Fushimi Inari and the golden pavilion

We started the day easy with breakfast in the room bought from the nearby 7-11 last night. You gotta love them “conbini” (convenience stores) like 7-11, Family Mart and other similar outlets around the area.

By the the time we arrived at Fushimi Inari, it was almost 10am and there was already quite a number of people there. As we walked the path, we came to the famous orange tori gates which you may have seen aplenty online.

Snapping a photo here without distractions was a challenge because it wasn’t early enough that only few bodies were moving about. In addition, walking higher up the hill wouldn’t make a difference because the gates further weren’t as tight and short.

Therefore, the only choice you would have is to wait for your chance during this situation. And there were many doing the same.

Once we completed our visit, we headed to Gion for a chance to catch some geisha’s walking around. Although we didn’t manage to stumble on any, we had a really good lunch at a restaurant with yummy oyakodon and grilled chicken. As a Malaysian, that’s still a win. Lol.

Then we wrapped up the touristy activities for the day by paying a visit to the golden pavilion; kinkaku-ji. The amount of people here was kinda crazy especially when you could’ve seen the amount of them from individuals, tourist groups and also, school trips.

By the way, if you do visit the golden pavilion, take note the best place to take the photo isn’t where everyone is crowding around. If I may make a suggestion, it’s at the bend between the crowd and leaving the crowd.

The other interesting place at the Kinkaku-ji was a shrine where others wrote on a wooden panel with the face of a fox. It was interesting because you may draw on the white wooden panel with the face of a fox. And being in Japan, you could see the huge influence of manga style in the drawings.

At the end of today, our feet could feel the numbness from the walking and step climbing. Oh how it would feel to enter an onsen or hot bath. Because though our hotel room has a tub, there’s 3 of us and not enough space outside the tub to shower first. Sigh.

Well, we’re not quite sure where we’re headed tomorrow, but I do hope the weather forecast would be wrong and we’d have either a cloudy or sunny day. πŸ™‚

Sayonara Tajimi, Konichiwa Kyoto

We said farewell to Tajimi to ride the Shinkansen and make our way this time to Kyoto.

Using the bullet train, it only took us approximately 30 minutes to reach a stop where we transferred to another subway line and then made our way out onto the surface of Kyoto.

Similarly to when we emerge from the Tokyo station, we needed some time to get our bearings in unfamiliar territory. Thankfully, it didn’t take us long to navigate the direction we needed to head with Google Maps.

Funny thing about Japan’s check-in time I find is you can only check-in from 2pm onwards. Because we were early, we were allowed to place our baggage at the hotel while we headed out to start exploring.

Destination, Kiyomizu-dera. It’s a world famous temple with an extended patio supported by wooden stilts and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage now.

We kind of struggled a little getting there because we wanted to use the bus. But we managed somehow with some apps, Kyoto website and a little luck. Riding the bus in Japan was different because you only pay the required fare once you get off, so that’s a first for me.

Once we walked up a narrow road just enough for 1 van to pass through, we finally were in view of a large orange gate. After you pass through the gate and walk up again a few more steps, you’ll have to purchase an entrance ticket (300 yen) to gain access to the extended patio.

Not only were there a lot of locals and foreigners like us, it seems this was also a popular place for students to make their prayers.

Most students would make their way up these steps and there are some other shrines, plus places to purchase charms for wealth, victory, studies, child bearing and more.

By the time we made our way back to the hotel for check-in, it was already around 4pm. The lobby was pretty busy with guests checking in and thank goodness our reservation wasn’t affected.

When we entered the room, it was different from the other one we stayed in Tokyo. This had a premium feel, such as your 4-star hotel. Though the room may be a little smaller compared to some 4-star hotels, it’s still very comfortable.

That means, it’s time to make the best of it and tuck into bed. Oyasuminasai.

Let’s go to the mall

It was a healthy helping of “yasai” (vegetable) for this morning’s breakfast with a variety of Japanese spinach, Japanese chili and cucumbers prepared in Korean style. Then a new found dish (to me), mini bun with a slice of butter and drips of maple syrup. Mmm…

Once we had our fill and cleansing of our innards, it was time to depart out to an unexplored place known as Toki Premium Outlet Mall. Think of a colonial designed mini town space filled with brand outlets. Back in Melbourne, they’re known as factory outlets.

There were numerous brands from familiar ones like LEGO to New Balance and other ones I’ve not heard before. Then I came to learn that some products are exceptionally cheaper (up to 50%) because they were last season’s collection.

