All about temples and picture perfect streets: Kyoto and (deer) Nara!
When I see a map, I always understand the North is pointing up by default. Apparently that is not always the case in Japan, sooo we went out the wrong exit in Kyoto station. We had to walk longer and through a not so great looking way to find our place, Karatachi Nanajo Ainomachi. We arrived two hours before check-in time, but the super nice man working there let us in and explained a lot about Kyoto. He told us to go to the temple next to our place, and that's the first thing we did. Then we checked the one next to it. Both of them, Higashi Hongashi and Nishi Hongashi, were giant and beautiful, and I didn't even have them in my "things I want to see" list!
Then we took a train to Inari to see the Fushimi Inari and its thousands of torii (gates). And millions of people (at least felt like it). A couple minutes up we saw a detour with a bamboo groove, but decided to just go up the normal way almost to the top, where we saw the sunset, catching a beautiful view from all Kyoto and all the way to Osaka. After it, we made it all the way to the real top of the mountain and decided to go down through the other torii path. But we found a detour, that of course we had to follow, really dark, but probably shorter, that ended in the bamboo path we didn't follow in the beginning!
We took the train back to the station area and ended up in Kyo-chabana, a cool and trendy looking place, with a pan in the table. The staff in full would scream hi, thanks and buy to every customer. We payed 40 euro for an Okonomiyaki dinner, cocktails, entrants and dessert. Afer it, we checked a couple Konbinis to find something for breakfast and went to sleep.
After waking up, showering, laundry, breakfast, chill, Alex's work and planing, we ended up going to Arahiyama. I thought the only thing to do around there was see the bamboo forest, but ended up being a lovely area. We arrived at around 12 and it was crazy full, so after avoiding people along the forest for a couple minutes, when we saw an entrance, we happily paid for it to avoid the masses. It was the gardens of Tenryû-ji Temple, which had a pretty lake with koi carps. The inside of the buildings were visible from the garden since the sliding doors were open. We made a drink machine stop, where we got a drink with jelly that had to be shaken 7 times. Then we kept walking through the bamboo forest, which by then was way emptier.
When we needed a bit power, we found a place with pork buns, where we got one, and after it we went to the monkey park. It was a small mountain, around 15 minutes up. At the top there were some views of Kyoto, and was full of... monkeys! And their carekeepers. And a lot of people. But it was nice! So the people could interact with the monkeys, there was a building/cage, where the people would go inside to feed the monkeys outside.
Too late to go to Kinkaku-ji, we decided to go to eat something in Nishiki Market. We took a bus there, which took about an hour, and walked through the market trying takoyakis, the small octopus with an egg inside, fish cakes, salmon and a sweet breadstick. Then we went to another area to a tea shop Alex found on google, Ippodo Tea, where we got Matcha tea and red bean sweets (delicious, but for almost the same price as all the things in the market!). Then we kept walking in direction to our place, finding tons of shops, arcades, manga shops with "love boy stories", and a Tenga shop, aka weird sex shop with sex dolls in it (that looked like little girls...).
Then we got something from a supermarket and, trying to find matcha beer, we ended up in a hipster beer brewery, the Kyoto Beer Lab, which was ok but without matcha beer! Finally we went home super tired to eat something from what we bought :)
After breakfast we got a bus to the Kiyomizu-dera temple. We went up the beautiful street with the crowds and entered the temple. We did the thing of walking from one stone to another with our eyes closed, like school kids were doing. We read later it was to get some wish related to love granted. Going out the temple, we went in the direction to Chion-in, got a Melon soda and found a cool Starbucks in an old house. We got a matcha frapuccino and cake, and since there was no place to sit we waited in a corner. Seeing a girl searching for space too, we invited her to join us in an empty seat. When her husband came up, 2 tables in a tatami opened and he claimed them for us all. They were from Florida, and we got a good laugh with them telling us "OMG I slept in a futon and ate sushi and beef, ewww".
Then we saw a Totoro shop, walked through a park, saw more temples and Chion-in. Finally, we went to Gion district and hunger stroke, so we unsuccessfully tried for 30 minutes to find a place recommended in Google Maps that either didn't exist anymore, or was not open. So we ended up in a cafe, where we got some noodles and curry. Then we walked looooong in Gion and unexpectedly spotted a Geisha getting inside a taxi :)
On our way to Pontocho alley, we found a wallet and brought it to a tourist information nearby, where they called via tablet to a translator so we could explain where we found it :) Then we bought a couple beers and sat close, but not by the river because we missed the stairs... The place we went to have dinner appeared to be closed and, the market was closed too, so we ended up popping inside a stand-up udon place, which was really nice.
We bought a sim card, in preparation of Tokyo already and walked direction home. Just next to it we saw and advertisement of matcha beer, so we got inside the bar. They didn't have an english menu, but with my basics and google translate we ordered 2 matcha beers, edamame and a weird octopus sashimi with wasabi. For that small thing they put for the table charge, we got some fried chicken skin... weird. Before going back to our place, we went to the supermarket in Yodobashi's basement, where we bought sushi for half the price as breakfast!
