The Golden Pavilion, being Zen and Tofu Doughnuts

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You can’t go to North Kyoto without visiting Kinkakuji aka the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, and that was our first stop on our 3rd day in Japan. We started the morning with Hearton’s warm buffet breakfast and then headed to the bus stop.

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Kyoto Buses are very convenient and easy to catch. You embark through the back door and deposit Y230 (for most fares) into the box next to the driver when you get off. There are buses that pretty much go to all the major temples around Kyoto. A very good site to get timetables and search bus routes is here: http://www.arukumachikyoto.jp/bus_search.php?lang=en

The bus stopped right outside the temple and we followed the stream of tourists through the entrance. Here’s why you should visit despite having to elbow wrestle tourists to get a good photo.

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We lingered around the Golden Pavilion and the surrounding pond, which was the temple’s main attraction, then sped through the rest of the grounds.

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Strategically located right at the exit of the temple was a small rest area with toilets and a soft serve shop. Despite the cold it was getting a lot of business from sweet-toothed tourists (including yours truly).

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After that we headed to Ryoanji, which was about 20 mins walk up the road. We were glad to see other tourists doing the same – a stark contrast to our experience in Arashiyama.

Just before entering the temple entrance I was stopped by a lady who was giving out cups of tea. It’s tough when you expect a fresh cup of tea to quench your thirst and instead taste salty seaweed. I painstakingly gulped it down, because I thought it would be rude to return anything less than an empty cup to the lady.

Ryoanji is a lovely and relaxing place to visit, especially when the sakuras are in bloom. Unfortunately we could only envision what it would have looked like with all the trees in full bloom.

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There was one tree with lovely bright red blossoms.

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Ryoanji has many interesting features including a water garden, a tea house and tea garden.

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Ryoanji’s Zen rock garden is probably its most well known attraction. It’s located in a separate building within the grounds – up the stairs in the photo below. Inside the building there was also a small, pretty garden out the back.

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The rock garden is designed as a place to sit and reflect, with 15 stones of different sizes in a bed of white gravel that’s raked daily. The clay back wall is also interesting, showing its discolouration with age.

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Having gained our Zen experience, we caught the bus to Shijo Kawarachi and headed to our next stop, Nishiki markets.

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We walked past several large department stores and through shopping arcades before reaching the large Nishiki sign, which signalled the start of the market strip.

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Nishiki sells many products from homemade pickles, teas, seafood and snacks to kitchen and cookware.

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We also saw $6 strawberries and stopped to snack on some interesting fish sticks, which was pretty much different flavoured fishballs on a stick.

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We also saw something intriguing – a shop selling tofu doughnuts, and it seemed to be really popular.

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We decided to come back as we hadn’t had lunch. We wanted to go to Ippudo and we knew it was close by, but we couldn’t find it. We ended up at Ootoya, which is a chain that sells cheap lunch and dinner sets.

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I had the katsu set and my sister had oyakodon. You wouldn’t expect the best food from a place like this, but on a budget it was good enough and the servings were generous.

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Back to the doughnut shop and there was still a queue. I bought 6 mini doughnuts with the brown sugar topping.

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They were soft and crunchy and you could slightly taste the soy, but the texture was unmistakeably of a doughnut. It was delicious!

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Just 2 mins up the side street where the tofu doughnut shop was located was a patisserie I’d heard about called Au Grenier D’or. We headed into the small entryway and into the delightfully elegant interior.

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There were so many pretty tarts and cakes to choose from that we had to ask the helpful ladies behind the counter for their recommendations.

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We took away their blueberry crème, strawberry cheesecake and the chocolate mousse. They were all nice but we especially liked the strawberry cake.

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If you head a little further up the same street they actually a sit down shop called Salon De The Au Grenier D’or. Just be aware that both shops are closed certain days during the week, as we found out when we tried visiting again.

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Dinner was 7Eleven sandwiches and a sushi roll – not so inspiring, but good for the hip pocket. In the next post we head to a popular tourist destination – Nara.

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