Day 8: Kyoto, Gion Matsuri third day: Yoiyama

16 July

Weather:  37 C at noon, felt as 40 C 

Sunrise and streets

That morning we got up before the sunrise to catch the golden hour (best time to take pictures are as the sun rises and sets). We walked and photographed between streets till the Kamo River. 

It was truly a beautiful morning, I loved seeing how Kyoto is getting up, the shops still closed, people getting to their work slowly. Some people were sweeping their house front.

Near the river, there were young people just finishing the day, some still in their festival dresses.

Someone was sleeping with their luggage as the cushion, demonstrating how Japan is so safe. 

and another one in another corner

After walking hours in the streets, we decided that today is the day we finally gave up walking and rent bicycles for the transport. 

Early breakfasts day

Everywhere was closed except konbini stores, so we took small bites from Family Mart and walked more. Then McDonalds was the second place we went around 6 am but we needed a decent (or somewhat decent) coffee so once Starbucks opened around 7 am, we went there to have some coffee and truly wake up. 

Bicycle renting

Before coming I read in many blogs that Kyoto is very safe to bike, it was our agenda already. After breakfast, we rented bicycles from the nearest bike shop until the day we leave for Osaka. We preferred J-CYCLE for the renting, but I believe there are many more options.

Erhan, living many years in the Netherlands was already used to bicycles, but me? I had not cycled for many years, but you know what they say like using a bike, it is true 🙂 I remembered quickly. 

As soon as we rented the bicycles, we headed to Kyoto station for lunch. After spending the 2020 in isolation, looking back to photos from 2018 Kyoto it hurts my heart a little bit, seeing such a large crowd all together.

You will absolutely go to Kyoto station once or twice and if you have time to spare, go up and enjoy the unexpected beautiful terrace of the station with beautiful bamboo trees and a sky view.

GION MATSURI CONTINUES…  YOIYAMA

Gyoza festival

It was already the third day of Gion Matsuri. Today we decided to have dinner outside of the festival area, and I already know what to eat and where with the help of my workings before Japan! Gyozadokoro Takatsuji Sukemasa ぎょうざ処 亮昌 高辻本店! Near our home in Kyoto, and without leaving the festival area. These were the best Gyoza I have ever eaten in my life (and also will eat in Japan through the journey). If you ever go there don’t miss it, you’ll regret it.

Erhan’s Note: Eating it came with a manual of how to. There were several spices and sauces to enjoy, first without any spice, then with the spices respectively and also the store made it clear that the gyoza was made all with Japanese ingredients.

After our own gyoza festival, we headed to the festival area one more time, and enjoyed to the last drop.

We saw the floats at night one last time and carved the scenes in our memories with their shiny lights.

We weren’t of course the only ones around the floats, the crowd was again in the streets of Kyoto.

and the famous stalls were still working full capacity, after all people loves these stands.

and of course the officers were again there with their lightsaberish things.

***

The next day was the main event of the festival, another early start was waiting for us, therefore we decided call the night early on.

Total steps of the day: 10875

next post: The procession of the MATSURI

SPECIAL GION MATSURI ALBUM: DAY 2- 15 JULY

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Day 2: TOKYO, Ueno Park

10 July – weather: 32 °C at noon

Erhan’s note: We woke up, took the comically tiny shower, and headed downstairs for breakfast. It was a combination of western/japanese sort of canned hotel breakfast type. They had little croissants, some miso soup, natto, rice, and some pickles on the buffet. First time having tasted natto (fermented sticky soybeans with a wet sock taste and consistency), I understood why people have different opinions on it.

Even though Erhan seemed to enjoy the taste of sticky wet sock, I was left a bit wanting after the breakfast. We googled our environment and decided to go to the Ueno Park: a great destination for the first day orientation. We grabbed our cameras and wandered out.

Ueno Park

It is a big park with a lake in the middle covered by water lilies. Unfortunately, we had missed their bloom, but it was already beautiful, covering the entire lake there was a sea of green leaves. I couldn’t imagine how beautiful they would be in their bloom (maybe a goal for the next time?). 

Ueno Park

Mystery of the Konbini Onigiri

For lunch, we took our Onigiri (Japanese rice balls where there is a flavored filling inside) from the nearby Konbini (Japanese convenience stores, like 7eleven, Lawsons, Familymart). I already had a favorite one: Tuna Mayo. I wouldn’t think something so simple would be so delicious (oishii: a word for delicious we would often use for the entire trip). By the way, being new in Japan, this was already our second time tasting the store sold onigiri and we were struggling with the packaging. They all had this double plastic wrapping with the seaweed in between, so that the rice ball would not touch the seaweed (Nori) unless it is opened. The reason was simple, the nori would get soggy and stick to the rice ball immediately once you opened the package, so it had to be kept isolated. Once we learned how to slowly unwrap it and hold the nori in a way to pinch the rice ball so it wraps around it, it was no longer a frustrating mess of rice and seaweed mush.

the Onigiri counter at the Konbini

First Temple Visit (temple/shrine count #1)

To our surprise our walk in the park led to our first temple visit! Benten-do Temple. 

Erhan’s note: We quickly learned that in Japan most parks have a shrine/temple or both given how the Japanese religious structure encompasses nature in a way. We further later learned that Japanese tend to build shrines everywhere nature or not. I had heard that some tourists experience Shrine Fatigue, a term which encompasses the disinterest they start feeling after visiting shrine after temple after shrine after temple. I was quite ok with it personally.

You may see from the photos how excited we were to come across it. The very thing we only saw in so many other photos was standing there in real life in front of us. 

Benten-do Buddhist Temple
Daikokutendo next to Benten-do Temple

We went straight to the booth of temple where they sold charms and temple related things. We immediately bought our goshuincho (御朱印帳), the special book in which you collect goshuin (御朱印) (seal stamps that worshippers and visitors to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples collect), and of course first goshuin was made there. Btw, you make a donation to take a goshuin, it’s normally around 300 yen, app. 3 dollars. 

Erhan’s note: I think we learned about the goshuincho during our preparation phase. So we already knew we should purchase it the moment we saw it. The booklets are beautiful for the most part, covered with a silk weave stitched on the covers, a depiction of whatever makes that particular temple or shrine you bought it from famous. Some booklets are really nice and some are rather minimalistic. Later in our trip, we also learned that even though most touristic temples charge you a fee for a stamp and signature, local temples where tourists rarely go to do not ask for a fee. Some temples just leave pre-signed leaflets to put in between your booklet, and a donation box nearby.

In the temples and shrines you may also purchase fortunes,  boxes, wrappings, charms, inscriptions in any form or method you can imagine.

Erhan’s note: I think we should make an additional blog post covering temples and what you can find in them.

me holding my first fortune 🙂

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Life in Ueno Park

We were already impressed with the local people when we saw this man casually chatting with his friends while playing/feeding the birds, he was so natural and nonchalant about it, he didn’t even look at them. 

the man and the sparrow

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Did I say it was a hot day? On the first day of our trip we had already experienced the famous humidity and heat of the Japanese summer. We started looking for some interior coolness.

While walking in the park we found out that there were many museums in the area, perfect for cooling down. Namely Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum for Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the National Science Museum. The park was also home to the Ueno Zoo. As appreciators of fine art, our first choice was The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. It was closed, so we chose to visit Tokyo National Museum.

And what a luck! we saw the banners for the “JOMON” exhibition, we wandered in excitedly.

To be continued in the next post…