Our plan today was to visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove using the Randen Tram line in the morning. In the afternoon we were going to explore the old town area Higashiyama some more.
We wanted today to be more relaxed. We’d had a later one last night exploring and had been running around pretty much non-stop. Today was all about slowing it down.
Breakfast at Smart Coffee
We spotted Smart Coffee when we were wandering the Shotengai around our hotel and had seen people queuing to get in. We’d made a mental note to try it out, and what’s more relaxing than a luxurious breakfast?
After a short queue we were shown to our seats and this place was fancy 🧐.
Myself and my boys had Iced coffee’s with my wife going for tea. We ordered Hot Cakes1 and French toast both served with a generous cup of maple syrup.
The service and presentation at this place was high class. The only thing I could really compare it to in the UK would be Betty’s Tea Rooms
I was looking at what other tables had ordered, and their egg sandwiches and purin2 also looked world class.
Keifuku Randen Trams
With full bellies, we found where we needed to get the tram, and the journey was a delight! There’s a whole sub genre of video games in Japan that are videos of train journeys where you can ‘drive’ the train, and I can see why3. It’s a fascinating look at the landscape from a different perspective seeing what the driver sees.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Arashiyama station area is dare I say it a little bit touristy, but very pleasant and the walk to the Bamboo grove is well signposted. Once you’re in the grove itself, the atmosphere is breathtaking. As well as the sheer scale and size of the bamboo, the noise it makes and how it moves when the wind hits it is just as amazing. Take a look 👇
There are also shrines to look at, and they were selling Ema you could write a prayer or wish on. Alongside the wishes for long life and to find love, we had to chuckle at one that said “I hope we don’t kill each other on this holiday!” 🤣. Little racks with layers and layers of peoples hopes and dreams in a physical form.
We finished our wander of the forest and explored the area around it afterwards. We were going to walk to an observation point that apparently had great views but Apple Maps tried to direct us via cemetery so we turned around.
As we turned around we saw a car was going to try and take the same route! An old lady tending to the graves moved at great speed to stand in front of the car with her arms crossed 🙅♀️ until they turned around. I bet with smartphones and route planning this sadly must happen to her all the time 🤦♂️
When we got back into the town, I had a matcha and tofu ice cream that was deliciously creamy with a strong matcha punch.
Back at the train station, we saw on a sign that apparently the station has a foot spa! We couldn’t miss out on that. The Spa cost less than ¥200 per person and you got an amazingly cute towel that you can keep as a souvenir.
Our feet refreshed, we travelled to Higashiyama. The old district of Kyoto. Lots of this area has protected status against development therefore it’s incredibly picturesque and beautiful.
Our first stop was a famous picture spot to snap a photo of the Yasaka Pagoda,and then we wandered the streets looking at the stores.
My wife had heard of a store marked with Three Umbrellas outside where an artist sold traditional hand created art and wanted to pop in and get something. She had a conversation with him, and once he knew we were from the UK he excitedly opened up a book of his artwork.
It turns out he has family that moved to Bristol in the UK and showed us the artwork he’d drawn of his time there! My wife excitedly said that she’d been to Bristol as well. He showed a painting he’d done of his bed in the UK as well. Possibly as this is different than the Japanese style of bed he was used to.
Artwork secured, we moved towards food and found Kirakuan, which is apprently a bit of a popular instagram food due to the way they stack the chicken in a cup?! We had no idea before we went, and were simply lead by our noses. I bought some of the fried chicken as well as a meat and potato croquette. Both of which were absolutely delicious. I would go so far as to say this was the nicest and juiciest fried chicken I have ever had.
We tried to go for Kakigori4 but by mid afternoon it was so busy it was basically impossible to get a seat. We found a smaller place doing a simpler fruit shaved ice than the traditional style with red bean and other toppings but it was still delicious.
We walked up the hill to Kiyomizu-Dera Temple and took some photos of the entrance, but it was so busy we decided not to go inside.
We walked back down the hill, by this time the crowds were filling the entire streets so we beat a hasty exit back to our hotel to rest our feet, and then went back to Kura for a conveyor belt sushi dinner.
A quick wander around the local neighbourhood and shopping streets, we called it a day before our trip tomorrow to another new city. Osaka!