One surprising observation I noticed when walking around Brooks Brothers was the shirts were, made in Malaysia. (0.0) But if you plan to purchase anything from this place, best to know your product prices to compare before hand whether you’d be getting a good deal – maybe MYR 100-200+ off.

On a separate note, I might have found a new fascination for an item in Japan – ceramics.

Their patterns can be really pretty, like the one above. And it’s made in Japan. Sorry for my fanboy-ness, I love Japan. πŸ˜€

Oh Malaysia, how-lah. I love you too, but Japan is winning me over.

An udon brunch, woodwork masterpieces and public bath

It was a pretty cold morning when I was automatically awake at 8am today. The air was still and chilly around the house, but when you stepped into the sun’s rays shining through the window, you’d feel its warmth on your skin.

Once everyone was up and ready, we left for a place we saw advertised on the TV called; Marugame Udon. When we got to the front, there was already a queue formed going into the outlet.

What made this eatery unique was they made their own udon noodles at the place. You could either order plain udon noodles or rice to eat with your variety of tempura food, or try the newly advertised meal which was a bowl of udon noodles with 3-4 pieces of tempura meat – it was good! And a big helping.

After a heavy brunch, we drove to a mountainous area known as Magomejuku. Olden buildings of wood still stood strong here, they’ve a stream system with cool water from the mountains and some of them converted into cafes or selling souvenirs handmade from wood.

If you climbed a little more just after the small town, there’s a lookout point for you to sit and take in the mountain scenery. It’s nothing like the historical mesmerization you’d get looking at the Great Wall of China, but it was a very nice change of scene from staring at buildings or roads.

Dinner was at a sushi restaurant, our first visit to one since we landed in Japan. It was packed when we arrived and understood why when apparently it was an eat most of the sushi on the menu for only 100 Yen. (0.0)

Once we started eating, there were a few things to notice. Food is ordered using a touchscreen monitor beside the “kaiten” belt. After you were done eating, you place your plate into a designated “hole”. And here’s something different, 5 plates automatically enters you into a “gatchapon” draw. The prize is from the box just above your table. Wha?!

To wrap this day up, we headed to experience our first public bath (onsen). The centre was pretty expensive looking from the time you keep your shoes into a locker, to the time you walk past their eating and waiting area and finally, baths.

The steps of the public bath as explained by our cousin was get naked, bring your small towel, clean up at the shower spaces and then, get into the public bath. In total, available indoor baths were at 41 degrees, 36 degrees, 16 degrees and 2 jacuzzi baths. At this centre, there was also 3 outdoor baths – lying down, 36 degrees and children’s bath.

If you’re wondering whether everyone was modest or comfortable, it was a mix of the two. Though I guess more locals were comfortable walking around without the need to cover up, as compared to the ones such as myself.

Oh oh. And the one thing we had to do, as seen in anime, was to drink milk / coffee once you’re done with the public bath. However, I never expected the drink to be cold as I always thought it was warm. But now I know. :p

Until the next time, I hope to be more comfortable in the public baths later and take in more of the Japanese culture still waiting for me on this trip.

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Good ol Studio Ghibli

How do you pronounce “Ghibli” ? I’ve always called it “Gib-Li”. However, I learnt locals pronounce it as “Gee-Bree”. And that makes sense after reading the Japanese katakana form used to spell it.

Getting to the Ghibli museum wasn’t difficult. You can get there via a train and then wait for the specific bus to take you to the location. Note though the bus isn’t free.

We were part of the early few there before they open at 10AM. The one thing you should know if you’re a photographer / Instagram-mer is NO PHOTOGRAPHY is permitted indoors at all times.

The outdoors, however, is free to be photographed. And this big guy above stands on the rooftop. If you do manage to get to the museum before opening hours, you may want to head to the roof first once you enter and snap your shots before the queue forms for the big guy.

Inside the museum, if you’re an animation fan, artist, animator, designer or someone who appreciates fine work, you’ll love the exhibited items. And like Disneyland, there’s a store inside for you to bring back memorabilia of the Ghibli museum.

Once we were done, we decided to depart and climb the Tokyo Tower to try our luck to see Mount Fuji in the distance.

On the main observatory deck, it was a cloudy day and I didn’t notice a sign pointing whereabout Fuji could be located, unlike others telling you where was Shibuya and etc. But since it was cloudy anyway, we wouldn’t be able to view Fuji. So we left.

Tomorrow we’re saying goodbye to Tokyo, but not Japan just yet. Thank goodness!