Saturday, November 29, 2014

30 Hours in Kyoto, Part II

On Saturday morning, we "slept in" until 8:15 and by 9, we were pretty much ready to go.  The morning was drizzly so we headed over to Kyoto Station to lock up our bags.  We grabbed much-needed cups of coffee and then took a taxi to Nijo Castle.  Nijo is my go-to drizzly day destination since the inside tour of the Ninomaru castle takes awhile and is the site of the famous Nightingale Floors, which give melodic warning sounds to detect murderous intruders (quite the juxtaposition, n'est pas?).

We wandered the castle then went outside to the gardens.  There, you can go up to the base of the castle and look under the floorboards to see the crossed iron pieces that rub against the wood to make the noise.  SMS noted that it seemed strange to have such an intricate security idea for the inside when the outside seemed to be dubiously protected via walls and windows made of paper.  This seems like an excellent point and no one in the group had enough knowledge of Japanese fortifications to help reconcile that seeming discrepancy.  Anyway, things to ponder!

After Nijo Castle, we headed over to Nishiki Market.  Before wandering the market, we waited in line for Gogyo ramen, which I found via a Kyoto Taxi Driver's blog.  I highly recommend checking out the link because there are several seemingly awesome restaurant recommendations complete with address cards that a visitor can show the taxi driver.  While SMS and Blake held our place in line, Marissa and I walked into the market to sample pickles and buy sweets.  A winning combination!  I bought a packet of sweets for the MLC/secretary at work that made our restaurant reservations the night before.  The shop keeper asked where we were from and he was very sweet!  He explained that one of the sweets names meant "Bright light through the dew" and his English was charming.  It wasn't the best English, but it's way better than my Japanese and it was so nice of him to talk to us.

After about 10 minutes, I got a text from SMS to "Come back."  We were seated shortly thereafter and we quickly ordered lunch.  Blake, SMS and I had the miso-charred ramen which was phenomenal!  On top of being delicious, we were all pretty hungry and it was the best thing we'd eaten in awhile.  Marissa avoids wheat so she had a tasty rice bowl and bought a couple of snacks in the market, where
 we wandered after lunch.  There are so many samples there and the variety of booths, stalls and shops is so cool!  I'm really happy I got to see it again!
Taiko drumming in the arcade
Next, we walked along a covered pedestrian mall street with a stop in a video arcade where Blake and Marissa were excellent video game Taiko drummers!  Then we stopped for coffee at an Italian place along one of the canals and it was a very picturesque place for a needed pick-me-up.  Even though we had a.m. coffee, the cups are small in Japan!
Our coffee stop!

On the rock bridge across the Kamo River
SMS, rock jumping instead of rock climbing!
It was starting to get late, so we hailed a cab for the remaining 2 miles we had to get to the Silver Temple.  The grounds were absolutely beautiful. There were leaves on the ground but they didn't obscure the moss in the same way that Gio-ji had.  It was difficult to take pictures because it was getting dark but I have a lot of mental snapshots.
Silver Temple Tea House, with some filters to lighten it up
Afterwards, we quickly went behind the temple to check out the trailhead for a hike Marissa had researched.  It looked like a great gravel trail and something I would definitely be interested in if we had more time.  The trailhead had a map showing that it leads up to the "Dai" symbol that is burned during August festivals before continuing up to a 496 meter mountain top.  It's accessible by turning left just before the staircase to the Silver Temple Entrance, making the first right and then walking straight uphill to a carpark with vending machines.  At that point, the street turns into the gravel path and the trailhead sign is to the walker's right.  I don't think I'll ever get a chance to do it, but it looked pretty cool.

We cabbed it back to Kyoto-eki where SMS and I bought salads for dinner in the Itsen food basement.  The food basement has gift-type food on level B1F and prepared foods and a small grocery on B2F.  It is so crowded and so bustling, I highly recommend checking it out even if you're not trying to purchase a train meal!

After that, we got our bags out of the locker, walked Marissa and Blake to the taxi stand and said our good-byes.  Although it was sad, I was overwhelmingly happy that this trip had worked out and we were so lucky to see such great friends, even for a short time.  SMS and I bought our Shin tickets home for the 1845 train and we were back in the house by 10.  Amazing!

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