So, more kyoto…
Actually, on the 29th we went out of Kyoto and somewhere i have never been. We took a train up the eastern side of Lake Biwa to Hikone.
Hikone has a castle, and i was hoping there would be some snow- there was snow on the peaks in the distance and on some inaccessible hills, but none on the ground. By this time a lot of businesses were shut for the new years holiday and the town was pretty quiet. We walked the 800 metres from the station the the castle grounds.
Hikone castle stands in a rather large park. It has its own mascot! Unfortunately the connected museum was closed, although the castle was open.
We had to walk up the hill to get to the castle proper (a lot of the outer walls and guardhouses are still standing) and under the bridge that took you to the inner court.
The park has two UNESCO soundscapes- one is summer insects, the other is the sound of this bell
Only some parts of the buildings were open to visit, and they tended to be very empty. It was the grounds and landscape that were interesting. There were a lot of families there. There were also some boats offering rides in the moat, swans (including a black one!) and what looked like sakura blooms (usually not open in December)
Then we headed back to the station, cold and rather hungry. On the way there we spotted a small french restaurant that was open. We were the only customers, and had their daily set menu. It was delicious!
Back in Kyoto, we looked at some shops close to the station. This was in the mall that had Sofmap, which was a store we had a lot of trouble finding some years ago. They have done some remodelling since the last time we were there. I went to a craft shop in the same mall.
In the evening G and i went out and wandered through the alleys of Pontocho, one of the traditional entertainment districts. We went to a place called Steak and wine. We had some very nice (and very small) beef, some very nice beef prosciutto and some wine. Coming home, i saw this sweet potato roasting van. It brought back memories of hearing the sound when i lived in japan.
The next day we were back in Kyoto, visiting the “silver temple”. Ginkakuji isn’t actually covered in silver like the golden temple is covered in gold. At one point there may have been plans to do so, and the name provides a sort of matching temple. It is another old villa turned into a temple and has beautiful grounds
I have realised i didn’t take a picture of the big and mounds that are there- i have been enough times, i don’t take pictures of everything anymore.
After we finished at the temple we walked along the philosophers path. This is a walk alongside a canal that runs from the temple and though neighbourhoods, passing other temples. It is very pretty and popular with tourists. There are a number of shops and galleries along the way
We stopped for a drink and snack at the Yojiya cafe. Yojiya is a well known kyoto cosmetic brand that has reached out into cafes as well. This was in an old teahouse and very japanese.
I had a traditional japanese sweet and a matcha latte
This face is the logo for yojiya.
This was the garden outside the cafe. We were up on the second floor, so had a good view.
There was a cat community along the path. People feed them, so there is a large colony.
We finished the walk at a coffee shop G loves. Its just a tiny shop in a neighbourhood, but it has coffees from all over the world.
After that we headed back into town and did a bit of shopping. G and i ended up buying a new suitcase at this point…
We bought a few souvenir things, tried some fried foods at a street stall and generally looked around. I went down Nishiki market ( a street lined with food shops) to get some amazing tofu donuts. It was really crowded with people buying food for new years and tourists.
In the evening we went back to Pontocho and tried another restaurant. This one specialised in lamb chops.
On the last day in Kyoto we split up. M really wanted to see snow so he and G went to the ski-fields about 40 minutes away. I headed into the mountains to Kurama, a tiny village, to go to an onsen. G and i went hiking there on our last trip and i have been to the fire festival in October there. I had never visited the onsen though. They have a minibus at the station, so its easy to get to. There is an outside bath and there are inside baths. It is possible to just buy entry to the outside bath, or you can get inside and outside, which comes with towels and a yukata (cotton kimono) to wear when walking between inside and outside and also in the relaxation room. I have no pictures of the onsen (everyone is naked) but it was very relaxing and warm. When i was done i had a lovely tempura lunch in their restaurant and walked back along the street (there is only one) to the train.
Me in yukata
The only street
A little roadside shrine
This tengu is a symbol seen a lot in the area.
I took the train back to kyoto proper, then caught a train to osaka. G and M saw snow and caught a different train to osaka. We met up at our hotel, which was completely new one to us.
Kyoto can a bit frustrating. There are a lot of tourists and the people of kyoto are not the politest/friendliest in japan. There are some beautiful places to visit though.