(Read the full post and see more photographs at brown.exposure.co)
DAY 3: LEAVING TOKYO
We bid farewell to our Tokyo dwelling and wrote a note in Kai-san‘s Guest Book thanking him for the stay, and made our way to Shinagawa station to catch the Shinkansen to Kyoto.
We stopped for breakfast at Gotanda station, eating a small meal at Mos Burger. Which means we will be hungry soon. Mos is tasty but always not filling enough.
Even though we left after 9am, we still had to deal with the remnants of rush hour and the commute to Shinagawa was fairly packed.
We got our 7-Day JR Pass validated and received our boarding passes for the 10:10 a.m. Hikari Super Express 467 train for Kyoto. There are trains that depart for Kyoto from Tokyo every 30 minutes so we were not too worried about not being able to get a seat.
While waiting for our bullet train, we tried to take some not-too-successful wefies.
Isaac was given permission to play with the iPod Touch while I slept. When I woke up, I was charged and the iPod was drained.
We just reached Nagano station. I think the next station is Kyoto. I will check the scrolling electronic signboard again.
Kyoto! Finally we arrive and the city has a different vibe from Tokyo. It looks more old school, feels more laid back and exudes a strong sense of history and culture.
We were too early for check-in at our guest house so we dropped our bags and walked to the Kyoto Manga Museum nearby.
Along the way, we popped into a Japanese bookstore because I love photo books by Japanese photographers and secretly, Japanese stationery too. Isaac complained that most of the books in the store were in Japanese, even the English novels. Fair point.
We paid ¥800 for me and ¥100 for Isaac to visit the Kyoto International Manga Museum. The building used to be Tatsuike Elementary School, a school with more than a hundred years of history.
Inside, you can find more than 300,000 manga and manga-related items. People read at the library-like tables, in sofas, and most popularly, on the lawn. Yes, the museum had a lovely lawn on the grounds and you can just sit or lie down and read your manga in the lovely 20°C weather.
We spent a good two hours there, looking at the exhibits and reading the comics. I enjoyed reading on the grass, like a kid.
I spotted a comic I enjoyed reading as a teen, called Lone Wolf and Cub, and wanted to introduce the son to it. Then I flipped through the pages and remembered it had some er, adult scenes. So I left him to read Young Justice and Superman, and read Lone Wolf and Cub Volume 1, myself.
We made our way back to the guest house and our bags were already placed in our room. I spotted the washing machine and smiled. It will save me from the sink washing.
We rested a hour or so before setting off for dinner. We had a Mos Burger breakfast and a McDonald‘s lunch (we were hungry after getting off the Shinkasen, don‘t judge us) so we were hankering for some ramen.
The streets of Kyoto near our guest house are bustling with shops and fashion. I think our location is pretty central. As we walked, we tried to look out for a good ramen stall.
Isaac had almost given up hope when I saw legs under a curtain. This was one of those hole-in-a-wall ramen shops.
My senses told me the food would be good and Hakata Nagahama Ramen Miyoshi ramen was awesome. I ordered two char siew ramen for us and a side of kimchi and sujin (beef brisket). He had his first taste of kimchi and drank an entire cup of water. I guess it was a tad too spicy for him.
The beef brisket was more to his taste and he helped himself to that.
We wandered around the shopping district a little more and spotted a street protest. I decided to show Isaac how to take photos with my X100T.
“Get closer, son,“ I said. “Don‘t take the protesters from across the street like this, cannot see anything one.”
He crossed the street with me and stood right next to the column of protesters going by. I have to say he caught a few good shots of the protesters.
As Robert Capa says, “If your photographs aren‘t good enough, you‘re not close enough.”
We shared a crepe dessert together before heading back.
While hanging up the laundry of the day, Isaac and I discussed important issues like whether Kylo Ren could be Luke Skywalker in Star Wars VII.
Then we FaceTimed mommy and his youngest sister, Joy, as we did every night, telling them about our day and giving them a tour of our room.
Joy also showed her autistic older, Faith, the phone and we waved to her. “Hi Cheh Cheh! Papa and Isaac are video-calling from Japan!“
My firstborn Faith giggled and grabbed the phone, and then to our surprise, she waved back at us. Even when we are overseas, Faith surprises us and makes us feel at home.
DAY 4: KYOTO
Day four was a day of buses. We bused everywhere in Kyoto. Got lost once. But generally got to where we wanted to go.
We started the day early. So early that when we walked through Nishiki Market, it wasn‘t fully open yet. They sold all kinds of produce there and traditional foods.
We wondered into a small temple while in Nishiki Market and Isaac was fascinated by this machine with a mechanical horse inside that picked fortunes.
I told him it was a waste of ¥200 but he seemed keen to see what the horse did. So I gave him the money and the horse gave him his fortune. Under “Studies“, it said “Don‘t give up.” We had a good laugh at that.
Then we just kept on walking and ended up at Kamo River. The view was very nice so we bought some breakfast at a Family Mart and I showed him how to buy the Yong Tau Fu there.
We sat on a bench overlooking the river and ate our stash. Isaac seemed more interested in the black pepper fried chicken cutlet he picked out than the Yong Tau Fu, so I had to eat the rest of his bowl.
Next to us, an elderly lady was having her photo taken by her husband. She came over and asked us where we are from and I said, “Singapore.” “Ah, then we are neighbors! We are from JB! We heard your accent and thought you must be either Singaporean or Malaysian! Haha!”
We had a nice chat about places we had already visited and she told us where they went in Japan. And she said that Hiroshima was totally worth a visit, including an island near the city called Miyajima island.
I thanked her and while I finished the last of my breakfast (Isaac had gone back to the Family Mart to buy another chicken cutlet and Kirin Ice Lemon Tea), I made a room booking for Hiroshima on my phone. Next destination settled.
Next stop was Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion. I checked out Google Maps and we took a bus 205 there. It took us about 45 minutes.
You board Kyoto buses in the middle, and exit at the front. And you pay only when you disembark. You have to wait till most of the passengers have disembarked before the middle door opens for the new passengers to board. This confused us at the beginning but we got used to it after five bus rides.
I had to ensure we had ample coins because the bus took exact change. It was ¥350 each ride because it was ¥230 for me and ¥120 for the son.
The Golden Pavilion was lovely but we still had other places to go. So we hopped onto bus 59 to go to Kiyomizu-dera, up on a hill. The walk up was packed with school children, tourists and ladies in kimonos.
Some of the kimono-clad ladies is bluff people one. A few were Japanese but many were Hong Kongers, Taiwanese and PRCs.
There were many touristy shops along the way up to Pure Water Temple, but no suitable place for lunch. So we delayed our lunch and just aimed for the top.
“Never have a meal near tourist spots, the restaurants usually tai lang one,“ I shared this sagely travel advice with my son.
Kiyomizu-dera really is lovely in autumn. We hung around for awhile taking photos and then made our way downhill, only to meet an even bigger crowd going up to see the sunset.
We were pretty hungry by 3:00 p.m. so I told Isaac we should eat a bit first. I bought us some vanilla custard puffs from Yatsuhashi Cream Puff near the temple.
I also tried the rice balls from a shop down the road, though Isaac politely declined.
On the bus ride back to our area, I got up the middle of bus 207 and a friendly couple greeted me. “Hi, mrbrown! We follow you on Instagram, we love your photos of Japan.”
What a small world.
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