9 Sept 2013

Japan Trip 2013: Day 4 (Kyoto-hen)

The main activity for Day 4 of the trip was Aoi Matsuri. I was looking out for festivals that we could attend ever since hearing about Gion Matsuri and it turns out Aoi Matsuri would be happening during our stay there!

We bought a one-day bus pass since the places we are going to were not very near train stations. Unlike Tokyo and Osaka, Kyoto's train network isn't that great. The buses are not too difficult to use though, and there are even some that cater specifically to English-speaking tourists called RAKU Bus. Alternatively, you can also rent a bicycle. Unfortunately the weather was too warm for us to cycle, so 500 yen unlimited bus rides it is!

First stop: Breakfast.

But on the way there, we pass by a bunch of stone steps on a river. These are the same ones as seen in K-ON!'s opening.

Sorry, just had to be there, being a KyoAni fan and all. In fact, our breakfast location was also a KyoAni thing...

A flower shop along the way caught my eye. Reminded me of Rokka's shop in Natsuyuki Rendezvous. Really nice place.

Our breakfast was at Demachiyanagi's Demachi Futaba. The mame daifuku was delicious! Easily one of the most memorable eats of this trip. The slightly salty rice dough was just soft enough without being mushy, and the smooth bean paste inside was unlike any bean paste I've ever had. The other items? You can try them if you are adventurous (the items on sale depends on the season), but the mame daifuku is by far their most famous and popular item.

Demachi Futaba sits at the start of Masugata Shotengai, a typical Japanese neighbourhood shopping street. Except it is also the place that Tamako Market's Usagiyama Shotengai is based on. Perhaps it was because we were early (or too late?) or everyone is preparing for Aoi Matsuri, but most of the shops were closed.

Master's shop! Would be nice to come here in the evening to chill out.

The fish shop that Tamako frequents! This shop totally took whatever publicity it had and ran with it. The owner is a very friendly guy, offering to take photos for us and showing us the communication notes. There were quite a few volumes filled already. I decided to leave a note but...

My handwriting is atrocious >.< Names and my attempt at writing Japanese censored to protect the parties involved. Debu Chibi Tamako drawn with a Yui (from K-ON!) style expression, by my friend. After snapping some photos, we headed to Kyoto Imperial Palace for Aoi Matsuri!

Lots of people and lots of horses. It's mostly a religious ceremony and not something as grand/extravagant as Gion Matsuri. And its lasts quite a while too. We stayed to see most of it at the entrance of the palace and did not go to see the ceremonies. It was about 11am that we decided to head towards lunch before the crowd starts moving out.

It was quite a long walk to Gogyo. Would have been great if the weather was cooler but Japan was much hotter this year compared to the same time in the past years. Gogyo's speciality was "burnt" ramen. It was pretty good, but honestly I would rather try out the stuff at Nishiki Market instead. Singaporeans are spoilt because a lot of the really good ramen is already available on our shores. With that said, I have already prepared another list of ramen places to visit when I go back to Japan, based on a TV championship broadcast last month. We took a break from eating by walking around Nishiki market for a bit before heading over to Kagizen Yoshifusa for tea break.

Kagizen Yoshifusa is a shop with a lot of history, but renovations and rebuilding the shop meant it has lost a lot of its traditional atmosphere already. The hard wagashi (Japanese style sweet) was my first time tasting wasanbon sugar and it was indeed really different (and really good!), not the flour-like taste that I was expecting. One of their famous items (which nearly every table was ordering) is kuzukiri, a glass noodle-like thing served cold with a brown sweet dipping sauce. None of us particularly fancied this. Quite surprised that the older generation liked something this sweet. If I were to go back there, I would probably order some nama-wagashi and matcha.

After filling up, its back on the bus to Kiyomizu-dera.

Expect Kiyomizu-dera to be packed with tourists and students no matter when you go, it's a world heritage site after all! Do note that parts of it is undergoing renovations and that will last for several years more. It's a nice place for photography, especially during autumn. If you are planning to get some charms from a temple, feel free to get them here as they are supposedly quite effective and the prices are reasonable.

By the time we were done with Kiyomizu, it was probably around 4pm. We headed back to Gion for some window shopping, had MOS Burger, travelled back to Kyoto Station, more shopping, and finally bought some food at basement of the department stores near closing time.

A rather busy day overall, but the next day is going to be relaaaaaaaaax...

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