Japan Diaries 3: Day 4

Day 4 December 22, 2019

Exploring Kyoto 2

Ohayou minasan!

Ready for the new day!

It's another day of adventure here in Japan. Originally, we plan to visit Otsu City in Shiga Prefecture today to try out the Michigan Cruise in Lake Biwa. However, there were still plenty of amazing places in Kyoto that we haven't covered yet and it would be a shame to miss them out in exchange for only one destination. So, for today, we decided to explore around Rakuto Area which is better known as the Higashiyama Area of Kyoto City. 

Back to Kyoto Station but this time we'll take the bus.

Waiting for Raku Bus #100

As previously done, we woke up early, had breakfast, then headed to Kyoto Station to avail of the Kyoto City Bus One-Day Pass for today's tour. Then, we rode bus #100 towards our first destination for the day - Yasaka Jinja Shrine

Boarded down at Gion bus stop... Off to Yasaka Jinja

First stop: Yasaka Jinja

Yasaka Jinja's Maidono

Yasaka Jinja Rikimizu

Yasaka Jinja Shrine is one of the most popular destinations to go-to for those who want to pray for the prevention of disease and illness. Aside from that history lovers would probably love to know that the shrine's vermillion gate is also listed as an Important Cultural Asset. 

Off to Maruyama Park

Exploring Maruyama Park

Checking out Hyotan Pond

Enjoying the view of Hyotan Pond from the bridge.

I picked the shrine as our first destination because aside from its historical value, it's also a perfect jump-off point for a walking tour of the Higashiyama area. After exploring the shrine, we walked for a few meters and reached Maruyama Park. This 70 thousand square meter park is a famous cherry blossom viewing spot. Sadly, we visited in December which was early winter. This means that most trees had already shed their leaves and that we have only a few spots to admire. Despite lacking its spring season charm, it's good to note that Maruyama Park is free of any entrance fees so it wouldn't be a waste of precious resources to include this park in our walking tour itinerary.

Passed through Nene-no-Michi Road going to Ninenzaka Street

Ice cream break!

Ice cream on a cold day! Yey!

Daikokuten - One of the 9 Healing Buddha Statues

After checking out what Maruyama Park has to offer during winter, we continued by foot to our next destination which was the Edo-style Starbucks in Ninenzaka Street. To get there, we had to walk through Nene-no-Michi Street. The simple walk was made more interesting by the 9 Healing Buddha Statues called Furobotoke that are scattered around the area. The goal here, if you take it seriously, is to find all 9, touch them with the right or both hands and make a wish in relation to the merit the statues have like prosperity, health, etc. From end to end of Nene-no-Michi Street, I effortlessly managed to see and touch 3 of these statues.

Gesshin-in Temple

Ishibe-Koji Alley no video and photography beyond this point.

Aside from the Furobotoke, there are also several stores and temples along the street. I managed to "visit" Gesshin-in Temple and Ishibe-Koji Alley which is now considered as one of the "forbidden" alleys in Kyoto City. Why forbidden? Because tourists can't go in the streets and take photos or videos in it. If caught, they will be facing some steep fines.  

Looking for the Kyoto Edo-style Starbucks in Ninenzaka

Who wouldn't stop to take a photo with Totoro

Mom at Ninenzaka

Inside Kyoto's Edo-style Starbucks

Ordered the Matcha Green Tea Creme Frappucino 

Here's to more adventure!

From Nene-no-Michi Street, we continued on to our intended destination - the Edo-style Starbucks in Ninenzaka Street. This repurposed historic machiya (Kyoto building) is one of the most popular stops on this street. My wife, daughter, and I happened to visit this just last 2018 when it was at the height of its popularity. Today, there are still a lot of tourists chilling in the cafe but not like last time where you have to wait almost an hour to be able to sit inside the store. During this visit, I ordered the Macha Green Tea Creme Frappucino since it's a Kyoto exclusive product. 

Back to Nene no Michi to look for the rest of the Healing Buddha Statues


Kodaiji goshuin

Since my family wanted to chill a bit, I decided to go back to Nene-no-Michi Street to look for the other Healing Buddha Statues. I found them all of course but what's more exciting about my return trip was that I got to visit more destinations that were not on the itinerary. One such destination was the Kodaiji Temple. Although I only visited the outer grounds of the temple, I still saw the Kuri of the temple and other outer shrines. It was also there that I saw 4 of the 9 statues. Before leaving the temple grounds, I also took the opportunity to get a goshuin of Kodaiji for my collection. 

The Wishing Ball inside the Ryozen Kannon grounds

Ryozen Kannon

After my visit to Kodaiji temple grounds, I was finally on my last Healing Buddha statue - the Wishing Ball. I discovered that it was inside the Ryozen Kannon grounds. Ryozen Kannon is actually a memorial ground to commemorate the war dead of the Pacific Theater during World War 2. To enter it, I had to shell out 300 Yen to which I got a free incense to offer for the souls of the dead. 

