After a great night at 9 hours pod hotel we took in the Nishiki food markets as they were only a street away. These food markets have been the place for Kyoto to get their food for centuries and in some places not much has changed. Fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and meat are sold alongside specialty stores. It is a fascinating walk through how the city lives. A rice store had fresh onigiri (rice balls) for sale which made a perfect breakfast as we wandered the stores.
With a sunny day we decided to walk to Nijo castle. Built for visiting shoguns it has a “nightingale floor” which was an early form of burglar alarm. Using a system of pulleys, clamps and other devices they made the wide floorboards “sing” so the ninjas could get them before the shoguns were harmed. No matter how hard you try you can’t get the floor to be quiet as you walk across it. Set amongst gardens a moat it is really an impressive place.
Kyoto is filled with shrines, temples and so much to see and is obviously popular with tourists. There is a daily bus ticket that allows you to use any of the regular bus system and is only 500 yen. With our tickets next in line was the Golden Temple. Photos cannot do this place justice. Covered with gold leaf and placed on a reflection pond it glows and shimmers and is so over the top and peaceful all at once. In the afternoon sunlight it really was a sight to see.
The temples and shrines tend to close at 5pm and we were getting late so we chose one that was close to Golden Temple to avoid being disappointed. We most certainly were not disappointed as we got to see one of the finest examples of zen rock gardens in the world.
Sitting under a wide wooden verandah and contemplating the rock gardens was so serene and then to complete the picture a group of monks came in and sat down to observe the garden.
On the way out of the rock garden complex you go for a walk around regular gardens and ponds. Tucked in there was a Buddhist restaurant (which most likely would’ve been vegetarian) but it was closed.
We caught the bus back towards the main part of the city and had a hunt for some food, not turning up much we picked up our bags at 9 hours and they gave us some directions to a place to try. While it looked nice it was well out of our budget.
As much as we would have liked to continue staying at 9 hours we’d booked to stay in the capsule ryokan. A traditional ryokan can be quite expensive but allows you to have a more traditional style stay. The capsule ryokan is budget friendly, incredibly clean, has fantastic staff who were so eager to help and was not far from Kyoto station so we chose it as our base for the next few days.
On the way towards our ryokan there were a number of restaurants. Stopping to read a menu I noticed a sign which said “we have an English menu”. It looked great. A traditional hole in the wall type place where you could order drinks and small cheap food.
This place specialised in putting things onto skewers into a tempura batter and frying them. It was fast and super cheap and they had vegetarian options! It was some of the best food of the whole trip. The fresh made tempura tofu with plum style dipping sauce was divine.
The staff were super helpful and not speaking much English worked so hard to make sure they understood us and explaining what each of the foods were. They also had Kyoto Cider which had to be ordered as The Englishman is a cider fan. This cider was mouthwateringly good. If I can get it in Australia I might even start drinking alcohol it tasted so good. With good food and a nice place to stay it was a perfect way to end the first night in Kyoto.