Saturday, December 21, 2013

Autumn in Kyoto - Day 1 (22 Nov 2013)

Eikan-do Temple, Kyoto

Nowhere else in the world treats autumn as seriously as Japan. And the peak of it all is at Kyoto. Thousands of maple trees were planted at hundreds of temples around the city, and we chose the busiest time of the season to visit - Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan, which falls on Nov 23. This entire series deals with the peak and crowds faced during the best time of year to visit Kyoto!

We landed at Osaka Kansai airport at 8:30am. Our friend wanted to visit the nearby Rinkku Town Factory Outlets before departing from Japan, and the only time this is possible, was as soon as we landed. So we went about getting luggage, getting breakfast, and stowing our luggage at the airport, only to miss the first shuttle bus (100¥) to Rinkku Town at 9:50am! How much would a taxi cost to go 1 train stop to Rinkku Town? 3600¥! So we got on a 300¥ train for 1 stop, and walked 10 minutes to arrive here. Conclusion? Don't waste your time. The Factory Outlets here are nowhere near as impressive as that of Sapporo. Only one of us managed to get a Casio watch.

Rinkku Town Premium Outlets - Humongous but prices not quite worth it

The only happy thing I got from Rinkku Town. Godiva Chocs are cheap here though!

Having a lengthy journey in getting back to the airport and retrieving our luggage, we got our ICOCA pass with 2-way Haruka for 4000¥ which includes 2-way train to the airport and 1500¥ e-money. It works out to be roughly 1000¥ for one-way 1hr 15min train from Osaka airport to Kyoto. Cheap! Oh we were supposed to reserve seats for the Sagano Scenic Train at Arashiyama for the 26th Nov. Guess what? Sold out! Nevermind then. Did not want to juggle our itinerary too much.

After arriving Kyoto station, we needed to catch a subway to Shijo station where our hotel was located. With our big luggage, it got really tiring especially after an overnight flight. We arrived Toyoko-Inn Shijo Karasuma at 3pm, only to discover that their official check-in time is 5pm! What to do, go shopping!
Outside Toyoko Inn Shijo-Karasuma

Our Twin room - 55800¥ for 5 nights in super peak season

You have to learn how to hide your luggage under the bed. Free Wi-Fi, very good

A view of the street outside our hotel. Next door is Daimaru shopping mall, which we never stepped into

My breakfast every morning for 5 days. Always the same, but nice and filling, and most importantly FREE!
Nishiki market is located approximately 100m from our hotel. We picked up a few snacks, and discovered our biggest joy of the trip - raw scallops! They are OH-SO-HEAVENLY-SWEET! This started our Ta-Pao trend which I'm sure the Japanese frowned upon. We bought scallops from the supermarket and brought it to eat along with our meals in the restaurant! Tsk tsk tsk, how could you!! LOL!

Inside the Nishiki Market. It's indoors, with fresh fish and all - but no smell. Great!

The start of the TA-PAO trend

Although I've been to Macau many times, I have yet to try this there

Nice, especially when we were famished

Quaint shops we saw while looking for dinner

First stop - Hyakuren Restaurant. It said English Menu available, but it was tough ordering
That's the OH-SO-HEAVENLY-SWEET scallops at the dinner table. 450¥ for the scallops

After a quick check-in, and picking up of our fresh pyjamas from the lobby, we're set to go out again to catch the night viewing of the temples. My original itinerary stated that we needed to go to Kiyomizudera tonight. However, I just saw the autumn color report just the day before, and Eikan-do temple was at its peak! So we quickly changed our itinerary and hopped on a bus to Eikan-do. Absolutely stunning! Let the photos do the talking.
Entrance to Eikan-do 600¥ for night viewing. Day viewing is 1000¥??!

Note: The camerawoman apologizes for the slightly overexposed photos, as she was too tired and overexcited on the first night.

Our biggest culture shock came after leaving Eikan-do. This temple is pretty isolated, such that only 1 bus passes through this inner road. And this is the eve of a mega peak public holiday in Japan. And it's the peak of autumn. Guess what happened? I GOT SQUASHED AGAIN!! If you refer to my post about Labour Day in Beijing, I swore that I would never get squashed again in my life. But somehow, it happened again. Sigh.

We left Eikan-do at 9:15pm, when its official closing time is 9:30pm. We found the bus queue, and there were about 40 people in it. So we waited in the freezing cold, and the bus came 5 minutes later. We saw first-hand at how Japanese politely nudged each other until they got into the bus. Unbelievably, 35 people got on, leaving behind just 5 in front of us and I was surprised the doors to the bus managed to close. I sighed in relief, thinking that at least the crowds have left. We checked the highly efficient bus schedule at the busstop and the next bus was due in 20 mins. Fine we waited again in the cold, and soon a long queue formed behind us, once again about 30-40 of us.

The bus pulled up... it was pretty full with many already standing. My group of 4 managed to get on, and I thought OK... they should close the doors now, it's pretty full. But no! More and more came in until almost everyone behind us in the queue got in, minus 5! How is this possible? They somehow formed 3 lines of people in the standing area of the bus. I was smashed against the side of the chair where a Japanese lady was seated, and she was very kind to help us hold our bags on her lap. Another Japanese lady's behind was smacked directly at my behind. I haven't gotten to the best part yet. At the immediate next stop, somehow, another 10 got on! Thankfully, they were gracious. They politely nudged you vs outrightly pushing you in Beijing.

This was our eye-opener for the days to come. Stay tuned! :)
This was near our hotel already, where some have left the bus and I could pull out my camera.
Other posts in this series:
Autumn in Kyoto 2013 - Planned Itinerary
Autumn in Kyoto - Day 1 (22 Nov 2013)
Autumn in Kyoto - Day 2 (23 Nov 2013)
Autumn in Kyoto - Day 3 (24 Nov 2013)
Autumn in Kyoto - Day 4 (25 Nov 2013) 
Autumn in Kyoto - Day 5 Final (26 Nov 2013) 

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