[Accommodation Review] – Ryokan Arima Gyoen (Japanese Room), Kansai, Japan (18 – 19 May 18)

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Hotel Signage

Location

Ryokan Arima Gyoen is located in the centre of Arima-onsen town. It is very convenient in visiting the town and the sights around the town. Ryokan Arima Gyoen is right next to the Taikobashi where the river stream park is located. The hotel is located within 2 mins walk from the bus terminal and the bus stop where we took a bus to Shin-Kobe. The train station is also located around 4 mins walk from the hotel. There are shops around the hotel and the only 7-Eleven shop in Arima-onsen is located right across the hotel. The hotel’s location makes it an ideal spot for exploring Arima-onsen town.

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Ryokan Arima Gyeon is located beside Taikobashi, one of the landmarks in Arima-onsen

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Hotel facade next to Taikobashi

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Ryokan Arima Gyeon entrance

The Room

We booked a night’s stay in the Japanese Style room, which comes with breakfast and dinner. Ryokan Arima Gyeon is a modern Ryokan style hotel.

Porch

Entering the room, we were greeted with the front porch, where we took off our shoes. It is customary for guests to take their shoes off when entering a Japanese style room in the hotel. This area is small but functional. There is a shoe rack tucked by the wall, where the staff helped us placed our shoes inside. We wore the slippers that the hotel provides while going to the Onsen in the hotel. The futon closet is found in this part of the room, where such as the futons and blankets are stored in. As with Japanese style rooms, staffs will come into the room and lay the beddings in the evening.

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Porch and entrance to the room

Bathroom

A little further from the porch is where the bathroom is located. The bathroom is rather small, as with most Japanese Hotel standards. Despite its small size, the bathroom is equipped with a bathtub, a sink and a toilet bowl. The standard amenities such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash and hand soap are placed neatly on the sink countertop. However, no toothbrushes are being provided. There is a rack for hanging towels outside the bathroom.

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The bathroom is a tad small but functional

Sleeping Area

A wooden sliding door separates the porch from the sleeping area. The main part of the room doubles up as a lounge area in the day and a sleeping area in the night. To the left from the sliding door, a small table top where the TV and phone are being placed on. There is a 2-panel cabinet at the bottom of this table top. This area is where the hot flask is also located. I find the placement of the TV here a tad off as we were not able to watch the TV when the futons are being laid on the tatami mats. Tucked by the wall along the length of the room until the balcony area is the tokonoma or an alcove where a vase and a painting is placed on to. Between the TV console and the tokonoma is a small area which has sufficient space for us to stow our luggage. As it was still daytime at the time of our checking in, there is 2 knee height coffee table placed in the centre of the sleeping area. 2 legless chairs are being placed on either side of the tables. There are the tea set and snacks placed on this table at the time of our arrival. The sleep quality on the futons is superb. We were able to get a good night sleep on these futons. The pillows are not too soft for my liking.

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The lounging cum sleeping area

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TV console

Balcony

Furthest away from the entrance to the room is a small area. There is another wooden sliding door that separates this area from the sleeping area. Here is where we find a small bar fridge and a couple of armchairs, together with a small coffee table. The closet in the room is also placed here, where we found yukatas as well as the towels. A safe box is hidden inside this closet. A glass door separates this lounge area from the balcony.

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The balcony area

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The fridge is located in the balcony area

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The wardrobe is located in the balcony area and is a tad small

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View of Arima-onsen from the balcony

The Onsen

Ryokan Arima Gyoen has its own onsen, though not very big. Located on the 7th floor, the onsen is in the main building. The onsen is separated by sex and has a small Kinsen and a large Ginsen in the enclosed space. There is an outdoor Ginsen next to the changing room. The changing room has amenities such as body lotion, shavers, combs and cotton buds.

Dining

Dinner

The plan we booked came with dinner and breakfast. The Japanese dinner was served in our room where the staff would show up at the arranged time to set up for dinner. The dinner consists of multiple courses that included sashimi, hot pot and rice to name a few. The dinner was delicious and the sashimi tasted very fresh. From time to time, the hotel staff would come into our room to clear the empty plates and served up the next dish. We were very full after having the dinner.

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Dinner being set up

Breakfast

Breakfast was served in the dining rooms in the annexe building. The breakfast served was Japanese style where we were given rice with fish to grill on amongst other food. I am not very used to the Japanese style breakfast, despite they are delicious.

