Travelogue: Japan – Nara, Fushimi Inari, Eikando Temple, Tea Ceremony En

Grabbed breakfast at Coffee Don before checking out. It’s a coffee / bar place and there was only one old gentleman making your breakfast at that early hour so be prepared to wait a little. I thought the toast was quite good. In fact the table next to me liked it so much they ordered double serving of it

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Cafe Au Lait ¥450 Ham Toast ¥600

I realised most places like the use of Cafe Au Lait in their menu even though after I ordered they will go.. oh, cafe latte. Then why didn’t you just put cafe latte in the first place?? #dontunderstand

Anyway while making my way to the train platform, there were people giving out souvenir for visiting Takayama and photographers taking photos of them giving out. Super amused – I’m not sure if it’s a everyday thing or it was an one-off special event. And the staffs even lined up and waved goodbye when the train moved off. It was quite a sight

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Yep – they were giving out these. Quite cute lah

I had some time when I reached Nagoya station before my next train that departs for Kyoto so I went to hunt for lunch and..

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Lunch was ebiken! Have always wanted to try one bento in Japan so I got this Nagoya special bento. Hmm, okay lor. It’s nothing special. HA

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But it does look quite fanciful

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And soon found myself at Kyoto, dropped the bags and head off to Fushimi Inari. Stopped by Vermillion coffee for a quick cup of coffee just cos it’s one of the must-try coffee places. I admit the coffee is really good

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Spotted this at the Kyoto station taxi queue. HA. So they actually have 2 queue – one is normal taxi queue and one is for foreigners. Well after cabbing in Japan, I think normal taxi is fine as well. The drivers do understand simple English so it’s not that terrifying

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Home for the next few days! Though I think this is the most luxurious guesthouse I have stayed

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They have a washing machine for you to wash your clothes! How awesome. But maybe they should also have a drying function. #justsaying

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okay heading out!

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The cafe is situated along the way to the shrine so it’s quite easy to spot

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Flat White ¥400

Balanced, smooth and velvety

Vermillion Espresso Bar

85 Fukakusa Inarionmaecho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 612-0881, Japan

And it was seriously very crowded at the shrine. Because the most famous thing is to climb through the tori gates – I did just that. They actually have different paths for going up and coming down so if you think you can take the photos of the gates when coming down, you are wrong! It’s a totally different path and well I didn’t know that. So I felt so bumped I climbed the gates a second time. Haha

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And the start of the climb with 101 people taking photos there. People! You can take your photos inside you know..

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It was a challenge trying to take a photo with nobody to photobomb you. The emptiness lasted for 5 seconds before someone comes into frame :/

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Spotted this man with his cats on the way down

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But in any case, success!

The plan was to grab dinner somewhere near hotel but there were so many street food stalls on the way back to the station so… street food became dinner instead

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Fish Taiyaki ¥150

I felt like I preferred Takashimaya’s version. Or rather maybe I’m so used to their version this one didn’t taste as awesome. It is softer, not as crispy even though it’s overflowing with red bean paste

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Crab Meat on Stick ¥500

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It’s actually quite nice

Decided to explore the shops along Shijio Dori for a little before heading back to rest since it was still rather early

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The magnificent Kabuki Theatre which everyone will block the way to take a photo of it. Yeap, I’m one of them

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And hey look who I spotted!

Then you see everyone standing behind silently trying to take a photo of her. Lol. Actually I did spot many maiko during my stay, but they hurried away so fast that by the time you take your camera out they are gone :/

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Shijio Dori

Next day was a day trip to Nara which was 1.5 hours away. Headed to the Kofukuji Temple to visit the Central Golden Hall, which housed the statue of the Yakushi Buddha. Well, the description was in Japanese, so the whole journey lasted 10 seconds before I exited. It was a very fast attraction-seeing

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The empty streets of Gion in the early morning

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LOL

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Kofukuji Temple

I actually think you can give this a miss cos admission fee is ¥500. Totally not worth it

And while making my way to Kasuga Taisha shrine, I was stopped by many many deers! You just couldn’t help but stop to take photos of them. I was glad I had no food on me else I would never make it to the next attraction I had in mind

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Deers crossing the road! The cars actually stopped for them

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The deers are very smart. First they approach you with sad deer eyes but when they know you got no food, they turned away without letting you take a photo! #terrible

