Plan for the Day
Our plan for the day was to skip Mount Yoshino and proceed to Hasedera (Temple) and Butsuryu-ji in the morning. Later in the day we would proceed to Nara City and visit Todaji and for the night we would drive into Kyoto where we had booked a family room at Hostel Kyotokko. The total distance for today was around 135 km, not too long and would be pretty relaxing for Yat Thong our “driver” of this trip.
By the end of the day
We enjoyed our visit to Hasedera and Butsuryu-ji temples. One was in a town another in a “wild” remote area. Nara city was fun especially with deers roaming freeing around. By the time we reached Kyoto it was around 7 pm which left us very little time to do any sightseeing.
Hotel D.D in the day
Breakfast was served in our rooms. We had salmon and coffee. Not too bad. I wondered what the two Ds in the hotel name stood for. Dear or Darling? By about 9.40 am we were all packed and ready to leave. Lin Ying could not resist adding another “love” sign just before she hopped into the car.
It was a 40 minutes drive to Hasedera Temple from Hotel D.D. Around the temple was a town, with shops catering to visitors of the temple. The nearest carpark was just by a river next to the temple and the parking fee was ¥500 per entry. From the carpark it was less than 100 metres walk to the start of a pedestrian street that led up to the entrance of Hasedera temple.
Along the walkway we past a couple of small temple complexes, one of which was Fumon-in. At the gate (Nio Gate) we stopped at the ticket kiosk to buy our entrance tickets. The entrance fee per person was ¥500 the whole year round.
Hasedera was founded in 686 and had more than 30 complexes spread over the hillside in its compound. After climbing up the steep steps and entering the NioMon (gate) we came to a sheltered walkway with very “low” steps that led up a long gentle slope.
On both sides of the sheltered walkway were paths leading to other temple complexes. Most of the cherry blossom was gone but there were still a couple of cherry trees with drooping branches of flowers adding colors to these complexes.
We kept leaving the sheltered walkway to explore the buildings on its sides and by the time we reached the Main Hall of Hasedera which was at the top of the steps more than an hour had gone by. The main hall had a huge open deck that stretched out over the hill slope. It was held up be tall huge square wooden columns and braces. At noon two monks walked out from an enclosure at the top of a tower, they stood near the edge of the wooden railing and began blowing some kind of a “horn”. The blowing went on for a number of minutes. It reminded me of a “clock” tower.
The view from the deck was stunning. The greenery blanketing the valley was thick and “luxurious”. It was a pity that we were not here a week earlier that was when this valley looked more pink than green. Similarly this greenery would be a gorgeous mass of orange, yellow and red in autumn.
From the deck we saw a vermillion colored pagoda on its right side. We found a path that led us right up to the tower. This pagoda had five storeys with five layers of roof. The underside of each roof was a complex lattice of woodwork, very lovely.
After we finished our exploration of Hasedera we went on to the town around the temple. The shops in the street were very quaint. The food on display and their packaging were so pretty, too lovely to eat.
We came to a shop and saw a lady selling some green color soft looking dough. It must be a matcha thing. We ordered four of these green dough (¥130 each) and the lady put them on a hot plate and slightly fried them. She served them to us on pieces of paper. It tasted like matcha mochi with red bean paste. Yummy..
By about 1 pm we left Hasedera and moved toward Butsuryu-ji. Unlike Hasedera, Butsuryu-ji was in the “middle of nowhere”. We managed to find a place near the hill at the base of the temple to park our car, no parking charges. We presumed that the temple was somewhere up the hill, all we could see was a path up a slope with cherry trees on both sides of the path. Apparently one of these trees was a 900 year old cherry trees.
At the top of step was the entrance to Butsuryu-ji and sitting at its entrance was a lady collection entrance fee of ¥200. We paid our entrance fee and went in to have a look. There were cherry trees in the compound but only one still looked good and pink. The others had already shedded their flowers.
The temple ground was pretty small and there was several buildings. I went up to the main hall to gave my donation, said a prayer and “ring” up the deities.
Nara City & Todai-ji
At about 3 pm we left for Todai-ji. The journey of 35 km took about one hour. At 4 pm, Todai-ji was packed with people. We were here two years ago and arrived in the morning and the place was also packed with people. It seemed that Todai-ji was crowded throughout the day!
We could not find any parking place near to the south gate (Naidaimon) of Todai-ji and by the time we managed to get a parking space we were already a 800 km away, and still had to pay a parking charges of ¥500. Yat Thong and I had been to Todaiji before so this time we were not going in. Only mum and Lin Ying would go in for a look. The entrance fee was ¥500 per person.
