June 2, 2019

Kyoto 2019 day 3: Higashiyama

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I didn't get much sleep last night, as I woke up early and decided to update the firmware of my DJI Mavic Pro.  After going through the necessary steps and thinking I was ready to go, I began reattaching the propellers - as I normally have them removed before boarding a flight.  That was when I realized that I had brought the wrong combination of propellers... so I carried my drone to Kyoto for nothing...

We decided to get an earlier start this morning, and headed to Kyoto Station in order to board Raku Bus (洛バス) No. 100 - one of three routes designed for tourists.  We would be exploring the eastern side of the city today.

The first stop of the day is Higashiyama Jisho-ji (東山慈照寺), which is otherwise commonly known as Ginkaju-ji (銀閣寺).  The design of the main structure was meant to emulate the famed golden pavilion of Rokuon-ji (鹿苑寺), and the pavilion was meant to be covered in silver foil, but the latter was never executed.

This was my second visit and took place more than 20 years after my first, and I think I finally gained more appreciation for this temple.  I can see why my friend Ninja likes it so much.  We enjoyed a stroll along the path up the small hill next to the temple, admiring the luscious, moss-covered surroundings which looked so green and serene. 

Upon exiting the temple, we found ourselves at the start of the famous Philosopher's Path (哲學の道) - which winds itself along the banks of a canal.  Today we would walk the entire length of the path, stopping occasionally to watch the big carps swimming against the current of the canal, or to shop for souvenirs...

As we headed in the direction of Nanzen-ji (南禅寺), we came upon the Nanzen-ji branch of Okutan (ゆどうふ  奥丹  南禅寺店) - the restaurant I had planned to stop for lunch.  It was not yet noon but the restaurant was open, so we decided to grab our lunch before the next temple visit. We did have to wait in line for a little...

The specialty here is tofu, or more specifically, tofu in soup (湯豆腐). I think I've stopped by on each of my visits to Kyoto...

There's only one set menu here - yudofu hitotori (ゆどうふ一通り) - so there's no need to do any ordering except for drinks.

Grated yam soup (とろろ汁) - made by grating Japanese yam (山芋) and then mixing it with dashi (出汁) or soy sauce.  The slippery texture takes some getting used to, and I saved most of it so I could pour it on to my rice to make tororo rice (とろろご飯).

Sesame tofu (胡麻豆腐) - I still remember the first time I tasted this... and being amazed at how tasty it was.  Over the last 20 years I have tasted countless other versions of sesame tofu, but this one was still very tasty.  Seasoned with a little soy sauce and a dab of wasabi.

Tofu skewers (木の芽田楽) - blocks of tofu are skewered, topped with some miso flavored with sansho leaves (木の芽), and lightly grilled.

Boiled tofu (湯どうふ) - the main event.  There was a very slim chance that we would be able to finish all the tofu, and it's a shame to waste it, but we did choose to take it with rice along with soy sauce, spring onions, minced ginger, and kuro shichimi (黒七味) that my friends liked a lot.

Deep-fried vegetables (精進天ぷら) - pumpkin, perilla leaf, nori (海苔), and shishito pepper (獅子唐辛子).

Having refuelled ourselves, we moved next door to Nanzen-ji (南禅寺).  This is one of my favorite places to visit in Kyoto, especially the san-mon (三門) which provides a nice view of the city from the top.

I don't recall seeing the aquaduct (疏水) here before.  It was apparently built in the late 19th century to bring water in from Lake Biwa (琵琶湖) to Kyoto.

Our next stop was Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺) - one of the most-visited temples in all of Japan. Wedged into the mountainside on the east, it looks out at the rest of Kyoto city.  Here we run into a horde of tourists, many of whom have dressed up in fake kimonos so that they could pose for selfies.  Unfortunately the Main Hall (本堂) was completely covered in scaffolding, which meant that we wouldn't get a nice view from there.  It was also starting to rain a little, so we decided not to enter the temple, and instead moved on to our final destination.

We did have to walk a long way down the hill and over to the train station.  Once we got off the train at Fushimi-Inari Station (伏見稲荷駅) on the Keihan Line (京阪線), I noticed the fox motifs were all around us.

There was an outlet of Senbon Inari (千本いなり) at the entrance of the station, selling - what else? - inari sushi (いなり寿司).  I just had to do it... eating inari sushi in Inari...  So I got one with grilled eel (鰻) and pickled ginger.

Because of its slightly out-of-the-way location, there were far fewer tourists at Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) on my last visit - which was less than a year after Memoirs of a Geisha was released in theaters.  Since then the whole world has caught on, and there are now thousands of women who flock to this temple, wanting to run along the path underneath the thousand torii gates (千本鳥居) like little Chiyo.

So naturally we tried to do the hike up the mountain, which would have been a 4km trek.  We got as far as Kumatakasha (熊鷹社) by Shin-ike (新池), and figured we should get back before it got too dark.  We took the JR back to Kyoto Station, then back to the hotel and freshened up for dinner.

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