Taking on Kyoto

We are missing our travels to Japan terribly! So decided to kick the blues by putting together our quick guide with highlights on what we did in Kyoto with a 2 year old toddler over 3 days and 2 nights

We’ve visited Kyoto almost 10 years ago when the Man was living in Japan. It also was a day trip made to visit the famed Kinaku-ji (Golden Pagoda) Temple. My memories of Kyoto were rather faint as it felt like we zipped in and out rather quickly given that the train ride from Tokyo to Kyoto took us nearly 3 hours alone. So this time round, we decided to spend a couple of days there instead of just a touch-and-go experience.

A half-day trip to Arashiyama

It takes about 50 minutes via train from Kyoto to Arashiyama. From the train station, it’s easy to navigate around Arashiyama as there are walking guides with directional signs peppered around the quaint town.

The Kimono Forest

I’ve seen lovely pictures of the Kimono Forest and bugged the Man to head there for it would make the perfect backdrop for pictures and it did despite it being a lot smaller than what I imagined.

The Kimono Forest is a collection of gorgeous cylinder-shaped pillars framing the lane way to Randen tram station on Kyoto’s Keifuku Arashiyama line, which was installed as part of the renovation in 2013. It is called a “forest” since the pillars are clustered like a forest and the kimono is displayed on each of the pillars. The Kimono Forest consists of pieces of textile displays dyed in the traditional Kyo-yuzen style. Each of the 2 meter high pillars are covered with acrylic fiber. There are about 600 of them all installed all over the station grounds. The Kyo-yuzen textile used for this exhibition was created by Kamedatomi, a long standing textile factory whose history dates back to Taisho period. These days they also produce aloha shirts with bright kimono inspired patterns.

We didn’t spend too much time exploring this smallish Kimono Forest but the Bub enjoyed running around the path and zipped in and out of the columns to play a game of peek-a-boo with us before we strapped her in our Tula to head to our next destination.

Tofu / Yuba in Arashiyama

Tofu or Yuba (tofu skin) is a specialty in Kyoto but more so in Arashiyama. We walked past several shops/ restaurants selling Yuba Donuts, Yuba Croquette , Tofu ice-cream, etc. Wanting to beat the lunch-crowds, we decided to do an early lunch and popped into a simple Tofu restaurant that looked inviting enough. This was a special Yuba set meal that we shared which made for a satisfying meal.

We later learned from our guide that other Tofu restaurants that we should have probably tried included Saga Tofu Ine and Shoraian. Well, since we didn’t get to do sufficient research ahead of time, I thought of sharing it here for others just in case you do decide to go.

And what did the Bub eat? She had her share of Udon noodles and then got distracted by the ice-cream that she saw outside our restaurant. I thought that the tofu ice-cream maybe something she may enjoy but she licked the tofu ice-cream gingerly before insisting that I finish the whole thing off.

img_9862RIckshaw Ride Around Arashiyama

I was all ready to take on the rest of Arashiyama by foot after lunch but the Man decided that perhaps we would enjoy touring Arashiyama a different way so booked us for a 60 minute rickshaw ride instead. We did this previously at Fukuoka and enjoyed it tremendously so we were in for a treat.

Initially, I thought that 60 minutes on the rickshaw would be too long but time really did go by pretty quickly. Our guide, Aimu was very friendly. and strong. With the three of us on his rickshaw, he pulled his rickshaw and stopped by at the different sights around Arashimaya to explain the historical value of the place.

img_1244Remember what I said about Aimu being friendly? I forgot to mention that he was also pretty handy when it came to taking photographs. As a photography enthusiast, he helped us snapped some instagram-worthy shots with the beautiful Bamboo forest as the background.