The largest building in Todaiji compound was Daibutsuden and it meant “The great Buddha hall”. Daibutsuden was the world largest wooden building. It was reconstructed in 1692 and was only two-third of the size of the original building! In the hall sat a huge giant Buddha statue. To gave visitors an idea of the largeness of the statue, a hole which was of the same size as one of the nostril holes of the statue was cut out in one of the columns in the hall. The hole was large enough for an adult to squeeze through.
Todaiji was surrounded by a deer park which had many cherry trees. Unfortunately cherry blossom season was long over so there were not much “pinkness” in the park. But despite being blossom-less this place still had much to offer. Todai-ji for instance was a world heritage site. The cute deer that roam around freely were also a joy to watch.
The deer here were so polite and they would bow their heads when requesting for food!!!
We had planned to eat our dinner at Kyoto Kichi Kichi Omurice as some friends of Lin Ying told her that its omurice was great. I did not do much research on this “famous place”, all I did was to identify its exact location in Kyoto and bring us there. Unfortunately when we arrived at its door the sign said “Close” despite us arriving one hour before closing time. Since I could see that there were people inside the restaurant behind the glass door, I went in to enquire. In the restaurant was a couple having their meals, a lady cook and a chef.
I enquired about the closing time and possible reservation for tomorrow and the day after for lunch or dinner. The chef replied “No”, “No!” and “NO!”. Each “No” getting louder and ruder. Thanks to the lady cook she explained that till the end of the month the restaurant was fully booked. I was glad for the explanation but was very perturbed by the chef’s rude replies. He was definitely the rudest man that I had encountered in Japan so far.
It was after I left the restaurant and went to the web to learn more about Kichi Kichi Omurice that I understood the reason why this restaurant was fully booked for the rest of the month. It could only sit 7 persons each time and was open only for dinner on weekday and lunch and dinner on weekend/public holiday. Surprising the rude “chef” was the famous chef Yukimura who made the famous omurice. I must have met him on a tiring day for him to behave so badly to a customer.
A plate of omurice at Kichi Kichi costed about ¥2700 which was rather pricey. I did not have a chance to taste it so I could not vouch for its taste. The high price of the dish was probably to cover the “performance” of chef Yukimura as he cooked the dish. It was a sad thing that as I watched his “cooking performance” that was posted on the internet the smiley face he presented was now replaced by his scrowly expression that I had saw this evening.
We had our dinner somewhere else it was one of the numerous restaurants on the mainstreet, Kiyamachi-Dori. Our dinner came up to ¥4700 which included ¥2000 for four “seat price”. This was the second time we were charged for seat in a restaurant. We wondered if all restaurant charged seat price. Anyway the food was delicious and ¥4700 was less than half the bill we would have to pay if we had dined at Kichi Kichi Omurice!
A last minute trip to Maruyama park (one of Kyoto best night viewing spot for cherry blossom) to see its famous weeping cherry tree was a instant decision after spotting a poster that announced “Night Lighting for Cherry Blossom” at Maruyama Park would go on till end of the month. So we thought there would be something to see despite that Kyoto “best viewing” period of cherry blossom had ended a week ago. It was a short drive of about 17 km to the entrance of Maruyama Park. The famous weeping tree was just a short walk from the entrance. It was huge, it was lighted but it was GREEN! No more flower. Sob..Sob..
Accommodation for the night
Our stay in Kyoto was a family room for four with ensuite bathroom at Hostel Kyotokko with daily free breakfast. I thought the price of ¥26180 for two nights though was expensive (which was expected during such peak season) was a steal considering that the hostel was in the central Kyoto, near to all the sites we planned to visit. It said that the room had two single beds, two bunk beds and two futons, which was more than sufficient for the four of us. So I booked it on booking.com despite having to paid upfront with no refund.
We checked into the hotel at about 7 pm and our family room was a disappointment. The size of the room was fine, the ensuite toilet was clean but the orientation of the beds in the room was horrible. There were two bunk beds and only one single bed (the listing mentioned two single beds). The two bunk beds were not usable. The lower bunk bed (which was four feet off the ground) was slotted perpendicularly under the higher bunk bed with only a head room of 30 cm. As for the upper bunk bed its entire length was slotted under a overhead cupboard making the bed space one third smaller!
The bed were too heavy and there was no way for us to rearrange them. So in the end mum slept on the single bed, Yat Thong and I slept on futons placed below the bunk beds and Lin Ying put her futon near the door. With three futons and our bags on the floor there was no space to move about! What a shame, this room would have been a wonderful room if more thought gone into rearranging the height of the bunk beds and their orientation.