Japan 2015 Day 35: cable car to Mt Hiei and bus to Ginkaku-ji

Weather: beautiful 14°C, high 28°C

Accommodation: Sakara Kyoto.

We had to pack our things up as while we were out today our bags would be moved from the Sakura to the Bamboo Suite in our accommodation. After accomplishing this we went to a fabulous French patisserie/ cafe around the corner from us, Le Bac à Sable. It was SO GOOD (and so cheap!). I can’t believe we didn’t try it out sooner! (And the novelty of having a kitchen to cook in had worn off.)

Eskil LOVES cable cars or ropeways as they are called here. So we took a trip to the summit of Mt Hiei. This involved a subway ride, then a small 1-carriage train, then a funicular/cable car which went up an insanely steep mountain, then the final ascent in the cable car/ropeway. Eskil enjoyed it! We had a walk around at the top of Mt Hiei. There are views over Kyoto and beyond and Lake Biwa in the other direction – and a geocache.
Single car train to Yase Station
Mt Hiei
North from Mt Hiei
Lake Biwa from Mt Hiei

For some reason Eskil loved checking out vending machines and seeing if they had coffee. I don’t know why; I never tried vending machine coffee as it is sweet. Of course often he wanted to do it when we were trying to catch a train or bus.
Coffee spotto
I liked this stream crossing at Yase; stabilises the embankment as well as stone that Eskil would love to hop across.
Stream crossing at Yase

On the return trip, our subway train was full of Thomas and friends.

A Thomas train in the Kyoto subway!
Thomas subway train

We were passing our neighbourhood on our way to our next destination, so couldn’t resist going back to the french cafe for lunch.

Pear tarte, le bac à sable

Afterwards we took the bus to Ginkaku-ji (the silver pavilion that was never gilded in silver). We just missed seeing a procession.
We just missed out

The stunning gardens really eclipse the pavilion, and the crowds attempted to eclipse the gardens. The raked sands were quite impressive!
It's a BIG sand cone
Sea of Silver Sand and Moon Viewing Platform
Silver Pavillion garden walkways
So many photos
Ginkakuji roof details

We bussed back to the city centre and had coffee on the banks of the Kamogawa (this was a good end-of-the-day tradition). Eskil had had an exciting day.
E napping
We returned to our accommodation to check out our new room (same accommodation; new room). As with our first room, they incorporated a tree trunk into the design of the room. It was a great groom – more open-plan than the other, but as we’d be doing our final packing in the room this suited us quite well!
I love the natural wood incorporated into the rooms here!
We had noticed a craft beer bar that served food almost across the arcade from us a day or so ago, and tonight we checked it out. We may need to check it out tomorrow as well. Just in case. The beer was flavoursome and the food scrumptious.


  • Kyoto Brewing Aki no Kimagure Red Ale (sour and fruity and makes me yearn for Two Metre Tall!) and
  • Akasi Brewery Schwartz (from Hyogo): dark and flavourful!

E pointing to the Akasi Brewery Schwartz (from Hyogo), not to be confused with the Kyoto Brewing Aki no Kimagure Red Ale (sour and fruity and makes me yearn for Two Metre Tall!)
Scallops in browned butter fabulousness
E loves his Karaage
Because we haven't had enough deep fried food, mayo, and green tea flavoured things.

More photos can be viewed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/cragg-ohlsson/archives/date-taken/2015/10/18/.

Mt Hiei

Japan 2015 Day 34: exploring Higashiyama

Weather: beautiful 14°C, high 26°C

Accommodation: Sakara Kyoto.

After making breakfast at home, we took the bus a short distance to so that we were closer to Kiyomizu-dera. Saving our feet was important as we were going to be walking a lot while exploring our area of Kyoto, Higashiyama. ‘Higashi’ means ‘east’ and ‘yama’ means ‘mountain’, which tells you a bit about our area. We are on the east side of the Kamogawa river, and the hills bordering (and restricting the spread of) Kyoto to the east are fringed with hillside shrines and lovely stone-paved streets with older buildings.

As it was Saturday, there were lots of locals dressed up in kimonos so they can walk the streets, visit the shrines, and take lots of selfies (mainly take lots of selfies!).

We walked uphill to Kiyomizudera. It’s a stunning temple complex on the hillside. The views views of and from the site are amazing.
Kiyomizu-dera Pagoda
Kiyomizu-dera temizuya
Taisanji Kyoto

After exploring Kiyomizudera we walked around the neighbourhood looking in shops and making some small purchases, heading north, through lovely streets.
Just hangin' in our 'hood today
Thatch ridgeline

Higashiyama Ward street scene

There are so many temples and shrines! We wandered through the streets, occasionally spotting maiko, to the Maruyama Park and Yasaka Shrine area. We had a bit of a rest here, then carried on north.

