Surrounded by Nature

This day wasn’t planed at all. I knew that I would like to do a little trip on my day off, but on the evening before my day off, a friend from school messaged me on Instagram. Elina is doing her internship in Tokyo and came for a few days to Kyoto. I was really surprised when I got her message, because I didn’t even know she is in Japan. We just talked a few times back in school in Switzerland, but never really did something together. Therefore, I was even happier to hear from her. She asked me if I would have time to meet her. It was so lucky that I actually didn’t need to work the next day. Therefore, we planned to meet each other and explore the nature of Kyoto a little bit more.

Elina an me are actually really similar. We are both tall, early birds, have the same humour, study hospitality, are interested in the Asian culture, love travelling, sports and so on. Therefore, this day couldn’t be a disaster.

We met each other at 7am at the central station Kyoto. Pretty early again on a day where I don’t have to work. But when waking up early, you have so much more from the day then when sleeping the whole morning. It was not the easiest thing to find each other at the train station. There are so many floors and buildings. Quite confusing when you aren’t here every day. But we somehow managed it to meet each other.

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We took straight a train to the Arashiyama district. Arashiyama is popular for their Bamboo forest, as well as for their nature, temples and the tofu/ vegetarian cuisine. We headed first of all to the bamboo forest, in order to see it without a crowd of people. We were actually really lucky. We didn’t come from the main entrance. Therefore, we missed a part of the forest. Nevertheless, I am sure we saw one of the best spots. It is a very beautiful and peaceful place, especially in the morning. Definitely a must see when coming to Kyoto.

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Afterwards we walked through a little garden, came to a nice view point overlooking the forest and the river and wandered further through the streets. We talked a lot about our internship, Glion, how we like Japan and about ourselves. It was just really nice talking with someone who experience exactly the same life right now. So funny, that we agree in so many points with each other.

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At 9 am we came to Niso-in Temple. We decided to go inside and to have a look. We were the only people walking around here. That’s what I enjoyed the most about this place. Just so peaceful, quiet and pure nature combined with culture. I never heard anything about this temple before, but it is apparently a hot spot during the autumn season. I wouldn’t say it is a must see, but it was definitely nice wandering around through the garden and temple area.

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We also saw Seriyo-ji temple when we headed back to the main area of Arashiyama, but there is not so much to see. The main street back otherwise is full of little shops and restaurants. It is a lovely place with many things to discover. The shops just opened when we arrived there. So, don’t come too early when you want to experience Arashiyama in life. One fact about Japan is, that they try to make everything in a cute way. Especially the food presentation is so kawaii (cute). If a beautiful presented bento box or ice cream in shape of a little bear, in Japan is everything you can imagine.

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Right on the street by the river is a very popular coffee shop called Arabica. We decided to get a Café Latte with Almond-/ Soya milk. A very hyped place, but the coffee was good. We sat there for a while, drank our cup of coffee and talked. Sometimes it is just funny to watch other people. We even saw a woman in her wedding dress wearing sneakers. Nice combination! Furthermore, you can find all over Japan, but especially in the Arashiyama district these little “cars”. I have no idea how to call it, but a man is running to move the car in the back. Such a touristy thing. It must be very hard and exhausting work.

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Afterwards we headed to our lunch spot. As I already mentioned is the Arashiyama district popular for their tofu cuisine. Many monks lived or are still living in Kyoto and especially the Arashiyama area. Monks are most of the time vegetarian and therefore there are many vegetarian restaurants which are specialised on tofu. We went to a restaurant called “Yudofu”. The atmosphere and location is amazing. You walk through a beautiful Japanese garden in order to reach the main restaurant area. You have the choice to sit on the tatami floor or on a regular table. Of course, we did choose the tatami seats, in order to experience the traditional way of Japanese dining. The garden view was beautiful.

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There was just one set menu for lunch. We got many little plates with different kind of hot and cold food. It was comparable with a kaiseki meal. The main focus was, that most of the dishes are made out of soya. Many times, I didn’t even know what I ate, but that’s normal when coming to Japan. We had some special kind of egg, pickled vegetables, konjac with yuzu sauce, cold tofu, small dried fish and so on. The main part was the big pot where the silky tofu was cooked. Before eating it, you dip the tofu in a special sauce, made out of soya sauce, ginger and green onion. Very delicious and so different than anything else I have eaten before. Afterwards we got some Vegetable Tempura, rice, as well as a dessert, which tasted similar to a Pana cotta. Overall, I can say that it was a great experience, an amazing location and traditional food. I don’t think it was the best food I have tasted so far, and it was a lot of soya, perhaps too much. Nevertheless, I don’t regret it coming here. A really nice and traditional experience.

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After lunch we made our way back to the train station. We headed to Kyoto station again and changed to another train. We wanted to visit Mount Hiei, which is a little bit further from Kyoto. We took a train, a bus and then the cable car up to the mountain. The view was really nice. You could see Lake Biwa, surrounded by beautiful mountains. Of course, no view can beat the one we had in our first semester in Switzerland, but it was still very pretty.

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On Mount Hiei we walked to the different small temples. Enryaku-ji Temple is well known. Unfortunately, is the main hall under construction. Very sad, but we could nevertheless have a look inside. A very mysterious kind of place.

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We took the cable car back around 4pm and arrived at Kyoto station around 4:50pm. Elina waited at the station to catch the Shinkansen back to Tokyo. It was so nice with her and we will definitely meet each other again here in Japan.

I took the chance to go to the big supermarket on the basement floor before heading home. There I just made myself some dinner, cleaned my room a bit, chilled and went straight to bed. It didn’t feel like I had a day off. It wasn’t really a calm down from work, but I think I need to take the chance when I have time to explore Japan. I will somehow survive the next days of work! Gambatte!

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