Japan Photo Diary, Day 8-9: A historical hike & a last, lazy day in Kyoto.

Magome – Tsumago

DSC_0840DSC_0841DSC_0847Saturday morning we take the train northbound once again, from Kyoto to Magome via Nagoya. Our aim is the 7.8 kilometre hike between Magome and Tsumago.
DSC_0849DSC_0852DSC_0858The hike is part of the old Nakasendo route. Nakasendo in turn used to be one of five highways during the Edo period, this particular one connecting Edo (present day Tokyo) to Kyoto.

Plenty of restoration work has been made to give the hike as an authentic feel as possible, with Magome and Tsumago being some of the most picturesque villages along the route.
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Although loads (like, literally) and loads of buses full of tourists are found at our Magome starting point we quickly descend from them.

Throughout the hike we only meet a dozen of other hikers, and an equal amount of warning bells ↓ to ring in order for the bears living in the surrounding areas to stray elsewhere at the sound.
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Passing waterfalls, tiny villages, a dog or two, bamboo groves, cemeteries and (lucikly) no bears- it is a really beautiful hike, and a perfect day trip away from the big cities.


Kyoto

Come Sunday, I am completely knackered from acting constant tour guide. The cold that had been harassing me with seemingly new symptoms ever since our long flight, seems to have finally given in and left. Possibly he felt I was not paying him enough attention.

(But what conditions for a cold though; subway stations with cross drafts, slushy snow, hours of hiking in damp socks, sun and clouds overlapping one another — I am so lucky it did not completely knock me off my feet, forcing me to spend the holiday in horizontal mode munching on penicillin rather than onigiris!)
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So we make our way into town after a little lie in, go for coffee at % arabica before the queues hit the shop and then sit outside the narrow alleyways of Gion, people watching under the sun, sipping our liquid joy.

Side note: let me just point out that the latte acting model in this photo above is mum’s dairy one; their soy drinks looked no better than what comes out of caffè nero.
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As the afternoon nears, we decide to go see a Geisha-performance at Kyo Odori. At this venue the shows are held annualy between the 1st and 3rd Sunday throughout April, luckily our visit coincides with the very first.

The show lasts circa an hour and we are not allowed to photograph. We are sat on the balcony in the very stuffy theatre. In combination with the loud music and my aching menstrual belly, it all feels a bit claustrophobic.
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For a late lunch we go to Kamisa — a little cafe and shop within a yoga studio. They offer set lunches from circa ¥1’000; the translations only say “brown rice lunch” or similar, but it does not really matter when the entire cafe is profiled vegan. It comes with soup, salads and soy meat.

From the café, we bring some freshly baked orange flavour muffin and coffee to enjoy down at the river along with fellow worshippers of the sun. Truth be told, the winds are way too cold for such activities but who ever learns.
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For our final Kyoto activity, we walk up to Ginkaku-ji (the silver pavillion) which is crowded now just before sunset. We skip the ¥400 entry fee because of this; as you can see an equally beautiful sunset from Kyoto Station free of charge.

As the spring is yet cold, we are all watching the cherry trees with great anticipation, hoping they will bloom soonest. So when you stumble over what is seemingly the town’s one early bloomer, expect a camera fest galore.
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Then we argue over sushi, go back to the airbnb to pack and check train time tables… Yet unknowing of the horrendous amount of mix ups I am to do regarding said time tables the following morning. Until then!


This was part 5/7 of my Japan Photo diary; the previous entries can be found below:

± Jetlagged in a rainy Tokyo.
± Livin la vida Ryokan & the 1st glimpse of Kyoto.
± Bamboo groves, trendy coffees & hidden gems.
± Neon lights & deers of might.

 

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Japan Photo Diary, Day 5-6: Bamboo groves, trendy coffees & hidden gems.

Alternative title, ‘A 2-minute Stroll Scroll down the Kyoto tourist attractions.”

