Japan – Day 22 – Tea, tori gates and tasty udon

We decided on a pot noodle breakfast as we had eaten a lot of egg and bread. I forgot just how easy it was and there were even superior chopsticks provided. As usual, the previous day James had insisted on an extra bacon bakery good <Editors note – Which In San immediately ate half of, demanding that I heat it up and feed it to her. As always bacon is a good choice.>.

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We decided to walk to Fushimi Inari shrine however James may have misread google maps <EN – We walked for about 5 – 10 mins past a turning which was enough of an excuse to take the train for one stop. In San was feeling abused because of all of her mosquito bites so it was fair enough>. Because of this, we decided we should hop on the underground to make up the lost time. This involved being led around a diversion by an official looking guy with a traffic flag, he was very helpful but we felt a little guilty that he had to leave his official station <EN – He let us slowly and carefully to the turning then when he though we were out of sight ran back to his post>. We also realised that we had spent a lot of monies and needed to get some more cash out, luckily 7-11 <EN – Actually a Family Mart which charges 😦 > never fails us in terms of providing ATMs.

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The ATM itself only dispensed JPY 10,000 notes, obviously this is pretty chunky so James wanted to get snacks to break it up. He opted for a matcha and red bean choco pie <EN – Because we hadn’t got one in Korea and this was a Korean brand eg. Lotte> and I went for a healthier juice which had kiwi, banana and pak choi.

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We made it to the shrine and it was incredibly busy. We are usually cheap and travel in off peak so were not used to the crowds. It turns out even shrines like to make sure everyone knows their trip advisor rating.

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It was a beautiful day but it was so busy it made it difficult to get photos without any other people in the background. We loved the orangeness of the gates and the general feel of the area.

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We decided to wander off the main track so that we could avoid the crowds. This was successful for that but being away from humanity meant we were closer to our enemies, the mosquitos.

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<EN – Seconds after taking this picture of In San she was bitten>

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At this point, I was impressed by the scenery but also dispirited by the number of mosquito bites I had acquired.

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As usual, we found another wooden stick with mushrooms on it and stopped to take photos. There wasn’t a view point at the top of the mountain but the sheer number of tori gates was impressive. <EN – We had taken almost the same route as last time which was interesting but had missed out on the vital most magical staircase, our vague memories failed us>

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<EN – Some of the good luck charms drawn by visitors were very well done, others were … less artistic.>
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<EN – The man with the frame on his back was running up and down the mountain delivering supplies to the shops>
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<EN – The view from the top was pretty good but the main attraction was the local scenery and all the tori gates.>

With the shrine completed, we set off for lunch. We had already decided to have a tuna bowl at a cafe near our AirBnB at the host’s recommendation but this meant a 40 minute trip back. Because of this and James sensing my hunger, he suggested some snacks. Initially he saw some dango and wanted to go for it but at JPY 500, I felt it was a rip off even if there were 3 large balls. Instead we opted for some fried chicken for the same price.

Good snacks are like buses, they all come at once <EN – We had not walked past them before as we were going to a different station to the one we arrived at>. As soon as we saw some custard filled doughy goodness we had to stop by the stall to finish our chicken to purchase one for JPY 150. And then there was a vending machine that had Orangina, even though it didn’t have the shake it to wake it slogan we felt compelled to purchase it.

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We eventually made it to the station but there was a bit of drama when the barriers came up and then swiftly came down, as the area was so crowded, the barrier came down onto a car and another car drove at the pedestrians to get through to the other side. It was quite panicked and was a good lesson to impatient drivers that they shouldn’t start crossing until there is space at the other side to get to.

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It was hot and getting past 1.30pm at this point and I was definitely flagging. James directed us to the cafe and asked for the Igirisu menu which confused the waitress. When we asked for the Eigo menu, she immediately understood. It was a bit confusing as the menu indicated the tuna bowl was sold out but when we asked for it, it was still available so we managed to get a bowl each. It required a different person to come out and explain that we would need to eat the food first and then we could pour the dashi soup into the bowl afterwards to drink.

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As this was a matcha cafe, we had some matcha desserts to share. We were sensible and opted for the mini (rather than full size) parfait, this had a bit of everything and the matcha ice cream tasted high end. We also shared a matcha shaved ice dessert which looked massive, again this required the same guy to come out and explain in English that we needed to eat the top part and then once done we needed to add the extras in and mix. The matcha flavour on this was much stronger and the ice was super fine, it didn’t melt that quickly and tasted so light, we were both impressed. <EN – We also ordered some tea to drink it was pretty good and they even gave us strainers and little timer hour glasses so we would brew it the correct amount. Quality>

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Once done, we were totally stuffed. We headed to Kyoto station to purchase tickets to the airport for the next day, we figure we will be sleepy tomorrow and it makes sense to buy it now.

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James wanted to buy matcha so we headed to the Ippodo tea store. This was a very different one to the previous store where we brought the sencha. It was very commercial but they did have free tastings. The matcha was limited to one tasting per group so we got to try one out and the lady serving us was clearly practised at getting really small air bubbles into the matcha super quick. We will need to practise a lot more to get anywhere near as good.

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With our matcha purchased (JPY 1,500 and JPY 1,080, plus tax for 20g tins) <EN – There is a huge markup for matcha in the UK so this was a good price for the quality>, we headed off for dinner. We had decided on udon rather than yakitori for our last night as we were already feeling generally gross from the lack of fruit and number of mosquito bites so opted for udon at Uneno, turns out this is exactly the sort of place we would go to in London. Amazing food at very reasonable prices, we felt our AirBnB made particularly good recommendations.

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James being James opted for a more expensive (JPY 1,700) and extravagant udon, his was cooked and served in a pot. I opted for a more standard version and enjoyed it immensely, the flavour was delicate but balanced and it felt like great value at JPY 1,200.

Once we were done, we decided to be lazy and get public transport back rather than walk 35 minutes so that we could pack and get ready for our flight back home tomorrow.

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We are sad to be leaving and ending our holiday, however we also feel ready to sleep in our comfortable beds at home away from mosquitos. I suspect James is also looking forward to sleeping on a fluffy pillow.

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