Thursday, January 21, 2016

Japan Solo // Kyoto: Following the Leaves

The planned highlight of this trip: Kyoto and its beautiful fall leaves! Emphasis on planned, as you can see in the pictures below.

The day I arrived in Kyoto was the Labor Thanksgiving holiday (November 23) in Japan, which translated to every housing establishment being fully booked days (even weeks) in advance. After hours of frantically refreshing, Agoda, you name it, I finally got a hotel room. Rates also double, so plan ahead for this holiday! (Lesson learned.)
I really appreciated this compiled list of fall leaves viewing temples and the current state of the leaves, which you can also find online here (but it's only in Japanese). Some of these temples I had never heard of and it takes the guesswork (more like disappointment) out of the visit.

Ichijoji Temple

I stumbled on this temple as I was walking towards another temple. My first glimpse of the momiji (Japanese word for Japanese maple trees)!

Kyoto University

This was the last day of their school festival. I kind of knew what to expect based on jdoramas, but it seriously blew me away! It also shows why I appreciate Japanese culture so much. No matter what they do, they will put in 110% effort and go all out. There was a fancy guidebook, food stalls serving real food like yakisoba and Korean bulgolgi, and awesome booths and performances!
The students did a live performance painting yojijukugo (Japanese four word idioms) to upbeat music. The energy from their performance was amazing, not to mention it's such a creative club!
I believe these ducks were hanging out in front of the Peacock Club's booth. Apparently you're allowed to keep animals in the dorms. Can I keep a baby panda pretty please?
A gem from the Origami Club. I can't stop laughing from the "DO NOT EAT!"
I was walking through the first floor, looked up and saw netting and random stuffed animals placed on it. Then I saw a drone looking thing moving around and it hit: it was a crane machine! Even cooler, it seems to be built by one of the student organizations! Kyoto University isn't the #2 ranked university in Japan for nothing, I s'pose.

Aaaand the highlight activity: cross-dressing cafe. It was an amazingly awkward and memorable experience. Apparently it was our guy's first time cross-dressing, he didn't know he'd have to do it, he did his own makeup, and he totally did not want to do it again. hahaha.

Ryoanji Temple

Visited this temple since it was near Ginkakuji and I didn't get to see it the first time in Kyoto. It was a bit far (still within the one-day bus pass area though) but very pretty. Ranks pretty highly on my Kyoto temples list.


Finally made it to one of the temples on the list at the top, and it was hands down the best momiji viewing temple I visited. Overall it was just a very disappointing fall leaves viewing year because of the unusually warm temperatures, but at least I got a bit of the vibe here.

Ramen Street

In one of the free city guidebooks I snagged from the tourist center was a feature on a ramen street. Being a pretty big ramen fan, I had to check this place out, especially since we missed it last visit. Armed with only the map above, no Internet, and a broken umbrella, I headed out from Ryoanji.
The place was hard to find because the bus stop was a far way off. I was out of the bus day pass area and had to pay additional fare to be dropped off in the middle of a small suburb (aka nowhere). Oh, and it was raining and dark. A few bumps on the way but I found it! I waited outside for 5-10 minutes and they were already sold out of the additional egg topping. Below are pictures of the entire menu.
I ordered the first item on the left of the picture above, the recommended original extremely chicken ramen (my own crude translation) and what I believe was featured in the guidebook picture.
Ta da! It was one of the most memorable ramen that I have eaten because the soup was very, very thick. I can't even call it a broth since the texture was like puree. The flavoring also wasn't traditional and reminded me a bit of curry. Still a delicious bowl of ramen though and I didn't regret having to go through all that hassle to try it. Going home I walked the opposite direction and it was a major street within the bus pass area, so it actually wasn't as far as I thought.

Kyoto Station

Concluding this long post (I think I've set a new record!) with one of my favorite stations in Japan. There are plenty well designed stations in Japan, but this one is special to me because of the amphitheater, which always changes according to the season. The Christmas animation they played really warmed my heart and I could feel the Christmas spirit sneaking in :)

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