan don't eat and walk at the same time nor do they eat on the streets. At the time, I didn't see any seats around and I forgot what my brother had said. So, we plopped down outside the restaurant and started to chow down in the middle of the street. Yeah, we got a couple glances here and there. Nobody said anything because they probably recognized that we were foreigners.
One of the things to do in Kyoto is to watch a geisha show. We made our way towards Gion district of Kyoto, but were disappointed as we only found super touristy geisha shows. They didn't get good reviews online, so we ended up passing on it. With no geisha show to watch and a couple hours to fill, we decided to head over to the Otowa Waterfall at Kiyomizu Temple. The temple was a finalist in for the New Seven Wonders of the World.
To get to the Kiyomizu Temple, you hike up a fairly steep paved road. It isn't a difficult hike because you are surrounded by touristy little shops selling Japanese souvenirs. When you get to the temple entrance, you'll see a ticket station to the right where they charge you about 400 Yen per person as an entrance fee. Once you get into the temple area and make your way to the other side of the temple, you can take stairs down to the outside lower level. There you will find three "waterfalls". Popular local belief has it that one is for longevity, another for love, and another is for knowledge. Supposedly you are to make a wish behind the falls and drink one cup. The courtyard was so large, we ended up staying until the temple closed.
Otowa Waterfall at Kiyomizu Temple
By this time the sun had set and we were chasing daylight. We decided to head back and look for a restaurant along the way. My partner was hangry. Yes, the wonderful combination of angry and hungry. Eventually we stumbled upon a small tempura udon shop at Sanshiki and since we hadn't eaten tempura or udon in Japan yet, we settled. I had the largest shrimp tempura in an udon at this place. The tempura was crispy and delicious. We decided that the tempura udon was not enough, so we got shaved ice and ice cream at a matcha place near our hostel. Both places didn't take credit card, so my cash balance was drained, but my stomach was satisfied.
Shrimp Tempura Udon
Eventually, we wore ourselves out with walking around the touristy shops near our hostel. At that point, we decided to head for the hostel where we retired for the night.