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Though I have to say some of them are exceptionally thin, machiam malnutrition

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Made it to the shrine eventually and paid extra ¥500 to the special admission area which I thought it was worth going for, just cos there were lesser tourists in there and you can take photos of the famous lanterns

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The special admission area in the shrine

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Though I was annoyed by this AT lady who excused me so loudly because she wanted to take photo of ONE lantern in the inner lane and I was standing at the outer lane. Hello, if you have skills for a nice photo, it doesn’t matter where I stand okay and besides I’m pretty sure I wasn’t in your frame. Totally wanted to roll my eyes at her

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But I think the coolest part of this attraction is the dark room – was damn amused by the description though. Exotic?!

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I admit I was quite wow-ed. It’s spectacular when you stepped into a world of darkness and yet greeted by many blinking lanterns. But I wouldn’t call it exotic lah. Lol 

Head off to the Todaiji temple which was bombarded by hordes of tourists. It was only 10.30am so if you want to avoid them, suggest to go earlier. Didn’t visit the attraction itself so I just took a photo from the outside before heading in the direction of Isuien garden

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Too bad for a cloudy sky if not this photo would be pretty nice

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Todaiji Temple – so so so crowded!

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And hello, (more) deer!

Never make it to the garden cos I was distracted by this place that serves soba noodles. Since there was a queue, I decided to give it a try. And there was quite a number of locals dining there too, so I guessed it shouldn’t be that bad

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It’s quite a small family run restaurant and you might be required to share tables with others at times. They served both hot and cold versions of the soba noodles to cater to your needs

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Tenzaru Soba ¥1,480

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Fried Tempura and Vegetables

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I was surprised by the rather generous portion of the noodles but one taste of it had me finish it all. Ha

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The weather was cold but I decided to go for the cold version. I admit it’s really quite delicious. And the tempura was decent as well. I liked that it wasn’t too oily

Later on I found out this place – Kitahara Soba is quite well known for its soba noodles. The thin soba noodles are made every morning by grinding the buckwheat in a stone mortar so the noodles are aromatic, chewy and have a great texture, which I totally agree. So for those touring Nara, here’s the place

Kitahara Soba

50 Suimoncho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8208, Japan

Headed back to Sanjo Dori street after that and got myself a mochi from the famous Nakatanidou before exploring the area. Unfortunately there was no pounding action for me to watch. There were quite a number of shops at Mochiidono shopping streets but the closure of some shops had me wondering if they are closed temporary or closed for good? In any case, there were many things to eat at Shimomikado street so you can just pick anything you see in there

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Soft and chewy for ¥130!

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The end of Mochiidono shopping street

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Interesting shop I spotted

Last stop at Nara – Wata Wata Owl Cafe! The cafe is located at Sanjo Dori street so it’s quite easy to spot. Entrance is ¥1,300 for adults. You get one drink and can stay an hour here. The owls are super adorable. I was so confused by them that I went to pet the fake ones just cos the real ones weren’t moving. HA

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They were all not moving!

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Spot the real vs the fake!

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And some of the (real) owls..

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I like how they placed up some tidbits for people to read, but not that I really want to watch the owl eating her dinner :/

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Particularly love reading their obsession – Acting like a model (lol!). Another one says love patting on the head but 15 minutes when I go back to that particular owl, it says it needs a break (from too much patting). ha

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You get to pick one owl and have a photo with her. Mine’s called Maru!

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And you get a souvenir for visiting! The staffs here are very friendly so you can consider if you are in Nara and have time on hand

Wata Wata Owl Cafe

Japan, 〒630-8217 Nara Prefecture, Nara, Hashimoto-tyou 26-3 Tokiwa-biru 2F

Head back to Kyoto and visited the Yasaka Shrine which was super crowded and visited by many wearing kimono. But the lighted lanterns were quite a pretty sight!

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The crowd..!

