Our [Abbreviated] Amazing Race – Days 2 & 3

We made it to Kyoto yesterday after a quick train ride. They don’t mess around with public transit here. Buses, subways and trains come and go right on time, with a very quick window to get on and off. If you’re not on when the train is scheduled to leave, too bad so sad. And everyone is very quiet during the rides. I felt like those loud Americans chatting with Todd while riding the bus today, even though I was speaking in a hushed tone. Again, everyone seems to keep to themselves here. I’m starting to feel akin to the quietness of their culture. I don’t like to talk to people either… unless I know them well… and sometimes not even then.

So back to Kyoto. I think it’s fair to call Kyoto the introverted little sister of Tokyo. Unlike the bustling streets of Tokyo, Kyoto is very quiet and runs at a slower pace… which I like. It’s very charming and old-world Japan with its cherry blossoms, shrines and kimono-clad women walking around town. It’s a very bike-friendly city and I’ve noticed less locals sport the protective face masks here than in Tokyo (I forgot to mention in my last post how many folks wear sickness-prevention masks in Tokyo.) If Tokyo is the future, Kyoto is the past.

Thanks to my crazy husband’s obsession with credit card points, we are staying at the Ritz in Kyoto. No, we are not rich… he just loves points that much. Once we arrived, I almost didn’t want to leave the hotel. With our zen garden view and origami swans to greet us in our room, it’s easy to understand why. We have another future-toilet and a traditional Japanese bathroom, with wooden slats instead of a shower floor. I won’t bore you with the rest of the hotel details but it’s pretty sweet.

So anyway, last night we Yelped where to eat and found a teeny tiny hole in the wall known for its fried gyoza (dumplings). Super tasty. I’ve had dumplings before but never fried. Two thumbs up for whatever this hole in the wall was called.

Yadda, yadda, yadda… Fast forward to today… We took the city bus around town. We visited Kinkaku-ji, a beautiful Buddhist temple and probably one of the most famous in the city. While there, we noticed people burning punks and tying paper to horizontally tied strings. All probably Buddhist traditions we were not knowledgeable of, but neat to watch nevertheless. It kind of smelled like incense mixed with the smell of a fireworks stand in summertime. Lots of ponds and serene scenery, followed by our first taste of sesame ice cream in a waffle cone. [Hey, Japan… you know where the waffle cone started?!] Sesame ice cream is gray and tasted like Butterfingers in my opinion. Definitely two thumbs up again.

Next we ventured to the Higashiyama district, near the Kiyomizudera temple. Lots of small restaurants and souvenirs shops along the main drag, starting from the top of the hill where you can find the temple. We are a little early for the cherry blossoms but some were in bloom by the temple and you could see several women in traditional Japanese kimonos posing for pictures in front of the shrine and the blossoms.  Very beautiful and old-world.

The day ended with a serendipitous discovery of a tiny Japanese steakhouse. I had to look it up but the style of dining is called Sukiyaki and you dine in private tatami rooms while being served by traditionally-clad servers. It was the first place that required us to remove our shoes upon entry and in exchange they provided slippers to wear to your private room; These slippers were to be removed outside the door of the room. Once inside, we sat on floor chairs at a low table and ordered saki and wagyu steak, which was cooked at our table and served with various vegetables, rice, miso soup and then dessert. Our room was flanked with paper walls and a view of what looked like a garden.  Super traditional and I’m so glad we ate there. Here’s the Yelp link in case anyone cares enough to check it out: https://www.yelp.com/biz/qtplM-MXwixDeDArZBCZKQ?uid=N4BbeIbQNgtUEEMutu9U3w&utm_source=ishare&utm_medium=s_nb_i_mg

So that’s it for now! I’ll post more as our trip continues.

Goodnight (or good Monday morning to all of you)!

Room view

Kinkaku-ji shrine

Sesame ice cream

Kiyomizudera and cherry blossoms

Japanese steakhouse


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