We departed Seoul on a Kansai Air flight at 10am and arrived in Osaka two hours later. At the airport gate, we immediately noticed the Japanese people were more fashion-forward and aesthetically interesting. While our plan was to train from Osaka to Kyoto, we learned at the train station that a typhoon made that impossible. So we embarked on a long, circuitous route via local subway lines. Purchasing tickets proved to be a huge obstacle, as we couldn't read any of the symbols on the ticket machines. And when we asked for help, none of the subway employees spoke english. Through perseverance, we managed to find our way to Kyoto. Upon entering Kyoto, the first thing we noticed was the impressive, yet controversial, steel beam train station. Kyoto tower is the tallest structure in the city and its observation deck is filled with giggling visitors because the binoculars allow you to peer into nearby hotels.
Ryokan called Hokkaikan Hottanabo
Instead of a hotel, we chose to stay at a traditional Japanese Ryokan called Hokkaikan Hottanabo. Our room featured tattami mats, traditional screen doors, and roll-out duvet beds on the floor. The staff encouraged us to take a dip in the gender-segregated on-site onsen baths while they prepared our dinner - the most delicious and intricate meal of our lives. We reveled in course after course of specially prepared Japanese delicacies prepared with artistic presentation. Each vegetatble was carved to resemble a flower. Thinly sliced Kobe beef, the main course, was mouth-watering.
Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine
We took a local train out to the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine and hiked through more than 10,000 orange Torii gates, dating back to 711 A.D., up to the top of the mountain. Because we arrived so early, we were the only ones there, aside from a few local cats who appeared to be imbued with powerful spirits as they lounged on the shrines.
We returned to the Ryokan for breakfast which was almost as spectacular as our dinner. After exploring the local temple across the street from our Ryokan, we ventured out by local bus to Chion-in Temple. From there we hoofed it to Ginkaku-Ji Temple, with its manicured stone zen gardens. For lunch, we chose Hoake Owariya, a local establishment that has been serving noodles since 1465. After that, we selected traditional kimonos for a non-touristy, custom kimono shop.
Chion-in Temple - Ginkaku-Ji Temple
On the way to the Golden Pavillion in the north of the city, we observed the effects of the typhoon, as the banks of the river continued to flood. After looping the Golden Pavillion several times, we used what energy we had left to explore the Arashiyama bamboo gardens. That night we joined a walking tour of the Gion district and managed to spot a few beautiful geishas on their way to host dinner parties.