Service

The service in the hotel is superb. We experienced Japanese hospitality throughout our stay in the hotel. Staffs welcomed us the moment we step into the hotel. The hotel has strict check-in timing hence we were not able to check-in early. However, the staff was happy to look after our luggage while we explored Arima-onsen. The staffs were always wearing their smiles whenever we walk past them or approach them. When we returned later in the afternoon to get our keys, we were surprised that our luggage has already been placed in our room. The staffs were very attentive and would somehow know when to appear, especially during meal time. During dinner, the staff would appear on the dot as we were finishing up our meal and present the next course. After the meal, the staff promptly moved everything to one side and set up the futons in under 10 mins. During breakfast, the staff would sit by the side after bringing us to our table and noticed that our rice bowls were empty and offered to top up the rice without us even asking. Even the cleaning staff in the public area smile and greeted us whenever we bumped into them. The staff at the lobby even gave us sound advice on what to see in Arima-onsen and were never stingy in offering information.

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A staff of the hotel set up for dinner

Overall

Ryokan Arima Gyoen is located in the centre of town and is a good base to explore Arima-onsen. The room is very well laid out and the sleep quality is very good on the futons. The service we had received at the hotel is nothing short of excellence, every staff in the hotel made us feel welcome. I would come back here to stay the next time I visit Arima-onsen.

Kansai (Kyoto/Osaka) Day 8 (25 May 18) – Shopping In Namba Area and Night View of Osaka City from Umeda Sky Tower

 

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Namba Shopping District

Our shopping day today lands us at Namba area. At the time we arrived at Namba area, most of the shops are still closed. Shops in Namba area opens at 10am. As we still have time, my friend and I went over to the Nankai Train Station to attempt to redeem our train tickets to Kansai International Airport for tomorrow when we depart Kansai. We had previously purchased the tickets online. However, at the station, we were told to head over to OCAT Building to redeem the vouchers and come back here for the tickets. Since the shops are still not opened yet, we headed to OCAT Building which took us about 10 mins walk from Nankai Train Station. After redeeming the vouchers, we headed back to Nankai Train Station and sorted out the tickets. I told my friend we were lucky that we had decided to settle our train tickets on today rather than on the day of our departure, as it would be too rush to have to sort out the tickets the next day. On the hindsight, we should not have ordered the tickets online and should have purchased the tickets at the train station instead, this will save us the time walking back and forth.

Other than the Takashimaya Department store above Namba subway station, I find shopping in Namba a tad confusing. The shops seem to be arranged overall the place, feels very different from Osaka Station (might be due to the fact that we were rather familiar with the shopping in Osaka Station, after all, we have been passing through there since day 1 of our arrival in Kansai). Unlike most departmental stores, which has only at most 2 levels dedicated to men’s section, Takashimaya in Namba has men’s section in every floor, occupying a corner of each floor. Walking through Takashimaya seem no different from the other departmental stores we have visited. We left Takashimaya and headed to Carnival Mall. Carnival Mall does not have departmental stores, it is like HEP5 Shopping Mall we visited the day before. There are independent stores in Carnival Mall. Most of the men’s stores are located on the top 2 floors of Carnival Mall.

Shinsaibashi Shopping Street

After we were done with Carnival Mall, we headed for Shinsaibashi Shopping Street. We originally wanted to take a subway from Namba to Shinsaibashi but upon seeing a shopping street across from Takashimaya Departmental store, we decided to check it out. Ebisubashi-Suji is where we ended up. Ebisubashi-Suji is a covered shopping street with shops on both sides of the street. Most of these shops are pharmacies. There seem to be a pharmacy on every street and spaced out every few shops. Most of the products offerings are about the same, some shops do not offer tax refund here.

As we were walking, suddenly the place seems familiar. We ended up in Dotonbori without us realising. That is the food street that we have been coming for the past few days. As we were a little hungry, my friend and I got the takoyaki balls that was sold out shortly after we gotten ours a few nights ago. From Dontonbori, I told my friend we do not have to take the subway after all Shinsaibashi Shopping Street is just right across the bridge.

