Japan Diaries 2016, KYOTO Day 1: Tatami Experience, Kiyumizu Dera, Gion & Geishas

Hello, again! Here's another installment from my Japan Diaries. So excited to share with you our brief yet sweet & extremely memorable stay in Kyoto or Old Japan.I think it's my favorite among the 3 places we've been in. This place is filled with traditional wooden houses, magnificent gardens, quiet temples, secret passageways, & beautiful geishas. In Sarah & Ana's words, the whole place is something straight from a Murakami novel. It has so much life, rich in history and brimming with beauty. :) Without further ado, here are photos and stories from our 3rd day in Japan & our 1st night & day in Kyoto. Let's go?  

So from Osaka, we took a JR train going to Kyoto. Travel time was about an hour. From Kyoto station, we took another train going to Emmachi station where our accommodation is located. :) 

We're in Kyoto na nga!

Finally in Emmachi! Headed straight to the fare adjustment machine.:)

Had to pay additional 280yen coz mali the ticket we bought from Kyoto

From Kyoto station, we took a train going to Emmachi (3 stops away) where our AirBnb accommodation is located:) 

Huge pachinko or casino across the train station

From the train station, we had to cross the street, turn left sa street beside that huge pachinko, walked straight, turned right and actually had to do a lot more walking and turning and crossing and asking a few people for directions before we finally found our home for 2 days! It would have been easier if we just walked along the main highway (Nishioji Dori) though which we discovered on our last day. Better option is to turn right from train exit (you'd see 7-11 and Yoshinoya on the right side), cross the street and just walk straight until you see Yamaha on the other side. :)

One of the guesthouse's staff greeted us upon arrival kahit 10pm na yun. :)

Small hallway! On the right is the toilet, bathroom and on the left is the lounge or common area:)

He made us sign the form and then escorted us to our room on the 2nd floor.

Our Tatami room!

Kuya helping Ana with her luggage

After settling in, we got hungry, so we decided to look for someplace to dine in or buy food. So hard! Haha. There were no food places near our AirBnb. Parang ghost town! Waaah. There were lots of vendos though, so you won't ever get thirsty. Good thing we discovered a Lawson convenience store nearby.

Ghost town db?

Happy si Sarah. Haha!

Like an oasis in the desert haha


Spaghetti sandwich? Haha

Rice balls ata to

Quiet main street

That's our corner!

Back in our place...
Boiled water for our fried noodles

Asahi pampasleep!

Woke up a little late the next day, so we had to rush because we had so much on our list of places to go to. Sadly, it rained. We weren't able to accomplish everything but Kyoto is such a nice place to chill in. :)

Good morning!

Sadako says hi. Haha.

Let's go!

If you want to book this place, click here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5481216

There's a creek beside our AirBnb. :)

Our quiet neighborhood

Loved the small yet quaint little house along the way:)

Walked all the way to the train station

SM GTW blazer & skirt, Skechers rubbershoes, Veloci watch, SM Parisian bag

Had to ask for directions again! We didn't want to get lost and waste time. Hehe.

He gave us printed instructions to Kiyumizu Dera temple:)Thank you!

Emmachi train station:)

I love it! So dramatic!

Tagal naman ng train po

From Emmachi we took a train going to Kyoto station

From Kyoto, we took the NARA line

... I forgot what station we alighted next huhu

Was able to take a nap. Was super sleepy.

Bought a ticket going to Kiyumizu-Gojo. Just did fare adjustment. 

Waiting for our train

Exit 4 it is!

Sarah bought Japan's famous transparent umbrella from this store outside for P50 or 100+yen!:)

Nice Japanese shops:)

Along the way, we saw this lovely guesthouse & cafe! http://www.gojo-guest-house.com/

Decided to eat lunch here and chill for a while until the rain stops. 

So cozy inside! It was the perfect refuge from the rain.

Found our corner:)

 I ordered the Chicken Spinach curry for 650 yen or P300

Food!!! Mine's the green one. Masarap sha! Tasted like pesto. My kind of food!:)

After more than an hour of eating and chillin', we finally left and continued our journey to Kiyumizu Dera. 

