Kyoto on a Rainy Day | Japan Solo Travel 2017

March 29, 2017


Kyoto, the capital of Japan for 1000 years and Japan's seventh largest city, is famous for its numerous scenic spots and classic shrines. From Eastern to Western or Northern to Southern Kyoto, there's no part of the beautiful country that doesn't wow you. Even though I love scenic cities for the potnetial beautiful photos, I wasn't excited about Kyoto for some reason, and I only had Kyoto on my itinerary because fear of missing out.



Started my morning struggling with my newly pierced ears. For some reason, my earrings, with backings, fell out of my ear holes and because my piercings were only three to four months old, I couldn't afford to leave the earrings out of my ears. After bidding my couchsurfing host goodbye, I hurried from one convenience store to another trying to purchase a pair of earrings, but to no avail.

Decided I'll walk to Hearton Hotel first since I couldn't afford to miss my tour bus, which was supposed to bring me to Kyoto's best tourist spots. However, as luck would have it, the tour bus didn't appear at the agreed meeting place in Hearton Hotel, and the staff at Hearton Hotel claimed they do not operate such tours!

A kind Japanese lady at a nearby operating bus intrchange lent me her phone to call the tour agency. But I was so lost and cold, plus I had no idea where I was; thank god for the Japanese lady who tried her best to help me out. Communicating via hand signs and bits of Chinese, I found out that the tour operator has cancelled the bus! Geez, at least have the decency to inform me? No calls, no emails, and till today, the refunds haven't been made -__- First and last time I'll ever join a tour.


It started drizzling heavily as I was searching for Osaka Station to take a train to Kyoto, further dampening my mood. Thankfully, I brought an umbrella along and could at least shelter myself from the rain. I struggled with finding Osaka Station, and it didn't help that I was holding on to so many things and had no basic knowledge of Japanese. Thankfully, a woman stopped along the way and pointed me to the correct direction. 

I cannot emphasise enough how importat these little gestures are when I was feeling lonely overseas. I got really frustrated at a point and was close to tears because I just wanted someone to hug me and tell me it's going to be okay. I wanted to speak to someone in my language, and actually understand conversation.

Japan's beautiful countryside did its part in calming my nerves

I had to quickly plan my entire Kyoto itinerary on the train as I had planned to follow the tour bus previously. I was so upset because nothing seemed to be working out, but I psyched myself up by reminding myself that I'm not disappointing anyone by not being on that Kyoto tour. Why does it matter if I miss some scenic spots when I wasn't particularly looking forward to any of them anyway? This is MY solo travel and I won't let anyone ruin it for me.


Upon reaching Kyoto Station, the first thing I did was to locate where should I wait for my Willer Express overnight bus because I couldn't afford to miss my night bus and risk being stranded in Kyoto without a place to stay.



Lockers are abundant in Kyoto — or any train station in Japan, for that matter — so I chose the one nearest to where my Willer Express overnight bus will stop in Kyoto.




Each locker costs ‎¥700 (SGD $9) and the biggest one fits my 28 inch luggage just fine. You may have some trouble finding available big lockers, the more popular choice, during peak hours in the day. There are enough lockers around Kyoto Station though, so you can definitely find one around Kyoto Station, especially if it isn't a popular spot.

Wanted to demostrate locking the locker, but I slot the key in the coin slot -_-

Unlike in Singapore where you have to put in your coins first, the lockers in Japan works by keeping your luggage first, putting in your coins then locking the locker.


Personal tip: take photos of your surroundings after locking your luggage! Because of the abundance of lockers around Kyoto Station, it's often hard to relocate your locker. With the photos, you can easily approach the station masters and let them direct you to your locker.


Kyoto is a quiet, muted town and even their Seven Eleven is in neutral colours, unlike the other Seven Eleven stores around the world that's usually in the iconic bright orange, red and green.


It started raining again shortly after, and I wasn't in the mood to sightsee in the rain so I took a five-minute walk to a nearby mall, AEON Mall KYOTO, to buy some earrings.



AEON Mall KYOTO

Address
1 Nishikujo Toriiguchicho, Minami Ward, 京都市南区 Kyoto Prefecture 601-8417, Japan

Opening Hours
10am to 9pm daily


It was the weekends so AEON Mall KYOTO was littered with families and kids.




