Day 11 – Downpour in Kyoto
We awoke on our eleventh day in Japan to a perpetual downpour. This severely dampened our plans as we had earmarked our only full day to do a lot of sightseeing in Japan’s historic capital.
Our first destination was Arashiyama to view the famed bamboo forest. We took our umbrellas and hopped on a JR Train westwards to Arashiyama station.
I quite liked the Arashiyama district, it was very serene and had a very tranquil vibe to it. We eschewed the normal route that all the tourists took and embarked on some urban exploration to take in the sights of the sleepy residential district.
We were close to the famed bamboo groves when we started getting pelted by the rain. Defeated, we ducked into the nearest Cafe we could find.
Unexpectedly we were drawn to the Yojiya Cafe. We had seen the same illustrated lady’s face all over Kyoto so we concluded that it had to be a very Kyoto thing.
After some research, we discovered that Yojiya was a large cosmetics company founded in Kyoto with a very storied history. Cool!
We had omelettes and toast with some coffee which was deliciously simple. We were also glad to be indoors in a warm and cosy Cafe away from the rain.
I never order lattes, but I had to order one at the Yojiya Cafe. It had the Yojiya Lady expertly drawn on it and looked pretty cool, so how could I resist it!
As soon as the rain eased a little, we took our window of opportunity to go see the bamboo groves. It was still raining quite heavily but we couldn’t afford to wait forever.
The bamboo groves were a little bit of a let down. I’m not sure if it’s because it was pouring which made it very difficult to look at the bamboo forest because every single tourist (including us) had large and sometimes unwieldy umbrellas.
The bamboo groves were also a lot smaller than we had expected. It took us less than 5 minutes to walk through the path flanked with thousands of bamboo.
It was quite a unique sight but not exactly mind blowing.
The rain became even more aggressive, and we then decided to abandon the rest of our Arashiyama plans and head back into Kyoto for shelter. Kind of disappointed that we didn’t get to see the historic Togetsukyo Bridge, but there’s always next time.
We retreated to Kyoto Station, which also housed a massive Isetan mall and decided to look for lunch. The cold and gloomy day made us crave one thing – deep fried food so we wasted no time getting to Katsukura, a restaurant famous for its breaded pork cutlet (tonkatsu).
I had the chicken cutlet (above) and Sue Anne had the pork cutlet (below).
It was pretty damn good! One of the best katsu we’ve ever had in our lives and we would return in a heartbeat.
After lunch, we were all ready for our tour of the Kyoto Imperial Palace.
You cannot visit the Kyoto Imperial Palace without registering and signing up for a ticket at the Imperial Household Agency. There are a limited number of tickets available online, but it’s a lot easier to physically register at the office, which is located on the grounds of the Palace.
We booked our spots when we first came to Kyoto for our meal at Hyotei. The tours are completely free – all you need to do is provide passport details.
Curiously, we discovered that Japanese citizens can’t join the tour and it’s only opened to foreigners. The Kyoto Imperial Palace is only open to the public for a couple of days a year.
The rain continued to pelt us, which was a bummer as it was quite challenging to get good photos of the Palace while carrying an umbrella at the same time.
This was our English speaking guide who took us around the Imperial Palace grounds. You can’t visit the inside during the tours, unfortunately.
We learned about the process of using the bark of Japanese cypress trees to create the roofs of structures around the Palace. They’re very hardy and waterproof due to the oils in the bark but must be replaced every 70 or so years.
Only buildings affiliated with the Royal family and temples were allowed to use cypress bark for their roofs.
As you can see, the rain was very heavy. This courtyard and structure used to be the dwelling place of the Emperor and was where important ceremonies and rituals were conducted.
We got a peek inside some of the buildings where we could view ancient screen paintings.
Lastly we got to see the gardens, which is always a treat since Japanese landscaping is so pleasing to the eye.
The rain actually made the gardens look really beautiful so I guess it wasn’t all for nothing!
I’d definitely recommend the Imperial Palace tour if you’re in Kyoto and would like to know more about what life was like if you were part of the Imperial Court.
You also get to appreciate stunning Japanese Imperial architecture and learn a thing or two about the Chrysanthemum dynasty.
Very wet and quite tired, we went back to Nishiki Market near our Ryokan to relax with some warm green tea and desserts. I took this opportunity to enjoy some traditional Japanese sweets (Kyogashi).
Anne had her usual Matcha ice cream dessert on top of some aloe Vera!
A very friendly Japanese couple who spoke good English helped us take this photo. They were excellent company and made for a very warm end to an otherwise cold and rainy day in Kyoto!