Half Day in Kyoto – Yasaka Shrine & Kiyomizudera

Kyoto is such a beautiful place which definitely deserves more than half a day but since we couldn’t dedicate more time to it, it only means that I WILL RETURN AGAIN.

Alright, so i took the Shinkansen (Hikari) from Shinagawa to Kyoto Station. It was a ride which took approximately 3 hours.

First thing we did after meeting up was to purchase the extremely delicious Malebranche Cha no Ka matcha (Green Tea) biscuit with white chocolate in the middle, and it tastes better than Hokkaido’s famous Bai Se Lian Ren White Chocolate Biscuit.

This biscuit is ONLY sold in Kyoto and some southern parts of Japan (as at March 2015) and there’s usually a long queue at the counter. The branch we visited was at JR Kyoto Station itself, Isetan B1. Other LocationsClick for tripadvisor review. I’m not kidding about the taste. The downside of this was that it is very pricey at 1,360Y per piece, and that the shop closes early at 20:00. Thus, we had to buy it and bring it throughout our Kyoto itinerary. Thankfully, it was Spring and the biscuits did not melt. All pieces successfully reached Singapore in tact and unbroken. *phew*

If I have the chance, I would definitely want to visit their cafe the next time!


Next up, we ate the highly-raved Tonkatsu Brand – Katsukura.

There was supposed to be a branch at JR Kyoto Station Building 11F but it was unfortunately under renovation when were there. However, there’s a review written in April 2015 and I think the renovation might have been completed.

Otherwise, you can visit the 1st & HEAD OFFICE かつくら三条本店 outlet located a few bus stops away from Kyoto Station at 京都市中京区河原町通三条西入ル. Yes, we were that desperate to go all out for this tasty dish. Using google maps, we had to take a very squeezy local bus for 4-5 stations.

Chances of missing this shop when you walk by is highly likely as the entrance is narrow and inconspicuous.

When you sit down. you will be given sesame seeds to grind (while you wait) and a selection of sauces to choose from. Being greedy, I settled for Prawn + Tonkatsu (Pork Cutlet) and both were equally good! It comes with a huge slab of vegetables, which is supposed to make the meal less heaty.

Although we were full after lunch, there’s always room for dessert. Thus we went to search for that legendary long queue dessert place. It was a long walk (15 to 20 minutes) before we reached the dessert shop – Tsujiri Honten (as recommended by ladyironchef).

http://www.giontsujiri.co.jp/gion/store/kyoto_station/
573-3 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto605-0074, Kyoto Prefecture

Despite arriving the destination in high hopes, the queue had about 20-30 people in line, far too long for us to sacrifice our limited time in Kyoto >_< It was a tough but necessary decision. We settled for a neighbouring shop (few stores away) which had the name “Tsujiri” too.

辻利 京都店 つじり きょうとみせ
http://www.kataoka.com/tsujiri-shop/access/
The less famous one even has a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/tsujirishop

Initially, we thought that both shops were somewhat similar as they had they shared the name “Tsujiri” but upon further research online, they seem to be 2 different brands with 2 different websites?

I took the (Limited Edition) Sakura Parfait (562Y) which comes with Matcha Soft-serve ice Cream with Cherry Blossom flavored Sweet bean paste and Cherry Blossom flavored meringue. Well, it tastes delicious but I can’t really give it a heavenly status because I have no basis of comparison as I have not tried out the other brand.

Anyway, we kind of suspect that ladyironchef gave the wrong information about the Tsujiri brand in Singapore belonging to the long queue one above which we didn’t get to try. The Tsujiri branding in Singapore seems to be more aligned with the one that we tried (based on menu choices). Then again, there’s a possibility that all 3 brands are not related at all!

After lunch + dessert, it was time to explore the streets of Gion. As we walked the streets, We managed to spot some yet-to-sprout Cherry Blossom trees. Sometimes, we stared really hard, hoping that eye power can speed up the process. Other times, we just reminded ourselves how lucky we were to chance upon the sprouts. *right*

As much as we hoped/prayed/researched, nope we did not manage to chance upon a single real Geisha. There were many fakes, wearing Kimonos and full make-up, walking the streets with a camera in their hand.

