I want to start this by saying I moved hotels. I wish I’d just booked this one for three nights, I don’t know why I didn’t in the first place. But this hotel is amazing and there is a TV above the bath so you can lie in the bath and watch Japanese TV which is honestly the best way to chill out. It’s easy to zone out when you’re not super good at the language so you just make up your own story. I love baths here. I may have talked about this before but the whole set up is just very efficient. You get clean and then you relax in the hot bath, A+ relaxing times. I’ve walked about 15 miles today so the bath was well needed.
Yesterday I had a little half-day in Kyoto, I got here at around midday. After getting rid of all my excess baggage I headed to the Imperial Palace. I immediately fell in love with Kyoto, it’s such an awesome city that’s so connected to nature. Everywhere you look you can see mountains and the air here is so clean. It’s just a calm and relaxed vibe to be in and I really enjoy it. The transport was also less busy, even at out of rush hour times which is also always a plus for me. The Imperial Palace was beautiful. I love all these old buildings in Japan. Kyoto was the capital of Japan and in 1869 it was moved to Tokyo. It had some beautiful gardens and the park surrounding it was really nice to walk through. Again, not a lot of tourists, super quiet when I got inside. But I love the architecture of these old buildings and the really ornate decoration on the roofs of the gates and main houses.
I headed over to meet Kat for coffee. She had her little boy with her who was the absolute cutest! It has been pretty cool meeting British Punk Expats over here in Japan. We had coffee and I had some fancy cake with strawberries. My tea came in a fancy pot with a timer at the top. I thought the timer was attached to the pot and when it was time to pour my tea just began to pour causing the time to collapse into my cup and make a very loud band. Sometimes on this trip, I have been the loudest, clumsiest person, not on purpose but just because I am not graceful by nature at all. It was quickly forgotten however and I had a lovely time chatting with Kat!
My hotel yesterday was like a proper hotel, as opposed to all these new modern ones with no proper reception or services but lots of amenities within the room. It was dated but was a comfortable stay, but was on a busy street and was just very loud at times. I moved over to this current hotel today and it’s quiet and calm and I have a little suite again which I like. I can get washing done and can heat up food when I feel like it. When you’re traveling alone it’s nice to have a place to come back to that you can make homely, especially if you’re someone like me who really likes to nest down and get cosy in places, and who really loves their bed.
Today was an early start. I headed to Arashiyama for the Bamboo Forests and the gardens. I was trying to get an early start because I thought it would be busy but it was actually really not that bad. It’s so beautiful further out of Kyoto when you’re in the mountains and there are trees everywhere. I really wish the scenic train line was working, but alas it starts to work on Saturday when I leave! Arashiyama is a nationally designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty, and honestly, it feels like all of Japan is this. The scenery here is spectacular. There were lots of people in kimono and one lady going to do a photo shoot dressed as a Geisha. She could have been an actual Geisha I guess but she was absolutely stunning. I didn’t realise how tall bamboo is, it towers over you in the sea of green.
Okochi Sanso Garden was on my way out and I almost didn’t go because it was 1000yen but I AM SO GLAD THAT I DID. There was no-one in here at all which is nice after the forest where quite a few people are. This garden is amazing, it’s a winding path that goes up the mountain and has such beautiful landscaping. Once you get to the top you have a breathtaking view of Kyoto below and the mountains all around. It’s a stunning place to spend an hour or so, and then at the end you get a cup of really delicious green tea and a little matcha cake thing. By the time I’d finished this it had got super cold and started to sleet a little so I decided to head back down to Kyoto, though I could have spent the whole day up in Arashiyama. There was so much more to see and do.
Nijō Castle was my next goal, continuing my list of World Heritage sites. The blossoms here were some of the most outstanding I’ve seen in Japan so far. Stunning colours, really pure whites and really vivid stunning pinks. The tour of the inside of the building, seeing the rooms and how they were used was really interesting. The screens have murals painted on them that represent the seasons and are really luxurious looking even though the rooms were empty. The colors made the whole thing seem really royal. By the end of this, I was starving and went to MENBAKA RAMEN because I wanted to see someone set a bowl of ramen on fire. Boy was I in for a show. I thought it was going to be like flambe, a little woosh of fire but it was like a full-on fireball. I honestly thought my hair was going to set on fire. They even give you protective gear to wear when they set it alight. The service was excellent, I was highly entertained and everyone was super friendly. The ramen was delicious too! It was super light and not overloaded with toppings. I was a happy Maryam.
The last stop of the day was up Kyoto Tower to watch the sunset, which I just managed to catch after stopping to do some shopping. The new moon was out and you could watch the sunset behind the mountains, it was a stunning view and Kyoto Tower is a reasonable price, about 800yen. It was nice to see the city from above at night. There are these huge straight roads that remind me a little of Chicago. By the time this was all done I was cold and tired and hungry, so I headed back to my wonderful hotel. I have dinner waiting for me and the bath has really helped my sore legs and feet.
I love Kyoto, I could also see myself living here. The next time I come to Japan I may just not go to Tokyo at all, and fly in direct to Kyoto and then explore from here as my base. There’s something about Kyoto that just clicks with me, much like it did in Nikko. That feeling that all is good, everything is balanced and life is good. I don’t want to leave.