We got to Shinsaibashi after eating our takoyaki balls. Shinsaibashi is another cover shopping street that seems no different from Ebisubashi-Suji. There are the same pharmacies that seem to be everywhere and shops selling sports shoes. The price of the goods is not any different from Ebisubashi-Suji. My friend has gotten a pair of shoes and we had gotten backpacks from the Adidas shop. After some walking, we thought the shops are getting repetitive and decided to head back to our accommodation to leave our stuff before heading out for dinner. My friend had to collect the pants that he bought the day before near Osaka Station.

Umeda Sky Building

After collecting my friend’s pants, we headed for dinner. We ended our trip to Kansai, Japan by visiting the Umeda Sky Building. Umeda Sky Building is a 10 mins walk from the nearest Osaka Station. It is pretty out of the way compared to the rest of the attraction. Umeda Sky Building Observatory is also covered under the 2-Day Osaka Amazing Pass. Most visitors come here for the sunset over Osaka City and that is also the time when it is most crowded. The journey observation deck is one of the highlights when visiting the tower. The iconic floating escalator that connects the 2 building towers had us feel as though we were floating in the sky. The observation has 2 levels, the lower level is the enclosed area where we had a 360º view of Osaka city. However, the view from the upper open observation deck is more stunning. From the upper deck, we had an almost unobstructed view of the city. The view here is much better than that from the HEP5 Ferries Wheel. As it was at night at the time we arrived, the upper level is illuminated with ultraviolet lights. These lightings have the floor illuminated looking like stars in the sky. It is windy here and from here we could see the floating escalator that we have travelled on. Looking out into Osaka City, this is a great way to end our trip to Kansai. Ironically our trip to Hokkaido last year also ended up with a night view of Sapporo. We headed back to our accommodation to pack our luggage for tomorrow’s flight home. After visiting 2 Japanese Cities 2 years in a row, we are unlikely to return to Japan until some time later. It is off to explore other countries and other cities in the world.

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Panoramic shot of Osaka at night from Umeda Sky Building

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Our last wefie in Osaka

Kansai (Kyoto/Osaka) Day 7 (24 May 18) – Creating Instant Noodles and Shopping Around Osaka Station

 

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View of Osaka City from HEP5 Ferries Wheel

We spent the last 2 days of our Kansai trip in Osaka. Unlike my previous trips where I did not cater time for shopping, we dedicated 2 days to shop around in Osaka. There are 2 main shopping areas in Osaka, 1 at Osaka Station and another at Namba area. Today we shopped around in Osaka Station Area.

Cup Noodles Museum

Our first stop today is the Cup Noodles Museum. There are 2 Cup Noodles Museum in Japan, one of which is located in Osaka. To get to the museum, we took the train to Ikeda station (this station is not covered under the 2 day Osaka Amazing Pass) and walked for about 5 mins. The Cup Noodle Museum is relatively empty at the time of our visit. Entrance to the museum is free. Once inside the museum, there are exhibits on the origins of cup noodles and cup noodles were prepared and sold in the early days. There is even a mock-up shed where the world’s first instant noodles were created and how it was created. Down the hall, there is a tunnel display of the instant noodles that was sold in Japan throughout the decades.

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Nissin Cup Noodle Museum in Ikeda

The highlight of this place is that we get to make our own cup noodles. My friend and I each bought an empty cup (at ¥300 each) and was escorted to a table where we start doodling on the cups. After we were done drawing our cup, we approached the end of the room where we customised our cup noodles with ingredients and flavouring. Our customised cup noodles were sealed right before our eyes before they were given to us as a souvenir for us to bring back. We headed to the 2nd floor of the museum where there is a class for visitors to make the ramen noodles from kneading the dough to the finished product of the noodles. My friend and I did not participate in this activity. It took us about 1 hour to finish visiting the Cup Noodle Museum.

Shopping in Osaka Station

We headed for shopping at Osaka Station. There are a number of shopping malls in the vicinity of Osaka JR Station. We headed for the HEP5 Shopping Mall, which is across the road from Osaka Station. The HEP5 Shopping Mall has 6 levels and sells mainly clothing and shoes. We saw the ferries wheel on top of this building and will be back later in the evening after the shops are closed. After shopping around in HEP5, we headed to the departmental stores right on top of Osaka station. The Daimaru store occupies 15 storeys while the Lucca occupies 10 storeys. There is another Hankyu Departmental Store across Osaka Station. We did not go into this store as the product offerings are the same in all these departmental stores.

