We left our Hakone hotel after a western style breakfast. I made sure to take a final dip in the hot springs tub and then we set off via bus. Weirdly in this town, it’s faster to travel by bus than to take the cable car then transfer to the light rail. It takes a lot to have your brain accept “yes, let’s take the bus over everything else.” We arrived at Odawara, the main station that connects to the rest of Japan, and got our train tickets which would depart in an hour.
Many of Japan’s stations have shops and restaurants in them. So far, Odawara has been one of my favorites, but mainly only because we had time to actually explore. There were several levels but of course my favorite was the food levels. One had a lot of packaged food sets which all looked so beautiful that I ended up not being able to decide which to get and consequentially purchased none. Robyn got some sort of little pound cake that looked kind of gross (picture a cake with melted cheese) but ended up being so delicious.
Then we went up one level to another food court. Here they had a Gindaco, which I didn’t realize was a chain. It sells the fried octopus balls, aka takoyaki, that we had had in Harajuku. I absolutely must order another one of these before I leave. (Note: I didn’t *CRIES*) We didn’t actually get this though, instead Robyn got three giant pieces of tempura for ¥380 and I got a giant fried noodle for ¥770. Yay for delicious food courts! You make your order at a little vending machine then give the receipt to the chef and she starts making it. They should really do this in America.
Off to the train! We arrived in Kyoto station and I bought a ¥600 one day pass on the Kyoto subway. I thought this would work for both subway companies but it turned out to only work for one so I basically lost us ¥170 per person! I wanted to ride the subway around the city for no reason but was too tired to by night time.
We arrived at our hotel, the Hotel Monterey Kyoto which is supposed to be styled after Edinburgh. I don’t see it. The room is pretty nice. My favorite thing about the place is a very narrow luggage holder thing that fits right between the bed and the wall. It allows me to grab stuff from my luggage without getting out of bed! I’ve never seen such a thing but it makes so much sense, especially in smaller hotel rooms.
We set off for Fushimi Inari Shrine after arriving. But not until Robyn got a drink from the Starbucks across from the hotel, which just happens to be a Starbucks Reserve!
I think the theme for Kyoto is that we arrive at major temples after sunset. I definitely need to come back to Kyoto and redo some of these things. Or learn how to use a camera with night time settings. Robyn got a little upset at me because I made us take public transit to the shrine, and it required about 20 minutes of walking. Unfortunately, the walk was pretty boring and not at all scenic, unless you wanted to experience walking around the countryside. I realized later we could’ve used our JR pass for the local train, but we had left it in the hotel, so that was an additional layer of bummer.
I think to walk the entire shrine would’ve taken 2-4 hours. I’m not sure because we walked about fifteen minutes and the You Are Here sticker on the map didn’t move at all, so I feel like the map was lying to us. It was getting pretty dark, and while I don’t feel like Japan is the place to be scared of walking around in the dark, we were essentially climbing a mountain in the dark, and I didn’t want to risk any sprained ankles. Plus, after a few steps, you really get the gist of the whole shrine: you’re walking through hundreds upon hundreds of orange wooden posts. Since the sun had gone down by that point, we headed back though I do sometimes have fantasies of returning at 5am to do the whole route. Instead I am in bed at 6am writing these posts.
We got two delicious sweet snacks in the food stalls lining the shrine’s entrance, my favorite was a green tea filled taiyaki, the fish shaped sweets.
Then we headed to Gion, the main shopping area which is essentially where our hotel is located. There is a huge sprawling shopping area like department stores, then a main street with souvenirs and sweets. We did the latter, and it leads us to Marayuma Park which has two temples that do fall illumination. We only walked past Chion-in which is essentially half the park. We didn’t go in though because I didn’t want to get temple fatigue (and it would cost money). So we walked back out to the main street in search of Pontocho Alley, a street lined with restaurants.
We mistakenly thought the area we found was Pontocho Alley and sat down for ramen. The place only sold chicken broth that sat in three giant vats and had tons of workers, which I took as a sign that it’s probably a popular place. I am not a huge fan of chicken based ramen so I don’t know how to compare it but it certainly hit the spot! We walked down the street and then saw what actually like Pontocho Alley. So we stopped a little too soon. We didn’t bother looking in the alley that night, but the next day we went back, walked half of it, and then I said to turn around because it was all expensive food and the only people around us were tourists. (I kind of suspect the truly amazing restaurants do not have any signage and are not on the ground level, which is why we tourists are relegated to tourist food).
So we walked back to our hotel, about 1.3mi away. It somehow felt so far! I don’t remember what time we actually arrived back but it might have been like 9:30 haha By this time, our feet were incredibly sore and the hotel bed felt like perfection.