Kyoto, 1,000 Torii gates, bamboo forests and Okayama

Sue and I continue on our 5 week journey through Japan.  The previous post can be found here:  JAPAN! The journey continues into the Kiso Valley. Takayama, Matsumoto, Magome and Tsumago

Our journey thus far.

KYOTO November 10-14, 2019

The Mitsui Garden hotel was a pleasure to check in to. They’d received our bags and brought them to our room even though it was early to check in. Nice!

After settling in and looking at our options for getting to the tea ceremony booked for us by Inside Japan, we decided to walk. Good choice as it took us down town through the hordes of people on the street with lots to see.

We had an early dinner at a noodle house. Ramen is delicious.  It’s different every time.  We may be addicted.

The tea ceremony was different. We watched the young woman go through the tea making ritual and then participated in it. Odd, but interesting.  There’s meaning in every movement.

We picked up some snacks at the 7-11 (you can buy entire meals there) and settled in for the night.

The Mitsui Garden puts on a fantastic spread for breakfast so we were well fed and ready to face the day. The google maps app is my best friend these days and it helped us figure out how to get to the Rakusai Bamboo park. Two trains and bus later we showed up at the entrance, just as it started to rain. A nice fellow told us all about different kinds of bamboo and what it’s used for while we waited for the thunderstorm to move on. Did you know that Thomas Edison used bamboo as the filament in the first light bulb?? I didn’t!

The man gave us a couple of umbrellas and we walked through the gardens. It was beautiful and we were the only ones there…until a photographer with a bride and groom showed up. Nice! 

Again we braved Kyoto’s transit and took two trains to Arashiyama. There were a LOT of tourists there, mostly Japanese, but the park is beautiful and well worth it. We walked along the river and climbed the stairs to a Zen Buddhist temple for the view. Today I tried adzuki bean ice cream as my nephew grows the beans and ships them to Japan. It was okay but I don’t need to have it again.

We walked and walked and walked some more and into the bamboo forest. There were a lot of people there so it’s impossible to get really nice photos but it was still nice. Even a bit of rain didn’t slow the people down. Umbrellas just popped up everywhere.

We managed to find our way home again on the Renden line which is different again as it’s an older train. Back in the city we found a ramen place and had some noodles. You can never eat too much ramen.  It’s a meal in a bowl.

We’d missed last night so a bath was in order. Again, we were the only ones in the onsen. Nice!


KIMONO Forest and the “Pond of the Dragon”, named after the Dragon of Tenryu-ji Temple, which serves as the guardian of the station to ensure that everyone has a safe journey.  If you dip your hands in the water you will be blessed with happiness.



We figured out the train to Fushima Inari and arrived shortly after 9 am. It was already crowded. People were taking selfies and video taping their entire walk. I often wonder who actually WATCHES those videos?  I can’t even persuade anyone look at my photobooks! 

We soon found the path we’d read about (research pays!) how to climb the mountain the back way. It was beautiful. We saw very few people and walked through a bamboo forest and past a few temples and shrine. The last 20 minutes was straight up stairs that zig zagged it’s way up. Sue treated herself to an ice cream and we slowly made out way down through the thousand Torii gates. We got lots of pictures with nobody in them as not everyone makes it all the way to the top.  Bonus!

We walked to Tofujoki temple and then to the train station to head to Nijo castle. Google maps said to connect to a bus. We waited at the station but the bus didn’t come. A nice lady suggested a different one but it too was going to be 20 minutes We decided to forget it and head directly to Kinkajuki temple. Eventually we figured that one out and made it there. The golden temple is beautiful but there were bus loads of tourists. I’d hate to see what it looks like during the busy season!

After sitting on the bus google maps told us to take for about 1/2 hour I realised I didn’t recognise any of the stops. Uh oh. So we got off at the next stop that said there was a subway station. That one didn’t go anywhere near where we needed to go so back on the street we finally asked a random stranger who sent us in the right direction.

Kinkajuki with a cool filter.

The real Kinkajuki (Golden pavilion)

Finally close to where we were to meet our guide for a tour of the Gion district, we found a place to eat as again, no lunch so we were starving.

Junko met us right on time at the statue of Izumo-no-Okuni who was the instigator of the Kabuki theatre. The next 90 minutes or so we walked through 3 different geisha districts and learned a lot about the culture of Gaiko (Kyoto geisha) and Maiko (Geisha in training). We quizzed Junko on many aspects of Japanese culture and thoroughly enjoyed the tour.

Today we reached over 28,000 steps. Many of those were climbing stairs and mountains so we were pooped.


I had to check as I never know what day it is. We managed to get to Nara just fine and even sorted out reserving JR seats for the next couple of weeks. That was easy. I just gave her the dates and picked times in the morning. She printed tickets. Done.

Nara is different. The bowing deer are kind of strange. They roam everywhere and I mean EVERY where. Occasionally they even stop traffic. They actually WILL bow for you even when you don’t have food. It’s kind of fun.

We spent several hours walking around the various temples amongst the crowds of people before we headed back. Trying to sort out Sue’s i.c. Card issue was fun. We had to go back to the line where the error occurred. That led to several unplanned subway trips nowhere so we wasted a couple of hours. Oh well.

Back in Kyoto we managed to find the restaurant Junta had suggesting for duck but it was randomly closed. Again. Oh well. Even a restaurant we found on trip advisor….closed. Weird. It’s Wednesday. Is that some random holiday?

Ramen it was.

Back at the hotel we put our laundry in the machine and went for an onsen. That’s always a welcome reprieve after a long day of walking.

Eyeballing each other

See the deer?


Cat cafes I kind of understand but OWLS??

Thursday November 14th  

Our self guided tour with Inside Japan is over and we’re now on our own.  I highly recommend them as they did make planning much easier plus we covered a lot more than we would have on our own.


We arrived at the train station good and early which is always wise as we couldn’t find the train. I finally asked and found out that the shinkansen is a different line. Aha! Good to know.

The speedy train got us to Okayama and we walked to the Comfort hotel, dropped off our bags and proceeded to explore. Okayama castle was our favourite castle yet. It had a few fun things to do which added to the experience as really, these castles are all pretty much the same. Trying on a Kimono was interesting as there are a couple of layers and lots of fabric to manipulate.

 was peaceful and beautiful with large expanses of empty lawn, ponds, forest and a tea house. It’s nice but there are no flowers. Japanese gardens don’t seem to have them Yet they grown lots of flowers. It’s different.

After checking Trip Advisor for places to eat Sue found “Fuckin Delicious Burgers and Fruit”. We had to try it. Well. It lived up to it’s name! The young man had little English but he tried, was friendly and cooked us a really good burger with a fresh, crispy bun and delicious fries.

Okayama Castle

Kerokoen park

We got to dress up in kimonos 😀

Kerokoen park

Samurai armour

2 thoughts on “Kyoto, 1,000 Torii gates, bamboo forests and Okayama

  1. Pingback: The Japanese journey continues into Kyushu; Hiroshima and Fukuoka | Where in the world is Grandma?

  2. Pingback: 2 Canadians in Tokyo. The beginning and end of a great trip starts in Montreal | Where in the world is Grandma?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.