I was lucky to go to dinner...
I was lucky to go to dinner with a Maiko - young apprentice Geisha. A kind and well-placed Japanese friend organized it. What did I learn? Kimiko studies English in her spare time, learns the shamizen and all the other fine arts required, loves shopping and Japanese pop music. She was a good conversationalist and kept everyone included at all times. After she left, we were all lost for words for a while.
ING - A foreigner bar that isn't foreign
There are some well-known "foreigner" pubs in Kyoto, none of which I am too keen on. A little too much testosterone, bad service and bad music. This is a small cozy (although on Saturday nights VERY smoky!) pub. Hako-san and his wife are the friendliest owners who never forget a name or a favorite song. Yes, if you like rock classics, chances are it will be available to be played at your request. The beer is cheap at just around 500Yen for a large bottle. The food especially the salads and cheese-sticks (deepfried cheese!) are delicious considering the tiny cooking space out back. Another good thing is that as the night wears on and seating space becomes limited, you will be sharing tables with strangers who usually go on to become friends. casual casual
Reasonable restaurant in Gion?
The restaurant on the second floor of the Gion Hotel provides something unusual - reasonable prices near a famous sightseeing spot (actually several)! The restaurant, called Shiki (Four Seasons, but that's only written in kanji, Chinese characters) features four set lunches - two western style, one Japanese style, and one "nichi kawari" or special of the day. The special of the day is only 1260 yen (about US$11.50) and the others are about 1500 yen each. The food is good, not quite great, but at these prices one can hardly complain. Plus, each set lunch includes salad bar, coffee or tea, juice, and soup (though I didn't try the last - too full). I had the nichi kawari, which that day was roast pork AND grilled fish in sauce americain, with stewed carrots and tempura asparagus and bamboo shoots, plus choice of rice or bread. My companions tried Nipon Bashi, which consists of grilled steak in yakiniku sauce with various vegetable side dishes served Japanese style, Seafood lunch (fried shrimp, fish, and vegetables with rice or bread), and the Bento or Japanese box lunch containing tempura, omelete, stewed vegetables, pickles, and rice. The nichi kawari on that day was very good, and the Bento is also quite nice, especially for those wishing to keep up the whole Gion experience.
ryoanji temple and gardens
Ryoanji is a temple belonging to the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai branch of the Zen sect, famous for its "karesansui" or rock garden. 30 m wide and 10 m deep, the garden contains 15 rocks arranged on the surface of white pebbles in such a manner that visitors can see only 14 of them at once, from whichever angle the garden is viewed.
The Temple was founded in 1450 under the patronage of Hosokawa Katsumoto, a top-ranking war load, who was offered the premises by the Tokudaiji family.
Entering the temple you first see the beautiful Kyoyochi ("Mirror shaped") Pond. This pond was created by the Tokudaiji family in the 12th century. The pond is home to many waterbirds, and until relatively recently to many Mandarin ducks - so much so that the pond was generally known amongst Japanese as the pond of mandarin ducks.
The pond has 2 small islands. The slightly large one has a small bridge leading across to a shrine to Benten - the sole female deity among the 7 Shinto gods of good luck. Leave the pond for now and climb up the stairs through the Chinese style gateway (Kara-mon) and you will reach a building called the monk's quarters. This is the largest building and one of the few that wasn't reconstructed.. It is attached to the Hojo by a wide wooden corridor. The Hojo is the Abbot's quarters.
Possibly voted to be 1 of the new 7 wonders...
We almost wanted to give this temple a miss as the weather was looking a little threatening and we were suffering a bit of temple/shrines-fatigue for the day. Fortunately, we did not. Otherwise, we would have missed a wonderful sight.
The most challenging part for me was walking up a short but up slope walkway before reaching the temple... haha... so my advice is... eat healthy and exercise regularly!