Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto was our final stop and my favorite place in Japan.  While still a large city, it wasn’t as visually overwhelming as Tokyo.  It was, however, very crowded.  We went in the August heat and I cannot imagine how bad it gets during peak seasons – Cherry Blossom season and when the leaves begin to change in the fall.

The food was great.  We had more ramen and I never complained.  There were also some pretty sweet dumpling spots: Tiger Gyoza and Chao Chao Sanjo Kuyamachi.  The second place had chocolate dumplings and while that may sound weird, it was delicious.  I’ve never met a dumpling that I didn’t like and that held true in Kyoto.

In addition to Arashiyama, Gion, and Kiyomizu-dera in the gallery above, below are some of my favorite things about Kyoto.

Green Tea Everything

If there’s one word that encompasses our week in Kyoto it’s “matcha.”  That stuff is everywhere and we weren’t even mad about it.  StinkBrain and I both get down with green tea on a regular basis so we were both thrilled to find it everywhere in Kyoto.

We asked our Tea Master where to get good quality matcha and she sent us to Ippodo Tea.  We got to taste almost all of the matcha and other teas they had available and almost bought them all.  And since we knew how to correctly prepare matcha we invested in a tea bowl and bamboo whisk. We may ave spent too much money here but we’re going to make green tea everything.

Tea Ceremony

Our cultural learning experience for Japan was a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony.  Our cab driver got lost and we were late, but our Tea Master, Seiko-San, was a gracious and kind host.  She took us upstairs and fitted us both in kimonos!  SB is pretty tall so he was fitted in robes fit for a samurai, while I got to pick out a gorgeous cream and purple kimono.  I’ve always thought kimonos were some of the most beautiful dresses and was not disappointed.  It took a while and there were many layers involved, but it was such a wonderful experience to finally wear one.

After a short photo session, Seiko-San took us inside for an instruction on tea ceremonies.  We had an abbreviated version and there was still much more to it than we expected.  She went through the history of matcha and allowed us to prepare tea for one another.  I have a greater appreciation for matcha and all that went into growing and preparing it.  This was absolutely one of my top favorite things in Japan.

Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine

Have you ever seen something on tv or in the movies and think “there’s no way it’s that cool in real life?” That’s what I thought about Fushimi Inari Shrine.  Memoirs of a Geisha is one of my favorite movies and the scene of little Chiyo running through the path of torii gates is a gorgeous scene.  I originally thought there were only a hundred gates or so but there are thousands.  All brightly orange in varying sizes, lining the path to the top of the mountain.  The pictures don’t do it justice.  If you get a change to see it, go.

One thing I am bummed about is that I did not get to see the Kinkakuji Temple, we tried but arrived after it closed.  So I guess that means we’ll have to go back to Kyoto again to see that and stock up on some more green tea.

From Kyoto, we took a day trip to Nara to stuff our faces some more.

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