Jetlag is a bitch 🙂 he didn’t let me sleep, so I was up at 5am looking for something to do… At 9 they were opening a “bike shop” (aka bike rental), so plonk 4 hours? But no way.
I was walking around the darkness of empty Kyoto… Here, around the corner still, … Just around the river… a big temple in the garden. I must see that. And one of the most beautiful.
But one step at a time.)
Bike and Kyoto
I was inspired to rent a bike by Frant Szabó – although I could have thought of it myself (although I didn’t), because in Huangzhou on West Lake we had bikes too and it was great. How about a bike in Kyoto? If you didn’t know before, you ride on the left 🙂 Both on the roads and on the sidewalks.
Does that sound like fun?
If you rented a bike on your first day in Japan, that would probably be the last thing you’d do :)) Picking on wacky Japanese people (otherwise orderly, but not always on the sidewalk respecting their own rules of direction), avoiding unexpected poles and obstacles in the bike lane (someone must have failed here, no…), and still telling yourself you have to ride on the left?
And now where left? You’re not alone on the sidewalk (surprisingly to me, you ride on the sidewalk too) and sometimes there are 3 lanes… I haven’t even figured out what, all day – probably for better maneuvering in front of the poles 🙂
If you (like me) said when you took out your travel insurance that you wouldn’t do any adrenaline sports, you unknowingly lied. The bike here is an incredible ride :)) But if you survive the first few hours, you are already a seasoned rider who is not afraid of a 3 stream road with very fast cars 😉
TIP: Want to make the beginning easier? “Shadow” someone local = who is local? One who drives, drives and drives and doesn’t worry about left, right.
Other SUPER INFO: I forgot about the pedestrian traffic lights, which affect about 80% of the sidewalk and you. Also yummy for all that 🙂
Definitely recommend the bike for Kyoto though 🙂 you get a lot of things like the expressway (sometimes I think we had to break the speed limit on the road – er, the one that applies to cars), but you get to make more stops for sights and interesting places. When you combine that with walking, you have the ideal mix of quality of experience and speed of movement.
My plan for today was this:
- Chion-in Temple Chion-in-mae Bus Stop / Higashiyama Station / Tozai Subway 東山区,
- Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) 東山慈照寺,
- Kinkaku-ji Temple (the Golden Pavilion) 北区金閣寺町1,
- Arashiyama Bamboo Groove, Ukyo-ku 右京区嵐山,
- Roanji Temple,
- Kitano Tenmangui 北野天満宮,
And more tea stops:
- Tea Ceremony Camellia 〒605-0826 Higashiyama-ku,
- OHARUCHAN Tea 好日居 – (左京区 岡崎円勝寺町 ９1),
- Ippodo Tea 一保堂茶舗 京都本店,
- Ryuoen Tea – 二条通御幸町西入丁子屋町690.
= very naive plan 😀
I had the tea ceremony at 4am and even though I started at 5am thanks to jetlag, I still made it to 4 temples/stops out of 7 and 1 tea destination. But on the other hand, I naturally discovered a lot of interesting places along the way (such as the fantastic Kiyomizu-dera temple and garden and the whole old Higashiyama district to make up for it).
- Kinkaku-ji Temple – the golden pavilion in north Kyoto = tons of people, school tours, the golden “pavilion” itself is a replica because it was previously set on fire by a crazy monk who had an incredible bond with the original one and kind of didn’t make it, AT LEAST the temple had a beautiful garden, you just had to run away from people a bit.
- Tenryuji Temple – unplanned, but beautiful in its own right (you cupit in it without shoes, just socks), with a zen garden of stones and most importantly a large pond with koi carp and another tangle of smaller gardens + you can go directly from it to the bamboo grove.
- Arashiyama Bamboo Grove – always a beautiful and mysterious bamboo grove in the photos. In real life again hundreds of hikers with selfie-sticks and the whole grove is about 400 meters long. But the experience was definitely like from another universe. Being here at night (the grove in the forest is hard to close), it can be a fantasy.
- Roanji Temple – one of the most important Zen temples in Kyoto. I was quite disappointed by the actual “stone garden” for which this temple is so famous. It is 8 large stones that the “Zen” monks place from time to time in a small gravel area. Zen is close to my heart, but I didn’t have much energy or mental capacity for this. But then again, they have beautiful and large gardens all around, so at least I had something to set my mood right.