It’s been said that the best time to visit Arashiyama is during Fall where the red leaves form a fiery backdrop alongside the peaceful greenery. We thought that would happen which was why late September was chosen for our trip but I think Summer was extended so we didn’t really get to see much of the red leaves sprouting out in the sea of green.

img_9877Here’s a picture of our guide – Aimu. Needless to say, the rickshaw ride was indeed a highlight of our trip to Arashimaya. We missed out on the Tenryuji Temple as it did look very crowded when our rickshaw passed by and we also figured that this could be something the Bub wasn’t too keen on seeing so we skipped that altogether.

img_1249Nishiki Market

For a sample of Kyoto’s freshest produce, Nishiki Market is the place to head to. We decided to pop in there for an afternoon tea snack right after our trip to Arashiyama. The Bub had just fallen asleep in the Tula and we were starting to feel peckish. Our friends who were up in Kyoto a couple of days before us had posted some photos on these huge-ass oysters and we were lemming for them. We found them at a stall right at the front of Nishiki Market with a small queue forming, all waiting to sink their teeth into the ocean’s finest delights. And they were indeed fresh and creamy. A little too big for my liking so just 1 or 2 pieces of these would suffice. Don’t be greedy to order more, unless of course, you are really hungry or a huge oyster lover! Added tip, these are best washed down with sake! Yummy!

img_9929Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine

We almost gave this a miss until a friend reminded that we shouldn’t. As one of the opening scenes to the Memoirs of a Geisha and a World Heritage site, this was truly a sight to behold. Well, many others also had the same idea on a weekend and I gather on weekdays as well. We didn’t spend much time at Fushimi Shrine as we only had about an hour and a half to spare before rushing for our train-ride to Osaka. So it was a quick stopover for some pictures, street food (at the weekend market) and then back to the hotel to grab our luggage.

It was nearly impossible to try and snap a pic under the famed red wooden structures as many people actually do pass by the shrine. We tried waiting patiently in line but got ushered away by the staff who politely told us that we should be moving in.

Luckily for us, we managed to step aside and one of the tourists very kindly offered to help us snap this family picture for us. Turned out pretty nice!

This was not the first shrine that Bubba had visited during her stay in Japan so she was thrilled to see these bamboo scoops and asked for us to let her wash her little hands with them. We let her do so for a bit before whisking away (afraid that she will wait herself). Haha.

Dinner at Kichi Kichi

This is probably a feast for most foodie eyes and I was excited about scoring dinner reservations at Kichi Kichi because I’ve seen the fancy handwork done by Chef Motokichi Yukimura artfully done on his Omurice on IG videos by Mamas Charlene and Libby. I wanted the front-row seat to his humble restaurant to witness this for myself. Also, I thought perhaps the Bub might enjoy the ‘show’ as well so upon confirmation of our trip to Kyoto, I immediately proceeded to lock in our bookings.

img_1298The restaurant is tucked in some alley so you won’t see it while walking along the street so keep your eyes peeled for alleys and of course, the restaurant signage. The restaurant seats about 8 pax with only counter seats offered. There’s no baby chair available but the Bub managed to sit pretty comfortably on the high chair. Food-wise, they’s not a lot to offer, I think between the us three, we ordered a soup, the beef stew, 1 regular portion of Omu rice, 1 smaller portion of Omu rice and 1 chicken dish. Thankfully, the Man has a high metabolic rate. The Omu rice is actually pretty child-friendly, just remind the Chef to omit pepper while cooking the dish if your little one can’t take the heat yet.

There sums up our short trip to Kyoto. Next up, Osaka!

Our 12day Japan itinerary include:

Day 1: Travel to Tokyo – Haneda (PM Flight)
Day 2: Tokyo DisneySea > Dinner at Sushizanmai
Day 3: Shopping at Isetan Shinjuku > Dinner at Ropponggi Hills Club
Day 4: Shinkansen to Kyoto > Dinner at Kichi Kichi > Downtown Kyoto
Day 5: Day trip to Arashiyama > Nishiki Market > Downtown Kyoto (again)
Day 6: Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine > Shinkansen to Osaka > Kuromon Market > Tombori River Cruise > Lucky Owl Cafe > Kushiage Dinner
Day 7: Nara Park > Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan > Shopping along Dontobori > Dinner at Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku M
Day 8: Universal Studios Japan > Dinner at Izakaya
Day 9: Shinkansen to Gero > Sightseeing around the Town > Onsenji Temple > Kaiseki Dinner
Day 10: Gero Onsen Gasshumura > Foot bath at Yuamiya > Kaiseki Dinner
Day 11: Shinkansen to Nagoya > Downtown Nagoya > Dinner at the Strings Hotel
Day 12: Home Sweet Home

Wifi-to-go
We used pocket wifi from eConnect from Kyoto for the duration of our trip. Complimentary pocket wifi was provided by our host as part of the Air B&B service.

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