There was shrine after shrine, some small and intimate and some made to impress such as the Nanzen-Ji.
Massive columns
Stonework at 知恩院三門

There were the occasional signs that autumn was on the way, however it was quite warm walking around!
Autumn is coming
If this tree could tell its tales
We walked through the streets until we reached our way back home. We dropped off the purchases we had made along the way, then went to Starbucks – as was traditional – and enjoyed our coffee along the Kamogawa at sunset.
Along the Kamogawa as sunset approaches

Scott and I took turns visiting Muji while the other watched Eskil at a small playground amongst the restaurants.

While wandering around the streets looking at shops, we saw this fantastic antique map of the area.
Fabulous old map of the area!

We wound up at the restaurant we had eaten at the 2 evenings before, but the food was great and Eskil likes knowing what to order so there is no shame in it, right?! This is him checking out the menu and saying, surprise surprise, that he would like some kaga-age.
Ordering is important business

Back to ‘our’ restaurant.
Food within
The boy is happy

We paused on the banks of the Kamogawa on the way home to see the nightlife.

Eating fire
More photos can be viewed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/cragg-ohlsson/archives/date-taken/2015/10/17/.

Higashiyama Ward street scene

Japan 2015 Day 33: Golden Pavilion, Inari Shrine, and walking around

Weather: beautiful 14°C, high 26°C

Accommodation: Sakara Kyoto.

After a lovely late start to the day, we had a little walk around our neighbourhood to an ATM (7-11).
Exploring our neighbourhood
Stepping Stones, Canal in Higashiyam

Then we caught bus 12, which would take us to the Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) on the other side of Kyoto. (I was thrilled that there was a bus that went there from our neighbourhood! I love buses while traveling.). Our timing was good as the water was really sparkling on the gold leaf covered pavilion, although it was quite crowded. I suspect it it is always crowded!
Scott and E at the Golden Temple
Golden Temple

After wandering through the gardens and grabbing some cool drinks we headed into the city for a coffee break, then to the main train station to head south to the Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine (the tunnels of torii). This is another beautiful but crowded spot, and our visit here means all the photographs we are contractually obligated to take before leaving the country are done.
Fushimi-inari-taisha Shrine
Freshened up
Paper cranes
E and Scott at Fushimi-inari-taisha Shrine
Torii tops
A skulk of foxes

We headed back to ‘our’ part of the city near the river between Shijo-Gion and Sanjo and had a wander around.
Towards Shijo Dori
Pressed tin
Waiting for a taxi

We had dinner at the same tempura place as the night before. We finished everything we ordered, so obviously we didn’t over order. Not at all.
Time to eat!

More photos can be viewed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/cragg-ohlsson/archives/date-taken/2015/10/16/.

E and Scott at Fushimi-inari-taisha Shrine

Japan 2015 Day 32: Arashiyama – river cruise, MONKEYS, and bamboo grove

Weather: beautiful 14°C, high 25°C

Accommodation: Sakara Kyoto.

After making breakfast in our flat, we took the train to Arashiyama, just outside Kyoto. It was a day packed full of awesome. First we took the Sagano Scenic Railway, which runs along the Hozugawa River to Kameoka. The ride was stunning and gave us a look at the sort of boat we would soon be going down the river on!
On the Sagano Scenic Railway
Hazugawa river boat cruise from the Sagano Scenic Railway
The railway clings to the hillsides beside the river, and the valley opens out at Kameoka. From here we took a bus to the launch for the Hozugawa river cruise. The cruise was in a traditional style, flat bottomed boats. The boat was piloted by a VERY strong crew of 3 using a steering oar in the rear, one in the front, and a bamboo pole in the front to propel and steer. The crew worked HARD, especially whoever was on the bamboo pole (they took it in turn)! I wish I understood the Japanese commentary, however it was a stunning trip.

Steering the Hozu-gawa River
Hozugawa River
Hozu-gawa River cruise
Hozu-gawa River

Near the end of the trip a snack boat came along side. We didn’t get anything, but the ladies next to us shared some of their grilled mochi with Eskil. (If we’d known how bad our next meal would be, we would have eaten here!)
Snack boat

The trip ended at Arashiyama just upstream of the weir near the Togetsuko Bridge.
Landing at Arashiyama

We headed over the Togetsuko Bridge and stopped at the first cafe over the bridge for coffee and lunch. This meal will be immortalised as the worst meal in Japan.