Slightly long walk going there:)

There's a kimono rental shop across the street!

Quiet street going to the temple. Can you see it from here?:)

Almost there!

Saw this cool shop along the way! They carve your name on wood (Kanji) which you could wear as a necklace or use as a keychain.  

Even Johnny Depp wears it o!

You could choose from all these designs!

Prices:) I think they paid 1,300yen each. Mejo pricey so I did not avail na. 


Also love this shop beside the wood carving booth!:)

Long walk going to the main temple

So many people in costumes!:)

Near the entrance is this area called Tainai-Meguri. Since there is no English sign, visitors usually just walk past it and head straight to the main temple. They have no idea that they just missed one of the best experiences they could ever have in Kyoto. It was easily one of our faves! If you're visiting the temple, you MUST go here. 

I already read about it the night before when I did some little research. I saw a lot of reviews online and people saying it is one experience you should not miss. So when I saw it (kahit no sign), I told Ana and Sarah I'd go. Buti they were also game! No footwear allowed, so we were given plastic bags where we could put our shoes.

Tainai in Japanese means womb. So symbolically, you are entering the womb of Daizuigu Bosatsu, a female Bodhisattva who has the power to grant any human wish. Admission is 100yen per person. Not bad! 

After taking off our shoes and paying, we then descended down the steep, wooden stairs. After a few steps it became darker and darker until it was totally pitch black. As in, you open your eyes and it's just black. Nothing. The floor was cold & wet. We kept on walking very slowly while holding on to a Buddhist wooden bead handrail on the left wall.  We clung to it like our life depended on it. Hehe. I panicked a little because I could not see anything and the air inside the cave felt heavy. It was damp, maybe because of the rain. I know Sarah was in front of me, but it felt like we were miles away. For a minute, I felt like I couldn't breathe, like I was suffocating. I thought, ang hirap pala pag bulag. I quickly turned on my camera just to see light even for a few seconds. I turned it off and I felt myself relaxing na and adjusting. After that, it was all peace. Like I was in a serene bubble, far from worries or problems. And then I saw the light. In the center of the room is a glowing stone. I approached the stone & spun it a few times while silently reciting my wishes. We then ascended another flight of stairs into the daylight. We all felt calmer & lighter after. Words aren't really enough, you should experience it yourself. :)

We lined up to buy tickets. Entrance is 300yen. 

Our ticket to Kiyomizu Temple

Kiyomizudera or Pure Water Temple was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills east of Kyoto. The temple was originally associated with the Hosso sect, one of the oldest schools within Japanese Buddhism. In 1994, the temple was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.

View from the top! That's the Otowa-no-taki waterfall , where visitors drink sacred waters believed to bestow health and longevity.

This place is breathtaking

Kiyomizudera's main hall called Hondo has a wooden stage 13 meters above the hillside below. The stage affords visitors a nice view of the numerous cherry and maple trees below that erupt in a sea of color in spring and fall, as well as of the city of Kyoto in the distance. The main hall, which together with the stage was built without the use of nails, houses the temple's primary object of worship, a small statue of the eleven faced, thousand armed Kannon.  (source: http://www.japan-guide.com/)

Kyoto from a distance:) Not visible lang sa photo coz of the fog:)

The old & the new:)


There are tea places inside the temple! Perfect way to enjoy the scenery more. :)

People lining up and drinking scared water from the falls.

Long but scenic walk to the exit:)

Another cute tea place

Shopping street below Kiyomizu-Dera temple. It leads to the main street. :)

We also stopped by a nice shop selling handmade / hand painted souvenirs, porcelain cups & charms! Sarah bought something for her aunt. :) 

So pretty 

WOOOW. So expensive! But so beautiful. :)

Love Kyoto:)

The not so busy street we walked on

Mausoleum along the main road

Cute wooden house along the street! OOTD muna hehe

Time to leave Gojo! 

