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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Kyoto: Kiyiomizudera Temple & Okonomiyaki

Can you believe up until this trip we have never taken a ride on a Shinkansen? You might be more familiar with the name bullet train, Japan's fastest traveling trains being able to hit speeds upwards of 200mph! They feel like a very roomy airplane on the inside and travel incredibly smooth. We tried taking a photo when our train pulled up and as it depart the platform but the thing is just too fast, never got it quite right but you can see the 700 series here on wikipedia if you're curious

You'd think that traveling with kiddos would just get easier for us but as like much of parenting, we constantly feel as if we're one step (or two or three...) behind. We had to ride a train north for about an hour in order to board our Shinkansen that took us a few hours south east. A 4+ hour travel day is no easy feat with two littles but with the help of a new Thomas the Train sticker book, the boppy pillow and some color crayons, we made it through. 

Gabriel showing off Toby who he oddly (but maybe appropriately) calls Tokyo.

The following picture sums up our life at any given moment perfectly: Gabriel's 'helping' results in more work for us or something getting broken, stuff falling out everywhere, Chris digging in his pockets trying to find something lost in-between pacifiers, trucks, and snack crumbs in his pocket, and Brenik chilling out along for the ride.

We stayed at The New Miyako hotel across the street from the Kyoto JR train station which I would stay at again in a heartbeat, as well as recommend to everyone! The hotel has recently gone through a renovation so it's looking pretty snazzy on the inside. The best new addition in my opinion is the Japanese and Western style food buffet on the main floor that clearly labels all foods with allergens in a way that can be understood by anyone and everyone around the world! My biggest concern for this trip was figuring out how to avoid dairy so as to no flare Brenik's eczema, this dinning room made it so easy.

We needed a room that slept three and a baby so we got a room with two beds, a pull out bed, and a crib. We have yet to stay in a Japanese hotel that has a queen sized beds in their rooms, always 2 twins. The wide angle is terribly deceiving in the following photos, it was so squished! Within minutes of entering the room we called room service to remove the crib and decided it would be best for many reasons to just have Brenik sleep in the closet: it was closed off to stimulation, could be made completely dark while we were still up and about, and we were able to get his sound machine to work in there too.

After rearranging our things we ditched the stroller, strapped on the kiddos and a backpack and were out the door to begin our sight seeing.

Our first stop was to buy some bus passes, the train system isn't as convenient as the bus transit when it come to getting around the inner part of the city. This was unfortunate because that was the worst bus ride of my life, I'd wager to stay worse than any or all of the bus rides I had my summer in Ethiopia. The Japanese are notorious for heating the indoors to the extreme (as well as wearing winter clothes even if it's warm out, it's more about the calendar date like in other cultures) so there we were, sardined in a bus, high heat, kiddos attached to us, out necks kinked because we're too tall in this culture, on the slows ride of our life. Flash forward to the evening, we wound up ditching the bus after we decided we could walk faster, we could. Anyways... Chris and I are a good balance when it comes to traveling, he's very much into the building, architecture, and design were as I'm interested in the little offbeat attractions. Our first stop was a Christopher pick through and through: Kiyiomizudera Temple, whose main hall was built entirely without nails. If that wasn't impressive enough the main hall sports a wooden stage that juts out 42.5 feet above the hillside.

At the base of Kiyiomizudera's main hall is the Otowa Waterfall. It's water is divided into three separate streams which visitors can drink from with a cup that is attached to a long pole. Each stream has a different benefit: longevity, success at school, and fortunately love life. Visitors who drink from all three are considered greedy.

After walking the temple we were off to one of my most enjoyed parts of traveling, window shopping through Higashiyama. I get a real kick people watching through the crowds looking at all the tacky souvenirs,  eating from the vendors and sampling our way through confectionery shops. We ate bean paste jellies, meat buns, matcha cookies and whatever else we could get our hands on. Aside from the tourist trap that it was, it's also one of the cities best preserved historical districts which is evident from the photos.

We also made our way through Gion district, known as the geisha district, and saw many woman painted up as geishas but they seemed to be part of the rickshaw companies (not real geishas).

After walking 9+ miles in entirety of the day, we decided it was time to make our way back to the hotel and grab some dinner. We stopped at an Okonomiyaki place we spotted earlier in the day. Okonomiyaki is a superbly savory Japanese pancake that is made with a variety of ingredients. The main part of the pancake is typically made with eggs, flour, and cabbage and then the variety takes off from there. We also didn't pass up on our loved Yakisoba noodles as well as a couple of steaks.

We left convinced we'd be eating there at least once each day of our stay but sadly we never made it back.
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