DAY 13 - KYOTO (ARASHIYAMA, GOLDEN PAVILION)

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Another day, another train station.  Arashiyama is todays first destination, which is west of Kyoto, tucked along the base of the Arashiyama Mountains (meaning “Storm Mountains”). It’s a fair distance from the center of Kyoto: whether you go by train, bus, bicycle or taxi, you’re generally looking at about a 30-minute trip. Still, it’s worth it for the number of great sights here.

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The main attraction for me in Arashiyama before going was the bamboo grove. Looking out into the grove it has a kind of magical feeling and you can't help yourself but think of the fight scene of House of Flying Daggers.

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Leaving the bamboo grove we headed down through a park and down towards the river. There are quite a few places to eat along the front heading towards the bridge and we chose one with a lovely sun terrace with fantastic views. We ordered the premium bento lunch option and a couple of beers. The beers were ice cold perfection, the tempura was tasty but the rest of lunch was less so. Neither of us are fans of tofu or any of the the other unknown strange and squidgy foodstuffs which were served to us.

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A visit to Arashiyama isn't complete without a trip up the hill to the monkey park. Its a bit of a trek up the hill which takes about 30 minutes, but its worth it at the to as you are rewarded with panoramic views of Kyoto - as well as the 150 Japanese macaque monkeys which live up there.

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The final tourist/sight-seeing visit of the day was a trip to Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺) or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion.
Once again there are plenty of tourists and the everpresent yellow hats here, as it is one of the main attractions in Kyoto.

Below: Crowds of people taking the trademark shot of the Golden Pavilion.

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The top two stories of the pavilion are covered with pure gold leaf. The gold employed was to mitigate and purify any pollution or negative thoughts and feelings towards death. Other than the symbolic meaning behind the gold leaf, the Muromachi period (approximately 1337 to 1573) heavily relied on visual excesses.

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Walking back to the train station saw this little vehicle, looks like a big Sinclair C5 or fridge on wheels. Space is of a premium in urban areas here, with plenty of small boxy vehicles about because of it, but this takes the city-car to another level.

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Back in Kyoto in time for the sunset and time for a quick change before heading out for the evening. Tonight we went to explore the narrow Pontocho streets, before heading over the river to Gion for dinner.

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The narrow streets of Pontocho house lots of traditional looking buildings lit by lanterns and filled with eating and drinking establishments. As night falls, it feels like you are going back in time.

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After a few drinks and a bit of wander we headed to the restaurant for dinner. After the great bar our concierge recommended yesterday, we asked her to suggested a restaurant for our evening meal. She suggested Mame-cha, traditional Japanese homestyle cooking with a modern/fine-dining twist. Again it was hard to find, but once there the decor was very minimal and we had to remove our shoes. We went for a set menu, which had 6-7 courses including the lightest egg souffle soup dish, sashimi, a miso-rice dish and some other delicious things I can't remember now.

The restaurant sat no more than 20 people at the counter, and we were the only non-Japanese people there - with a group of old men muttering something about "tripadvisor" under their breath giving us funny looks. Not that it bothered us, the head chef was keen to talk to us and practice his English and it was good to experience a place where the locals went for dinner.

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