Kyoto, Japan | Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

Kyoto, Japan | Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

I could tell you that we went to visit shrine Fushimi Inari because we want to pay tribute to Inari, the patron of merchants in Japan. In fact, each torii in the famed shrine in the base of the sacred Inari mountain is donated by business, each torii costing 400,000 to 1,000,000 yen, the donation proportional to the torii’s size. Statues of foxes abound the trails of toriis at Inari, the Shinto god of rice and sake. These foxes, or Kitsunes, are Inari’s messengers, holding in their mouths the key to the rice granaries. There are 5000 brightly painted toriis of different sizes in the seemingly unending picturesque trail, making it Kyoto’s most popular tourist destination.

Or I could tell you that I made sure we go here because I wanted to be young Sayuri, running under the toriis in Memoirs of A Geisha, except unlike the movie, this tourist area is packed. It’ll be quite difficult to run without bumping on somebody or getting almost decapitated by a selfie stick.

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And then there is Jr, who innocently asks…

“Kailan tayo pupunta sa mga lapis?” (When are we going to the pencils?)
“Anong lapis?”
“Yung madami.”
“Ahhh, the torii”

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Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
68 Yabunouchi-cho
Fukakusa Fushimi-ku, Kyoto

How we got there: Since we have a Kyoto City Bus pass, we rode bus #5 from Kyoto Station. It directly stops at Fushimi Inari Shrine

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VIDEO | Kyoto, Japan Travel Vlog – The Full Fall Explosion

VIDEO | Kyoto, Japan Travel Vlog – The Full Fall Explosion

When I was planning for Japan, I had a hard time booking our rooms. This was three sold months before the trip, so these were not last minute bookings, but somehow, all the rooms in good location are booked way ahead of time, on the particular week we were in Japan. And then I found out it was the exact week where autumn in Japan is in full fall explosion. There are two super high tourist season in Japan: that week in Spring when cherry blossoms bloom, and the week where the colorful leaves of Autumn start to fall, and we have unknowingly set our vacation right smack in the middle of that crazy fall booking season.

But this is Japan, and even in Kyoto where the bus system is much more convenient than subways, any hotel location is a good location as long as there is a bus stop. You can get anywhere fast as long as you know which bus to take, and armed with a 500 yen day bus pass, you can pretty much go anywhere in Kyoto.

While in Kyoto, we dropped by and drank our way on a free tour around the Suntory Distillery in Yamazaki. We also took time to visit the Arashiyama Bamboo groves. A Kyoto first timer visit wouldn’t be complete without paying homage to the famous toriis of Fushimi Inari.

We got to see all of these wonderful Kyoto spots under all the colors of fall foilage. Kyoto is such a sight for sore eyes in autumn. Very dreamy.

Watch the video here:

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY | Make it Suntory Time.

FLASHBACK FRIDAY | Make it Suntory Time.

Jr is a man of many interests, and among them are Japanese Whiskies. I, a pop culture geek, on the other hand, like to live out my movie fantasies. Those I see in movies I like to see in real life, and since we were in Japan, Lost in Translation played a part in our itinerary. So it only makes sense for us to make a short visit to the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery.

Now, though the tour was free, it’s best you schedule a tour when you want to visit the factory. And we tried to. Since only a local number was available, we asked our reception if he could arrange a tour for us. To our dismay, it was fully booked on all the days we were in Kyoto. So what do we do?

We go anyway.

Jr and I are stubborn people. We had a day set aside for the visit, and we thought we might as well go to the factory and try our luck, At worst, we can have our pictures taken outside. It was supposed to be a short train ride from Kyoto Station to Yamazaki station. Until, I realized we rode an limited express train to Osaka just as we passed by the station we were supposed to alight to. We alighted on the next stop in the middle of Japan nowhere and waited for the next train to Kyoto. We rode the train and missed our stop again.

Good thing Jr likes whiskies because Japan trains can get frustrating.

We rode another train in Kyoto station, this time making sure this train stops on every stop and finally, we alighted at Yamazaki station. From there, signs leading to the distillery were everywhere and all you had to do is follow the alley parallel to the train tracks, then cross the train tracks to Suntory’s gates.

We arrived at 2:45 pm and approached the front office and asked if there were available slots for tours. They asked if we had reservations (again, we had none) and were told we can get a slot at the 4 pm tour. Jackpot! Then the kind lady talked to somebody on the radio and told us we can join the 3 pm tour and handed us a couple of translation device. Double Jackpot!

Sometimes, bullheadedness pays off.

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After fumbling with the device, we followed the Japanese guide through the factory grounds. They gave us an extensive tour of the distillery and a brief history as to why Japanese whiskies are the best in the world. It’s all about the water source, said the guide. Those found here in Yamazaki, and Suntory’s other factory, Hakushu, are the most optimum water in Japan for whisky making. They toured us around the distilling stations and the old barrels where they age the liquor. By the end of the tour, they brought us to a hall of wooden tables and chairs. We settled in and were served with biscuits and chocolates. Wait, what is the meaning of this?

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Yes, apart from the free tour, the tasting was free as well. And it was bottomless! “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.” indeed.