Buddhist Paintings of Nirvana

I immediately accomplished my task of touching and wishing on the Wishing Ball so I explored the grounds a bit and snapped hundreds of pictures too. When my curiosity was satisfied I decided to go back to Starbucks. However, before I did, I had a quick visit to the Buddhist Paintings of Nirvana which allows free entrance to visitors. 
I got back to the Edo-style Starbucks just in time when they were all in the mood to continue our walking tour. We did a little bit of window shopping while passing through the historic streets of Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka

Yasaka Street

Family picture with the Hokanji Pagoda as our backdrop

The highlight of this walking tour was the picturesque Yasaka Street which is famous for having the Hokanji Pagoda as its backdrop. This place was one of those featured in Demi Lovato's Solo music video (Japanese version). 

Next stop: Kyoto Tower

My sister with Tawawachan

Mom and dad enjoying the view

From there, we rode the bus back to Kyoto Station. From there, we decided to visit the Kyoto Tower since it was almost sunset. Kyoto Tower is one of those destinations that we pre-booked via Klook. I made sure to include this in the itinerary as it is a perfect place to view the city and as bloggers say -the perfect place to watch the sunset and view the night lights of Kyoto. We did just that, however, even before the sun fully sets, it suddenly rained which sadly, covered the remaining seconds of the sunset. We were also prompted to stay longer at the observation deck to wait for the rain to stop. Luckily, the tower's mascot Tawawachan graced us with his presence and also allowing us to have a picture with him.  My mom also didn't miss out on the opportunity to have our family picture taken by the official photographers of Kyoto Tower. Although it's quite pricey, it was probably the only picture of us on this trip that shows us to be complete.

Dinner time at Mcdo Kyoto Station

Check out Kyoto Tower at night

After the Kyoto Tower, we had our dinner at McDonald's at the lower level of Kyoto Station. While eating my siblings and I planned to maximize our unlimited bus pass (we have only used it twice) and visit the Pokemon Center Kyoto store before it closes. My parents and wife begged off as they were tired from the whole day of walking so it was only me and my siblings who pushed through with the plan. 

My siblings seem to enjoy all this place.

We arrived at the Pokemon Center Kyoto at around 7PM. Upon seeing how close it was to Kyoto Station, I was disappointed with myself for not insisting on bringing my daughter along for this trip as she would surely love all those cute Pokemon plushies. 

Kyoto Station's giant Christmas tree

Kyoto Station Grand Staircase Illumination

My siblings shopped quite a number of merchandise for their collection and also for gifts to some of our relatives back home. Afterward, we rode a bus back to Kyoto Station just in time for the Kyoto Station Illumination events. We saw the lights and sound performances at the Skywalk, the East Square, and the highlight of the event which was the Grand Stair Illumination

See you on our next adventure!

Overall, it was a tiring yet memorable day for everyone. I'm happy to share that the majority of the places we visited today were first-time destinations not only for my parents and siblings but also for us who were in Kyoto just last year. Well, I can't wait for what adventures tomorrow will bring. 

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  1. What a beautiful place. I hope people can travel again safe, soon.

    1. I agree. I pray for the cure to Covid. I miss the outdoors.

  2. Reminds me of my visit to Japan. Wonderful article with amazing photographs.

    1. Thank you Indra. I hope you could come visit Japan again.

  3. Looks like a fun day. Love the photos

  4. hi
    i like the way you are exploring Kyoto. All your posts of this region area delight to read and they give us so much of information that is all located in one single space.

    1. Thank you so much Sumit! I'm always happy to see you in my blog. :)

  5. Well written and your photos are excellent. Thanks for sharing.

  6. These pictures are just wonderful! I want to travel to Japan in the worst way!

    1. Worst way? Why do you want to travel to Japan in the worst way?

  7. This seems like a lot of fun and quite an adventure. The pictures are pretty, and my daughter would enjoy it to visit Kyoto.

    1. I bet she would. A trip to Kyoto Tower and Pokemon Center would surely make any kid happy.

  8. I went to that Starbucks last year. It was pretty cool. I hope that you went to Otsu because Lake Biwa is pretty cool! I studied abroad in Shiga about 9 years ago.

    1. Ohhh. So sad that we missed Lake Biwa. I would have loved to visit Japan's largest lake. Well at least there is something to look forward to someday.

  9. We went to most of those places as well when we traveled to Japan! It's such a gorgeous country with very kind people. Can't wait to travel again!

    1. That's awesome! I'm really happy to hear when a reader visits a place that I have been to as I know that my article would surely make them reminisce their adventures.

  10. I like your blog coz you feature more rural areas of Japan. I heard about those forbidden alleys, thanks for many inconsiderate travellers who made this happen. They violated someone's privacy just for the gram.

    1. True. It was a pity I was not able to take photos in the alley. There were plenty of picturesque spots in it that can't be seen from the Nene Road.

  11. This looks like it would be a lot of fun! I'd love to visit Japan one day. Thanks for sharing all of the great photos with us.


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