HEP5 Ferries Wheel

One good thing about getting the Osaka Amazing Pass is that other than allowing us to take the subway for free, we can also visit 36 spots for free. Some of these include riverboat ride, entering the Osaka Castle and taking a ride on HEP5 Ferries Wheel. My friend and I returned to HEP5 at about 8pm, after most of the shopping malls have closed to ride on the Ferries Wheel. The HEP5 Ferries Wheel is located on the 7th floor of the building. The ride on the ferries wheel takes about 15 mins, with the highest point being 106m from the ground. The views on the ferries wheel aren’t that great as the glass looks blurry and we did not have a good view of Osaka city. I would not have ridden on it if it is not covered under the Osaka Amazing Pass. After taking the ferries wheel, we headed back to our accommodation to rest.

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HEP5 Ferries wheel is located on top of a shopping mall

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On the streets of Osaka at night

Kansai (Kyoto/Osaka) Day 6 (23 May 18) – The Temples of Kyoto: Wandering Through the Torii Gates of Fushimi Inari-Taishi, to the Zen Gardens of Ginkakuji, to the Majestic Water Temple of Kiyomizu-Dera

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Torii gates of Fushimi Inari-Taishi

Fumishi Inari-Taishi (伏見稲荷大社)

Visitors to Kyoto will bound to make a visit to Fushimi Inari-Taishi, a shrine that is dedicated to The God of Rice, Inari. The shrine was built in 711, just celebrated its 1300th anniversary recently. Our journey to Kansai today brought us to Eastern Kyoto, our first stop is The Temple of Thousand Torii Gates – Fumishi Inari-Taishi. We were hoping to get to the shrine early to avoid bumping into huge crowds, after all, Fushimi Inari-Taishi is one of the visited and photographed spots in Kyoto. I figured it would be boring (not mentioning mainstream) if we just visited the main shrine and walking through the very busy Senbon Torii, other than these sites, we planned to hike up to the top shrine in Mt Inari, hoping to get a good view of the surroundings from the top. The 4km hike up Mt Inari would take about 2 hours. Despite the drizzle, Fushimi Inari-Taishi is still packed with crowds. At Romon (樓門), the main gate of Fushimi Inari-Taishi, we spotted a single storey structure that is decked in bright red pillars and beams with white coloured walls, as the centre part built slightly higher than the side structures.  A little further from Romon sits Honden (本殿), the main shrine of Fushimi Inari-Taishi. Visitors are only allowed to pay their respects to the 5 deities enshrined here at the entrance of the shrine, where 5 bells are installed for prayers to ring prior to their prayers.

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We were greeted with hordes of visitors at Romon, the main entrance to Fushimi Inari-Taishi

After paying our respects at Honden, we started our hike up Mt Inari through the first stretch Torii Gates, know as Senbon Torii (千本鳥居). Senbon Torii has the highest concentration of torii gates, estimated to be thousands. The torii gates are lined up almost back to back with very little gaps. Walking through these bright red torii gates gives me an almost magical feeling. I have been seeing pictures of Senbon Torii, and now that I am here, it just feels so surreal. Owing to its fame, the number of visitors here is also the highest. It is very difficult to take pictures of the torii gates at Senbon Torii without capturing someone in the shot. My friend and I ended up walking through the torii gates, taking very few pictures. At one point under these torii gates, we came to a split path. The right side leads upwards towards the inner shrine, whereas the left path is for visitors to descend from the inner shrine. Moments later we arrived at the inner shrine of Okusha (奥社奉拝所). There are 3 buildings at Okusha, 2 for temple administrations and 1 is where the deity is enshrined. We also spotted a queue where people seem to be touching some stone. As the queue was rather long, plus we have to cater time to hike up Mt Inari, we did not join the queue.

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The torii gates at Senbon Torii Gates

Fushimi Inari-Taishi consists of many smaller shrines spreading on Mt Inari, which we spotted on the hike up to Mt Inari. The torii gates pass Okusha are much larger than those we have seen so far. This part of Fushimi Inari-Taishi is where the crowd started to thin out. From here onwards, we were able to take more pictures with no people in it. Along the way, we saw Kumatakasha (熊鷹社) shrine with a large lake behind it. Along the way, we also came to a rest area. There is a small tea house looking shop that sells food and drinks. I highly recommend people making a trip to Fushimi Inari-Taishi to make a hike up here. It is here we saw Kyoto city from a higher ground. We continued our way up the peak, along the way seeing more smaller shrines. Some shrines are bigger while others seem to be a cluster of smaller shrines. At some points of the path, it felt that the shrines have merged with nature. The forest air is crisp and fresh, possibly due to the rain. We finally reached the top of Mt Inari where the shrine Inchinomine (一ノ峰) is located. We were a tad disappointed that there are no viewpoints at the peak of Mt Inari. From Inchinomine, the path turns downhill. The shrines here are more spread out. We also spotted some torii gates that seem to be newly installed. We see more nature on our way down. Once at the base of Mt Inari, we headed to Kyoto JR Station for our next destination.