Just make sure you don’t get too drunk. Remember, you’re taking those confusing trains back to Kyoto.

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Suntory Yamazaki Distillery

•JR Osaka Station to JR Yamazaki Station (about 25 minutes)
•Hankyu Umeda Station to Hankyu Oyamazaki Station (about 40 minutes)

•JR Kyoto Station to JR Yamazaki Station (about 15 minutes)
•Hankyu Kawaramachi Station to Hankyu Oyamazaki Station (about 25 minutes)
*The distillery is located about 10 minutes on foot from JR Yamazaki Station and Hankyu Oyamazaki Station.

It’s still best to call. And make sure to visit their website to be aware of factory closure for maintenance.


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FLASHBACK FRIDAY | The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

FLASHBACK FRIDAY | The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

When Jr and I travel, I do not follow any generic itinerary that first pops up in a google search. When crafting an itinerary, I employ the “one for you, one for me” method. We’ll go to watch museums and car meccas for him and then he won’t complain if he spends the afternoon sitting down on a bench while waiting for me to be happy with the shots I have. He’s not a happy traveler. I’ve handled many groups and dealt with many characters on the road and by far, I can say, he’s my worst travel participant. By designing our own itinerary, I am happy, and I keep him happy enough so we can travel again.

So for my day in Kyoto, I dragged him to the central Kyoto station and make him ride a hour on a bus going to Arashiyama. Arashiyama lies on the outskirts of Kyoto, and is most famous for its bamboo grove. The only probable reason why you will consider going here is for the pathway leading to a sprawling forest of towering bamboos. The bamboo stalks dance with the wind; the rays of sunlight frolic around them with each sway. It’s romantic in concept, but as with any popular area in Japan, it’s chaotic in reality. There’s heavy foot traffic all throughout the pathway, far from the serene, calming photographs that enticed you to endure the trek here in the first place. Jr decided he’ll just wait at one of the stores that lined the busy street. Take all the time you need, he told me. I entered the alley leading to the grove and there were people everywhere. But Japan is just beautiful, in every angle. Crowded or not.

And if you stand still long enough, magic happens.

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When I came back from the pathway to see my husband on a bench, eating an ice cream in 12° weather, I excitedly told him what he missed. I scrolled thru my camera to show him, to which he said,

“Ay kawayan lang pala. Madami sa Pililia nito.”

Uhm, ‘k.

Arashiyama Bamboo Groves
How we got there: Took the Kyoto Bus #28 from Kyoto Station to Arashiyama

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Flashback Friday | KYK at Porta Kyoto Station

Flashback Friday | KYK at Porta Kyoto Station

Sometimes, when traveling to places where you can’t, for the life of you, decipher what’s written on the sign, you just have to trust the line.

Fortunately in Japan — like what they do in Japanese restaurant here — they have the food is displayed in their waxy versions on the store windows so you’d know what they actually offer. You may not be able to read their names, but you know how they’d look like. You may not be able to say to your server exactly what you want, but you can point it to them.

Pointing, big animated gestures — they’ll get you what you want when language is a barrier.

While in Kyoto, you will most likely find yourself in Kyoto Station most of the time. Kyoto has an extensive bus system (one which I am extremely jealous of) and being a tourist, it’s a safe bet you’ll find your bus you need at the Kyoto Station terminal. Yes, you will get lost a lot — it’s Japan, it happens — but everything starts and stops in Kyoto Station. It’s very Cubao, or Divisoria.

All that getting lost finding your bus will get you hungry, but when you find yourself back Kyoto Station, you might as well gather your wits and map out your game plan in the comforts of Japanese food. Underneath Kyoto station is Porto Dining, where you can find a good number of dining options to suit your every Japanese food craving.

And KYK seemed to have the longest line.

Now, in terms of Japanese food, they say we already have everything we want in the Philippines. There’s no need to travel to Japan for a good ramen. Same goes with tonkatsu. There’s a ton of options on where you want your deep fried breaded pork here in Manila. But I will tell you, you will never truly appreciate tonkatsu until you have it in Japan.

When you think about it, tonkatsu is really simple. You get pork, dip in in panko, and then fry it. It’s a very easy concept that Filipinos can comprehend — easier than let’s say Ramen. Katsu places will really fly here in the land of lechon kawali-loving people.  Yabu is practically a staple now in our restaurant rotation, but Yabu is nothing when you have the lucky chance to try out KYK in Japan.

KYK Porta Dining, Kyoto Station, Kyoto, JapanKYK Porta Dining, Kyoto Station, Kyoto, Japan

I don’t know what kind of angels raised the pig that I had for my Katsu meal there, but it really tasted like the pork was lullabied by cherubs to sleep and massaged daily by glorious winged creatures.  The panko tasted fresh, and the meat looked perfect — cooked thru but still pink and juicy. It tasted insane. It is both life changing and life affirming at the same time. When the Japanese can make you something to eat like this on the cheap (well, relatively — everything is expensive in Japan), and in 10 minutes, it’s a good time to be alive.

That. And Japanese white rice. The Japanese — they know their rice.


Tonkatsu KYK
Porta, Kyoto Station,
Kyoto, Japan

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