No idea what is the name of this river/canal but it looks picturesque and sheds light on the grey and gloomy day we had in Kyoto. To be honest, I wasn’t upset but glad that it did not rain. Rain in Japan is seriously #nojoke.

A performance house, drawing a huge crowd on the outside.

Finally, we reached our first real destination – Yasaka Shrine.

Step 1: Cleansing
Take the long scoop with your right hand, collect some water and wash your left hand, then change hands and wash your right hand. Change hands and use your right hand to pour the water into your cupped left palm and take a sip of water from your left palm. You can choose to rinse your mouth or just swallow the water. Your mouth does not touch the scoop entirely! Once you are done, hold the handle vertically, allowing the remaining water to clean the handle before putting it back (face down).

Upon entering the Shrine, there’s like 8 to 10 street stores selling souvenirs and food.

I had a beef stick for 500Y. It is nice but not heavenly-nice. Even though I was still quite full, the beef smell was simply too aromatic for me to resist =/

We were delighted to spot some blooming flowers here in the Shrine. I think they are pink cherry blossoms?

White Blossoms!

Blooming Blossoms!

Step 2: Prayer
Look towards the left side of the picture below, you will see people queuing up to ring the bells. The proper prayer procedure is that you throw you coin (ahead), usually people throw 100Y, and then you ring the bell by shaking the rope really hard. Take a step back from the rope and bow twice before making a prayer (silently). After your prayer, clap twice and bow one more time.

Step 3: Omikuji Fortune Lots
At most temples, you will see this bamboo container that people will shake and tilt out a stick (with a number), before proceeding to the counter to exchange the number (and money; 200Y in this Shrine) for their fortune slip. In Yasaka Shrine, there are two containers, one for love and one for general luck.

If you don’t understand chinese/japanese, you just have to recognize 吉 (Good) and 凶 (Bad). On a range of 1 to 5 with 1 being the best/worst: 大, 中, 小.

For my General Luck (Left), I’ve gotten 大吉, the best luck. For my Love Lucky, I’ve gotten the worse 凶 which simply means Bad Luck. A friend translated for me and there’s a portion whereby I should be wary of 3rd Party? I “lol” at it because there isn’t even a 2nd party to begin with.

Alright fortunes aside, it is just a “reading” and not a representation of reality. I sprained my ankle 3 weeks after my Best Luck fortune reading :s

So after reading your fortune, you are supposed to fold it and tie ONLY THE ONE WITH BAD LUCK to the strings situated in the shrine so that you don’t bring the bad luck home. BUT OH MY GAWD. I TIED MY SUPER GOOD LUCK TO THE STRING AS WELL. According to what I am reading online right now, they say that good fortune should be kept with you in your purse/pocket.

Sighs.. why did so many people tie their good fortune at the shrine? are they ignorant of this practice too? argh, now I know why I sprained my ankle.. I need to go back there and shake a good fortune slip and keep it with me..

Step 4: Buy an Amulet (Omamori)
Alright, I chose this based on its design and not on its functionality but thankfully it means “Open Luck, Better Fortune” which sounds pretty relevant to me. Out of curiosity, I actually opened the pouch before and in it, there’s a slip of.. blessing (I think). and OH MY GAWD I JUST READ ON WIKIPEDIA THAT IT SHOULD NEVER BE OPENED IN ORDER TO AVOID LOSING THEIR PROTECTIVE BENEFITS.

I think I really need to return to Japan to undo the wrongs that I have done.. By the way, Amulets are sacred and should not be disposed the usual way. Its protection usually last one year and people usually bring them back to the shrine/temple to discard it.

Read more about Omamori and not repeat my mistakes.. 

Well, my Omamori is kept together with my traveling bears (Duffy and Paddy) and I hope that they stay safe together aka not get misplaced by me in my pile of mess :/

Tori – a japanese gate, commonly found at the entrance on within a Shinto Shrine. It marks the entrance to a sacred space. This tori was located at the back entrance.

After exploring the shrine, we went back to Gion and walk the streets of beautifully preserved Edo-period building. As it was a Sunday, the streets were crowded.

Walking randomly around the streets can bring surprises, like this 20% in bloom cherry blossom tree!

