Thursday, September 28, 2017

Continuing our travel diary in Japan two years ago, is actually skipping that day trip to Hakone (Mt. Fuji) to talk about Kyoto.

(Mt. Fuji's diary post will be on a separate blog ^_^ )

Kyoto: The Thousand Year Capital

I personally consider Kyoto as that city with a very rich history and culture. To me, it became the highlight of this trip. It was so memorable that whenever friends and relatives asked me what they could do in Japan, I usually suggest everything that we experienced in Kyoto. Whether this may be visited on Spring, Summer, Autumn or even Winter, trust me when I tell you that Kyoto will never disappoint.

Our business was done (but not really done. hahaha) from Kanto Region and it was time for us to go back to Kansai, where we originally made our entry. As I've mentioned on my previous blog post, our itinerary was done starting from the farthest location from our point of origin. This is where we have made our JR Pass fully utilized. From Tokyo, we went back to Kansai Region via shinkansen (bullet train) again and took us about three hours and 15 minutes to reach Kyoto.

bento box that we bought.

Before we left Tokyo, we made sure that we have bento boxes brought along to eat. There would still be a pretty lady staff on board the train as well with her cart selling bento boxes, snacks and drinks for passengers but it is better to be prepared in case she does not have anything in her cart that you like.

While we were on the way, we were blessed to have clear skies that we managed to see Fujisan in its very scenic view.


We were fortunate to have a sunny day when we landed in Kyoto. As I've mentioned that Kyoto was the highlight of this trip, Albert and I decided to stay at the traditional japanese inn also called as ryokan while being there. Since our ryokan is located at the far western side of Kyoto, we planned our check-in time a bit late in the afternoon. We arrived in Kyoto about noontime, so we planned on spending that chunk of time to visit Arashiyama district first before staying at the ryokan for the rest of the day.

Planning route:

From Kyoto Station, we transferred and took the train from the JR Sagano Line to reach the town of Kameoka, where our ryokan is. A private vehicle c/o the ryokan had already been arranged to fetch us at JR Kameoka station the time we agreed to. 

JR Kameoka Station. (photo c/o my kyoto-tales blog site)

The role of coin lockers:

(photo from

This is where we decided to make use of the luggage lockers. I believe that in every station, there are surely lockers for travellers to use. I would also like to believe that farther the station is to the city, the more cheaper it gets. But to give a rough sum, the lockers may vary, ranging from 300 to 500 yen, depending on the size. Albert and I opted to rent one medium and one large sized locker to put in our luggage. We didn't get that chance to take a photo of the locker we used since we were more mindful to secure our luggages first.

Sample of coin lockers. (photo credit from

After we ensured our luggages are kept secured, we took the train again and went back to alight at Saga Arashiyama Station, where our food trip and sightseeing began.

Noon: Arashiyama District
Togetsukyo Bridge
Tenryuji Temple
Arashiyama Bamboo Groves
Sagano Scenic Train

Arashiyama District is one of the mainly visited places in Kyoto, known for its scenic landmarks most especially in Spring and Autumn seasons. We initially planned to rent a bicycle here because it is best to stroll the district and is highly encouraged. But since our selected landmarks could be easily traversed by feet, we just casually walked and enjoyed the view. Togetsukyo Bridge or Moon Crossing Bridge is the most popular landmark to visit, as the bridge was scenically rendered with a mountainside background. Be it spring or autumn, the view is perfect for sightseeing, for pictures, most especially for hanami or flower viewing in spring.

Tenryuji Temple is the most popular temple in Arashiyama and is already a world heritage site. The temple is known for its beautiful, zen garden. We didn't go inside the temple itself as our time already consumed by the garden, but it is surely worth it. Plus, this was just one of the many temples we have visited in Kyoto, so it's fine.


We followed the flow of people from exiting the temple all the way where we could go direct to the Bamboo Groves. To me, that pathway full of bamboos were majestic, serene and simple amazing. It reminded me so much of the old Kyoto, based on what I've watched from tv series and anime, specifically Rurouni Kenshin.

