20191127 – Kyoto, Castles, Shrines, Temples and Adventurous Food


Golden Pavilion

There’s a queue for one of the two breakfast buffets in the hotel – no way. So go down to the gold room, it was worse than St Thomas primary school canteen, complete with greasy table clothes and non existent service. Go to complain and ask for a reserved table in the other breakfast room for the next 3 mornings. Manager has not arrived yet, still abed no doubt so they summon the restaurant manager. He has about as much English as I have Japanese. No he can’t reserve us a table to avoid queuing. No way is this 5 star service more like a Spanish 2 star. So we check out and cut short out 4 night stay. No way I am paying these prices for such service.

Hotels zen garden – not quite up to New Otani size.

Our new hotel seems a lot better. Rooms not quite as big but very tasteful and well equipped, you also get a feeling of quality, well staffed, good English and plenty of respectful bowing and scraping. Amazing it takes two to take us to our room. One shows the way and opens doors for us, the other carries the luggage.

Then we set off for a gruelling day of tourist attractions.

Hotel room

Start with a train towards Kinkaku-ji (golden pavilion) and rather than risk a bus we have some good exercise with a 30 minute walk. The Golden Pavilion is amazing, so many awesome vistas, just a pity there are so many tourists. We spoil everything.

Then we take a walk down to the Ryoan-ji, Buddhist temple for their World class Zen garden, on the way we pick up some lunch for Wendy and a coffee.

The Temple is pretty good but the Zen garden is a bit of a disappointment. Not really impressed with the master raker (not to be confused with a masterbator), it’s supposed t take 10 years to train but his patterns and depth were not what I expected. Could do better – please try harder.

Top world famous zen garden.

After over 9 miles walking we head back to the hotel. Tired and wary.

It’s amazing how many people are asleep on the trains. Must be working them to hard. Many iPhones dropped while nodding off.

Emperor of Japan passing by along with a Shinkansen.

More of the zen garden.

Still battling on with chopsticks. Think I’ve got the hang of it, can even pick up single grains of rice – good for the diet. Still struggle with how to cut large pieces. There is a market for razor sharp edged chopsticks.

Set off for dinner, Google leads us a merry dance down a load of dark lonesome back streets. Finally find our restaurant hidden in a hotel. Tonight’s tea is another Japanese buffet. Seems to be the best way of experiencing so many different dishes, mainly fish and then mainly raw. Must have tried about 30 different dishes.

Getting back to the hotel without the back streets requires us to cross the ginormous and complicated Kyoto station It’s a feat of daring, desperation and dead ends. Finally make it.
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QuickPath swipe keyboard on the iPhone is amazing, so much easier and quicker that normal typing. Just love it. If you haven’t tried it give it a go and you’ll soon be typing 120 words a minute.

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Grand Prince hotel Kyoto – Review1 star

Good – Royal floor lounge.

Spacious room.

Bad – so bad we voted with our feet

5 star prices but not 5 star, especially after 3 nights in Tokyo New Otani hotel.

Choice of queue for breakfast in one restaurant or the gold room. It was worse than St Thomas primary school canteen, complete with greasy table cloth and non existent service. We gave them the opportunity to put this right by reserving table at 07:30 but not prepared to do that so we cut short our 4 night stay and checked out. Had they put this right we would probably have stayed.

Hardly anyone spoke good English.

Not very well staffed.

Bed was rock hard.

Poor location at the end of a subway line way out. Yet Booking.com think it was a “great location”.

Infested with party of school kids.

Coffee table in the room had multiple cup rings and stains on, should have been a clue to what to expect.

No bottled water or towelling gowns in room.



New hotel is lovely but the bed is like sleeping on a concrete pavement. I suppose if you’re Japanese and used to sleeping on the floor with a brick for a pillow it must seem like a feather bed but not for us softie gaijin’s.

Breakfast is ok. But at least well served and pleasant.

More of Nijo-Castle

First trip is by train up to Nijo Castle, another UNESCO World Heritage site. Interesting and worth a visit.

Here we are drowning in culture and what does Wendy want to do she wants to go shopping, oh well each to their own.

Then we catch a train to the Shimogamo jinja shrine, yet another UNESCO site. Very colourful and not too crowded. By now we’re both pie fagged so catch the train down to Gion and end up in a massive food court for lunch and coffee.

Shimogamo Shrine

Then it’s a stroll around Gion and the Nishiki food market. It’s heaving and sells all imaginable delicacies, the majority of them raw or on skewers.

After wandering around Gion markets we go to Liptons tea house and the perverts serve tea with evaporated milk. They tell me that all there is. After kicking off big style we finally get some cold milk. No chance of cold skimmed milk.

Shimigomo shrine

Finally off down the backstreets of Gion to the Gion Tanto restaurant for the Okonomiyaki (savoury pancake) which is much thinner in Kyoto and jam-packed with fillings. The place is awesome; shoes off and put them in a quaint wooden locker; only room for about 15; either sit on floor or at the bar with a well for legs; hotplate and see the kitchen. I have the special, which is packed with every sea fish and creature of the deep along with a few meats of course – pretty good. Very cheap.

Head back home tired after another day of cultural excesses.

Dinner in the backstreets of Gion.

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Retired Star Wars fan who never had a light sabre.

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Guess who is the Geisha.

What what a lovely day we had around here, more temples and shrines than you can shake a stick at, you seem to trip up over one on every corner.

