Lost In Japan: Day 7 – Shabu Shabu and the Golden Pavilion

For these posts in Japan I actually wrote the bulk of the text during downtime (train/plane/bus journeys and late evenings mostly) so I could have a nice way to properly look back on my honeymoon.

Are the Japanese worry-worts or are they just practical. This thought went through my mind during a walk to a temple when we saw four separate traffic directing personal on the same road. I mean this is a land of earthquake and typhoon after all. Then again, there have been times (like walking down through all the Inari torii gates) where I would have given my eyelashes for a handrail. I guess it’s priorities?

Anyway, I’m off track. Today was our last full day where we could explore Kyoto, so we had a number of places to try and cram in. We didn’t manage to see all the “essentials” in Kyoto as according to Tripadvisor. Then again, when you have two days to explore it is all about prioritisation and the chance to let yourself deviate from the path when you can.

We began the day back at Nishiki market. Based on the recommendation of a few nice lady in Kyoto Tower we got ourselves a bag of soy milk donuts, fresh from the fryer, for breakfast. We happily munched on these passing a number of weird looking (and in the case of the photo, moving) storefronts. A trip on the train was needed for we were going for another one of the lonely planet places.

Before heading there we stopped by the Tenryuji Temple. It was here, the large gardens where we first began to notice that some of the trees had started to change colour. Coming in mid-late October means that we are still going to miss the larger scale changing of the leaves, but the fact that everywhere is starting to look like part of a frozen timelapse makes it very beautiful.

In terms of temples and shrines, of which we have now seen an awful lot of, this is one where the attraction is clearly more the gardens than the building. I don’t mean to downplay this grand old building, but the gardens are the reason to come.
There was also this very beautiful statue that can be scene near the Shinto shrine in the complex. I think it’s a very elaborate grave marker, must have been someone important, or rich.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 48/100Sight: Arashiyama’s Bamboo Grove
Location: Kyoto, Japan
Position: #75

It’s very hard to get photos to so this justice. The bamboo is just so high and the tourists are just too plentiful. I know that this is very much a pot-kettle situation, but the swarming of tourists meant that this was probably not as magical as it could have otherwise been.

The best bit, for me, was slightly further on where they had made a clockwise waking circuit out of the bamboo. It really allowed for some of the best pictures of the bamboo forest, and was probably the most peaceful part of the forest.

Here I was able to actually appreciate just how beautiful this forest of bamboo was. Considering how quickly bamboo can grow I doubt that anything in the forest is more than a year or two old. Plus, judging from the piles of bamboo in different places, this is a forest that must undergo regular crowd control.

List item: Waste a lot of money in a Japanese arcade
Status: Completed

We took the train away from Arashiyama in order to visit the golden pavilion at Kinkakuji. However, there was a large arcade enroute to our bus stop and I was itching to go inside. Then there it was: a Tekken 7 machine. I have a long history with Tekken. I have been playing it since I was 8 and I was a major addict for the following ten years. I had to try it, a few times. The rush of beating a random stranger on my first go was probably the reason why I should be glad that arcades are dead in the UK. I would have no money left otherwise. I managed to stop and we got onto the bus to Kinkakuji.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 49/100

Sight: Kinkaku-ji
Location: Kyoto, Japan
Position: #175

It is ridiculous just how beautiful this golden pavilion is. Like pure decadent absurdity. We both spent a while trying to find the perfect picture taking location on the bank of the pond. Unlike our visit to the silver pavilion yesterday, there was no one in our immediate vicinity making Pokémon references when looking at this. Both fitting and somewhat disappointing. Unlike this pavilion which was more beautiful that I could have expected.

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

Food items: Oyakodon and Sanuki Udon noodles

It was lunchtime, and we spotted s nice enough looking restaurant on the walk to our next temple. I, being the list fanatic, went for the daily special which was also a dish featured in the second 1001 foods book. Oyakodon (literally meaning mother and child, apparently) is basically a rice pot containing chicken and egg. It is also the last dish that hubby would have wanted in front of him. To be honest, and I think this may have been the place, but this dish wasn’t that great. Once you are done with the chicken (which was nice) all you are left with is raw egg and scrambled egg with rice. There is only so much of that you can eat before feeling bored and sick.

The sanuki udon noodles, on the other hand, were gorgeous. These I are my second favourite noodle after ho fun noodles and I really enjoyed the flatness to these sanuki types compared to other udon noodles

Food items: Matsutake and Shiso leaf

I think hubby enjoyed his meal a lot more. Since he is awesome he allowed me bites of the list items (as is, now, customary). The shiso leaf that was tempura battered on one side was interesting. The fact that it was one side only is a thing apparently, I guess it stops it from just being completely destroyed in the battering process or it is done this way for the sake of prettiness. Either way, it tasted good covered in tempura batter.

The matsutake mushroom rice that hubby had was really good. The mushroom, with its meaty flavour was not at all lost in the rice despite it being sliced up.

After out meal we stocked up on some Pepsi Ghost and arrived at the Ryoanji Temple. This temple is particularly famous for having a reiki garden with 15 stones in it. The interesting thing being that you can’t see all 15 at once unless looking at it directly above. Also, no one knows it he significance to the size and placement to these particular stones, or if there actually is any meaning. It was actually pretty soothing to be sat there contemplating these stones. Maybe that was the point all along?Now, this temple had some of the most beautiful gardens that I have seen so far in Japan. One of those things where everything seems to have been placed for a reason. It is also yet another example of a temple that uses ‘borrowed scenery’ to emphasise things. I am in love with a language that has a specific word for this.

We swung by the imperial palace gardens before heading back to the hotel. The imperial palace itself is massive! Obviously we didn’t have a tour guide so we couldn’t have seen inside it. It’s not as if they couldn’t have heard us coming if we tried to sneak in, pretty much the whole park uses gravel instead of paving stones. Poor hubby was pouring it out of the front of his shoes when we left.

Food items: Arrowhead Spinach, Shabu Shabu and Flying Fish

This is the first time where I have eaten in a top 10 restaurant according to trip advisor. Usually because a top 10 restaurant usually costs gargantuan amounts. We at at restaurant #9 – Agotsuyu Shabu Shabu Yamafuku –  and it only cost us £28. This includes a rather nice plum wine that hubby had with his meal.

The whole idea of Shabu Shabu is that you cook your food in the stock (in this case one with Nagasaki flying fish and soy milk) then when it’s done you put it in dipping sauce before eating. To cook we had some fatty strips of pork, lettuce, tofu and arrowhead spinach. The place we went to was perfect. The staff were so friendly, and one of them properly showed us how to do it. The cardinal rules being move the vegetables, but don’t move the pork.

In many ways this is like the Japanese version of a fondue, and it was one of the best meals we have had since arriving in Japan. I also love how it is named after the swishing sound you make when moving the food in the stock.

Progress: 763/933

When we had exhausted the meat and vegetables some buckwheat ramen noodles were added to the broth (which had now absorbed a lot of flavour) and we got a new noodle-specific dipping sauce. I wish this was back in Britain!

We ended the day with a cute donut and a trip to the hotel reception to explain we had somehow lost a key during the day. It was also time for ‘free drink and snack’ in the hotel restaurant for all paying guests. So I may have had some rosehip and hibiscus tea with a side of soup. I love the Hotel Grand Bach.


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