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Japan 2016: Day 2

This article is a post I originally made on Facebook about our second day in Japan which took place on April 4, 2016. On the 1 year anniversary of our trip to Japan I decided to repost it here on my blog. The original post has been edited/cleaned up a bit but its spirit remains.

Today we had planned to take a walking tour of Kyoto. We were going to follow this guide from japan-guide.com. We would start our day at Ginkaku-ji Temple and then follow the Philosopher's Path, a 90 minute walk along a canal which is suppose to be incredibly beautiful during cherry blossom season. From there we would move onto the Nanzen-ji Temple which has a functioning aqueduct that leads to the next sight, the Keage Incline, an abandoned railway which is lined with over 100 cherry trees. We would then walk along the river at the end the incline to get to the Heian Shrine and end our walking tour at the Yasaka Shrine. Assuming by then it would be late and we would be hungry the plans were to then head over to Ponto-chō alley and find some dinner.

First things first, we had to figure out how to get to Ginkaku-ji to start our walk. That involved figuring out the Kyoto bus system which was not easy to decipher by foreigners like us. Eventually we cracked the code and after a 30 minute ride we arrived at Ginkaku-ji where all of the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. We really couldn't have timed it any better.

We explored the amazing temple grounds (which had the type of landscaping that I definitely want to do. Moss, moss everywhere!) and then started down the Philosopher's Path which took us down some back alleys into a bunch of neighborhoods south of the temple. Along the way we found a quaint little restaurant (it had only five tables and could sit a maximum of 15 people) and ordered our first meal, Okonomiyaki, which basically means a pancake filled with whatever ingredients you like. We ordered three (beef, pork and squid) and proceeded to wash it down with a nice ビール (biru).

We continued down the Philosopher's Path and made our way to Nazen-ji Temple and it's amazing functional brick aqueduct. We followed it around to the back entrance of the temple where the old railway of the Keage Incline remained. We followed the railway all the way down to the river and back to the main city streets which led us to our next stop, the Heian Shrine, and its massive Torii, an orange gate marking the entrance to the shrine.

From here we headed south until we reached the Yasaka Shrine which was incredibly packed with tourists but also copious amounts of street food. We took a load off under some cherry blossoms and indulged in some more biru.

By now it was about 4pm so we decided it was time to hunt down Ponto-chō alley and get some proper grub. There we found another little hole the wall that seated only eight people on the main floor and another 20 or so on the second floor. It was here I had some black sesame danban noodles which was one of the most delicious meals of my entire life. If you are ever in Kyoto you owe it to yourself to go to 六傳屋 先斗町店 and try their noodles.

After dinner it was time to head home and, in true Japanese fashion, rather than walk long the major streets we choose some random dark back alley which is not something we would ever think to do in San Francisco unless we wanted to get stabbed.

When we finally got home I actually remember very little because apparently I was so damn tired that I fell asleep clutching my iPhone while watching a Mark Wiens video on Kyoto. Oh well. More energy for tomorrow!