Thursday 26th October 2017
Today we were moving on from Tokyo to Kyoto so had to be up and out before 11:00 am check-out time.
The weather in Tokyo was beautifully sunny and we had a nice walk through the busy Asakusa area to the subway. There was so much to see that it felt a shame to leave.
To get to Kyoto we needed to take the Shinkansen, also known as the bullet train, and it would take 2h30m to cover the 500km journey. Before flying to Japan we had bought a JR Railpass, a ticket that is available to foreigners to let them easily travel on the Shinkansen without worrying about tickets for a set length of time. You can buy 7, 14 and 21 day tickets and we have the 21 day passes - this should get us around Japan for 'free' according to our planned itinerary except for the final train to Narita Airport at the end of our stay.
We caught the subway to Tokyo Station and found out where we had to go to exchange our JR Railpass vouchers for a valid pass. It involved filling out a small form with details such as name, nationality, passport number and contact information. We were also told very carefully that if we lose the pass then we can't get a replacement.
After receiving our valid passes it was just a matter of showing them at the gate and getting them stamped. We had about 50 minutes before our train was due to leave so we headed for the area on the station map that indicated food was available.
There were several cafe-like establishments and then we found a large food hall containing lots of counters selling snacks and ekiben. Ekiben are 'station bento boxes', which is a type of packed lunch that can be bought at train stations. We bought some skewered chicken balls, breaded pork sandwiches and a breaded pork and omelette ekiben. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the bento was hot. Lunch in hand we went and found our platform and the correct place to stand for our carriage.
One of the nice things about the train stations in Japan is that the platforms have indications on where the doors will be and some even tell you which carriage it will be. This is a vast improvement on the trains at home where it is anyones guess which end standard class is, whether the carriage letters are arranged according to the alphabet or where on the platform it might stop.
The seats on the train had lots of legroom, they also reclined and it didn't matter to the person behind because there was so much space to do so. The train ride was uneventful, we got to see lots of countryside and other stations and the journey seemed to be over quite quickly. Once at Kyoto station we took another train to Fushimi Inari and walked to our accommodation.
Our hotel this time is actually an apartment so we have a small kitchen and a washing machine which should come in handy when we run out of clean clothes again. It has the rather sweet name of Hotel Gentle Fox and is location quite close to the Fushimi Inari Shrine - one of the main attractions in Kyoto. Apparently it is a great place to see the sunrise, which is why we picked a room so close to give us a chance of getting there that early.
The man at the desk gave us a tour of our ground floor apartment and chatted to us about our stay. After settling in we headed to the subway to catch a train to Gion.
Gion is the entertainment district of Kyoto, with many restaurants, shops, tea rooms and Geishas. The main street is lined with lanterns and lots of shops.
After much deliberation and a long walk we ate at the first place we had considered, Yakitori Tarokichi.
Here we had:
- Chicken Breast Skewer with Ume
- Meatball Skewer
- Chicken Thigh & Leek Skewer
- Green Pepper Skewer (Only Ben)
- Fried Chicken
- Tofu with Green Onions
- Soya Beans
So we found out we don't like tofu, it was weird and jiggly and we weren't sure on the taste. Soya Beans were delicious though, popping them out of the pod was fun and they tasted salty and fresh. I wasn't sure on the Ume (Plum) as it was quite tart and the meatball yakitori was my favourite. I would be happy with the meatball yakitori and soya beans if we went again. They cooked all of this in front of us as we dined at the last two seats at the bar - it was a very small restaurant and they were turning people away after we arrived.
Ben tried and apparently enjoyed a glass of mandarin wine but I just stuck to cola and the tea they seem to give you in every restaurant. For our dessert, we shared the Tea Ice-cream which was very tasty.
Leaving the restaurant, we went back along one of the main streets in Gion to look around. At the end of the street we stumbled upon a place called Pablo, a dessert restaurant that was on my list to try so we nipped in just before they closed and bought a sweet cheese tart to share later. It's a thin pastry case filled with a moussey cheesecake and topped with apricot jam, very tasty and much lighter than normal cheesecake.
Wandering back through Gion, we stopped at one of the shrines to take some pictures.
On our way back to the subway we walked past a beautiful Geisha with a client waiting at a pedestrian crossing. We didn't manage to get a good photo because we didn't want to be annoying tourists.
Then we failed at subway comprehension and ended up on a limited expressway which doesn't stop at Inari and so we overshot out stop and had to go back the other way.