Japan – Day 19 – Drip and a dip in Kyoto

The previous night we had decided to try a cheeky morning onsen, getting up early to fully appreciate the cave onsen during daylight with hopefully fewer people there. It was a great success, with few people there it was nice to sit back and enjoy the view of the waves and rocks.Unfortunately I forgot to bring my map so I couldn’t get any more stamps (I tried all but one onsen).It also helped us work up an appetite for breakfast.

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Breakfast was still good for a buffet but definitely not as impressive as supper had been.

We had not had high expectations for this final stop (based on a single google maps review that In San had read) but although it was a soulless mockery of the ryokan we had been staying in it was at least a entertaining and well equipped one so we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

We headed off to catch the early train to Kyoto via Shin-Osaka, they only left every two hours so we didn’t want to miss it. We realised that it was a long journey and all we had was some left over snacks so we tried to find food. Although we found a lot of shops selling premium fruit (including different grades of lemon) we didn’t find any bento boxes or similar. We had the bright idea of going to the tourist information in the train station to ask and they directed us towards a few options (cafe/restaurant that would make us one from scratch) <editor’s note – they were surprisingly helpful and checked we would have enough time>.

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We set off back to reality on our cheery white turtle shuttle bus. Kii-Katsura is famous for tuna fishing which explains the amount of tuna on offer last night. As the train journey was going to be a long one we picked up a bento from a local cafe on the recommendation of the local tourist information.

The ticket back was a little pricy (JPY 5,400) as we had a fair way to go but still cheaper than UK. Food gathered we set off and were a little surprised when the train arrived <editor’s note – we were both really excited to see the panda train, even more so than the child in front of us who turned around to see who could be more excited about the panda train than them>.

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The special rapid train we ended up catching was a special panda themed one advertising Adventure World all the small children (and In San) were very excited.

In San claimed that her plum drink had no alcohol in it, but then promptly fell asleep so I suspect otherwise <editor’s note – I was very tired from having to wake up early for the onsen and sleeping on the trains made sense as they were so smooth>. We were sad that the mystery bento box didn’t have any tuna in them (given it was a tuna fishing town) but they were still pretty tasty (and reasonable at JPY 750 each).

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As well as the bento box we also had left-over welcome snacks from the hotel. When we tried to buy the plum wine our server ran off to fetch an icy cold one for us. 

It was a long journey but In San slept for a lot of it and watched her phone for the rest (the realisation that her new phone has space to store a whole series has changed her life) <editor’s note – it has been several years since I had brought a new phone as I had hand me downs a few times in a row, I’m not sure why I didn’t do this sooner>. The train was very comfortable and the scenery agreeable. Sooner than we would have expected we were in Shin-Osaka, so close to Kyoto.

On arrival we headed to our AirBnB, they had given us very detailed instructions. We were told firmly that it was IMPOSSIBLE to find without these instructions. The instructions were helpful and it would have been tricky without them. We ended up walking rather than taking the bus as we can’t help ourselves, we were used to walking at this point. Even though it was raining.

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On arrival in Shin-Osaka for our transfer In San left me alone for 5 minutes. I promptly bought a premium grape mochi. It was amazing, with a real grape inside. Unfortunately it was raining when we arrived in Kyoto.

After dumping our bags we headed out to explore the area, then headed towards Gion as it was nearby. Our host had provided a helpful map with many food suggestions so we were all set.

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After dumping our bags we set off for an explore, I didn’t even realise that there were this many types of Asahi! There were a lot of English themed cafe and doors around.

It was still raining, despite the weather forecast, and we were a little peckish so we went into a highly rated dessert cafe, Gion Kinana Honten <editor’s note – this was entirely James’ idea>. They had some very different flavours on offer, Japanese mugwart, roasted soy and black sesami along with the more normal ones like strawberry, burned sugar and matcha. Each ice cream had a different level of creaminess appropriate for the flavour which was very interesting. We also got some extra sweets to go with it which were delicious. All in all it was very tasty, however it was pretty pricy at JPY 2100. This is normally more than we would spend when going out for supper <editor’s note – it was pricey indeed, it turns out other people found it pricey, I caught someone else looking at the receipt and pulling a face after realising how much the ice cream experience in Gion corner would cost>.

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Gion Kinana Honten was delicious but not cheap, each ice cream had its own unique texture as well as taste which was novel.

After that we wandered round the area a little more, there were many exclusive shops and restaurants as well as some more cheap and cheerful ones to investigate.

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Wandering around the Gion district there was a weird mix of extremely expensive and fancy (marbled bread) and weirdly tacky stick men.

We hadn’t tried Tsukemen (Japanese dipping noodles) and there was a shop that was highly recommended by our host so we decided to go. Unmentioned was the fact that it was tiny and thus only had 8 chairs, so there was a bit of queue but it moved quickly we we didn’t wait long.

You have a thick sauce to dip your noodles in rather than the usual soup. I choose cold noodles and In San hot noodles. One nice thing they did is allow you to choose a smaller amount of noodle and get a free egg. They also let you add more dashi stock to the dipping sauce at the end when you were finished to turn it into a tasty soup.

The noodles were thick and chewy with lots of texture and taste. The sauce was amazingly deep and rich without being too strong. It was amazing. The chashu pork it came with was also very tasty, although not the best. They had very limited space and equipment so they only had one sink, one hot water tank for noodles, two hobs and saucepans for the stocks and had to blowtorch the meat <editor’s note – they also had the seats arranged so that you had to enter through one of two sets of doors as it was so narrow>.

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Tsurukame was delicious and value for money. You could ask them to turn your dipping sauce into soup at the end for free as well.

After filling up on delicious noodles we ambled home getting distracted at every corner as is our way. Happy, content and slightly damp as it was raining. Fortunately we had bought an umbrella earlier so we were not too fazed by the on and off rain all day.

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They love crazy heath robinson machines to bake small tasty treats here. It sucks you in to watch and then the smell gets you. At least they let you buy a single one. We found some entertaining things on the way back (hiding under our umbrella).

We returned to our temporary home (with more tatami mats and futons by chance) after an enjoyable re-introduction to Kyoto.

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