Oh hai, Himeji

After one last delicious  breakfast, we bid adieu to our new friends at Ohanabo Ryokan.

   
 
And the we Shinkansen’ed it to Himeji to finally go see Himeji Castle. Himeji Castle has been taunting us through the Shinkansen windows for years now. We have zipped by it so many times but never stopped. One of the reasons we haven’t been before was because for the last 7 years they have been doing major restoration work on it, it is after all a few hundred years old. Just over a year ago the restoration was finished (we missed it last year but mere months), so finally it was our time.

Upon arriving in Himeji, before we see the castle however, it is imperative that we first visit the Hello Kitty Cafe for a coffee and matcha latte.

   
   
Then it’s about a 15 minute straight up the Main Street to the castle. It was quite busy when we got there, and the sign said it would be a one hour wait to get inside the castle. We decided to wait as who knows when we would be here again. Lots of people were picnicking in the park enjoying the last days of the cherry blossoms.

  
We waited in line a while, but it wasn’t an hour, so that was nice. When we got in the castle it was very busy and they kind of just ushered us through, but it was still pretty cool. We got to the top, then went back down again.

   
 
The grounds around the castle were super lovely and the view of the castle with the cherry trees was quite spectacular.

   
    
    
   
We wandered around the castle grounds. We saw some cats, and a nice garden.

   
    
 
And then before we knew it, we were back on a Shinkansen and then in Hiroshima.

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Sakura you later Kyoto

Our last day in Kyoto today. Time is flying. It was a nice day today so after our delicious and large breakfast at Ohanabo…

   
 
We decide we needed to go and visit Arashiyama. Because a) we love it there b) there were some different temples we had yet to see c) just because

Upon arriving in Arashiyama, our first stop was Gioji Temple. It’s kind of a bit more North than the main hub of Arashiyama and thus was really quiet. It was a small temple, but, the gardens were amazing. All mossy and tranquil and it really felt like we were in a Ghibli movie or something.

   
    
   
Then we walked a bit further to Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple. Again, another small place, but really cool.

   
   
There were quite a few Sakura trees still in bloom too. Then we wandered back to the main bit of Arashiyama, and found all the people. So busy! It was lunch time by this stage, and we decided we had to go to our favourite tofu restaurant. Last time we were here it was bucketing down with snow. Today they had the windows open. We had the set menu and it was all so freaking good. The best.

   
    
 
Then we had a wander around Arashiyama, saw some more Sakura, had a bit of a sit down by the river, looked in some shops, that kind of thing.

   
    
 
Then we caught the train back in to the city and had a wander around some shops including the Disney Store and Nishiki Markets. We stumbled across a kind of cat cafe – except they only had Bengal Cats and it was set up like a jungle inside. We nearly didn’t go in, but then we did, because – Bengal Cats! The cats were really cute – lots of kittens. One of them slept on Steves lap and another sat on Blainies leg. Super cute!

   
    
    
 
Then, dinner in Pontoncho Alley at a place where they grill things on sticks.

   
   
And a quite night cap at a cool little bar (Dragonfly Bar I believe)

   
   

Whisky for breakfast

More like brunch really, because we actually had this amazing breakfast at Ohanabo, the ryokan we are staying at. So delicious.

   
 
After breakfast we headed off to the Yamazaki Distillery, about 15 from central Kyoto. It was pouring with rain today, so it was actually quite a good day to spend in a distillery. 

   
   
It’s in quite a scenic location. We had to book months in advance to get to go on this tour. We were a bit early when we got there so we had a look around at the museum.

   
   
Then you get taken on a tour of the distillery with about 30 other people. Those of us that don’t understand Japanese get a special mobile phone looking device that speaks in English and explains things.

   
    
   
The stills are different shapes because the shape affects the taste of the Whisky and they are one of the few distilleries that do this. Then we saw all the barrels of Whisky. So many barrels.

