Thursday, December 31, 2015

Japan trip during June school holidays - Kyoto Kinkakuji/Heian Shrine/Fushima Inari-taisha (Part 5)

This is the last part of our Kyoto trip in 2015.  I must apologise that this post was long over due. We continued with more temple/shrines since the little one was more inclined to oblige after we brought him to his favourite Pokémon store in Osaka the day before. 

14 June 2015 Kinkaku ji (金閣寺)/ Heian Jingu (平安神宮)/Gion
After we had our dose of medicine which was a cup of coffee in a café at Kyoto station, we proceed to the bus station for Raku bus for another visit to temple/shrine. 

First stop was Kinkaku ji (the golden pavilion).  A zen Buddhist temple that served as a retirement villa of a shogun (将軍, millitary commander) in Kyoto. The picturesque surrounding the gold plated building (top floor) and its mirror reflection on the pond provided a perfect backdrop for photo taking.  People came in droves just for it (so do we!). It was a small compound and took us less than an hour to finish touring the ground. 

Who wouldn't want a soft served ice cream during summer time?!?! 

Having learnt about the difference between a temple and a shrine at home, we definitely need to make a trip down to Heian shrine to see it ourselves.  The shrine was built in 1895 to commemorate 1100th anniversary of founding of Heiankyo (former name of Kyoto) as well as dedicated to the late first and last emperors.   A giant torri gate welcomed us as we approached.   Buildings were painted with bright orange which was a common sight in all the shrines.  The paid garden was impressive and well worth to check out. We rested our foot at the Taihei-kaku covered bridge where my son fed the fishes and turtles for 100 yen. A delightful moment for the boy!  Towards the end of the visit, my boy entertained himself at the huge open area filled with gravel.  He got so carried away that he had some cuts on his knees from a fall unfortunately.


Japan was a shopping haven especially for cosmetic, skincare and medicated supplies.  Another bonus point was, these drugstores were tax free!  I went back to Nishiki to buy a bottle of 500ml Kose sekkisei lotion for 5400 yen from Sundrug which has the best deal in town.  I was not familiar with Kose sekkisei range of products and got confused over the term 'Japanese lotion' that I have mistakenly understood as skin moisturiser.  In fact, it was the 'toner' I was looking for. :P  At the cashier, I showed them my passport and the staff would attach the necessary papers and receipts onto the pages for the purpose of declaration at the airport.  (We thought we need to present the physical purchases to the officer for checks and hence did not pack inside our check-in luggage.  I was then told to re-pack the 500ml lotion as check-in luggage.  So silly of us lugging bags of our shopping spree!  Luckily, the bottle of 500ml lotion did not break in the midst of transporting.)

Papa also bought not one but many Sonny Angel minifigures from Kyoto LOFT for our niece, Christine, who was a fan and collector.  (Astonished and yet happy, she received so many at one go!)

Dusk began as the sun set from a distance illuminating Gion.  It was a gorgeous sight!  We could not leave Kyoto without trying a proper kaiseki meal (Japanese multi-course meal) insisted by Papa.  A once in a lifetime chance, not to be missed even though the whole course was really pricey.  With the help of Righa Royal hotel staff, we made a reservation with Gion-Nanba, a one Michelin star restaurant.  It was hidden in a dark alley and we almost could not locate it.  We settled for a 10 course meal and my boy, has a 8 course meal. We also ordered a small sweet sake to complement our meal which was tad too sweet for me.  The lady boss, who spoke little English, explained the ingredients used in each course that was meticulously prepared by the chef.  We were all so stuffed by the 6th course.  Nevertheless, the food was great and we enjoyed the dinner very much!


The chef and us

15 June 2015 Fushima Inari-taisha (伏見稲荷大社)
Before we flew back home tomorrow, our last stop was Fushima Inari-taisha.   This shrine dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes were the Inari's messengers and hence, there were many statues around the shrine.  The attractiveness of this shrine was its famous Torii gates which lined up to the forest of sacred Mountain Inari forming a walking trail. 

We took a train to JR Inari station where the shrine was located outside the entrance of the station.  How convenience it was!  There were lots of steps ascending and descending the mountain.  Some of which were pretty steep and hence, be prepared with a pair good steady walking shoes and a bottle of drinking water.  Along the way, there were vending machines selling mineral water and therefore, fret not if you did not bring any. By the time, we reached the top, we were all perspiring profusely and exhausted.   A good work out in the morning indeed !

Back to Kyoto station, we had a simple and yummy bento lunch.  Afterwhich, we were off in search of some Japanese paper for our dear Christine.

In the evening, we wanted to try Japanese charcoal grill dining experience and picked a restaurant cum bar which seemingly appeared to be the one. They served frozen meat right out from the refrigerator (not even defrozed yet) and we paid exorbitant price for a lousy meal. Worst, Papa miscalculated our expenses and did not have enough cash to foot the bill.  Frantically, he went back to our hotel for help which was just nearby and left us, embarrassed and unsettled in the restaurant.  We waited anxiously for his return. Papa was directed to a few convenience stores and finally, 7-Eleven ATMs saved our day. <Phew>  Ironically, I randomly took a picture of the poster around Narita airport Tokyo on arrival.  Was it a pure coincidence?  I found it absolutely baffling. 


Nevertheless, it was a wonderful holiday.  The next morning, we took the Haruka limited express train to Kansai Airport International Osaka, bidding goodbye to Japan.  But we certainly look forward to our next holiday destination in Japan again!

This was the longest travelogue I have ever written.  If you like it, please hop on to other parts of our Japan trip below.

Gingerbread man cookies

Christmas has just passed.  The new year is coming and there are lots of new year countdowns happening in town and our neighbourhood.   
December 2015 has been quite a busy year for us.  Attended a wedding in Malacca and a relative's baby shower in Singapore.  We also went on a 10 days road trip to Malaysia (Malacca/Pangkor Laut/Genting).  We enjoyed eating and snacking Nyonya food in Malacca and reminiscing about old times we brought our little boy, then 3 years old at the former and 4 years old in Genting.  And our first luxury retreat at Pangkor Laut resort that I could have otherwise dreamed of.  Thanks to the weakening of Malaysia Ringgit currency against SGD. Our dear Papa bought the Spa package as a belated birthday surprise for me.  Back home in Singapore, we watched 2 movies; The Good Dinosaurs and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.   Baked gingerbread man cookies 2 days before Christmas days.  Gone to the Science center with Granny for the Sea Monster exhibition.   Phew......
Time flew.  In a week's time, my boy will be going back to school.  He is still in his holiday mood though....