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View of Southeastern Kyoto from Mt Inari

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The Shrine on the top of Mt Inari

Ginkakuji (銀閣寺)

We originally planned to visit the Kyoto Imperial Palace after we are done with Fushimi Inari-Taishi. However, due to the downpour, we spent additional time at Fushimi Inari Taishi, which caused us to miss the English guided tour timing. We decided to change our destination and wanted to visit Kiyomizu-Dera. While queuing for the bus, we realised bus number 100 goes to both Kiyomizu-Dera and Ginkakuji. We decided to make a trip to Ginkakuji. Ginkakuji is a short walk from the bus stop we alighted. Along the way, we walked past the famed Philosopher’s walk. I told my friend we would take a look at Philosopher’s walk if we have the time after visiting Ginkakuji.

Ginkakuji is built in 1482 and served as the retirement villa for the owner, mirroring the Kinkakuji which was built by the owner’s grandfather. Ginkakuji was converted to a temple after the owner’s death in 1490. The named Ginkaku was given when the owner wanted to cover the pavilion with silver foil, however, this did not materialise till the day the owner passed on. Entering Ginkakuji, there is a short walk from the main gate before we reach the inner gate. Passing the inner gate, the highlight of Ginkakuji, Kannon-den (観音殿)or Ginkaku (銀閣) was on the right of the entrance. Ginkaku is a 2 storey wooden structure sitting by a small pond. The silver pavilion is much simpler and smaller than Kinkakuji, perhaps due to the owner does not want to dwarf the works of his grandfather. Ginkaku still retains its original look (and colour) the day it was built. Similar to Kinkakuji, a silver phoenix taking flight stands on the roof of Ginkaku. Having visited Kinkakuji the day before, looking at Ginkakuji feels like a knockoff from its golden version. Afterall it is modelled after its famous golden version.

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Ginkaku, the Silver Pavilion

Next to Ginkakuji is where Kogetsudai (向月台) is located. The Kogetsudai is a large open space with a volcano structure made of white sand, which represents waves and Mt Fuji. Next to Kogetsudai sits the Hondo (本堂) and Togudo(東求堂) side by side. Built of wood, the Hondo is out of bounds and is one of the largest buildings in Ginkakuji. Similarly, the Togudo is also made of wood, this is the oldest Shoin style building that has survived earthquakes and fires throughout the centuries.

Perhaps the most iconic feature of Ginkakuji is its zen gardens. Almost half the area is dedicated to the zen gardens. There are 4 ponds in Ginkakuji in total, of which 3 are visible to visitors. Passing the Toguko, a path that leads to the moss gardens in Ginkakuji, which leads to a viewpoint up a small hill. Walking around the gardens feels therapeutic and peaceful. From the viewpoint up in the hills, we can see the whole of Ginkakuji and the town in Northeastern Kyoto. Ginkakuji is rather small, it took us 30 mins to finish walking around the grounds of Ginkakuji. Unless one is interested in zen gardens or happens to have spare time (like us), Ginkakuji is hardly worth the time to travel to this part of Kyoto. We originally wanted to take a walk down Philosopher’s Path, however, after walking past, it felt like walking behind someone’s backyard. We gave up the idea of walking down Philosopher’s Path and headed for our next destination in Kyoto.

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View of Ginkakuji and northeastern Kyoto from the hill in Ginkakuji

Kiyomizu-Dera (清水寺)

We took the same bus that brought us to Ginkakuji to Kiyomizu-Dera, which is one of the more iconic temples in Kyoto. It took us 7 mins to walk from the bus stop to Kiyomizu-Dera, passing by some wooden buildings along the way. Walking on this street feels as if we are being taken back in time. The street is now filled with shops selling souvenirs. Kiyomizu-Dera is at the end of this street, the first indication of arriving at the temple is the bright red 2 stories main gate. The 14m tall Nio-mon (仁王門) is the main gate that welcomes visitors daily. Sitting on top of a flight of stairs, Nio-mon looks commanding. Walking past Nio-mon, just right behind it, is where the Sai-mon (西門) is located. We were not particularly impressed with the Sai-mon, but are more captivated by the 3 stories red pagoda behind it. From Sai-mon, we spotted another pagoda across on the other side of Kiyomizu-Dera.

