Kyoto, Japan (4 nights)

After arriving at K’s House Kyoto we pretty much just dropped our bags and headed out to find dinner. We were turned away from a few restaurants, seemingly because they were full, before we were accepted at Torikizoku, which was a a stand-up restaurant/bar.

At Torikizoku we ordered beer, salmon sushi, tuna sushi, a mixed sushi plate, fried potatoes, and a bean sprout dish. After eating this, we ordered a sake, a special Kyoto drink, fried shrimp, and an egg omelet. Our feast ended up being a bit more expensive than we had hoped/expected at 3450 yen ($30.66). All of the food was pretty good at least.

Our many small plates at Torikizoku.
Second round of drinks at Torikizoku.

On Saturday Katie virtually attended Patrick’s practice defense at 6am. After working and relaxing in the room for a while, we went around 10:30am to eat ramen at hostel-recommended Honke Daiichiasahi.

Tiny dining area at Honke Daiichiasahi.

At Honke Daiichiasahi we ordered two different types of ramen – The Special Noodles seemed to just be a larger and meatier version of the other bowl, but the two bowls also had slightly different broth. We each ate some of both types – we found the noodles to be delicious and the meat to be tender and tasty. Our two ramen bowls and the dumplings cost 1800 yen ($15.99).

Ramen at Honke Daiichiasahi.

After finishing our ramen, we walked to check out Kyoto Station and a grocery store before settling into a day of work in the common lounge on the 2nd floor of K’s House Kyoto. The wifi was generally good and there were desks against the wall.

The common area at K’s House. Photo from the hostel’s website.

After dusk, we walked to Shijo Dori along the Kamo river to the Gion Matsuri evening strolls. We were playing Pokemon and found a raid battle with a Snorlax along our walk. Katie didn’t have a Snorlax yet, so she was very excited to win this battle and catch the Snorlax. We joined three other users for this battle (which was a first, usually we get at most one other person joining us), and needed all five of us to beat the Snorlax!

As we neared Shijo Dori, we noticed large crowds stretching in both directions. We turned left towards where Katie had read most of the floats and festivities would be. At first, we saw only street food in front of pre-existing restaurants and convenience stores and no floats. We got a corn dog and normal sausage at one stand to curb our hunger. Eventually the large buildings gave way to neighborhoods and we saw our first parade float.

After not seeing any food stands on Shijo Dori for a while, we stopped at stand outside a 7-11 and got some hot dogs.

The floats are made of wood and have electric lanterns. They vary greatly in terms of size and decoration, although most had trees on top and children playing wind instruments and bells.

This float also offered tours for 700-yen/person.

There were large sections of food stalls. We eventually decided on a noodle dish with meat and an egg, vegetable, and pancake dish with sweet dark sauce. The meat on the noodle dish was inedible to us, but the food was tasty otherwise.

The okonomiyaki “Japanese pancake” dish was the best of the three we tried.

After eating, we continued wandering through the neighborhoods. We many floats large and small. We enjoyed the floats from the ground and enjoyed people watching. We eventually bought some fried dough containing a cheese/meat substance and a beer. The crowds started  thinning around 10pm and everything seemed to conclude for the night around 11pm. See our post on Gion Matsuri for more information and photos!

On Sunday morning we slept in before walking to Kyoto Station. We found the 10th floor Ramen area in Kyoto Station, where there were 8 ramen shops with different types of ramen from all around Japan.

An entire floor of ramen restaurants in Kyoto Station.

We selected one ramen restaurant that had a choice of miso, soy sauce, and salt broth and ordered using the machine.

English screen on the ramen ordering machine at a restaurant on Ramen Street in Kyoto Station.

Katie tried the ‘women’s special’ which included a half portion of ramen (Katie chose miso base), salad (Katie chose sesame dressing), and drink (Katie chose tea). The bowl of ramen did not appear to be half-sized though!

Katie’s ‘women’s special set meal’.

JT tried a bowl of ramen with miso broth and a bowl of rice with salmon and roe. This might have been some of the best ramen we ate.

JT’s set ramen meal.

After eating our meal we noticed a Sky Walk.  We walked out onto the 10th story Sky Walk above Kyoto Station, but were surprised that the views were more focused outward than into the station.

Views from the Sky Bridge in Kyoto Station.

As we were starting to descend from the Sky Walk, we heard a bell ringing and noticed a wedding concluding a few stories down.

We saw a wedding in the Kyoto train station.

After making out way back down many escalators to the main hall of Kyoto Station, we took a local San-In JR train line to Saga-Arashiyama station.

Escalators went up at least eleven stories from Kyoto train station’s main hall.
Despite different departures, both trains would arrive at Saga-Arashiyama Station around the same time.

We saw green tea ice cream being served near the Saga-Arashiyama station exit for 300 yen a cone. Katie had been wanting to try green tea ice cream, so we bought one.

Green tea ice cream near Saga-Arashiyama Station.

After eating the ice cream – which was very good – we battled a Pokemon raid battle and then walked through the bamboo garden path. As expected, the path was pretty but crowded.

Bamboo in the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.

It became apparent that we were going to be caught in a rain storm, so we retreated to Torokko Arashiyama Station. Unfortunately, the Torokko Arashiyama Station was only served by a 620 yen romantic rail scenic train.

The romantic rail train leaving Torokko Arashiyama Station.