Fushimi Inari-Taisha

First stop is a train ride to the Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine. With all those amazing gates that form long tunnels through the gardens. Sadly very crowded and spoilt by all us tourists. Well worth the visit and the photos just don’t say it all.

Then it’s off to the Kennin-ji shrine for a World famous zen garden. Sadly we could not really find the Zen garden as there were no signs in English. Turns out what we should really done is go into the temple and they were in the middle of the temple. Anyway included some pictures acquired from the internet so I can see what we missed.

That temple again.

At the Kodai-ji temple we enjoyed the gardens and saw what is reckoned to be one of the top to Zen garden in the world. I was totally devastated with the desecration, vandalism and the perversion that occurred. It seems that somebody has gone into the Zen garden with cans of spray paint and painted multicoloured patterns onto the gravel. How could anybody commit such crass sacrilege.

After trekking for miles amongst the crowds of fake geishas – it seems that all of Japan has come here to rent Kimonos and shuffle round – we have coffee and a quiche at the only cafe that seems to cater for our English taste. Not only thousands of fake geihas posing for pictures but can you believe even muslim geishas – I wonder how that reconciles with their little red book.


Gion is such a lovely lively area, yes it’s a bit too touristy in places and very crowded, but there is so much going on.

On our way back we pass the Yasaka shrine – really am shrined out by now so it just warrants a picture. Just one of the many.

One we missed.

For dinner we decide to go to a temppanyaki restaurant in the Gion area. It’s a highly recommended mom-and-pop restaurant, just 12 seats, very small very cosy and you can watch the chef preparing your meal. Yet again I have Okonomiyaki. But this time I just have beef and I have to say it was even better than last night’s. Wendy had shrimp and pork noodles which were also good. The chef and his wife were lovely, treated us like royalty and went out of their way to be polite and accommodating. They provided Japanese entertainment from YouTube while we were waiting, were interested in our tours of the temples and even offered us free tickets to the local temple which was lit up and open at night. Sadly we were so tired that we gave it a miss. And to top it all the food was very good and rare that I ever say this but also very cheap.

Dinner again in the backstreets of Gion.

Then it’s back to our hotel for some complimentary drinks in the bar. Pleasant end to yet another 9 mile tiring but awesome day.

Note to ourselves we really must avoid organised tours and make sure we do our own thing, it may be more exhausting but so much more fun.
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Pinchenko parler.

Amazing the subways have banisters at two heights to accommodate children.

There are even dedicated children’s toilets and staff of 1000’s to direct you down the platform.

The place is teaming with old Toyota taxis, but unlike the 20 year furry diced Nissans in Blackburn, they’re all in immaculate condition.

Sadly the majority seem to live like rats in a cage, high rise cramped conditions. Probably conditions are a factor in explaining their conforming psyche. Makes us appreciate Belthorn, but that’s not to say I’ll never complain about it again.

Another garden in To-Ji

Free complimentary drinks tickets each day if we don’t have a room serviceAmazed at the attention to detail. A Japanese worker gets on the train to set up new advertisement’s. Not only does he put up a new one with unerring precision but goes and adjusts an existing one by about 2mm because it’s out of line. Most people would not even notice the Misalignment.

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Start our last day in Kyoto with breakfast, checkout and then take a stroll to To-ji (at least that was easy to spell). Another UNESCO temple just 20 minutes away. Complete with 5 story pagoda. Really could do with some Brasso on the brass. The steps up to the Pagoda must be about 18″ high, how did they manage these steps with their little legs?

Then we trawl around the stores, including ToyRUs to try and find a model Shinkansen train. No luck.

One from the internet.

Finally pick our luggage up from the hotel and catch the Shinkansen back to Tokyo. Pass on the green car this time to see how the poor people cope. Amazed there really isn’t that much difference and it’s £200 reserved, instead of £270 reserved green car. Trains is full so a reserved seat was a good idea. Just 2 hours of comfortable travel, with Japan whisking by and we arrive in Tokyo.

Mount Fuji from the Shinkansen.

Have really enjoyed our 4 nights in Kyoto, so much to see and do especially enjoyed Gion area. Only two regrets, firstly we gave up on trying to find the zen garden in Kennin-ji (resorted to pictures from the internet) and secondly that we didn’t spend more nights there.

Check back in to the New Otani Garden hotel. Sheer luxury and the standard by which all future accommodation will be measured.

Our room back in the New Otani Garden Tokyo – the new standard by which all future hotels will be measured.

It’s a lazy dinner tonight, we try to find a couple of bento boxes but no luck. Then troll the main restaurant district with an agreement that if we can’t find anything it’l be the Wendy’s at the end of the street. Settle on a Wendy’s triple burger USA style and some spec boll and cheese burger for Wendy – really enjoyed some junk food. Then back to the hotel for a couple of cans of beer whilst we plan our remaining days in Tokyo and try and stay awake through The Crown.
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No litter, no dog muck, no dogs, no begging, no sleeping rough, no drunks, no smell of piss everywhere including the trains, no yobs with feet on seats, no yobs, no graffiti, no chewing gum and no spitting.

Guard bows and smiles every time he leaves the carriage.

Don’t you just love it. Shinkansen (bullet train) guard walks through, smartly dressed, complete with white gloves on, and bows and smiles to everyone as he leaves the carriage.

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View from hotel room at night.

Yet another attack from an Islamic jihadi there’s not a mention of the word Islam or would that be to presumptuous, islamophobic (not that such a word can really exist) or likely to offend some PC snowflakes. It really is about time we started talking about the real threats.

Let’s wake up to the reality and threat from Islam before it is too late.

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