We ate a cream puff along the way but it wasn’t very nice. The cream was a little too hard.

We chance upon this tall building – Yasaka Pagoda/Hokan-ji Temple while walking around. It is a five-tiered pagoda and it is also the oldest Pagoda in Kyoto. Didn’t have time to explore, maybe next time.

 

Another shrine spotted – Yasakakoshindo. This shrine is a little unique as their wishes/blessings is written on small pouches and hanged up.

 

Although it was getting late, we continued our plans on visiting Kiyomizu-dera, unsure about its closing time. The walk to the temple was slightly tiring as it was uphill. The streets were lined with many souvenir shops, signalling that you are most probably on the correct path.

We were excited to see the temple lighted up and bustling with crowds of people. There was a special evening illuminations (Hanatoro) that night and the temple will be opened beyond their usual operating hours! If I am not wrong, entrance ticket was 400Y.

FYI: Some buildings are undergoing renovation works.

Alright so after we paid and entered the temple, we saw a queue towards our left and decide to join the queue (though we have no idea what it is for). The queue took us 30 minutes and.. we were in for a surprise. We had to pay 100Y, and we were given a plastic bag to store our footwear. You have to enter barefooted.

Right. So we removed our shoes and walked down approximately 10 steps into this unknown room. It was pitch dark, and your feet is cold. There was a small warm lamp at the start but as you walk deeper in, the place gets entirely pitch dark. Initially there was some beaded railing to hold on to but after a while, I begin holding my friend’s hand and slamming my hands against the walls to make sure I wasn’t walking into one. At that point, it was very scary as we had totally no idea what to expect. It could be anything from haunted house to dark trail or whatsoever. In the end, there were a couple of people who ended up turning on their hand phone spotlight as it was simply too scary. In the end, when we made a turn, we saw this lighted stone at the right side. Not knowing what it was, I took a quick glance at this mysteriously carved stone and quickened my footsteps to the exit, back into civilization.

Sighs, I should have done more research prior to the trip. The entire walk was supposed to be sacred and a meaningful experience whereby you are symbolically entering the womb of a female Bodhisattva. Upon reaching the rock in darkness, we are supposed to spin it in either direction to make a wish. (Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/japan/kansai/kyoto/sights/religious/kiyomizu-dera#ixzz3XOKL4Lj9) Right. another wrongdoing this Kyoto trip.. I ruined the magical experience with my lack of knowledge..

We went on to explore the other parts of the temple and there was this beautiful pagoda in sight, at the other end. Initially, I was like.. no way am I going to walk so far cause I was extremely tired.. but.. it turns out that the place was out of bounds =p

We did that fortune lot drawing again, this time for 100Y and I got a bad luck reading for my general luck =( This time round, I did tie my bad luck on the strings in the temple, hopefully leaving all the bad luck behind forever..

The beautiful thing about this temple is that it is situated on the edge of cliffs which beautifies the backdrop of the entire temple.

It is also famous for its iconic wooden stilts which supports the main hall. According to Wikipedia, if you were to jump down 13m and survive the fall (success rate of 85.4%), your wish would be granted.

Don’t forget to drink the “Clear Water” from the Otowa Waterfall which has been diverted to 3 streams (as seen below). Join the queue (5 to 10 minutes of wait) and practice the proper drinking etiquette and sip some of these wish-granting water!

Beautiful night scene and you can spot the tall Kyoto Tower from the city skyline.

Very scenic spots for photo taking are available within the temple premises. As night falls, the temperature started to get really chilly, especially after using our hands to drink the wish-granting water..

As part of the illumination festival, the streets are lined up with these small lamps to create some sort of atmosphere. When we were there on March 15th, it was also the last day of the illumination festival.

Using google maps, we located a bus stop and hopped on the very squeezy bus which brought us back to Kyoto Station!

Chose a random restaurant at the food area and I ended up with a very delicious Cha Soba with some egg and ebi rice dish. The Soba with the freshly-grind wasabi was so delicious.

And that’s the end of my half-day Kyoto trip. Didn’t really do anything much but I have so much to say =/ Definitely have to return to Kyoto to visit again, and of course, to not make the same mistakes at the shrines and temples again..

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