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Nio-mon, the main gate to  Kiyomizu-Dera

As it was approaching closing time (we only had 45 mins at the time we arrived at Kiyomizu-Dera). My friend and I wasted no time and headed into the main hall – Hondo (本堂). The Stage in Hondo is the most iconic feature in Kiyomizu-Dera, thanks to the location it is built on. The Stage is essentially a veranda, protruding out of the Hondo, built on the steep cliff, supported by 18 pillars that measure 13m tall. However we were a tad disappointed to learn that Kiyomizu-Dera is undergoing preservations works, most the iconic Kiyomizu Stage is covered in canvas and scaffolds, except for a small section that allowed us to take a peek down from the veranda. After offering our respects to the god in Hondo, my friend and I proceeded to the other parts of Kiyomizu-Dera.

From Hondo, there is a path that splits into lower and upper path in Kiyomizu-Dera. We took the upper path as this is where we can get a good view of Hondo. There are a couple of buildings on this side of Kiyomizu-Dera, the Okuno-in Hall (奧の院) resembles Hondo, but at a smaller scale. Similar to Hondo, there is a veranda at Okuno-in Hall where we got great shots of Hondo (if not for the hideous canvas). We continued on the path leading to the pagoda located opposite Hondo. From Hondo, this pagoda seems far, but the distance between the 2 structures is not as far as it seems. Arriving at this pagoda, it looks the same as the first pagoda next to Nio-mon. As Kiyomizu-Dera is closing soon (announcements were being made on its closing time), we headed for the waterfalls in the temple grounds.

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The veranda at Okuno-in Hall is a great picture spot of Hondo

Coming from the pagoda, we took the lower path that leads to the waterfall. Otowa no taki (音羽の瀧) is one the iconic features in Kiyomizu-Dera. It is the pure waters from the mountains here that gives the temple its name. Otowa no taki is a pavilion that has 3 streams of water flowing down from the mountains. It is believed that each of these streams grants different wishes, but drinking from all 3 streams will bring bad luck. I tried drinking from one of the streams, the water tasted like tap water and is very refreshing. One of the good thing about coming to Kiyomizu-Dera when it is about to close is the absence of large crowds, my friend and I did not have to queue for the spring water nor are there crowds that obscure us from taking pictures. If one were to come here when it is about to close (the temple closes at 6pm), do come at least 1½ hours before it closes.

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Taking the last wefie before we leave Kiyomizu-Dera

We hurried out Kiyomizu-Dera as it was about to close.  As it was dinner time, my friend and I had dinner in one of the small bento eateries (they were delicious and not pricey at all). We spent the rest of the night shopping in Kyoto before heading back to Osaka.

 

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On a double-decker train heading back to Osaka

 

Kansai (Kyoto/Osaka) Day 5 (22 May 18) – The Nature and the Ancients of Kyoto: From Arashiyama to Kinkakuji

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Kinkakuji in Kyoto

For the next 2 days, our travels in Kansai region will be spent visiting the sites in Kyoto. There are a lot of historic places to visit in Kyoto and it would not possible to see everything given the time we will be spending in Kyoto. Numerous guides online provide guides for visitors to Kyoto. I was initially planned on following one of these guides. After some planning, I was telling myself why settle for some guides with places that I am not interested in? A few iterations later, I finally settled on the places I wanted to visit in Kyoto, the beauty of a free and easy trip. We spent our 1st day visiting the sights northwest Kyoto and 2nd day in the southeast Kyoto.

Arashiyama (嵐山)

We started our Kyoto travels with Arashiyama, which is famed for its scenic views of the river and the Bamboo Grove. There are 3 train stations that serve Arashiyama area namely Hankyu-Arashiyama Station (阪急嵐山駅), Randen-Arashiyama Station (嵐電嵐山駅), and JR Saga-Arashiyama (嵯峨嵐山駅) located at the south, central and north of Arashiyama, respective. We opted to take the train to the southeast of Arashiyama so that our journey will start from the south and end up in the north of Arashiyama where we will catch the Sangano Scenic Railway.

