When we looked out our window this morning it was snowing! We had breakfast downstairs at our hotel (which was included in our room rate) – Super Hotel Shijo Kawaramachi. I had read a review saying brekky was a bit strange and the reviewer was right… A choice of corn or onion soup, lettuce with dressing, rice, egg salad, juice, pastries and a help yourself vending machine with hot or cold drinks. The highlight was the pastries as they are fresh baked in-house and quite delicious (pain au chocolate anyone?).
The hotel has free internet access, free amenities for female guests, a choice of pillows, free pyjamas and a communal bath (with separate times for men and women… thankfully!). Although our room is very compact, it’s immaculate and has a TV, kettle, bar fridge and enough space to spread out a little. The bathroom is tiny (dare I say cute?) – it’s like an all-in-one plastic moulded unit with a separate toilet and shower over very small bath. We’re both very amused by the toilet (/bidet) which has some interesting diagrams…
We head out for the first day and realise just how close we are (about 50 metres) to the Kyoto Central Market and Kyoto’s covered shopping arcades. We also realise that nothing is really open in Kyoto until around 9am (including the markets). We planned to head off on a Lonely Planet Walking Tour of the Higashiyama area, so take the subway to Kyoto Station (another advantage of our hotel is we’re close to 2 subway stations, and there is an underground walkway along Kawaramachi Street which is lovely when it’s so cold!).
We arrive at Kyoto Station and head off to visit a temple on the way to start the walking tour. Sanjusangen-do was originally built in 1164, then re-built in 1266 after being burned to the ground in 1249. The temple houses 1001 statues of the 1000-armed goddess of mercy, Kannon. There is one large statue of the goddess, surrounded by 500 on each side. The temple is amazing, its creaking wooden floors and stillness reminding you of its history. Tip: be prepared to take your shoes off at most temples you visit and don the slippers provided (i.e. wear socks and preferably slip-on shoes).
After this we headed to the start of the walking tour and decided to stop at one of Lonely Planet’s lunch recommendations. We both decided on a set menu (once I have my lonely planet back from Mum’s trip to Japan I’ll add in its’ name!). This was our first experience of a lunch like this in Japan and as you can see it didn’t disappoint. The restaurant is famous for its ramen, so we had a set with sashimi, ramen, pickles, rice and fruit for dessert. Yum!
We continued on to Kiyomizu-dera, a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Listed temple in Higashiyama. We walked around the temple complex, enjoying the view of Kyoto, then strolled through the garden. Unfortunately we’re a bit early for Cherry Blossom (Sakura) season, but the gardens are still lovely in the traditional simple Japanese style.
We continued along following the Lonely Planet walking tour, following the tour through the small lanes of Gion hoping to catch a glimpse of a Geisha. Unfortunately there are none to be seen today, but we still enjoy winding our way through the narrow laneways past traditional tea shops and souvenir stores.
We cut short our walking tour as we’re pretty tired and head back to our hotel for a soothing hot bath in the communal baths (tip – quiet time in the baths is around mid afternoon). Aaahhh….