On day 12, we took the bullet train from Osaka to Kyoto again. Our first stop was to see the famous Golden Pavilion or Kinkakuji (金閣寺). The downside of many temples in Kyoto is that you can’t reach them by train and require a transfer to a bus. After a 30 minute ride to Kyoto Station, we switched to the Karasuma Subway Line and got off at Kitaoji Station. From here, you can take a bus (bus numbers 101, 102, 204 or 205) which takes around 10 minutes. Get off at Kinkakujimichi Bus Stop and you will see many other tourists walking towards the pavilion. Be warned that the buses get really crowded with tourists because many temples are only accessible by bus! Admission is 400 yen, but most temples require admission. You will receive this cute admission ticket!
Kyoto was once Japan’s capital city and therefore has many historic value and has preserved many famous temples. S and I both love the city life, so we personally aren’t too intrigued by temples. However, I suggested we visit at least one, and Kinkakuji was the one I decided on. This beautiful golden zen temple definitely did not disappoint. Even on a gloomy day, the beautiful gold against lush green trees reflected on the pond surrounding the temple. It was seriously like a painting!
The top two floors of the temple are covered in gold leaf and really shines. The temple is formerly the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu but became a zen temple after his death based on his will. We were surprised to learn that we were actually not allowed to enter the temple. Instead, we had to crowd around the walkway path among all the tourists to snap a picture from afar. This attraction is extremely touristy but I did really enjoy it. It makes a nice light walk in the garden. However, other than the temple itself, there are not that many attractions in the garden. Near the end, you will find the Sekkatei Teahouse as well as some souvenir shops near the exit.
After visiting the temple, we decided to bus back to the Kyoto station area. If you are interested in temples, then the Ginkakuji and Kiyomizudera are also very popular. near the Kyoto station, you will find a bridge over the Kamogawa River. Many tourists and locals will take leisurely walks along the river and you can catch people fishing here as well.
Getting hungry, I suggested we walk to the Nishiki Market (錦市場). This is a 5 block alleyway filled with hundreds of shops. You can find tons of local goods, like pickled vegetables, dried seafood, fresh seafood, produce, dessert, and cooking ware.
We decided to get some Honey Soft Serve! At Sugi Bee Garden, they specialize in honey and you can sample many flavours here. We ended up leaving with a soft serve and this was really smooth and creamy!
After grabbing some food at the market, we headed to the Gion (祇園) district. This is the famous area for geishas as you will find restaurants and teahouses where the geishas entertain here. You will also find wooden machiya merchant houses which make a great backdrop for photos!
We had no interest in attending one of the performances by the geishas, but I did want to see a geisha in real life. I did some Googling and found that the best time to spot them is around 6pm-7pm because this is when they are making their way to their engagement. Luckily, we did spot one and we subtly got a picture of her. We read online that we should be respectful of them and avoid acting like a paparazzi as many tourists have gone too far and I can imagine how uncomfortable it would be for these ladies. They even have police in this area to control the amount of tourists! Another tip we learned during our hour here is to look into the taxis that drive in this area. Many of the geishas now take taxis to their engagement, so chances of seeing them walking around is slim.
After our hunt for geishas, we headed to Pontocho (先斗町). This is a narrow alleyway filled with restaurants. Prices range from affordable to high end fine dining which require reservations. A good spot to drop by if you are looking for dinner.
Our destination was Chao Chao Gyoza (餃々 三条木屋町店). The restaurant is basically at the end of Pontocho alley and is a huge tourist spot. When we arrived, there was already a long line that had formed. And to be honest, I was a bit skeptical because everyone lining up looked like a tourist. We ended up waiting for almost an hour but this was well worth it. The restaurant has actually won the countrywide gyoza competition twice!
What are they famous for? Well gyozas of course. The gyozas here are actually all strung together in a row. The wrapper is thin and each gyoza is quite small, but filled with juicy meat. The most popular is the Chao Chao Gyoza which is filled with pork. 600 yen will get you 16 pieces, but as you can see, 16 pieces is quite small. We ended up getting another order of this after because they were so good!
We also tried the Shrimp Gyoza which is 480 yen for 5 pieces. Really good as well, but the pork was still my favourite. They also have some unique fillings like cheese, curry, and even ginger. They also have a large option of drinks so we did enjoy some beer and plum wine. Beer and gyozas definitely make a perfect pairing! Not the cheapest meal you can get in Kyoto, but quite affordable and we had a great time sitting at the bar watching our gyozas being made. Plus, the restaurant is English friendly!
That wrapped up our last day trip to Kyoto as we trained back to Osaka after dinner!
Chao Chao Gyoza
Address: 117 Ishiyacho Kiya-Machi Sanjo Kudaru Nakagyo-Ku, Kyoto