From Gojo, we then headed to Gion to check out the area and also do some geisha spotting! We made sure we were there before 6pm because we read somewhere that sightings happen between 5:30-6:30pm. :)

 Exit 8! We were not able to find the same exit heading home. Haha. 

Our view upon exit:)

 Gion is a beauty, especially the area where the geisha school & tea houses are located.

 Strolled along the main street

 Cute building!

 We crossed the road and entered this narrow street / alley. 

 Wooow. So many wooden houses. I am really in Japan:)

 Just strolling, hoping we'd bump into a geisha or maiko:)

We spent almost half an hour weaving through the narrow streets of Gion. We chanced upon the Gion Theater and decided to check it out. Super perfect because there was a show at 6pm and there will be maikos performing! So we thought, better that than no sighting at all.

 Prices! 3,150yen for adults:) That's more or less P1,500. Not bad for a cultural show with sure maiko sighting. Hihi.

 Across the street from the gates of the theater. Beautiful wooden restos and houses.

And then...
 A maiko appeared!!! OMG!!! She's one of the maikos performing so she was in a hurry. :) Her name is Mamechika-San:)

 We took photos secretly because we didn't want to invade her space. Respect, people. This photo was zoomed in.

 Wooow. Can't believe it.

Did you know that there are only 1-2k geishas/maiko (apprentice geishas) in the world or Japan? That makes them very special. They are highly trained artists/entertainers who are hired to perform and interact with guests during dinners and other occasions. Their skills include performing various arts such as classical music, singing, dance, games and conversation. So no, they are not prostitutes. They are actually highly respected and their work is considered art. :) This tradition dates back to 300 years ago. 

 Bye, see you later!:)

We entered Gion Corner

Different headdress of Maikos

Ticket prices

Found a good, slightly elevated seat at the back

If you ask me, I'd say the 3,150yen as payment is super worth it! We didn't only see the kyo-mai dance of beautiful Maikos, we were also able to witness 6 more different kinds of Japanese performing arts. It was like hitting 7 birds in one stone. :)

1st: Tea Ceremony

I love tea, so I really enjoyed this! In Japan, one does not just prepare and serve it. It is actually a form of art. Galeng! The tea master (don't know the term haha) steeps, prepares & serves the tea to foreign guests. It involves ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha, powdered tea. Instead of Tatami, they do it Ryurei style, or on the table. This tradition dates back to 1872. :) 

2nd: Ikebana or Japanese Flower Arrangement

This is the delicate art of arranging flowers. Di lang pala nilalagay yun sa paso! This is the more refined, calculated version even if it's just 1 stem of fower & fern. Hihi. Some schools advocate that flowers should be arranged in a way that they look as if they were in the wild; others pay attention to precision of shape, line and form, going as far as to prescribe rules that dictate the angles that the branches should make. 

3rd: Koto Zither

The koto is an ancient Japanese six-stringed zither traditionally played with ivory plectrums worn on the fingers, producing wonderful harmonies. Ang amazing nila Lola!:)

4th: Gagaku Court Music

I find this super mesmerizing! The music, the dance, the costume. Wooow. I felt like I was transported back to old Japan. Gagaku is the name for indigenous Japanese music and dance performed at the imperial court, shrines and temples.
5th: Kyogen or Ancient Comic Play

This was the part of the show that made everyone laugh. Kyogen is a form of traditional Japanese theater that developed as a sort of intermission and comic relief between the solemn noh acts. The kyogen is very short, so costumes, masks, and props are simple and minimal. 

6th: Kyo-Mai Dance of Maikos

Kyo-Mai is a form of dance which originated in Kyoto. Two beautiful Maikos performed it for us that day and they were so elegant and dazzling. It is a beautiful ornate dance which speaks of different stories. That day the Maikos danced about the changing of the season. :)

7th: Bunraku or Classical Puppet Theater

Bunraku is the traditional puppet theater of Japan. It started of as popular entertainment for the commoners during the Edo Period in Osaka and evolved into artistic theater during the late 17th century. Along with noh and kabuki, it is recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural HeritageI was a little creeped out because the 1/2 life size puppet has no strings and it is manually controlled by 3 people in black. These people manuever the parts of the puppet resulting to life-like actions & facial expressions. It was haunting yet so beautiful.

