We woke up around 4AM Japan time…way too early for anything to be open. But none of us could sleep anymore and decided to start our day around 5AM. We found a 7-11 convient store around the corner; the only place open at that hour. Who knew that the best omusubi (riceball) I would eat in Japan would be from a 7-11. The seaweed was seasoned and crispy, the rice was soft. It was so good.
Rice ball and warm coffee in hand, we went to tackle the Japanese subway and rail system finding our way to Kyoto. We had to stop and ask some of the rail attendants for directions, communicating by pointing to the map and simple sign language. At one point the guy came chasing after us with English maps of Kyoto. It was so nice of him. It’s these little gestures and and ability to overcome language barriers with using various methods to communicate that makes me love traveling so so much. It’s thrilling and so rewarding.
Our first stop was to visit the Fushimi Inari Taisha, a shinto shrine for the god of rice.
This site is famous for the thousands of torii gates that line different hiking trails throughout the mountain. It was truly beautiful and exhausting hike to the top!
We left Fushimi in search of our next destination; lunch at Honke Owariya 尾張屋, a 548 year old soba restaurant located just south of the Nijo Castle in Kyoto. It’s a humble little restaurant located on a quite street. (It took us a long time to find). With its unpretentious set-up and surroundings, you would never know that this place had served meals for some of the most important people in Japan like emperors, shoguns, monks, and even today the Imperial family.
We each ordered our own Hourai Soba (￥2100 or US$23), the house specialty which consisted of 5 layers of soba noodle and came with different toppings: tempura shrimp, seaweed, shredded egg, mushrooms, toasted sesame, fresh ground wasabi, grate daikon, and green onions. You can mix as much topping into your soba as you liked. It was so good!
We walked off lunch and toured the nearby Nijo Castle (￥600 entrance). Later we went to the Gion district to wander around. Gion is famous for geishas and its many tea houses. It’s truly a beautiful place to visit.
Next stop will be dinner back in Osaka at the famous little sushi shop where Anthony Bourdain ate. Next post…
Fushimi Inari Shrine directions:
Take the train on the Keihan Main Line to Fushimi Inari station (伏見稲荷駅). The shrine can be reached from a short walk from the station. Just follow the crowd.
Honke Owariya 尾張屋
322 Kurumaya-cho, Nijo Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Take train to Nijojo-Mae Station (営地下鉄 東西線 二条城前駅). It was rather hard to find as there isn’t any street signs anywhere. We asked various shop owners for directions using sign language and little Japanese that we knew. Eventually, we finally found it and it was such a rewarding experience.
Gion, Kyoto directions:
Gion can be reached by bus from Kyoto Station in about 20 minutes for 220 yen. Take number 100 and 206 and get off at Gion bus stop. The closest train stations are Gion Shijo Station (祇園四条駅) on the Keihan Line and Kawaramachi Station (河原町駅) on the Hankyu Line.
Thank you Lydia for sharing some of your photos!