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Lanterns against the sunset

Since I had no plans for dinner, I decided to wander around the Pontocho area that was lined with many restaurants. Spent a long time deciding on one just cos I felt like most of the restaurants were quite touristy. So I wandered into one of the alley and spotted this izakaya that was frequented by many Japanese! I decided to pluck up my courage and enter. Communication was a problem. All I can say was I’m glad they didn’t give up on me. lol

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Roast Duck ¥890

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Fried Fish Tempura ¥690

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Japanese Omelette with Tofu Skin ¥790

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Agedashi Tofu ¥590

The tofu was really interesting. It didn’t taste like tofu at all. The texture felt more like yam

I thought the meal was okay. They do have an English menu but limited though but looking at how popular this place is (there were people sitting outside when I left), I guess there must be some charm in here

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The plan for the morning was to dabao sandwich and coffee so that I can dine at Maruyama Park under the autumn leaves but the place doesn’t allow take-out so I ended up eating at the cafe itself. It’s probably a place that is famous for its shaved ice but the Tamago Sando proved to be a popular item as well

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Tamago Sando ¥700

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Love thin thin slab of mayo with the generous egg portions in between the toasted buttered brioche. It was really filling

Page One Cafe

Japan, 〒605-0822 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Kamibentencho, 435-4 下河原町, 鳥居前下る

Then went to % Arabica Higashiyama which was down the street to have my latte! It was really crowded and everyone was just taking photos of the coffee.. everywhere they could 

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Latte (blend) ¥500

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And of course, one photo was not enough. I thought the coffee was quite decent. Aromatic and smooth though I felt it gets a little watery towards the end but it dissipates as soon as you taste it

So after a filling breakfast, it was a very intense walking day which started from Maruyama Park to Eikando temple to Path of Philosophy. My watch told me I beat my own personal best. HA

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Such pretty colours at Maruyama Park. Blue skies make everything look so much prettier

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Autumn colours at Eikando Temple (which was very crowded). Entrance fee at ¥1,000 for adults

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View point

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Autumn leaves viewing at Eikando is really pretty. Well, I guess everyone is there for the same reasons

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Spotted this on the way to Path of Philosophy. HA. Are you sure??

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Path of Philosophy on the other hand was pretty meh. The trees were barren so there was not much of a view though there were many cafes and interesting shops along the way

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Like this. You can try your hand at pottery!

So I walked a long way all the way to Jishoji temple but decided not to go in cos one look at the queue had me changed my mind immediately

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The street leading up to the temple – Ginkakujicho is lined with many shops and cafes as well

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OMG. Such a long queue

So I took a bus back to Gion area since I had signed up for a tea ceremony at Tea Ceremony En, a short walk from Shijio Dori street. There was only one other person and me so it was a pretty private session. There was a tea ceremony demonstration but no photos / videos were allowed. And after which you can make your own tea as well

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Because I was seated at the right of the host, I was considered the distinguished guest so I get to taste the tea made by them. After the tea demonstration ended, the host exited the room and re-entered again. When she finally came back, she was surprised I hadn’t drink finish my tea. I told her it was too serious. I didn’t dare to drink it and she laughed

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All I can say is.. it was so solemn that you felt like every step/noise you make, you felt like you were disrupting the peace. I think it’s interesting but probably once is enough. Lol 

Tea Ceremony En

272 Matsubaracho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0063, Japan

Headed off to Ichinoi Ramen for dinner which was recommended by locals. I was glad I reached 15 mins early cos there was already a queue! And I only made it to the second seating. Their selection ranges across all proteins in both black and white soup base. The staff at the door was quite friendly. He told me he cannot speak English very well, and I told him I cannot speak Japanese very well either. Lol. And then shortly afterwards, the 3 schoolgirls behind me tried reading the instructions that was written in English. I felt like commending them on a job well done. Cos English to them is difficult, like-wise, Japanese to us isn’t easy either

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Wagyu Soba (Black) ¥1,200

Kuroge-wagyu A4 beef with seasoned egg

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Extra Slice of Pork ¥250

Cos I was really hungry, I had the wagyu beef with extra slice of pork

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I thought the broth was a little salty, but they emphasized the use of natural ingredients. I was quite impressed with the beef and pork and I like the firmness of the noodles, so I guess it depends on how much you wanna try this

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This was the queue when I left

Ichinoi Ramen

Japan, 〒600-8033 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, Ebisunocho, 528 猪一 寺町仏光寺下ル

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And ended the night with a random Whisky bar at Pontocho area. I thought Pontocho was a nice place to have dinner if you had no plans. You can just walk into any random restaurant and pick one that you like, though it might be a little touristy. On hindsight, I should have wandered into a more English speaking whisky bar cos this local bar is a little too local that I felt ignored. HA

Read here on previous posts:

Travelogue: Japan – Takayama & Shirakawago