Although AEON Mall KYOTO has several outlet shops, AEON Mall KYOTO wasn't particularly cheap and I only managed to get a sweater from Uniqlo kids at a discount that I thought I could wear to Hakone since it was sub-zero degree celcius when I checked.



Most shops in Japan that caters to tourists have English menus available

My stomach started growling shortly after and I began hunting for ramen. Ramen has always been my comfort food and I needed to feel a little more at home — ironic, because ramen is Japanese food but c'est la vie.

I wanted to eat ramen at Kyoto Ramen Street (Kyoto Ramen Koji), located inside Kyoto Station Building. But I got lost and wandered into Porta Dining, also located near Kyoto Station, instead. Nonetheless, there were lots of shops and I was spoilt by choice. A quick Google search didn't show any 'must-try ramen' in Porta Dining and the shops look similar to each other so I went into a random shop.


The ramen from Kyoazuki isn't anything to rave about to be honest. The ramen was priced at SGD $10, as with most ramen in Singapore and almost every meal I had in Japan.



Kyoazuki, Porta Dining

Address
901 Higashishiokojicho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

Opening Hours
Opens daily from 11am to 10pm (last order at 9:30pm)


I was wearing the slippers I bought in Shilin Night Market and my toes were freezing in the cold, so I had to buy some socks from The Cube Shopping Mall, located at Kyoto Station.

Also bought some souvenirs from the souvenir shop in The Cube Shopping Mall, where I had a hard time explaining that I was looking for a magnet. "Magnet? 磁铁? *magnet hand gestures* English? Chinese?" Thank god someone knew Chinese and translated things for me. On hindsight, I should have tried typing what I need into Google translate.


Decided to get out of Kyoto and just go to one sightseeing tourist spot, Arashiyama Bamboo Groves, because I enjoyed the slow day, which felt right for a quiet city like Kyoto. You can get to Arashiyama by bus 28 (get off at Arashiyama-Tenryuji-mae about 30 minutes later)


Alternatively, from Kyoto Station, San-in Line you can take JR Sagano to Saga-Arashiyama Station, where Arashiyama Bamboo Groves is located.


Most trains in Japan have rapid or local trains, with the rapid trains skipping a few stations and Kyoto's no exception. It's always a good idea to take a photo of the stations the rapid and local trains go to so you have an idea of where you are, especially if you're not familar with Japanese. In this case, both trains go to Saga-Arashiyama Station.


Somehow, I missed my station and ended up in Chiyokawa, adding on to my list of unlucky things that happened on my travels. However, I managed to cach some magnificent sights of Kyoto's quiet countryside, an aura of stillness and calmness very much oppsite of what I'm accustomed to in Singapore's everyday life.

Walking to Arashiyama Bamboo Groves from Saga-Arashiyama Station


Trying to look at the bright side of everything; people mostly stayed indoors or took less photos in the rain so I had all the time in the world to slowly figure a good angle and not get photobombed by tourists.



The walk to Arashiyama Bamboo Groves took about 20 minutes, and I stopped along a roadside store of a piping hot Taiyaki in the cold winter.


Everything was written in Japanese, I had a hard time figuring out what was what, and the shopkeeper was getting impatient so I simply pointed to one Taiyaki. Don't know what flavour Taiyaki I got, but I'm guessing it's maple from the colour. Yes, I have terrible tastebuds and can't even tell the difference between beef, pork and chicken.



Arashiyama Bamboo Groves was, in my humble opinion, rather underwhelming. I'm not sure if it's because of the rain, but Arashiyama Bamboo Groves was nowhere as magnificent as the photos I've seen on Instagram. I'm sorry Kyoto! I'm sure Kyoto has a lot more to offer, but I happened to be there on a bad day :(



Arashiyama Bamboo Groves

Address 
Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

Nearest Subway Station
Saga Arashiyama Station, JR Sagano line OR
Arashiyama Station, Henkyu railway

Opening Hours
Opened 24/7

Admission Fee
Free




Made a wrong turn and wandered into Nonomiya-jinja Shrine, a shrine that's said to help single women find The One and pregnant women have an easy birth.


There's an abandance of heart shapes around Nonomiya-jinja Shrine so I'm guessing the shrine popular with women seeking love.




Kyoto was getting increasingly dark by then and the last tourists have already left so I pretty much got clear photos of Nonomiya-jinja Shrine without any strangers in my photos.


