After our short trip from Hamamatsu we arrived at the Kyoto station, where we sought out the two-day travel passes. With those in hand we took the subway up two stops to shave off some walking time to our hotel. The most direct route would have been through the Nishiki Market but the amount of people made dragging a rollerboard difficult, so we detoured to the main streets instead.
Per usual we couldn’t check in until after 3pm, so we left our bags and backpacks and headed back out to explore. This time we could enjoy the market street a little better! There were all kinds of foods available – seemingly everything in the sea, spices, beans, etc. Lots of snacks on sticks but few places to sit and eat.
After passing through the market we made our way back to the subway and headed toward the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The whole complex and gardens is free to walk around so we spent about two hours exploring and admiring the architecture, starting from the southern Sakaimachi-Gomon Gate.
After making our way to the north end of the park, Google Maps notified us that the fastest way to our next destination was by bus, so we found the bus stop and waited. And waited. Literally every other bus on the board came except either of the two we needed. Finally, after about 15 minutes we saw the one we wanted. And there were seats! Thank goodness for Google so we could follow our path and figure out where to request our stop.
The street leading to Higashiyama Jisho-ji was lined with small shops, and I spotted a place selling t-shirts for 790¥. Eric found a samurai shirt he liked – yay! We also stopped for a mint chocolate (Eric) and black sesame (me) ice cream cone. The ice cream machine was pretty neat, somewhat like a Keurig for ice cream where the vendor simply inserted a small cup with our flavor choice into the machine then pressed a button and swirled the ice cream onto a cone. This tiny shop had the most flavor choices (and lowest price, 250¥) of any other ice cream place we saw.
The temple itself (400¥) had some beautiful grounds, and an amazing amount of moss, but it was very crowded at 3:30pm.
After finishing at the temple we wandered along the Philosopher’s Path (canal) for a few minutes, then caught a bus back to our hotel area. (sidenote: Google is wonderful for knowing what stop to get off on but we wound up taking the bus the wrong direction for two stops before we saw we were going the wrong way – Google couldn’t tell us what side of the street we needed to be on.) Before crossing the Sanjo-dori Bridge we hopped off and walked the rest of the way along the river. Lots of people were relaxing along the banks, and we even saw a few birds catching fish!
We popped in to small liquor store where we found a reasonably priced bottle of cava that we enjoyed back to our room while planning the evening.
We wanted to try a whisky bar, so we decided to start at SferaBar Satonaka. Located on the upper level of a home goods store, it took a little work to find it, but wow, what a space.
After perusing the menu, we ended up trying the following:
- Nikka taketsuru 17 – nice floral notes, plum, brown sugar, a little oak as it warms. good medium body, oakiness on finish. Very pleasant dram. (E)
- Nikka yoichi – banana and clove, lite tropical, oak, a little baked sugar. Banana bread, very smooth, easy to drink. More oak as it opens. (E)
- Suntory yamazaki 12 – strong wood, lt fruit, quite dry. (L)
- Nikka miyagikyo – sharper, a little oak, some vanilla. Lots of oak on palate. more burn on nose and palate. (L)
After our drinks, we walked past numerous restaurants in Pontocho Alley but nothing was really calling out to us, so we skipped dinner and went back to the hotel.