I took an overnight plane because it would save me a lot on lodging, as well as some logistic issues if I were to arrive late at night in Japan; which turn out to be a great decision.
What was bad was delayed flight by MAS from 2200 to 0230 in the next morning, a hefty 4 hours and 30 minutes delay; and my whole 1st day in Kyoto went haywire.
With great luck I managed to land in KIX at 1130, about 4 hours later than expected arrival in the ticket.
Checking out wasn't a problem because I literally could read everything around; what was a little problematic was when I wanted to leave the customs. An officer kindly stopped me to ask for my declaration form; and I had to fill it up because I never knew I need to declare stuffs like: I'm not holding drugs, not holding weapons etc.
I had a short chat when I've submitted my form, while she still kindly asked to check my backpack. If it were to be a grouchy one I would have been more careful; yet she was extremely nice so I manage to have a good practice of my Japanese with a local right before I begin my journey.
KIX was huge, and extremely impressive. I would wanna go there again and just spend one whole day exploring it again if I had the time. With ample Japanese I managed to navigate myself to the post office to retrieve one of the most important thing:
1) The B-sim made my travel for the 10 days so much more easier; I could get in touch with people, with places and even with food. The wisest thing to do for travel is always, be prepared. Although I wouldn't mind some adventures, I still want to have guarantees in some aspect of my travel.
The process of retrieving took me less than 5 minutes as I had the required tracking number. Setting up was a little hectic, but I managed to get connected anyway.
2) JR ICOCA-Haruka Package.
You can read more over here. Some people was thinking about a lot more other alternatives; I was only going to be in Kansai for 10 days with about 4 days stagnant hence the Haruka express was really worth my money, while the ICOCA card serves as a perfect souvenir and great Touch-n-Go in Japan for myself.
Everything was so organized along the way to Kyoto
The Haruka-Express connects KIX to the main towns in Kansai with the final destination in Kyoto Station; the station which I need to be in in 75 minutes. The package entitled you for a non-reserved seat, but the train was spacious and good enough for a 75 minutes ride and a good nap before a busy day.
As I reached Kyoto Station, the first thing I wanted to do was to get to my host's place. A good thing was I have already had the ICOCA card on me, I just needed to get to the right platform with the right rail-line to my host place. As my host's place was near Kokusaikaikan(International Convention Center), I only needed to take the Tokaido Main Line on the ICOCA card for 25 minutes.
Walking about the streets from the subway in my first winter experience wasn't THAT bad; but I have to admit only my hands were having problem coping with the cold.
Rumi' place was very very Japanese and I had the best Japanese experience in her place. But I had to put that to a halt first as I wanted to make use of the lost time from the delay. Originally planned to explore around Higashi-ku, I've decided to go for Fujimi Inari Shrine instead, thanks to the recommendation of a fellow host-mate Ms Liu from Beijing for a free and easy instead of my original plan.
From Karasuma line, I had to take a change in Kyoto Station using JR-Nara line to Inari Station, for which the shrine is just right in front of the railway station.
My suggestion : Buy some snacks and drinks in the convenient store before the sight-seeing because the hike will drain your energy, seriously.
side note: You will be seeing a lot of couple's pictures in my series of posts from Kyoto, because I enjoy taking their back silhouette a lot; there is an indescribable feeling behind them.
The whole mountain in Inari is filled with the torii, the gate-like orange structures which are stacked extremely closely to each other. Corporates in Japan fill this place up with these torii as they believe worshiping them gives a better return in the subsequent years in their business. Inari refers to the paddy fields, and paddy fields were the main commodities in the olden days; hence worshiping for a good harvest to the God.
It is peculiar that these torii doesn't have their faces facing towards the entrance, rather facing backwards instead towards the mountain itself, as there's where the God will be looking at.
However, these are just the tip of the juice the shrine had the offer. The best part is the hike.
I spent about an hour and 45 minutes from the entrance to the top of the shrine. It has been a long while since my last hike, I swear my lungs were literally burning from the cold air and a profuse inhalation due to my body needs.
I followed the trail by passing the original stairway hike which everyone gave up from the base of the mountain, and managed to see a different side of the shrine.
You'll be surprised on how many residentials they are in the mountain, confusingly with the same modern outlook in every other levels of the hike.
The hike down was easier thanks to gravity, though I spent my time walking around the town before I take the train to Gion for my night exploration, despite my tiring body.
when it hits evening, the station had less than 10 person lingering around, as compared to the afternoon.
I was supposed to look for some Geisha or Maiko to snap pictures, but I had little tough to no luck with them throughout my stay in Kyoto. However, I managed to get myself one of the best ramen I had in Japan, even better than Ippudo could offer.
You should look for Miyashi Ramen, for which it is in the Kiyamachi Street, by google map default search. A good stroll will lead you there as the area ain't that huge.
The taste of the broth was very porkish at first sip, but it turned out to be the best broth I ever had. The lard managed to blend in with a great combination together with the spring onions, while the char siew was just too different from the sweet ones we have in Malaysia. I had to finish the broth because it was so damn good and the only regret I had was to not grab another bowl of rice to go down with it.
The price of the Ramen was 600YEN, pretty pricey by default but Ippudo was much costlier. The ramen did its job for cooling me up in a cold winter night and a tiring day, and so far it is still the best one I had.
After a good strolling in the Maru Maru for some Blue Label Burberry hunting for my sister and mom, which turned out to be a dud due to the wrong season of bags, I went back to the hosts' place for a good night sleep.
1- Visit KIX
2- Visit Kyoto Station
3- Visit Fujimi Inari Shrine
4- Visit Gion
5- Have authentic Japanese Ramen
6- Hike Inari Mountain
7- Be in Kyoto