Nonomiya-jinja Shrine

Address 
Japan, 〒616-8315 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Ukyo Ward, 嵯峨野宮町1

Nearest Subway Station
Saga Arashiyama Station, JR Sagano line OR
Arashiyama Station, Henkyu railway

Opening Hours
9am to 5pm for the office booth

Admission Fee
Free



Most, if not all, shrines in Japan has a spot where you can draw omikuji (a written oracle that's supposed to tell your fortune). I previously drew a omikuji in Tsuyunoten Shrine (Ohatsu Tenjin Shrine), Osaka as well and decided to do it again.



The omikuji in Nonomiya-jinja Shrine works on a trust basis where you slot in your yen and draw an omikuji yourself without anyone keeping watch.





My omikuji was another good omikuji, but it was rather general and didn't leave a lasting impression as it didn't predict anything in particular.


Took the train back to Kyoto Station so I could take a quick shower at Kyoto Tower Public Bathhouse ~YUU~. I was going on overnight buses two nights in a row so showering at a public bathhouse was the only choice I had (so much for careful itinerary planning). Then again, you can't say you've been to Japan if you've never visited an onsen right?


Probably one of the cheapest onsen around Japan, Kyoto Tower Public Bathhouse ~YUU~ only costed ¥750 (SGD $9.50) on weekdays and ¥890 (SGD $11) on weekends. Kyoto Tower Public Bathhouse ~YUU~ was obviously minimalistic with this price, with only cubicles for you to sit down and shower and a hot bath tub. But that was enough for me to refresh myself.

After making payment at a machine, I was given two towels (the rental of the towels costed ¥750 (SGD $1.25) — I made the mistake of not bringing in my towel even though I had it in my luggage) — then I was directed to a rest area to remove my shoes. You can actually proceed straight to the onsen, seperated by gender, but the miscomunication due to the different languages led me to stupidly sit at the waiting area for quite some time before I figured I can head straight in.

Even though I knew what an onsen is and prepared myself for it, I still had a culture shock there when I saw everyone removing their clothes freely once they stepped in. Kyoto Tower Public Bathhouse ~YUU~ provided body soap, shampoo and even conditioner, but because the place caters largely to locals, everything was labelled in Japanese. I had problems telling one toiletry from the other, and figured it was too awkward to ask anyone naked, so I just tried my luck. To this day, I have no idea if I used the correct product HAHA. Ignorance is always bliss.


Got a few weird stares in Kyoto Tower Public Bathhouse ~YUU~ and after a while, I figured it's because I looked like I have make up on in the onsen due to my naturally thick brows and lip tint. Ooops. 

Kyoto Tower Public Bathhouse ~YUU~

Address 
Japan, 〒600-8216 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, 烏丸通七条下ル 東塩小路町 721-1 Kyoto Tower

Nearest Subway Station
Kyoto Station

Opening Hours
7am to 10pm daily

Admission Fee
Weekdays: ¥750 (SGD $9.50)
Weekends:¥890 (SGD $11)


While walking around The Cube Shopping Mall, I walked into Vie De France, a French bakery chain headquatered in Tokyo, to grab some pastry in case I get hungry on the overnight bus journey to Hiroshima.


Can I just say that Vie De France has the BEST CHEESE TART I'VE EVER TASTED?! The cheese literally melted in my mouse and the crust was firm and delectable. Oh, what would I do for another cheesetart right now.


The custard tart from Vie De France was good as well but the cheesetart was just too amazing and overshadowered the custard tart.

Vie De France

Address
The CUBE, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 600-8216, Japan

Opening Hours
Opens daily from 7:30am to 9pm 


Hello, Kyoto Tower :) Decided to not go up Kyoto Tower even though it was a touristy thing to do because I just went up Taipei 101 and I supposed most cities look the same up high anyway.


Changed into a fresh new set of clothes and started walking to ____, where I was supposed to find my Willer Express overnight bus. Thank god I allocated more than an hour because I couldn't find the meeting place, Kyoto station G2 platform, initially. I learnt from lesson that it's better spend an hour waiting than risk missing my bus!

Kyoto station G2 platform is actually rather huge. To get to the meeting place where Willer Express overnight bus will stop, cross the road from Kyoto Station, turn left, then walk towards where there's a huge Pachinko Machine arcade. You will see a queue forming at a bus stop nearby, and an assistant will call out the names of the buses arriving periodically.


Goodbye Kyoto, and hello Hiroshima :)


-

JAPAN SOLO TRAVEL


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