Kyoto Spring 2012, Day 2: Arashiyama, Obanzai

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Much to my surprise, I slept through the night on that futon at the Yahata Guesthouse. I think I woke up sometime around 6am. I never sleep in till 6am. I guess it was just a testament to how tired I was from the previous day’s travel. Aunt Jan was still sleeping, so I snuck downstairs as quietly as I could to get myself some breakfast.

We left Yahata around 8am and thought we might catch some of the action around Nishiki Market in the morning. Usually it would have been open and bustling around that time, but I remembered when we arrived that it was Sunday and a national holiday. Only a few shops were open and busy, so it was a bit of a letdown.

But we had bigger plans that day! We walked to the Nijo JR train station from Nishiki Market. Since my aunt had the magical JR rail pass, I wanted to make as much use of it as we could. So that meant using JR transportation as much as possible, which was not hard to do.

We took the train from Nijo station to Sagano-Arashiyama station. Arashiyama (嵐山) means “Storm Mountain” and is a district on the western outskirts of Tokyo. My roommate Asako took me there for the first time in 2008 and I fell in love with the area. My aunt had never been there before and I was anxious to go again, so it was a plan!

We planned to take the Sagano Romantic Train ride, but seat reservations were booked for the next few hours. But that wasn’t a problem! There was a lot to do and see in Arashiyama. We looked at the map and headed for the “downtown” part of the area, but were halted in our tracks by a… paper store!

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Aunt Jan has a deep love for Japanese washi (paper) and I understand why. It is just gorgeous! Handmade paper comes in all sizes, colors, and designs and it is safe to say that this little shop was a gold mine.

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The shopkeeper was so nice and even gave us free washi bookmarks that she had made. Plus, she gave my aunt a couple free samples. We looked and looked and narrowed things down. It was still early yet, so we didn’t want to carry around the paper all day. We set aside a couple things and promised to return when our Arashiyama sightseeing was over.

We walked and shopped around Arashiyama before stopping to have lunch. It was hot, sunny, and beautiful! I loved getting to see the river, bridge, and all the people. A bunch of women and girls were wearing kimono, so that was fun to see.

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After lunch and sightseeing, we went to go have a look at the infamous bamboo forest. It is sometimes used as a movie, commercial, or television set! Thanks to me, we started going the wrong way at first through a temple. Then I stopped to ask for directions and the tall, surprisingly-attractive young monk turned to me and said, “English or Japanese?” That was pretty funny. His English was pretty much perfect, like he had studied abroad in university or something. I’m just always surprised when Japanese people bust out their awesome English skills out of nowhere. What a boss monk.

After taking a quick look at the forest, it was time to board the “Romantic Train”. The station was in the same building as the JR station, just on another track.

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At the station, before boarding

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We boarded the train with our tickets. Riding that train was like being at the zoo or something because it had open cars with a see-through plexiglass. I was so glad that we waited to get actual seats instead of standing tickets.

The ride took a little under an hour (25 minutes each way) and went through river valleys, gorges, several tunnels, and was just beautiful. The weather was still perfect, the river was scenic, and everything was very green. Peaceful.

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Can you tell I’m excited?

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I love the different colors of green here.

After the train ride was over, we decided that we would walk through Arashiyama proper one last time and return to the washi shop. Washi paper was purchased and we returned once more to the JR station to head back to Kyoto. Boy, our feet were tired.

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PAPER!!

We got back to our room at the guesthouse, turned on the air conditioner, and relaxed. You can bet that I took full advantage of that air conditioner while we were in Kyoto because I actually don’t have air conditioning in my apartment or office in Hirosaki. (How do I survive in summer? I don’t know.) By that time, our backs and feet were killing us from walking all day. Thank goodness we had taken that train ride to give ourselves a break.

After a siesta in our room, we once again ventured out into the world! Aunt Jan did me a huge favor and obliged me by going to a vegan restaurant a couple subway stops away. My iPhone showed us the way and we found it on a side street without much trouble.

Obanzai was a vegan heaven for me. There is nothing of the sort in Aomori and what’s more… it was a buffet! All the vegan food I could ever want! Well, actually… It was not a completely vegan restaurant. I believe there was one mackerel dish. But that was only one thing out of the whole smorgasbord! I had so much fun trying the myriad dishes that tasted like they were home-cooked. I think it was the husband that was running the dining room and the wife that was in the kitchen. I thought it was weird that we paid the bill for the buffet afterwards (have they ever had problems with people running off, I wonder?), but that was all.

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In hindsight, I should not have gotten so much rice because everything was just delish!

After the meal, I bought some of their made-in-house tea-snack-size cookies. The flavors I tried were… let me try to remember… cacao coconut, kinako powder, spinach cacao,  and chocolate chip. They were oatmeal-based too. Yum yum yum. Sorry, there are no pictures of these delicious cookies.

After our meal, we stopped by a Lawson 100 for some fruit and nostalgia.

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There is a Lawson 100 (basically, a 100-yen Lawson store with food and groceries) where I used to live in Waseda, so I used to go there all the time for cheap fruit and groceries. I bought some discount fruit, onigiri, and frozen veggies for breakfasts.

I took a shower that night and went to bed clean, full, and tired. Zzzz…

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3 Responses to “Kyoto Spring 2012, Day 2: Arashiyama, Obanzai”

  1. Hi again just finished #2 Know a lot of it from Aunt Jan
    on to the next one!!!!!

  2. All I can say at this point is…I SHOULD HAVE BOUGHT MORE PAPER!!

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