After spending 4 days in the Mount Fuji area, we travelled via shinkansen to Kyoto, the ancient capital city of Japan. The city has a wealth of shrines and temples as well as old fashioned small wooden Japanese buildings. We did a variety of activities in Kyoto and maybe felt like we could have spent a few extra days in the area.
We woke early on the second day to participate in a traditional tea ceremony in the Gion district of Kyoto. I’m not usually a fan of signing up to tours when on holiday but this was such a wonderful experience, thanks not least to our host’s wonderful hospitality at the Maikoya Tea Rooms. Our host ‘Dodo’ (“Like the bird but I’m still alive!”) was so kind and welcoming. She taught us all about the traditional tea ceremony and its etiquette, helped Nadine and I to choose and get dressed into kimono and was also great at helping to capture our experience. She taught us how to make matcha and fed us traditional red bean sweet treats. We decided against keeping our kimono on for the remainder of the day which was a possibility.
Later that day we travelled out of the city by train to the very Instagramable ‘Aramashiya Bamboo Forest’ which was nice but… it was definitely a case of ‘Instagram vs Reality’. It was nice to walk around a quieter neighbourhood and explore the hills on the outskirts of Kyoto. Atop a hill to the west of Kyoto is the Monkey park overlooking the city which is home to families of macaque monkeys. This was such a fun excursion, especially for me to grab some cool wildlife photos.
As was the theme of this whole trip we were treated to some incredible food on this leg of our trip. One of our favourites was the Okinomiyaki; a local street food delicacy served at tepanyaki restaurants. Luckily we booked this restaurant a few weeks in advance as quite literally every minute someone was at the door looking for a table. The food was incredible, the service friendly and warm and the spectacle of the preparation was entertainment itself. Okinomiyaki is a pancake topped with noodles, vegetables, meat and egg and okinomiyaki sauce – I opted for the seafood topped pancake and Nadine had mushrooms. This was such a delicious meal!
When planning our Japan trip we had talked about going to Universal Studios Japan. They have recently opened the incredibly popular Super Nintendo World in the park and being that Kyoto is the birthplace of the iconic computer games company Nintendo, the attraction was always going to be a success. We ‘Uhhmmed and Ahhhed’ about whether to get tickets as the reports were that it was near impossible to get entry. We decided to try our luck and agreed that if it was too busy we would just do something else. We arrived early and were able to walk right into Super Nintendo World before they started ‘timed entry tickets’. USJ was a surprise highlight of the trip. Weather wasn’t great on the day but that was fine for a theme park. The theming of the somewhat small park was incredible, every detail thought of and the rides were fun too, with not too long wait times.
After our trip to USJ we has worked up a hunger so headed to the ‘rough and ready’ but oh-so charming Osaka Dotonbori area, famed for its street food. We ate, and we ate and it was all so good! Cheese filled sweet pancakes, Takoyaki, gyoza and melt in the mouth wagyu beef sushi.
The following day we spent a bit of time walking around Kyoto, shopping and taking in some final sights before heading back to Tokyo for our final night in Japan.