- Kijomizu-dera – also unplanned, but all the more beautiful (probably the most photogenic of them all for me). And with such a gorgeous hillside garden, you’d never want to leave here. I can’t wait to see it in full bloom in spring, for example.
Mima: you can smell that autumn on nature here, incredibly. Not all green, but beautifully (really beautifully) colored – yellow, green, brown, red… You definitely want to see autumn in Japan.
What can you eat here?
I didn’t have much courage or time for traditional restaurants with plastic models of food, but I wasn’t hungry. For breakfast, onigiri triangles and egg omelette, then great matcha ice cream, Kyoto ramen, a bento box with salmon and tuna onigiri, “fried” and vegetables, and a bunch of street-food stuff I can’t identify yet 🙂
Tea / Tea Ceremony
I’m not too ashamed that the first 2 teas in Japan were made of plastic. Yes from the plastic 0,5 bottle that are sold in every vending machine (about every 200 meters in any direction you can find at least one).
The first bancha slightly overdone but drinkable, but the second tea “Rich Tea” (I haven’t deciphered from the clickers what yet, but it tasted sencha) was unexpectedly good for me. It would taste very similar to precisely prepared and chilled homemade. They also have sweetened, flavoured ones (ala Nestea-type nonsense), but I purposely choose the pure ones.
The Japanese may be considered a tea superpower, but they don’t enjoy tea like China or the Czech Republic. They don’t have time for it. They work in huge companies from dawn to dusk and don’t catch up on anything. That’s why they usually drink these teas – some of them are heated. I’m quite surprised that despite this, there is a tea culture around the “chado” tea ceremony, which can last up to 8 hours.
Finally, following the example of our earlier Chinese expedition, I couldn’t resist buying a new teapot here too. A small white shiboridashi 🙂 From now on, if I want a new teapot, I’ll have to go to the place of origin to get it (at least I won’t have so many of them, right?).
The tea ceremony didn’t last a proper 8 hours (thank goodness – thankfully it’s not done that often anyway, only on special occasions and maybe only 1-2 per year), but only an hour. Originally I was supposed to be alone, but at the last minute a young Canadian XYZ and her Japanese friend XXX arrived (unfortunately I always forget their names within 5 seconds of hearing them). I didn’t learn much new from the matcha talk (however, I have my own chawan and chasaku at home and have done matcha more than once), but I haven’t experienced the shortened version of the ceremony.
I was intrigued (besides the tea equipment) by the 3 important things that a tea master must always bring – a fan, paper for the tea candies, and a knife for cutting them. The fan is only symbolic here, it doesn’t even open, the master just puts it in front of him (in our case, the mistress) and bows to it. And in doing so, he creates a symbolic distance/space of his own from the guests.
According to one of the rules, the first matcha is prepared by the owner of the house where the event is being held – unbeknownst to me, I unknowingly took that seat (I was sitting to her left, though basically across from her – HINT to others), so I got my first batch prepared by her. Incredibly thickly whipped and she only used 2 scoops of tea (for the thick version, they use 4 or less water).
After a solid drive from the last temple (in the very north of the city) to my hotel (central Kyoto – Azumaya Ryokan near Nishi Temple), to the onsen and then at the same light speed to the old city (to catch the amazing spectacle at all), it stung terribly. refreshing, dense, quite kicking and almost creamy. I need to practice this, the necessary wrist grip was never quite right and I didn’t find the matcha ideal.
Training purely to prepare for a tea ceremony takes 6-12 months, but the whole ceremony has philosophical elements to it, calligraphy, flower arranging, tending the garden in front of the tea house, taking care of guests, … and that takes 10-20 years to learn = probably a lifetime.
I have 25 kilometers in my legs on foot (I gave it a bit of a workout this morning and evening) and about 15 on my bike = no pain in my legs at all and I have no plans for anything similar tomorrow 🙂
Next day will be today’s rest days and will be Fushimi Inari. A day (maybe days) after that Nara/Uji and depending on how I like it there I’ll possibly cut Tokyo by 1 day to 1 day 🙂 I’m not really into skyscrapers and crazy amount of people, so I’m not even sorry.
I’ll add more pics soon, it’s already midnight here and I can’t even see it anymore 🙂