We stayed under cover for about an hour to wait out the rain showers.

Waiting out the rain showers.

Once the rain slowed to a sprinkle, we walked back along the bamboo path to the Saga-Arashiyama JR rail station. The path was actually more beautiful going back to the station, and it was much less crowded due to the rain!

The bamboo forest path was really pretty.

We had noticed that many Japanese tourists bought or rented summer kimonos to wear as they walked around Arashiyama.  It made walking around Arashiyama even more magical.

Many of the Japanese tourists dressed up in yukatas – these two women were kind enough to let us take their picture.

Local trains back to Kyoto were running every 10 minutes. We caught one quickly after arriving at the station and were even able to find seats. Once back at Kyoto Station, we walked back to K’s House.

Once at K’s House we worked for a few hours before noticing that the wifi got slower as the common lounge on the second floor got louder and more crowded. We dropped our laptops in our room around 9:30pm and opted to try out the ‘half-price draft beer and cocktails’ special at the Travelers’ Bar and Cafe on the first floor. The beer wasn’t bad for 280 yen (usually 560 yen), but the cocktail serving was rather small. Neither the beer nor the cocktail would make sense at full price.

We tried another one of Google Maps’ ‘cheap eats’ restaurant recommendations for dinner: Ebsiu.

There weren’t many choices on the menu at Ebsiu.

After reading the reviews, we had to try the 500 yen fried chicken. Katie got what she assumed was the house 700 yen ramen, since it was the largest picture on the menu. JT opted for what translated to ‘magnificent ramen’, which ended up just being a spicy version of what Katie ordered. The ramen had thin noodles, green onion, and think slices of chicken.

Ramen at Ebsiu. JT took the red one since we assumed it would be spicy.

Although the chicken was somewhat fatty, it tasted pretty good. The broth was certainly tasty. The fried chicken was certainly not breast meat, but we didn’t regret ordering it. This being said, we’d probably just order the ramen next time.

Chicken side at Ebsiu.

Walking back from dinner we stopped at a Mini Stop convenience store to pick up snacks and drinks. We bought a 152 yen ($1.38) sake juice box for JT, a 306 yen ($2.78) 2L sports drink for Katie, a 198 yen ($1.80) 2L green tea drink for JT, and 108 yen ($0.98) macha flavored crackers to share.

Lots of sake available at the convenience store.

On Monday morning we woke up at 7am to go watch the Gion Matsuri parade. We left K’s House and walked about 20 minutes to the first corner on the parade route. On our walk to the parade route, we stopped at a Family Mart convenience store to get snacks. JT got two rice balls for 110 yen ($1) each and an energy drink for 238 yen ($2.16) while Katie got a banana bread slice for 108 yen ($0.98), pancakes filled with syrup for 108 yen ($0.98), a milk tea with tapioca for 160 yen ($1.45), and a package of five croissants for 120 yen ($1.09).

Although we arrived about 90 minutes before the floats would reach the first corner of the route, we were about three rows of people back. We managed to maintain our position, despite some very pushy people. There were five people ahead and to the side of Katie that were seriously battling for space.

We wanted to watch the parade from a corner because one of the most interesting parts of the parade is watching the floats navigate turning. Although the small floats are merely lifted and turned by 12-25 men, the larger floats are rolled onto wet bamboo pieces multiple times and then pulled. We were not disappointed! We enjoyed watching the 23 floats pass by the corner of Shijo and Kawaramachi streets. See our post on Gion Matsuri for more information and photos!

One of the smaller yet elegant floats.
Children playing bells while men pull in union to shift the float along wet bamboo slats.

We were incredibly tired after last float was pulled away from the corner and the crowds subsided. All of the time on our feet in the crowds was physically taxing for us – we stretched out for a bit and then slowly walked back to K’s House Kyoto.

Once back at K’s House, we showered and put on fresh clothing. Then we went down to the common lounge with our laptops to get some work done and do our laundry. We found that the washers were just 300 yen ($2.73), so we split our dirty clothing into two loads. The dryers were free, so we dried our clothing on low without worrying about how many cycles it might take for them to actually dry. In actuality, both loads dried completely on the first cycle.

300 yen self-serve laundry was on the 2nd floor at K’s House. Photo from the hostel’s website.

For dinner, we went out into the neighborhood. We went to what we though was a highly rated but cheaply priced restaurant – but it ended up being a fancier restaurant with small dishes and more expensive drinks. Our food and drinks were good at least. JT tried a Korean meat dish that ended up being just a thin slice of meat that was cooked with a torch at the table and a raw egg with spices for dipping. Katie’s meal was a larger three cheese omelet with meat sauce.

On Tuesday morning we woke up at 10am and checked out of K’s House Kyoto. We finally tried the 500 yen ($4.54) ‘choose four’ breakfast at the Traveller’s Cafe. We both picked hard fried egg, soft fried egg, and salad – JT opted for sausage as his fourth while Katie picked toast. Some of the condiments (like butter and jam) had been packed up or had ran out since we ordered right as breakfast was being finished. The orange juice only had half a cup left, but the coffee and tea (with real milk) lasted for our meal. All in all, it’s a solid option for breakfast.

The 500 yen breakfast at the Traveller’s Cafe.

We took our bags up to the second floor lounge and worked for a few hours until 2:15pm when we walked to Kyoto Station to start our trip to Nagasaki.

Leave a Reply