April 12th, 11AM - Kyoto Station, Kyoto.
An architectural masterpiece of glass and steel, Kyoto Station is one of Japan's largest building. More than a station, this 15-story roof is also home to a shopping mall, hotel, cinema, a 13-floor Isetan department store, and government facilities.

It's easy to feel tiny in here. Spot the Grand Stairway (right next to the never-ending escalators). 171 steps, a distance of 70 meters and a height of 35 meters. The locals even have an annual race event on the stairs. Want to try sprinting up the stairs yourself? Yeah well, mm that sounds nice but.. no thanks.

Can see the Kyoto Tower from here.

Still don't believe that this building is HUGE? Here's a map for scale:

Alright, so.. Kyoto Tower right? It's the one being pointed out by 2 red arrows. And now, which is Kyoto Station? Mm well, it's the one being framed by a red square. Crazy huge right?? (Source)

On the 10th floor of the building is Kyoto Ramen Street (Kyoto Ramen Koji). Sounds good already? Some may call it a ramen "theme park", as the entire place is filled with ramen shops! You can find all the different regional varieties of ramen here, from north (Hokkaido) to south (Kyushu).

Right outside the restaurants are vending machines. Don't worry, they don't dispense ramen. Using the machine, select food/drink item that you want - some even have combo meals. Thereafter, insert money and food/drink coupon will be issued. 

Now, find a seat in the restaurant and pass the coupons to the restaurant staff. Don't go buying coupons from Restaurant A and use them in Restaurant B. Each restaurant uses their own machine, so choose a restaurant first before buying coupons.

Lastly, dig in! 

April 12th, 1PM - Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha), Kyoto.
Fushimi Inari Shrine is just 5 minutes by train (from Kyoto station) and another 5 on foot. This is one iconic place that you must have seen at some point. You know, the one with lots of "red gates".

This shrine is dedicated to Inari - the god of grains (but I think we're more familiar with Inari the sushi), and you'll find many stone statues of foxes here, as they (foxes) are considered Inari's messengers. 

Another fox and a peek at the many "red gates" behind. The gates are called torii, which significance I've explained previously in this episode. Also, the color is actually vermillion rather than red, and is said to have the ability to keep evil spirits away.

The Senbon Torii - entrance to the torii-covered hiking trail, thousands of them. These torii are donated by individuals and companies as an act of giving thanks and wishing for prosperity. You want one? You can! It's just well, you know, 400,000 ¥ for a mini one, and about 1,000,000 ¥ for a large one.

There are over 10,000 torii here! The inscribed words are actually the names and addresses of donors.

This is the closest I get to capturing a photo of the torii without human interruption. Aih... lady.. why.. \|  ̄ヘ ̄|/ Well, you can always Google Image if you want to see more "stock" photos of the place.

The full hike can take up to 3-4 hours (including time for descending). Needless to say, I didn't go all the way up (especially after that monkey park episode). Feel free to turn back anytime, like me. ೕ(•̀ᴗ•́)

April 12th, 3PM - Bic Camera, Kyoto Station, Kyoto.
Now, back to the station. Decided to drop by Bic Camera to get a new camera or lens. Despite its name, it sells more than camera. You can find whatever electronic goods and appliances here. Since it's tax-free for visitors, some of the prices are damn good!

I found my next camera! Ohohohoho, they have it! How can I miss it! The price shown above is tax inclusive so just do the tax-free price calculation yourself (or look at the finer print, they stated the refundable amount). It's about MYR360 after conversion. Bear in mind that this is the price in 2015, so if you're visiting recently, it's even cheaper (provided your home currency hasn't dropped)!

Oh and I'm just kidding, I didn't get it. I went to see the Nikon lenses first but they were rather pricey (typical lens prices) and I was on a budget ok. So I went looking for alternatives, perhaps just a compact one rather than the fancy schmancy interchangeable lens kind.

Ta-da! Say hello to my new companion! It's a Casio ZR55 and costed me about MYR800+ after conversion. Cheap cheap! I call it the bimbo cam because it's made primarily for selfies.