   
   
This is the first ever barrel of Yamazaki.

  
At the end of the tour it’s time for what everyone has been waiting for – the tasting! It was a pretty fancy tasting. 

   
    
    
   
After they load you up on Whisky, they set you free in the gift shop to impulse buy under the influence. Then, it’s off to the Whisky’s of the world bar where you can try pretty much any Whisky ever at bargain basement prices. The real fancy ones cost about 600¥.  We had a few different ones, including a Smoky Hakushu, Yamazaki 18 year old and others. They were all enjoyable. We sneakily tucked in to a bag of smoked bacon that we had bought earlier in the gift shop, because, like, there are only so many Whisky’s you can have before lunch. 

   
    
    
   
We eventually decided that we should probably leave, and headed back in to Kyoto. By this stage it was well after 2pm and we were starving. Katsu time!

  
Then in the evening we headed out to see some more illuminations. First at Nijo Castle. The illuminations were lovely, but we we a little disappointed we didn’t actually get to go inside.

   
    
   
Then we hightailed it over to Kodanji temple for moe illuminations. We had never been to this temple before, and it was really cool. The added bonus was, because of the rain, it wasn’t busy at all. They had projection mapping. It was cool.

   
    
   
Then there was another small temple that we got to go in with our ticket, again there was hardly anyone there, but it was really lovely.

   

Fire lanterns around Maruyama park. 

   
  
Dinner was sadly disappointing, so I shall say no more. The rest of the day was good though! 

Sakura daze

Sakura. It’s all about the Sakura. We had planned to visit Arashiyama today, but a the last minute our plans were changed when we got the hot tip from one of the ladies at our hotel, that, with rain forecast for tomorrow, today may very well be the last good day of Sakura viewing. So we headed to Isetan Department Store at Kyoto Station to buy a bento for lunch, and subway’ed it to the Botancial Gardens. 

  
Sakura and tulips everywhere. Everyone was going crazy with their cameras.

   
    
   
We found a spot in the garden where all the Sakura were, and everyone was sitting underneath eating their lunches. We thought it was best to join them. We laid out our newly purchased-only-designed-for-one-person-but-it-will-have- to-do leisure mat and sat down to enjoy our bento.

   
 
There was a slight incident with a local spider, but other than that, it was lovely.

   
    
 
After lunch, we left the Botanical Gardens and walked along the river. We had a brief rest stop to enjoy some matcha and chestnut puddings.

   
    
    
 
In the evening we headed to Gion. It was crazy busy. We were looking in the department store Takashimaya to see if there was anything we wanted to eat for dinner in there. We stumbled across a Hokkaido promotion withstalls set up selling various produce from Hokkaido. When we saw the bento with giant scallops and Ikura in it, our decision was made. We snapped up a couple of them, as well as two crab croquettes and went and ate them by the river.

   
   
Then, illuminations. 

Weeping cherry tree in Maruyama park. And hot Whisky.

   
 
And Kiyomizudera all lit up and looking purely.

   
    
    
 

We’ve got a ticket to ramen

Moving day again. But before leaving Kanazawa for Kyoto, we visited the D.T. Suzuki museum. D.T Suzuki — author and philosopher credited with spreading zen to The Western world. Lovely day to visit, and a very chilled place.


  
Hang on Kanazawa, we’re not finished with you yet. Next; off to the 21st century museum of contemporary  art. They have a very interesting pool.



Then tintin had a great idea; let’s go to Kyoto!


Checked in to our Ryokan, and it is the most Spirited Away we have ever felt. The Sakura are in full bloom right now in Kyoto, and everything looks sugoi. The view from our room especially.



Temple across the road.



Oh yeah, made the title of this post a ramen pun. Better put a ramen shot in. This is ramen meal three this tour. How many more can we get in? Place your bets now. The ramen is great, but the pork on rice side dish is the best.



Then, later back at the room, a giant man in a yukata invaded.


Good night.