For whatever reason, we woke up super soon, so after sushi for breakfast, we got the train at 8:23 to Nara. We went directly to the park and as soon as we put a foot in it, we saw deers! Before we could find a stand selling cookies for them, a guy gave us 2 of his own and we inmediatly tried the bowing trick: if you bow, they bow back. Too cute! We totally ignored the first temple and spent our time feeding and taking selfies with the deer.
We went inside the Okumura Commemorative Museum, more a resting center. There was an earthquake/seismic isolation simulator, which Alex tried (it was a chair for one). It was an interesting way to learn about one of the techniques to make not-so-big buildings resistant to earthquakes. The lady working there asked me where was I from, and when we were leaving, the security guard I barely noticed until that point told us "buen viaje". It's the small things that make me happy!
After walking a bit more, 4 school kids came to us to ask us where were we from. They asked me if I liked soccer and told us how much they loved Spain, our football team, and recited practically all of team's players. Then Alex asked if they knew any German players and they just looked confused. So we parted ways.
Then we went to see Nandaimon, the temple gate. We went there reluctant since it didn't sound so great, but its impressive guardians changed our mind in one second! Tōdai-ji was a massive temple with a massive Buddah, stunning. There is a small hole in a pillar inside. It is believed that if you can squeeze through it, you will achieve enlightenment in your next life. And I did it! Yay!
Just outside the park we ate some takoyaki, mochis and lunch in a diner. After that we were so full, that we bought a coffee and chilled in the park. We fed the deer our remaining cookies, strolled around the shopping streets, and went back to Kyoto. We arrived 30 minutes too late to the Silver temple, so we just walked down the Philosopher's path. We took a bus back to the station and went to Yodobashi to try headphones and massage chairs. For dinner, after deciding against all of the restaurants there, got a bunch of 50% off lunch boxes from the supermarket, which was a lot and nice, too!
We woke up really late and lazily started our day. At around 12, we were at the station buying a day ticket for the bus, and took us around 30 min to find the stop for Kinkaku-ji. One hour of bus later, we arrived. It is a short but nice visit. I got a fortune paper, and the best out of it is how funnily it felt out from the machine. After some ice cream, we got a bus to the rock garden, but just walked around the lake outside (with me in fear because we didn't get a ticket, until I saw it was only for the rock garden). Then we went to Nishiki market to try more things, and got inside a cafe next to it. Alex got a cheese tart, that I had been avoiding because I wanted cheesecake, an man, it was wonderful!
As soon as we got out it started raining, so we walked along the shopping streets that were covered and got inside the gaming place. After a couple tries and observing people, Alex got 4 tiny dog plushes and gave 1 away. Then we went to the Purikura section, where we wanted to dress as sluty Mario and Yoshi, but they said it was just for girls. So we have pictures with Alex and his tiny dogs and sluty Mario. We really didnt get how it worked in the beginning, until some school girls pointed us to the next step.
By then, the rain had stopped so we thought about going to the palace. We had the park to ouselves, but the palace grounds were closed, so we went to our Yodobashi to get in the super professional massage chairs xD Everything was closing, so again, we ended up with some lunch box from 7Eleven home.
We woke up and felt like changing a bit plans, so we cancelled the booking in Matsumoto and got a capsule hotel in Tokyo. When we felt ready, we went to the station to buy another bus day pass and felt so proud with how quickly we found our bus... until I noticed as soon as it started it was going the wrong direction. We got off the next stop and could quickly change to a correct one, luckily. We arrived to the recommended spot for cheesetarts and had 6 of them for breakfast (2 normals, 2 orange, 2 strawberry), but were not hat nice. Then we got a bubble drink in the place next to it and drank it in a gaming place. We didn't manage to find out how pachinko worked so we didn't even try.
Then we took a bus to the Imperial palace, and while walking around it in the sun to find the entrance, Alex jumped the tiny moat to walk next to the wall for shadow, and alarms started ringing! But stopped immediatly. We visited the palace and then walked to the Nijō Castle. Half way during our visit, it started raining a lot and had to shelter under a bridge unitl it stopped, 15 minutes later.
For lunch, we went to a nice ramen place, and then again to the bakery next to Nishiki market from the previous day (after taking the wrong bus and having to change... again!). It didn't feel that nice anymore, like it happens a lot of times. Then we went back to the hotel to pack everything in Alex's backpack (including my backpack!) to deliver it to our second place in Tokyo. Took 1 hour! The guy in the reception helped us fill the forms and took care of everything for us.
We then wanted to walk around Gion, and the bus left us just in that place we never found for lunch a couple days before. This time it was opened, so of course we got dinner there. It was really nice, cheap and fun, a small place with a pan-bar where they cooked just in fron of us, and where they corrected and made fun of my japanese tries.
We walked through Gion to Pontocho, got a beer in the 7Eleven and went to the riverside to drink it. Alex got a plastic bag that flew towards the river in front of the girl and 2 boys standing next to us, hero style, and then she asked where were we from. She was studying germanistic in University, and the boys french. We small talked until 11 or so, and then we said goodbye and went home.