Some test shots on the way to Nishiki Market (pics are slightly edited):

Real life Neko Atsume.

 Zoom in on the group of neko.

April 12th, 5PM - Nishiki Market(錦市場, Nishiki Ichiba), Kyoto.
Nishiki Market, also known as Kyoto's Kitchen, is the largest traditional food market in Kyoto. You'll see plenty of locals here - shopping for cookware, fresh ingredients, seafood and such. You'll also see lots of tourists - sightseeing and purchasing street food and other small items.

It closes around 5.30PM, so some shops were already closing when I got there. Still rather lively nevertheless. However, if you really want to experience the hustle and bustle of this market, visit early in the day and not on Wednesdays (that's when most shops are closed).

Some were shopping for dinner perhaps?

Chestnuts! The market smells of many things and this is one of them.

A shop with street food, which you can have there and then. 

Of course I must have some!

Sweets shop. Everything looks so good! Umm can I have.. this, this.. this, this, that, this, ALL!

Ok I'm not that crazy yet. I bought just a few, and had this dango on the spot.

Dried goods! Mmm myam myam those scallops are pretty huge!

It was getting dark and that means.. dinner! Thankfully, there is a tried and tested food/restaurant street (the one near Shijo Dori) walking distance from Nishiki Market.

On the way to the yumyum street is Teramachi Dori, where you can do some non-food shopping. Plenty of clothing stores here! No shopping for me, was just walking hastily to Shijo Dori.

What yumyum street? Neh, you know, the sakura food street from this episode? I've finally identified that street. Or rather, streets. They are Nishi-kiyacho Dori and Kiyamachi Street.

So yeah, went strolling on those beautiful streets again. Even explored the mysterious-looking smaller alleys.

Really wanted to have another meal there (omg the thought of the cold soba I had the first night here.. ♨(⋆‿⋆)♨) but somehow ended up on the main street of Shijo Dori (regrettably), the hub of franchises and atas shopping places.

I regret life. This is the worst meal I've had in Japan by far. It was a tourist-trap restaurant. This hot soba I had was pricey and meh. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Day 0.5 - Getting There. And Tsukiji.
Day 1 - Ueno Park. “Hana Yori Dango”.
Day 1 - Sensoji. And an Adventure at Night.
Day 2 - All Things Ghibli (Museum).
What to do when you lose your JR Pass.
[SHORTS]: My First Airbnb Experience.
Day 4 - Hello Kyoto! (Intro).
Day 4 - Eastern and Downtown Kyoto.
Day 5 - Ryoanji and Kinkakuji.
Day 5 - Arashiyama and HORSE SASHIMI?
Day 6 - Fushimi Inari-taisha and Nishiki Market.
Day 7 - Gotta Catch 'Em All in Osaka. And they don't have mints at Mint Bureau.
Day 8 - Kaiyukan & Umeda Sky Building.
Day 9 - Universal Studios Japan.
Day 10 - Osaka Castle and Den Den Den Den Town + Dotonburi.
Day 11 - LAST. Itinerary Round Up.
Kyoto is surrounded by nature, especially when compared to Tokyo or Osaka. You will often see mountains from a distance.

Today we'll be going to one of the most nature-y attraction in Kyoto - Arashiyama. You'll usually need about half day to cover the main attractions in Arashiyama, and a full day to cover more of this end western part of Kyoto.

April 11th, 2PM - Arashiyama (嵐山), Kyoto.
Technically, "Arashiyama" is referring to just the mountains south of the river but is now commonly used to refer to the entire touristy district. 

The mountains surrounding this district can be seen clearly, you can even spot several blossoming Sakura trees there. I imagine the mountains look even better in autumn with gold and rust foliage.

Still surrounded by mountain backdrop, this was on the way to Tenryu-ji, the most famous temple in the area.

The entrance of Tenryu-ji. There and then, I decided to not go in because I had a little more than enough of temples during the first half of the day.

The walk wasn't wasted though, managed to catch this view on the way out. This area wasn't open to public, so all the fallen petals remained undisturbed. Beautiful!

Another soft serve break before deciding where to go next. This is soy-flavored, yum!

