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Devi's Japan Travels Part 10: Kyoto, Kyoto, and more Kyoto

We left the last blog off leaving my friend Linda's place in the countryside of Nara and on the road to Kyoto. We took the non-toll roads so it took a bit longer to get there, but at least it was cheaper. Kyoto isn't that far from Nara and it's nice to see some non-conventional routes every now and then. Instead of going to our hotel, we decided to play the tourist and go to Kyoto first. Our hotel was in Kusatsu, which was about 40 minutes from central Kyoto. We chose this place because there were no (cheaper) places in Kyoto available because of the sakura-season. Our hotel was quite cheap and we had rented a car anyway, making it easy and flexible to go around. 

Kyoto Day 1: Fushimi-inari and yakiniku in Kusatsu

We went to Fushimi-inari taisha, I have been to Kyoto before but husband hadn't so I had to show him the tourist spots. When we came we expected it to be crowded and parking would be expensive, but for visitors of the shrine it was actually free parking, luckyyyy! And it wasn't that crowded. I actually enjoyed it once more, always a great place to go. Kyoto is awesome! And sakura was blooming so I was extremely happy! As it is a well-known place, I won't put up too many pictures.

Map of Fushimi-inari taisha. One tip: at the second intersection instead of going straight, turn right. You get the same views without tiring yourself too much. The beginning goes very steep but it is shorter than the other way around, so you go down from the top a longer time. If you like the exercise of course go straight. and do 10 more circles while you're at it hehe.

 Thousands of torii, or shrine gates marking the entrance to a sacred place. Fushimi-inari shrine is a special place because of the long path through many torii. It is one of the must-see places in Japan.

 View from the mountain

 Going up, up, and awayy

 Reached the top! 

 Beautiful to see the torii surrounded by woods

 Inside a shrine near the exit

 Apparently there's an o-mikuji, or fortune slip, inside the belly which will protect oneself. 

When we just started the climb until the first intersection it already takes a while, and the first time I did this climb I thought that was it. Boy was I wrong! It was just the start.. So this time when I saw some girls thinking that was it and realising they were just at the start I had to laugh. It reminded me of my naive little self back then. After walking every path of the Fushimi-inari taisha we dragged our tired selves to the car and drove to Kusatsu in the dusk. 

Busy cities, we had to switch for a second after the slower and more relaxed country life style

We were really hungry by now, so after checking into our hotel and dropping our stuff we decided to go to a yakiniku restaurant we saw on the way. It was a quite expensive restaurant but BOY was it worth it!

Look at that beauty... mmrrggggomnomnom...

With full bellies we went back to the hotel for a well-deserved night's sleep. The hotel wasn't that special, a three star hotel called Leia hotel Kusatsu. But it was affordable and had free parking, so good enough. We most often didn't have free parking even at hotels, this is also one of the downsides of renting your own car: parking fees, which are expensive especially in the cities. The elevators of this hotel took hella long to go up, quite old I reckon. We had taken a picture when we arrived and the view from the top floor where we were staying was quite nice. Not much to see though, an urban landscape with lots of cars.

We couldn't fall asleep because of all the (traffic) noise, we were too used to the peace and quiet! #countrylife4ever #firstworldproblems

Kyoto Day 2: Maruyama park, Gion, and Kiyomizu-dera

We woke up a bit groggy and cranky, not used to all the noise from outside and inside the hotel. We had some breakfast at the hotel, which was free. Well, we understood why it was free breakfast once we had some, it was pretty terrible. Anyway, no time to be groggy, it's time to explore Kyoto some more and more importantly: hunt for some sakura!

We decided to head out for Maruyama park, which is a cherry blossom viewing spot. We drove to Kyoto and found some parking, it was about 2000 yen for the whole day so that was actually not that bad. And our car had a nice spot underneath the sakura trees. At the park we had our long-awaited sakura photoshoot! And after that we just visited temple after temple... We walked a lot.

 Driving to Kyoto central

 Can you believe this is a parking lot??

 Maruyama Koen entrance

 Lots of yatai, lots to eat

 It was quite crowded

 Finally, the long awaited sakura-shots!! I felt like I was in heaven underneath the beautiful cherry blossoms, they were so white-pinkish..

 Gion weeping cherry tree, famous tree in Maruyama park

 Contemplating on life underneath the beauty of the fleeting cherry blossoms (or probably just on what to eat next)

 So fluffy!!

 Gate of Otani Sobyo, a buddhist temple next to the park
 Some buddhist stuff I don't get

 Dragon temizuya, place to ritually cleanse your hands and mouth before visiting the Otani Sobyo

 Chion-in, a buddhist temple, after the entrance there are quite a few stairs to climb

Temple under renovation

Well, today is definitely temple day. Can't get enough of them, especially when surrounded with cherry blossoms. Who can resist that? We were getting hungry so we decided to head for Gion and see if we could get something to eat there. Gion, though always crowded with tourists, is always a nice place to go and the sakura views were grand. For those who don't know: Gion is the geisha district of Kyoto, it's very old and nice to walk around to get a 'feeling' of the old Japan and trying to catch a glimpse of Geisha and Maiko (apprentice Geisha). Last time I got lucky, this time not so much, didn't see any. They are like rare pokemon, hard to catch (a glimpse).

 The famous Hanamikoji street, we were looking for a place to eat but this street is definitely for the more wealthy among us

 Quiet little narrow side-streets

Shirakawa area in Gion, a scenic place to spot sakura 

Shirakawa canal in Shirakawa area

We found a cute Italian place to have some lunch on a street full with sakura, it was like HEAVEN! We even saw wedding photoshoots here, because it is so beautiful. A perfect little place on this planet.

 The pinkish-white of the sakura were like heavenly clouds, pictures don't do it justice

 After having some yummy (and affordable) lunch, some more sakura spotting!

 Had enough yet? Yes? Too bad!

I can't get enough of sakura!

We decided to have a little walk towards the riverside, and spot some more sakura while walking along the river.

Unfortunately the riverside wasn't that interesting, not much to see. So we decided to head for Kiyomizu-dera, the famous wooden temple. We walked around a bit but decided to not go in because it  was under renovation or something.

 The climb up to Kiyomizu-dera

 Ninenzaka area with lots of shops and restaurants, and this beautiful sakura tree

Meh, the view of the temple from across won't be so nice.. Not today then!

 Maaaany jizo, little statues of the protector of women, kids and travelers I believe

After a loooong day and many temples, it was time to head back. But, what is this smell? It smells like cinnamon, such a good smell... Where is it coming from?? I see a line, this must be it! Hungry as we were after walking a lot (again), a snack would do!

A cinnamon-y puff with matcha icecream, it looked and smelled better than it tasted to be honest

Woops let's still catch the Yasaka pagoda of 46m high on our way back real quick, still impressive!

We headed back to Kusatsu and went to have some kushikatsu (all kinds of foods on a skewer and then deep fried, which you dip in a tonkatsu sauce). We ate ALL kinds of things on a stick, my favourite was the bacon wrapped cheese mochi. OM NOM! Sticky cheesy mochi in a yummy bacon wrap.. mmm... bacon.... The shiitake and pork kushikatsus were also really good. My mouth is watering just thinking about it again.

Temples and shrines, shrines and temples, that sums up our first two days in Kyoto, stay tuned for the last two days in Kyoto, and the end of our road trip! Fear not, as I will still write about my solo-travels to Kanazawa and Tokyo I did after the road trip, so stay tuned for my next travel adventures (and oms and noms)!

~Written by Devi~

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