Togetsukyo Bridge (渡月橋)

Leaving Hankyu-Arashiyama Station, we headed towards the Katsura River (桂川), where the famed Togetsukyo Bridge is located. We reached Katsura River within minutes and there lies the 155m Togetsukyo Bridge in a distance. The view from the riverside was beautiful. With Togetsukyo Bridge in the foreground and the spring green trees on the hills behind the bridge, no wonder visitors flog here for a picture on the bridge. We walked towards the bridge and was treated to more scenic views of a small raised dam, which looked like a waterfall on the river bed. There are sightseeing boats that dock in the nearby pier. Crossing Togetsukyo Bridge, we came to the built-up area of Arashiyama. The view of the bridge from this side of the river presents a different view, however, I prefer the view from the side near the Hankyu-Arashiyama Station, mainly due to a lesser crowd there.

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Panoramic Shot of Katsura River from Togetsu Bridge

Arashiyama Rickshaw Ride (京都人力車)

The buildings in this part of Kyoto looks rustic and as though they are from a page out of a history book. As we were waiting to cross the road, we saw rickshaws with visitors on them. Though not in part of our plan, nonetheless we tried a 30mins ride on the rickshaw. Despite being touristy, riding the rickshaw through Arashiyama is a good way of orienting ourselves around Arashiyama. It is also a good way of seeing the sights around this town for those who have little time in this area. Our rickshaw driver introduced us to the various sights along the way. Everywhere in Arashiyama town is crowded with visitors, our rickshaw driver is very skilful in manoeuvring the rickshaw through the hordes of visitors, especially when he was turning into the Bamboo Grove. The main highlight of the ride is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. As the rickshaw driver pulled us through the Bamboo Grove, he suddenly turned into a small road that is free from visitors. The rickshaw driver explained this is a road that is reserved for rickshaws. On this road, we can feel the peacefulness in the Bamboo Grove. The Bamboo Grove is split into 2 parts, the area before the train track is crowded with visitors. as compared to the area after the train track. There is a small Shinto shrine near the train track. Somehow this is where all the visitors turned back and headed back to the town. We made mental notes of where to go to after we are done with the rickshaw ride. The driver pulled us pass the train tracks to the part where there are lesser people. It is here that the rickshaw driver made a brief stop and took pictures of us on the rickshaw. We made a u-turn and head back to Katsura River where we boarded the rickshaw. As we thought that our ride will be ending soon, the rickshaw driver made a turn into a side road. On this road, we felt the peacefulness of Arashiyama once again. There are some rustic buildings on this road. Soon we were on the side of the road that we boarded the rickshaw. This marks the end of our rickshaw ride. After a few pictures with the driver, we headed back to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.

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Map and rate of the Rickshaw that we rode in Arashiyama

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My friend with the rickshaw driver

Tenryuji (天龍寺)

As we were walking towards the Bamboo Grove, we came to Tenryuji, one of the temples on the main road in Arashiyama that we have passed by on the rickshaw just now. My friend and I headed into the compound of this temple. There are quite a number of visitors to Tenryuji. The attraction of this temple is its zen gardens. After walking for another 5 mins, we came to the Kuri (庫裏).  Entering the compounds of the temple is free, however, there are different charges on the admission to various buildings and gardens. Kuri is a relatively small white building triangular roof and is built in 1899. The Kuri is considered one of the 7 major buildings according to the principles of Zen. We felt this place is a little touristy and did not enter Kuri. As we were rushing for time, we exited Tenryuji and headed for the Bamboo Grove.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (竹林の小径)

Minutes later, we arrived at the entrance to the famed Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Having been here moments earlier, we know exactly which spot to go to where there are lesser people. In the area before the train tracks, we couldn’t really appreciate the bamboo grove. Most of the time we were squeezing with other visitors and this area is very bad for photos. As we were making our way past the train tracks, we made a brief stop at the Shinto Shrine in the midst of the Bamboo Grove. Nonomiya Shrine (野宮神社) is a small shrine that the locals come to pray for marriage. There are several small structures in Nonomiya Shrine, consisting of the main prayer shelter and several boards for visitors to hang this wishes. As the shrine is rather small, we exited the shrine after taking some pictures.