Day One in Kyoto – November 2016
Our day one started on the 1.30 am red eye flight to Kansai International Airport via Singapore Airlines. After six hours of watching movies, a few short naps here and there and breakfast, we touched down at 8.35 am (Japan is an hour ahead of Singapore). After immigration clearance and luggage collection, I bought a 7-Day local SIM card with data plan of 1.5GB that cost 3,500 Yen while my friend got us the JR-West Rail Pass at 2,300 Yen each to Kyoto Station. It takes approximately 75 minutes from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto Station by rail.
Kyoto Station – Kyoto Ramen Street
As our train was delayed, it was almost lunch time when we arrived at Kyoto Station. I was famished. We took the lift at JR Kyoto Isetan to the Kyoto Ramen Street (Kyoto Ramen Koji) on level 10 for some warm and quick comfort food. Kyoto Ramen Koji is a corridor of nine ramen noodle shops, opened from 11:00 to 22:00.
Stepping out of the lift, we walked towards Bannai Shokudo that serves Kitakata’s ramen. Kitakata is one of Japan’s top three ramen towns, a long established national name originating from the city of Kitakata in Fukushima. Before stepping into the shop, we ordered our ramen through a vending machine in front of the shop, paid and handed our ticket to the server upon entering the shop. The vending machine is easy to use as it comes with pictures and English menu.
After having a bowl of hot thick curly noodles served in clear pork bone soup, shoyu (soy sauce) flavour, topped with a generous serving of cha-siu (pork belly), and a plate of gyoza (japanese pan fried dumplings) we felt satisfied. Nothing beats a bowl of hot soupy ramen after an overnight flight.
We left the Kyoto Station and checked Google Map to locate Hotel Sasarindou, hotel that I booked. It is around 3.5 kilometres away which is around 40 minutes walk. We decided to walk to the hotel instead of taking taxi as the weather was great. Sounds crazy? Perhaps, especially with luggage. We did it and enjoyed our walk.
Afternoon at Kamogawa (鴨川)
We walked along the Kamogawa (kamo translates as duck and gawa translates as river), the water is clear and water level was low, we could see the rocks at the bottom of the river. We stopped to take some pictures, enjoyed the weather and the view. There were people relaxing by the river bank, teens in school uniform, couple in traditional Japanese costume. There were ducks paddling on the river and pigeons at the river bank. It was a relaxing sight except for four crows harassing a medium size eagle at the roof top who eventually flew away.
After hanging around at the river bank for about half an hour, we continued our walk to the hotel. Hotel Sasarindou is located at Gion, Higashiyama District, an excellent location, walking distance to the tourist spots like Kiyomizu Temple, Nanzenji Temple and Gion’s Hanamikoji Dori. Gion-shijo (祇園四条駅) Keihan Railway Station is less than five minutes walk away.
Upon checking in to the 4-storey hotel, we were a little disappointed as the room is old, the layout is not great and the room charge per night was on the high side for an old 3-star hotel. Having said that, the hotel is fully booked. I guess it all has to do with location, location and location. The consolation is that the hotel is clean, comes with free WiFi and breakfast. We took a short nap, freshened up and explored the area.
Sunset at Kamagowa
First thing first, we looked for a cafe as I need a cup of coffee to feel awake. We had coffee at Doutor, a local coffee joint, near the Shijio-ohashi Bridge. After coffee, we thought we could catch the sunset at the Kamagowa but the sun has set and it was barely 5 pm.
Gion is Kyoto’s most famous geisha district, where we stayed for the rest of our trip. The area is filled with shops, restaurants, teahouses where geiko and maiko entertain. The area has a high concentration of machiya (traditional wooden townhouses) that were built with narrow facades but extend up to twenty metres in from the street as property taxes then were based on street frontage.
We took a walk to Hanamikoji Dori (花見小路) to check out the machiya and hoping to see one or two maiko or geiko (geisha). Unfortunately, we only saw tourists like ourselves checking out the place.
After walking around for a while, we went for dinner and headed back to the hotel to plan for the next day. We mapped out the places to visit around Higashiyama-ku and planned our walking route.
This is part of My Kansai Region Travel Series , stay tune for my next post on my Day 2 experience.
Getting to Kyoto – Catch a flight to Kansai International Airport, take JR-West Rail to Kyoto Station which takes approximately 75 minutes and cost 2,300 Yen.
Getting to Gion – Take the Keihan Rail to Gion-shijo (祇園四条駅) Keihan Railway Station. If you are coming from Kyoto Station, catch the JR Nara line towards Nara and get off at Tofukuji Station, transfer to Keihan Rail towards Demachiyanagi and get off at Gion-Shijo Station.
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