Next we made our way to the foot of Mt Arashiyama and into the Iwatayama Monkey Park! You walk uphill through the forest, and at the stop there is a clearing and a monkey (Japanese macaque / snow monkey) reserve. Laughably we were SO excited to see our first monkey and stop and admired and photographed – then continued up the hill and there were SO MANY MONKEYS! Monkey George was so thrilled to see so many members of his family.

Monkey sees a monkey

At the monkey reserve it is the humans who go into a cage. But you can feed the monkeys, who stay outside. Eskil and Monkey George fed them some sweet potato.
It is the hairless monkeys who are caged here
Monkey George feeding a monkey

There were some excellent views over Kyoto as well.
Kyoto from the monkey park

Monkeys everywhere! There are signs telling you not to touch the monkeys, however the monkeys can’t read the sign and come up to touch you. There were a lot of researchers around taking notes, and I wasn’t entirely certain if they were studying the monkeys or studying the people reacting to the monkeys!
Mt Iwatayama Japanese macaques snow monkeys
Mum and Bub

One section had a playground with a slide, swings, and flying fox. I’m not certain if the playground was for the monkeys or humans. As this was on the way out, all the humans of every age slid down the slide, and sometimes the monkeys did as well. Eskil went down the slide several times, and this seemed to upset one monkey who grabbed him by the arm. A researcher yelled at the monkey to go away.
Monkeys on the slide

After we left we made our way back across the Togetsuko Bridge and to the bamboo groves. They were quite crowded, but can you blame everyone for wanted to walk through them?

Arashiyama bamboo grove 3
Scott and E at the Arashiyama bamboo grove
Arashiyama bamboo grove

We walked back to the strain station, patted a schnauzer, and made our way back to our neighbourhood. We grabbed some coffee at Starbucks then enjoyed it on the banks of the Kamogawa as we watched the sunset.

Kamogawa River at dusk
Coffee by the Kanogawa at sunset

After sunset we found a lovely tempura restaurant for dinner, then walked home. An eventful day!

More photos can be viewed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/cragg-ohlsson/archives/date-taken/2015/10/15/.

Monkey George feeding a monkey

Japan 2015 Day 31: getting oriented in Kyoto

Weather: partly cloudy 14°C, high 25°C

Accommodation: Sakara Kyoto.

As it was our first full day in Kyoto, we decided to have a fairly relaxed day of wandering. We were able to start the day was breakfast cooked at ‘home’, then headed out by foot. First Eskil and I checked out the canal in our neighbourhood. Eskil loved the stone pedestrian bridges.
Enjoying our neighbourhood
There was a couple arriving for their wedding at a nearby temple.
Smiles all around
Our neighbourhood

We walked down Higashi Oji Dori to Shijo Dori, then had coffee and a small rest. Then we continued down Shijo Dori, checking out shops and watching people.
Kyoto - Kamogawa River from the Shijo Dori Bridge
Crossing the Kamogawa

We went to Tokyu Hands, as we did all through Japan. We had arrived in Japan with 3 bags – basically a bag more than we needed (we fit one bag into another). So now that we weren’t traveling around the country any more, we felt we could finally shop! I bought a metal teapot for Scott for his birthday, we let Eskil get the fishing game he fell in love with in Hiroshima, we got a clock we had been admiring we bought lots of Midori notebook inserts, etc etc! We didn’t get the strange tin that reminded us of Sweden:

'Cafe Fika' coffee container at Tokyu Hands!

We bought enough that for once we bothered to go to the tax refund counter. It was across the street in a department store, which was an experience in itself. Eskil loves escalators (Eskilators!), but the staff member in charge of the lifts was just too helpful looking
The Lift Lady
We were given our tax refund and bought some washers, then took a bus to Kyoto Station. I really, really wanted a bus map – but also really, really wanted a toilet. We headed up to the Skyway – an elevated part of the station high above. I found a loo eventually (with a long queue).
Atop Kyoto station
Kyoto Train Station

In the frantic search for the loo and then admiring the view I didn’t realise there was a ‘Skywalk’, a tunneled walkway. Oh well. Back at ground level I finally hunted down a bus map, then we headed to Starbucks for a rest. Eskil approved.
Happiness is a chocolate goatee
We took a bus back to our neighbourhood and dropped our parcels off at ‘home’.
Our street
Then we headed out to a VERY small and very yummy dumpling restaurant recommended by Tm, who also recommended Sakara Kyoto (and Ryoso Kawaguchi on Miyajima). Recommendations you can trust.
Gyoza time!
After dinner we headed to the grocery store for mummy and daddy drinks and other supplies, then back home. It had been a busy day.
E and Monkey George are asleep.

More photos can be viewed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/cragg-ohlsson/archives/date-taken/2015/10/14/.

Smiles all around