It was then decided that the Monkey Park Iwatayama is next. The park is located somewhere atop a mountain, could be a viewing point too. After all, it's only a "10 minutes hike to the top" according to websites and stuff.

Here's an adorable looking map that shows the adorable hike up.

April 11th, 3.30PM - Monkey Park Iwatayama, Arashiyama (嵐山), Kyoto.


Do not underestimate this seemingly "easy and casual" hike up. It was rather strenuous (for me), and took me what felt like half an hour. So don't treat this like another la-di-da sightseeing, but be prepared for it! Wear proper shoes and clothing and you might actually make it in 10 minutes.

The view from the park.

Was it worth it? Probably. Will I visit again? Probably not.

Of course you can feed monkeys at a monkey park. But only from inside of this feeding cage because that's how they train the monkeys to not misbehave around visitors everywhere else.

If you're worried about the monkeys being exploited for tourism, you need not. This park is more like 2 huts built in a mountain. All the monkeys come and go at their own discretion and are 100% wild. They behave around visitors because they know that's how they get treats.

A breed that's native to Japan, called the Japanese macaque aka Snow monkey.

See, these guys coexist happily with the man-made environment.

Here's a video of those monkeys in action. I call it "Monkey A & B fight over a branch only to have it taken away by the cunning Monkey C." Don't worry, if you're watching closely, you'll see that Monkey A & B found themselves another target at the end.

A family of three cuddling together.

A couple dating.

April 11th, 5PM - Bamboo Groves, Arashiyama (嵐山), Kyoto.
When in Arashiyama, visit the iconic bamboo groves. I'm sure nobody needs to be told that. You can access the groves from the garden (north) exit of Tenryu-ji, so be wise when planning. 

As expected, there were many visitors at the grove. However, because the bamboo grove area is so huge (so huge that you might call it a bamboo forest), you can still find a piece of serenity somewhere. When wind passes through stalks of bamboo trees, it creates a whisper-like sound in addition to the rustles of swaying stalks.

I tried to capture that in video but needless to say, nothing beats the real thing. 

Here's a final photo from my camera before it died.

Yes, my camera died. Some lens error suddenly occurred. Perhaps it was stunned by the beauty of the forest as well? (ew, cheesy) 

Luckily I had my trusty 5S, though the photo quality is incomparable to my Nikon's. Just bear with it until end of this post ok?

On the bright side, it looks more real? 。(*^▽^*)ゞ

Ah, the mandatory tourist shot. 

That wraps up my visit to Arashiyama. You know what this calls for?

Another soft serve yaaaassss. This is hoji-cha flavored.

April 11th, 8PM - Central Kyoto.
Dinner was at a random restaurant, which name I don't remember, in central Kyoto.

I had normal food, gyuniku (beef) over rice.

I also had a taste of basashi (馬刺し), aka horse "sashimi".

I didn't search for this on purpose nor have I even thought about consuming it before. However, at that moment, it was already ordered and on the table. So I gave it a go, for the sake of trying. It tasted like any other sashimi, but much chewier/tougher. I have mixed feelings about this so I didn't really take the time to savor it like how I do with other food. One try is enough!

Day 0.5 - Getting There. And Tsukiji.
Day 1 - Ueno Park. “Hana Yori Dango”.
Day 1 - Sensoji. And an Adventure at Night.
Day 2 - All Things Ghibli (Museum).
What to do when you lose your JR Pass.
[SHORTS]: My First Airbnb Experience.
Day 4 - Hello Kyoto! (Intro).
Day 4 - Eastern and Downtown Kyoto.
Day 5 - Ryoanji and Kinkakuji.
Day 5 - Arashiyama and HORSE SASHIMI?
Day 6 - Fushimi Inari-taisha and Nishiki Market.
Day 7 - Gotta Catch 'Em All in Osaka. And they don't have mints at Mint Bureau.
Day 8 - Kaiyukan & Umeda Sky Building.
Day 9 - Universal Studios Japan.
Day 10 - Osaka Castle and Den Den Den Den Town + Dotonburi.
Day 11 - LAST. Itinerary Round Up.