Wednesday morning we rented bikes from the hotel and went to a French restaurant, Boulangerie, for croissants and ran into Mats and Robert (our friends from the night before).
Then we continued our search for gloves until we finally found, what I’m convinced they are the last two pairs in Kyoto (they have some serious personality). Then we biked for an hour in thirty-degree weather to Arashiyama. As we were crossing the Togetsu-kyo Bridge near the main street area, it started to rain and hail (so fun). So we parked our bikes and searched for shelter. We found a soba restaurant but when Daniel went inside to ask how long the wait would be, the hostest refused to acknowledge him. So we walked down the road and found a cute Japanese style restaurant (I think it was called Shigetsu), which much nicer service. We ate a very traditional meal, but it was very bland, nonetheless, lunch was an experience.
As the rain and hail stopped we found our way into the Bamboo Forest— this place was absolutely magical and enchanting! We meandered through the forest until we found Tenryu-ji Temple, which had the most beautiful garden and lots of newly budding cherry tree blossoms.
We took lots of photos and then got back on our bikes to go to the Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama. We climbed up a hill for a good twenty minutes, learning trivia about monkeys along the way, until we arrived at the top where we could see panoramic views of all of Kyoto. On the hill there are about 200 monkeys roaming freely. The monkeys all have red faces and butts because their blood shows through their skin. They all looked like they were freezing by the way they sat huddling, perched up on various things. There are a few monkey guards who keep the monkeys from charging people (which happens every now and then) by running at them and barking—unique approach. Daniel and I posed for a few photos amid the city views and the monkeys before climbing down the mountain.
We got on our bikes and started riding as the sun disappeared behind the mountain. About 20 minutes into our ride I hit a curb the wrong way and went flying—next thing I knew I was on the floor with the bike behind me. I freaked myself out and started crying. Daniel came over to hug me, asked if I was okay, and then told me we could fix my jeans. At that point I looked down and realized the fall had shredded my jeans open, this was when I actually started to cry (sad but true). Through my torn jeans we could tell that I was bleeding a bit, but couldn’t really access much of my skin. Daniel found a bike store about three shops away from us (pure luck) and we hobbled over. The two guys running the shop spoke 0 English. They saw I had been crying, saw my shredded jeans, and tried to ask Daniel what happened. They were able to communicate with each other by using Google Translate (so amazing). Eventually Daniel got on the phone with someone’s wife who was translating in English and Japanese for everyone. I called he hotel to see if they could arrange to get the bikes—because we couldn’t fit them into a taxi—and they couldn’t have been sweeter or more helpful. Between the hotel and the bike shop something was worked out. While this was going on, one of they guys at the bike shop ran down the street to bring us hot chocolate because it was freezing. So nice! They called us a cab and we went back to the hotel.
As I was cleaning myself up in the room, the doorbell rang. I opened the door to two very sweet staff members who brought me big Band-Aids, gauze, sterilizing agent, and water as a “sympathy gift”. I was so touched. Before we left for dinner, we went down to the lobby to thank the manager. He handed us a bag, which he told us was “a sympathy gift from the men at the bike shop”. Inside the bag were two bike lights, one that looks like a cat and one that looks like a dog. I was so deeply moved by their kindness. After all, we interrupted them, took time out of their day, and put them out, and yet they managed to give us something yet again. The kindness of people here is something I will never forget.
For dinner we walked to a famous restaurant called Ippudo Ramen and ordered delicious vegetarian ramen. Daniel and I both highly recommend this place! After dinner we wandered around the very empty and very quiet streets for a bit (all of Kyoto at night feels like a tea ceremony because no one speaks) before heading back to the hotel to sleep.
Thursday we woke up early (even though it was so difficult to get out of bed) and went back to Boulangerie for breakfast. We sat next to Mats and Robert and exchanged stories about the day before. Breakfast was delicious, scrambled eggs with unlimited breads and coffee. Daniel and I took the bus to Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto’s famed “Golden Pavilion”. The original building was built in 1397 and was converted into a temple, but then in 1950 a monk consummated his obsession with the temple by burning it to the ground—weird. In 1955 the temple underwent a full reconstruction—the temple and its garden were majestic and ridiculous. On our way out, we tried various types of mochi snacks and green tea (some with gold leaf inside).