After an almost three-hour stroll with side food trips in between, it was time for us to go back to Kameoka. We did so by taking the Sagano Scenic Train. Days before the trip, we already knew that the sakuras would not be in full bloom yet by the time we reach this part of the trip. But still, the view we saw from taking this ride was breathtaking. This old-fashioned train crossed mountains, one after another, it took routes by the forested ravine and runs along the Hozugawa River.

They said that it is best to take this scenic experience during autumn as the tree foliages at the ravine changes its color. From what we've experienced, I'd like to believe that too.

The Sagano Scenic Train operates starting from Torokko Saga station (beside the Saga Arashiyama - JR Nagano Line) until to Torokko Kameoka station. From Torokko Kameoka, we just walked until we reached JR Kameoka Station to meet the chauffeur from the ryokan.

The Ryokan Experience - Sumiya Kiho-an Ryokan

We arrived at this wonderful ryokan, or a traditional japanese style inn with its remarkable hot springs at the foot of Tanba mountain, far western side of Kyoto. The traditional Japanese inns are usually known to express the native Japanese hospitality, accommodated with how a normal lifestyle a Japanese would have in a home, like the use of futon, tatami mats, japanese baths, even eating food in a traditional way, and of course, wearing japanese clothing such as yukata.

Sumiya Kiho-an is known for their natural hot springs that they call Yunohana Onsen and their extraordinary service of their traditional japanese multi-course cuisine or kaiseki. It was so memorable and intricate on how they serve and present their food. I think that if someone who reads this blog post would be helpful for you to decide to try this because it's truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

We were pleasantly welcomed by Chika-san and assisted us to our two-night stay. We took the 34 sq. m. room they had called Yama-no-iori. The smallest but still perfect enough just for the two of us. In that room, they have that corner where they have the kotatsu or that low table covered in futon, topped with a solid surface. This is normally used on colder months because there's a heating device underneath. So cool! I've only seeing those things in japanese dramas and animes! I was giggling in excitement, you don't know how much!!

This is Chika-san, giving us our pair of yukata :)

We had been given also a pair of yukata to use all throughout our stay.

Prior to our arrival, we already included an hour use of the secret open-air onsen or what they call Yama-no kakure-yu. This is the very first time I have tried a legit onsen where I have to be naked. Yes. Naked! Actually, even if I used the normal onsen for women, I still have to be naked because that's how it should be!

The area became exclusively just for the two of us, and the natural hot water came from the stream of the mountain. The staff also claimed that this secret open-air bath was once used by John Lennon and Yoko Ono back in the day. They even showed us the replica of John and Yoko's autograph for those who would request to see it. How cool was that!

Of course, the original autograph is with the ryokan owner. It's a prized possession after all!

As the weather was pretty cold, dipping into the onsen was just right for us to soothe our body and relax.

It was dinner time, and the next thing we tried was the kaiseki, or the multi-course meal. Albert and I were both stunned with how simple yet sophisticated the presentation of each meal was. Not only that, it was superb delicious. Multi-course meal means we have to prepare an extra pocket to our tummies as every plate, one by one, came in. I actually thought the arrival of the plates would never end. It may be of small portions of those very well presented plates, but it was surely packed and was so filling, yet so gratifying as well.

the dinner menu, written in Japanese. (that we couldn't understand LOL)

sashimi cuts; soup with crab meat

steamed fish with thin egg strips; various set of appetizer

vegetable tempura; octopus

What we like most in this course meal was when they served us this freshly grilled Tanba beef with the juiciest bamboo shoots ever. I don't know to you guys, but I could never forget that taste and how it landed in my mouth. It was simply amazing.

We were also served with hot sake, perfect for the cold weather! The mikan dessert we had was so refreshing, a bit sour but still light, just right to cap off all that we have chugged down to our bellies.

After dinner, our room was then prepared by the housekeepers to set up for our futon beds. The futon was also warm as they had heaters underneath as well. It was so comfortable to sleep to.

(photo grabbed from Sumiya Kiho-an photo gallery)

In the ryokan, you'd learn the things to expect, and the right ways to move around in the facility. Even in the onsen, we have learned the most appropriate way how to use it. Learning the japanese culture such as these made me realize how respectable they value their culture and how they respect people's needs.

This is it for the first part! I'd be talking about the rest of the Kyoto trip which was just as awesome as this! Or even more!

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