September 07, 2015

Kyoto Day 1 - Riding The Nozomi Shinkansen And Exploring Gion

Day 5 of our Japan honeymoon and we are set for Kyoto. Tokyo has been wonderful and we are sad to leave, but we know there is still so much more fun to come. We're booked onto the 10am bullet train that departs Tokyo station, so after 4 hours shut eye and very groggy, we stumble over to Shinjuku station.

We will miss this crazy zebra crossing just outside Shinjuku JR station.

Before we plonk ourselves on the bullet train, we hunt for the famous Tokyo Banana shop inside Tokyo station. Underneath the main station is a plethora of shops and we get so lost trying to find it. Luckily, a lovely local came to our rescue and even got online to help search for it! Japanese people are so friendly and helpful, we were seriously in awe that this guy gave up 10 mins of his busy day (he was in a suit and looked liked he was on his way to work) to help us out.

This beautiful train is the Nozomi Shinkansen, the fastest bullet train on the Tokyo to Kyoto route. We paid extra ¥¥¥'s to get on this one, but it was worth it to experience just how fast it could go. Plus, we only paid for one way from Tokyo to Kyoto, as we would be making our return home from Osaka airport.

Once the train departed and picked up speed, it didn't feel that much faster than an average fast train. We were still sat quite comfortably and there wasn't too much motion. However, this was a different story when we looked out of the window... The speed of things flying past us went by in such a blur that there just wasn't enough time to really focus on anything! We had truly experienced what bullet speed was. Whoa.

With minimal motion yet super fast travelling speed, we really were mesmerised by the just how awesome the mechanics on this train were.

Somehow, G manage to capture some good photos on his phone, and we even got a glimpse of Mount Fuji.

I'd stocked up at a Family Mart for a train breakfast/picnic, I love the snacks inside a Japanese convenience store!

After 2hrs 20 minutes, we arrive at Kyoto station. We're staying in the beautiful Kikokuso, a traditional Japanese inn (called a ryokan) for our first night and make our way there to drop off our luggage first before exploring Kyoto. More on Kikokuso on the next post.

There's a park right opposite the inn, so we head over for a wander.

The park is peaceful and it's a nice relaxing spot for the locals.

We are about a 25 minute walk to Gion, a well-known geisha district, and we're hoping we'll spot one too! Wiki tells us the geishas refer themselves as a geiko, rather than a geisha. And if we do meet a geisha, it's unlikely that they will stop for a photo.
A shabby and charming house on a main road.

As we arrive in the Gion district, there are women wearing traditional kimonos everywhere. This really was a sight and it felt like we'd stepped back into old time Japan. The vibe is very relaxed, traditional and slow paced - miles apart from the modern city vibe we experienced in Tokyo.

We see shops after shops selling these layer cakes called baumkuchen and we buy a small piece to try. It was dense in texture and sweet to taste, but nothing extraordinary. Still, it's always fun to try cake on sticks!

Hanamikoji Street is one of the main street that houses many of the the ochayas, a townhouse where geishas perform and entertain. At first, we mistook girls in kimonos for geishas and took a billion photos on our camera.... later we find out that it's popular for tourist - male or female alike - to rent kimonos for the day and experience the traditional side of Kyoto. Doh!

As we wander through and no real geisha in sight, we spot this cute teahouse and head in for some tea and a rest.

A cup of matcha (green tea) made in the traditional way using a whisk, bowl and premium matcha powder used in Japanese tea ceremonies. It was our first try of 'proper' matcha, and it was quite a surprise! The matcha has a very intense 'green' taste that borderlines fishiness and is quite bitter. It wasn't for me, but G enjoyed the greeness and bitterness, so he ended up drinking mine too.

As we step out of the teahouse, G spots a geisha walking past!! We're so happy to see a geisha and we know she's the real deal from her makeup, hair and her 'nape makeup' (special neck makeup).

She walked super fast and within seconds, she'd disappeared into an ochaya.

As we recovered from our delight and buzz, another geisha walks right past us! Their kimonos are just so beautiful to look at.

Time for a cream puff. Nothing extraordinary, and I'm a little miffed by now that I've not found a good snack in Kyoto. The hunt is on!
Before we head back to our ryokan for an early dinner, we took a browse inside this pharmacy. Wow, pharmacies in Japan are mind boggling and sell every thing from medicines to beauty products and even food! The prices are cheap too and before I know it, I've filled a basket full of goodies.




4 comments

  1. What an AMAZING post, I want to go to Japan so much, I really loved looking at your pictures and sharing the experience with you :) I think I'd have bought everything in that Pharmacy in the last pic, haha!

    Lyndsay | Fizzy Peaches

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    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment and for stopping by Lyndsay! Japan is definitely a must visit!! I've got more Japan posts coming up including Osaka and Okinawa, so do check back =)
      It was hard to not shop in that pharmacy! x

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  2. ah...the breakfast / picnic looks so good...why does everything japanese look/taste so good! The geisha kimono girls look so beautiful. Think I would happily move to Japan for good.

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    1. Thanks Mandy and yes everything Japanese looks so good haha. Japan is seriously awesome, I;d visit if you ever did! =D

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