For lunch we went to Nishiki Market aka Kyoto’s Pantry to check out all of the strange and exciting food. We bought some weird cheese stick but didn’t like it. Then we tried Onigiri, the triangle sushi rice wrapped in seaweed with poppy seeds, and it couldn’t have been more delicious! We spent around forty-five minutes walking up and down the pathway, checking out the different foods at the different stalls. Eventually we ended up at Iyomata, a hole in the wall sushi-only restaurant and had some tasty and authentic sushi.
In the afternoon we went to Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine to check out the majestic orange gates. We learned that the shrine itself is dedicated to the g-ds of rice and sake (we were big fans from the start) and is populated with dozens of stone foxes; the fox is considered to be the messenger of Inari, the g-d of the rice harvest. We hopped onto the back of some American families tour and learned a bit about the shrines before leaving. This shrine was totally worth all they hype!
Daniel downloaded an app called Bean Hunter, which tells you about all the best local coffee shops in a city, so on the way out of Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine, we went to a local place known as Café Goo. We ordered a coffee and a green tea (considering how unpleasant the coffee has been for the last month and a half I wasn’t all too excited about taking the risk on ordering another bad cup). Turns out the coffee here was excellent—smooth and strong without any bitterness—and the owner couldn’t have been sweeter.
I headed to the outdoor market to look for a pair of pants (to replace my shredded jeans) and Daniel went to the hotel to relax. I found a store called Who’s Who and had the most fun with the cute Japanese sales associate who spoke no English. Every time I would try pants on she would bring out a different top, jacket, and pair of retro athletic shoes to try them on with. I am pleased to report I found a pretty cool pair of trousers. Oh—one random and interesting thing to note, in some of the stores they have “face covers” for people to wear when they try on anything that goes over their head, so as to avoid getting makeup or sweat on the clothing—strange but also not the worst thing I’ve ever heard.
I went back to the hotel, grabbed Daniel and we met up with Brandon and Patty (amazing friends from Los Angeles) in the hotel bar. We had a drink and then Daniel and Brandon had some weird interaction with a woman dressed as a bell-boy who eventually gave them a dinner recommendation. The four of us walked to Italiana Sagra, a highly recommended Italian restaurant. When we walked in we ordered a fabulous bottle of wine and started to go over the menu. As vegetarians there wasn’t much that Daniel and I could eat but we figured we would get the grilled sea bass, and Patty decided on the same. Two minutes after ordering the nice waiter came back to tell us there is no more sea bass. Then we asked for something else and he came back a moment later to tell us that they didn’t have that either. He then informed us that the English menu we were looking at was from the year before and many of the dishes had been changed. So we requested pasta with olive oil and garlic, which they weren’t able to do. Then they told Brandon they couldn’t make the dish he wanted. We made the call to leave here and go somewhere else for dinner, but we felt bad so we ordered a bread basked which our waiter presented to us in extreme detail, before we got the bill. We decided to go back to Kappa Sushi (the restaurant Daniel and I had dinner at two nights before). We were seated at a traditional Japanese style table and ordered more amazing sushi! Then we all went our separate ways and decided to meet up Saturday in Tokyo. Such a fun night!
Friday morning we woke up early, went to breakfast at Boulangerie, saw Mats and Robert, ate and said goodbye.
We took a cab to the Kyoto Station and met the nicest couple— originally from New York, but living in Los Angeles named Laurie and Washington—on the platform as we were waiting for our train. We chatted with them until our train arrived as we were in separate cars. The bullet train was quick and easy, yet again, and we passed Mount Fuji on the way, which was stunning. We arrived at Odawara Station and ran into Laurie and Washington again. They gave us a box of Pierre Hermé French Macaroons as a gift—sweetest people ever!