Happy kids after the show!

Click here for more infos & for the schedules:

It was drizzling when we stepped outside

For dinner, we went our separate ways and we agreed to meet 2 hours later. Ana & Sarah dined in an authentic but pricey tatami style resto (I think they paid more or less P2k each) which some of you might really want to try & experience. I, on the other hand, decided look for someplace cheap yet serves good food. There are a lot around the area!:)  

I was super intrigued by this hole in the wall resto! Too bad they don't have english menu :( It was packed with diners!

Saw this cute resto and almost ate there but saw that they only serve vegetable gyozas. Huhu.

Tripadvisor recommended! I think it's more of a beer & wine place. :)

After exploring the area for almost an hour, I finally found this small resto which serves a variety of Japanese food at backpacker friendly prices!:)
My 450yen meal. Hehe.

Stall selling grilled mochi balls or rice balls!

I lined up and bought 2 sticks for 100 yen. Sobrang sarap guys!!! You must not miss this!!! They include a brownish powder inside as dip na parang espasol. Yummy.

Walked around:)

After almost 2 hours of eating & exploring, I finally headed back to Tully's, our meeting place. Since I don't drink coffee, I just sat outside the cafe & people watched while waiting for Ana & Sarah. And then...

I saw a legit geisha passed by!!! OMG. I stood up and made her silip lang. I wanted to chase her but that's a no-no. So I just admired her from afar. 

But then, I saw another one!!! I pretended to cross the street so I can go near her. Hihi. I took a stolen shot. But I made sure it was not obvious. Hihi. I love how all the other people around her just let her be and gave her space. :)

How to distinguish a maiko from a geisha? Maikos are geishas in training. They undergo about 5 years of training in various arts, before graduating to become geisha. They usually have elaborate hair ornaments, wear bright colored & printed kimonos, longer kimono sleeves, the back of their kimonos are tied into a bow and extended up to their feet, narrower obi belt, higher wooden sandals, their eyes painted in red & black and their lips painted in red (but for 1st year Maikos, their bottom lips lang painted in red). 

Geishas on the other hand have simple hair accessory or just a decorative comb, darker or solid colored kimonos, shorter kimono sleeves, back is shaped as a pillow and no trail, lower footwear, wears a wig, narrower obi belt, eyes painted in black only, red lips.

Watch this vid for more info! That's a real maiko & geiko there!:)

Cute bunny we saw on our way back to the train station

I honestly can't remember how we went back to Emmachi station where our AirBnb is located. If you're going to Kyoto anytime soon, just remember to ask for directions when needed. It helps a lot!:)

Outside the station, there are convenience stores & food places. So if you're hungry, eat here na:)

Prices are reasonable

We had to stop at Lawson 100 (because all goods are 100yen) and buy supplies:)

There's also a Yoshinoya resto at the corner of the street:)

We had snacks at home and then decided to call it a night. Longer day the next day! This ends my Kyoto Day 1 post. Next is Kyoto Day 2 where we finally went to the famous Arashimaya bamboo forest & Fushimi Inari. Thanks for reading!:)

Day 1 Expenses (in Yen):

Train to Emmachi - included in last post
Midnight snack & drinks - 800
Train to Gojo (Kiyumizu Dera) - 400 (approx.)
Lunch at Gojo Cafe - 650
Tainai-Meguri entrance - 100
Kiyumizu Temple entrance fee - 300
Train to Gion - 150
Gion Corner theater - 3,150
Dinner - 400
Dessert rice ball - 100
Train back to Emmachi - 300 (approx.)
Lawson water & snacks - 500
TOTAL = 6,850 yen or P3,200 

*Budget could still be adjusted according to your food & water consumption (haha). 
*AirBnb was paid online a week before traveling to Japan. Total amount paid was P4k+ for 2 nights na. :)

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