A visitor is spoiled for choice in Kyoto when it comes to temples, so after eliminating a few options that seemed expensive or were partially under construction, we landed on Daigoji. It’s located quite a bit further from the center of town, meaning less tourists, and we could get there with our metro pass. The peak autumn period was still a week and a half away so the entry fee was a reasonable 800¥ compared to spring and fall seasons where it climbs to 1500¥!
The 10-minute walk from the metro stop was well signposted and led through a quiet residential neighborhood primarily on a pedestrian-only path.
We bought our tickets to the compound at the Sanboin reception desk. There are three “tear-off” tickets for each section, Sanboin (garden), Reihokan (museum), and Garan (temple complex).
We started in the Sanboin area, which serves as the main residence for the head priests. You take your shoes off for this part and wander through several rooms with sliding wooden doors and beautiful tatami mats on the floor.
The grounds were peaceful with only the sounds of wind and water. Most of the interior rooms had ‘no photography’ signs but the gardens were the visual highlight.
Our next stop was the temple complex area, which contained several prayer buildings and an impressive five-story pagoda – the oldest wooden structure in the Kyoto prefecture (completed in 951).
On the north end of this section there is a beautiful pond area and Bentendo shrine. This area is absolutely stunning when the fall color emerges – hence the increased entry fee!
The museum area was mostly closed off, with only the gallery open for viewing. No photos were allowed so we checked out the sculptures and moved on.
We retraced our steps to the subway and headed back toward town with a stop at the Nanzenji shrine area and Suirokaku Water Bridge aqueduct. The grounds are free to walk around but most of the buildings and gardens have a 500¥ entry fee per exhibit.
There were several small private gardens in the area, so we decided to visit one of them – Konchi-in Temple (400¥) – which had a lovely koi pond and swirled rock garden area.
I was feeling a bit peckish so we researched a few places to go for a quick lunch. We love Din Tai Fung but the one nearest our hotel had terrible reviews so Eric companionably accompanied me to Mori Mori Sushi Shijo-Kawaramachi, a conveyor belt sushi place on the 8th floor of the Kyoto Marui Mall. He found chocolate cake on the menu (yay!) and encouraged me to select something from the sushi line. I ordered the three dishes I wanted via the ipad menu and then grabbed a squid from the belt. Everything was good, even the green tea I made myself with the provided powder and hot water dispenser. There was another food court area on the first floor where Eric picked up a fish-shaped pastry filled with curry.
At this point we figured laundry was in order, so we picked up another bottle of cava and went back to the room to rest our feet and recharge. While I had some trouble with the misleading / poor instructions on the washer, the sympathetic front desk guy put an extra 100¥ to get the machine working again. Dryer worked as expected (also 100¥).
Eric had found another whisky bar for us to try but first – dinner! The entrance for Katsukura Tonkatsu was a bit tricky to find as it’s through a narrow alley but thankfully someone on Google reviews posted a photo so we spotted it! This restaurant is part of a chain and they certainly know what they are doing. The pork was super tender and my mushrooms stuffed with shrimp were tasty as well. I ordered the red soft-boiled egg and while good, I was too stuffed to finish it. The set price also included unlimited(!) miso soup, shredded cabbage, and bowls of 15 grain rice. As you can see from the photo – there was a ton of food.
It was a unique experience to use the suribachi, a ceramic bowl with small ridges on the sides use to crush sesame seeds, then add the Bulldog sauce to make a dipping concoction to our individual tastes. Later in the trip I found a suribachi and surikogi (wooden pestle) at a kitchen supply shop for less than $6 USD. Yay!
Full of pork, we meandered over a few streets to Bar Cordon Noir, a small bar located on the 3rd floor of an office building. The woman at the bar was friendly and accommodating and the prices were very reasonable. We quickly felt at home here!
The menu was so extensive that it took us a few minutes to narrow down our choices. Although they had an impressive scotch list, we were determined to stick with the Japanese distilleries. Our choices:
- Kirin Fuji Gotemba Single Grain Blender’s Choice 2015 – Dates and brown sugar on the nose with coconut vanilla creme brulee palate, really nice, very smooth. Really excellent. Probably the best of the trip. (E)
- The Matsui The Peated – light chocolate, baking spice and peat on nose. Chocolate, cherry and a little vegetal. Medium peaty finish. (E)
- Ichiro’s Malt Mizunara Wood Reserve – lots of wood, a bit of heat. A little water opens it up. Vanilla and some sweetness. (L)
- Japanese old fashioned cocktail – Suntory whisky with a slice of lemon, slice of lime, sugar cube, some sissel leaf?, and luxardo cherry. Mild fruitiness, improved as the ice melted. Light bitterness and mint flavor from leaves. (L)
When it came time to leave, our bartender called the elevator for us and wished us a lovely evening. In fact, we liked it so much we had to return the next night too – we definitely recommend this place!