Despite the early morning and having done no research other than which stop to get off at, we do not have to neither worry nor read maps when arriving to Arashiyama rail station as there is already a decent amount of tourists out and about.

We target a couple with pretty looking cameras and then shadow them; trying our best to walk slow enough not to surpass them, yet fast enough to not lose them behind the next corner. All while crossing our fingers they are, in fact, also on their way to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
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Perhaps you recognise the grove; it can be found on several top lists on essential things to see whilst in Japan. These lists also tend to bring up the topic of how difficult the task of capturing this place on photo in a way that does it justice is.

Well, they are right. Now you guys know also.
DSC_0492DSC_0494Back in the city, a train ride and four espressos later, we slowly make our way to the Nishiki Market – a narrow arcade market stretching for five blocks.
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DSC_0501DSC_0518 Via Happycow (as per usual) we find the all vegan restaurant Hale that is located within the market. The place is pretty well hidden if you do not know what you are looking for. Actually, it is proven difficult to find even if you DO know what you are looking for, as I have to walk past several times before finding its entrance.

Once inside, the place really feels like an oasis compared to the market chaos just outside.
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On our way to Gion, aka the “Geisha quarters”, we stumble (quite literally) over Ryozen-Kannon when its massive sitting statue of the Goddess of Mercy surveying the city from her height of 24 metres suddenly hovers over us.
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(My kind of philosophy if I ever open up a business ↑)

After this we collect our bags to check-in at our new airbnb out in suburbia and that is the end of that Wednesday.
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Thursday calls for yet another early morning. We are at Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Temple, well before the gates open.

A security guy tells us to walk around the sides of the complex for 15-or-so minutes and there will be another gate that opens before 9am. Either he was pulling an early April’s Fool prank or something very essential got lost in translation, as we end up in the hills without a single alternative gate in sight. Atleast we got to enjoy a decent view from  up there.
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Back at the temple grounds, still mere minutes after its opening, the place was pretty darn crowded (I can only imagine how it would be like going around noon!) and thus it felt very much like we were sheep being herded around.

I guess that is the thing with this kind of trip; you have a limited amount of time and you want to squeeze all the must-see sights in, yet you end up feeling completely un-original chasing down the same postcard views as everyone else. But hey, I guess that is how tourism works ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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In the afternoon we join the crowd queueing up outside % arabica – the award winning coffee shop. (They also have a shop out in Arashiyama if you are needing a caffeine hit whilst exploring the Bamboo Grove!) These guys are really passionate about their doings, and it is easy to tell why the queue more often than seldom swirls its way down the street.

Also, check out the look of that sleek espresso machine?! Divinity.
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Following along the tourist trail, we take the train out to Fushimi-Inari Taisha to climb up through its seemingly endless amount of torii gates in time for the sunset.

This one was a top pick from the trip’s bucket list. There are four kilometres of wooded pathway that crosses over Inari-san. The bottom bit is well crowded with people wanting to have their photos taken, you are basically a potential photo bomber every 6th step you take (but don’t quote me on those numbers!). The higher you proceed, the lesser the crowd. Top tip of the week.
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About halfway up the mountain there is a beautiful pit stop with a view over Kyoto. DSC_0662DSC_0665
We climb up as the sun declines from the sky. Suddenly the crowds seem to have vanished and you can hear birds chirp and the light buzzing as power travels through the electricity wires.
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For both brunch and dinner that day we went to Choice, which I think you can tell is a pretty top notch grade. I will write a seperate post dedicated to this place a bit further on.


This is part 3/7 of my Japan Photo Diary, the previous posts can be found here:

× Japan Photo Diary, Day 1-2: Jetlagged in a rainy Tokyo.
× Japan Photo Diary, Day 3-4: Livin la vida Ryokan & the 1st glimpse of Kyoto.

Next time we will do a daytrip to Nara & Osaka, and head out on a historical hike. Until then! x