Our first order of business in Kyoto – after checking in at our hotel – was to get lunch. It was way past the usual lunch hour and we were all hungry, so James and I decided we should hit up a good sushi restaurant that we knew and liked in the Shijo area, just a couple of subway stops away.
Alas, toddlers do not know how to mind the gap, and Katy’s foot slid into the space between the platform and the train as we were boarding. We quickly hoisted her up and out, and no harm was done – but she lost her left shoe, never to be seen again. Nothing was going to stand between us and lunch at this point, so James carried Katy to our lunch place where we all tucked into a hearty meal: sushi for the adults, rice and chawanmushi for the kids.
Eugene, Tricia and Emma were headed to the Arashiyama bamboo forest, which we’d planned to opt out of due to the length of the journey and the general feeling that Katy needed some downtime to putter around and regain some equilibrium. And we now also needed to go shoe shopping. So we split up for the rest of the day.
I will not go into the slight ordeal around procuring a new pair of sneakers for Katy at Daimaru, except to say that (1) Japanese salespeople are unfailingly lovely and polite even when they can’t do anything to help you, (2) children’s shoes sure are insanely expensive in Japanese department stores, and (3) Katy had a lot of fun with the play kitchen in the toy department while waiting for her new shoes to be paid for.
To make up for the general sense of aggrievedness I encounter whenever I have to pay more than I feel is necessary for an essential item, I bought a couple of adorable child-sized yukatas on sale for around SGD20 each – one for Katy to grow into, one for a friend’s baby. I also picked up a pair of matching t-shirts for Emma and Katy. We then adjourned to the food hall to pick up a pack strawberries, which Katy wolfed down with great relish before happily running around outside Daimaru.
We ended the day with a dinner of udon and rice bowls in a random restaurant near the JR Kyoto station. As with all our random meals in Japan, it was very nice indeed.
Our next day in Kyoto was a Sunday, and we’d planned to hit up a couple of popular tourist spots: Nishiki Market and Kiyomizu-dera. We did however have to plan how to move our bags from one hotel to another, complicated by the fact that the next hotel technically was a child-free establishment (yet somehow accepted reservations via Agoda that included children, which was how we booked it initially).
James was the hands-down MVP of the Nishiki Market trip, as he not only carried Katy most of the time but also kept her from touching/eating things she wasn’t supposed to. We all ate our way very merrily through the (very crowded) market, and Katy was rewarded with a big juicy apple at the end.
The six of us (with Katy napping in the Manduca carrier) took a stroll through the Teramachi and Shinkyogoku shopping arcades which run perpendicular to Nishiki Market, then repaired to a cafe in Daimaru for caffeinated drinks and cake. Tricia and I did a quick shopping run – more yukatas, Japanese cosmetics – before we returned to the hotel to effect the luggage transfer to the next one.
Then it was onward to Kiyomizu-dera, and not a minute too soon given that the afternoon was winding down and we’d soon be up against sunset.
Kiyomizu-dera is always crowded. It is also really beautiful once you get past the crowds, and get over the slight sense of disconnect created by the fact that the people dressed up in kimonos and yukatas tend to be tourists more than not. (I noticed also that the quality of the rental yukatas has diversified greatly since our first visit to Kyoto; some were obviously polyester and lacked any attempt at elegance. Sigh.)
It was by chance that we stumbled upon a pretty little clearing away from the main temple area. There was a young family hanging out there and it seemed like we were actually in their front yard, but they were very nice about sharing it with us. The kids had some room to stretch their legs, and we took some fun and silly photos too.
At this point we were all tourist-ed out and felt quite strongly that we needed a nice big meal to end the day with. The hotel recommended a yakiniku place nearby so we made reservations, walked over, hooked up Katy to an iPad while Emma slept, and grilled LOTS OF BEEF.
Our second day in Kyoto was a bit more chill. We moved to a more child-friendly hotel after breakfast, which checked us in early enough for Katy to take a nice long restorative nap. (James napped with her. I went shopping.) It was such a long nap that we made it to Nijo Castle a scant hour before it was supposed to close, and it was sheer luck that there was a grove of sakura trees still in bloom. Our impromptu photoshoot there gave us a great souvenir of our extended trip to Kyoto.
As the castle closed at 5, we attempted to take a taxi to a nearby burger stall recommended by Jialiang, who was previously referenced in our last Japan trip in relation to another amazing food recommendation. At this point I would like to observe how annoying it is that Japanese taxi drivers refuse to take you when they think the distance is short enough for you to cover on foot. I’m not sure if they’re being courteous – “don’t waste your money on a taxi when it’s only 1 km or so”- or being picky – “don’t waste my time driving you for such a low fare”. With two spirited toddlers in the mix, walking isn’t quite so easy.
We found the burger stall after quite a lot of walking, with a playground detour en route, and ate some really good beef burgers with bacon. (The guys had seconds.)
Katy and Emma had yakiniku rice and enjoyed it very much, too.