Kyoto Itinerary #1: KIX, Kiyomizu Dera, Ninenzaka&Sannenzaka

Friday 10 January 2020:
My flight landed in Osaka Kansai Airport (KIX) at approximately 8:30AM and I did the usual stuff such as going through customs and then collecting my luggage. Had a slight panic moment whilst at the baggage collection area because: 1. I took another person’s luggage on my first try, but thankfully did a double check and realised it was the wrong one so I put it back 2. Proceeded to wait for AGES before my luggage actually came out. That made me wonder if my luggage was lost so I got worried for a bit but in the end all turned out well 🙂

The greatest problem I faced (for the day and probably the entire trip) was the activation of my Japanese SIM card. I bought the Yokoso Japan pre-paid SIM card from JTB Takashimaya (Singapore) a week before my departure date. I even slotted the SIM card into my phone before leaving so that I would not have to go through the hassle of changing it after landing. Perhaps that was my downfall (kinda) – since I had already slotted in the SIM card, hence I conveniently left the rectangle piece of paper that held the SIM card back at home thinking that it had served its purpose. I only brought the instruction manual along, thinking that this would be enough but ALAS the rectangle SIM card holder had a special QR code that needs to be scanned to activate the SIM card for use. I floundered upon realising my mistake, and almost wanted to get a new SIM card from the airport. But the price of a new SIM card made me pause, and I decided to text my family for help using the airport’s wifi (thank goodness).

My dad, who’s usually not tech-savvy managed to scan the QR code on his phone, access the website and shared it with me. I was so so so thankful that he managed to do all that and it saved my sorry ass from having to waste money because I finally managed to use my pre-slotted in SIM card hooray!Lesson learnt and for other travellers going to Japan: remember to bring along the SIM card holder and everything else given to you as you are purchasing the SIM card!!!

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After that incident, I managed to smoothly get to the JR ticket office (follow the sign boards and take an escalator up to a higher floor, cross a bridge like structure and the office will be there near the gentry and where all the ticket machines are found). Since I still had my ICOCA card from the previous trip, I only had to buy the Haruka discount return tickets (to and fro from KIX to Kyoto) which cost 3260 Yen. For more information about the different tickets/passes/combinations, I used this website for reference: https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket/icoca-haruka/

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In my itinerary, I was scheduled to catch the 10:16AM train for Kyoto, but I managed to get everything done despite the initial SIM card delay so I ended up catching the 9:46AM train instead! For those interested in the timetable for the Kansai Airport Haruka Limited express train, here it is! https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/timetable/pdf/haruka_timetable.pdf

One of the most interesting sight that greeted my eyes was that right before you board the limited express Haruka train (designed in Hello Kitty no less), the train staff would seal off all the doors and do a quick clean up service before you board and change the direction of the seats as well. Everything was done very efficiently and precisely at 9:46, the train departed the station and left for Kyoto! Also, before I forget, here’s a quick note for all travellers boarding the limited express Haruka train: there are different queues to board the train. Some are for the reserved seats, while some are for the non-reserved ones so make sure to queue at the correct place. If you have any doubts, there is a train attendant standing near the escalators where the 7-11 convenience store is, so don’t hesitate to ask away!

The whole train journey took about 1 hour 20 mins and I ended reaching Kyoto station at about 11AM. I clearly remember that 1.5 years ago when I was in Kyoto, my family and I had such a hard time figuring out which exit to take to get to our hotel. Kyoto station can be a little confusing because of its massive size, which was why my family and I ended up spinning round in circles for a bit before locating our hotel. However, surprise surprise! This time round I managed to get out from the right exit, and smoothly reached my hotel. This time round, I booked a double room (for single occupancy) at Sotetsu Fresa Inn Kyoto Station Hachijoguchi. It was still too early for check in (3pm onwards), but thankfully the hotel had luggage storage services so I could leave my heavy bags with them and continue on my day’s journey. (P.S. Will do a separate review post about the room I stayed in and my thoughts about the hotel overall so stay tuned!)

The first destination of the day was none other than Kiyomizu Dera and the accompanying Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka shopping streets. From my hotel, I walked a short distance of about 5 minutes to get to the bus stop. I clearly remember while I was at the bus stop, trying to figure out if I was at the right place, this other tourist mistook me for a local and tried asking me for directions. Turns out she wanted to go to the same place as I did, but unfortunately I had no clue if I was going the right way either. In the end she asked a true local, and I happened to eavesdrop and managed to confirm that I was doing things right after all hehe.

A short bus ride later, I alighted and walked towards the 2 shopping streets mentioned above. I strolled around for a bit, looking at the many different stores and their unique crafts being put on display. Most of the shops were either selling food souvenirs, pottery, or fancy chopsticks for souvenirs. I had a bit of a deja vu moment, because this was my third time in the area and walking by some of the stores, I can vaguely remember being there 1.5 years and 3 years ago. It was a nostalgic yet refreshing feeling as this time round, I was doing things alone.

After strolling for a bit, I started feeling hungry so I decided to head over to Saryo Hiraku restaurant, which is located on the second floor of the crafts store Asahido Honten. It was 12PM and slightly early for lunch, which was perfect for me since this meant that the restaurant was rather empty and I could choose anywhere to sit. I ended up going for a four seater table that was positioned right beside the window so that I could have my meal and watch the busy streets. For lunch, I chose the A5 beef don and it was truly delicious! The beef had a crispy seared exterior, with a chewy juicy and moist interior. Paired with a generous serving of steaming white fluffy rice and thick miso soup…mmmmm let’s just say that hit the right spot indeed.

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After lunch was done, I strolled to the end of the shopping streets and was met with the majestic sight of Kiyomizu Dera. Despite having visited it before, I chose to pay to visit once more and experience the nostalgia that came along with it. Once the attraction was completed, I headed to my next destination for the day: Flip up bakery! Heard of this bakery by watching a Youtuber whom I followed, and she was going on about how fluffy and nice the bread was so I decided to give it a try myself as well. However in the middle of my stroll there, I got sidetracked by the Kawaramachi shopping street which was AMAZING! Two long roads filled with different shops and brands, all beckoning you to enter and take a look. I remember my sis once told me that the clothes sold in H&M was cheap and good, so I decided to pop in for a look. Lo and behold, I found clothes that I really liked so I ended up buying them hoho. One was a printed long-sleeved green and gold mustard yellow blouse, and the other was a super thick and fluffy dark blue cardigan. Since these items were on sale, the total bill came up to about 2100 YEN (approximately SGD 25) which is really a steal indeed!

After the temporary distraction, I finally arrived at flip up bakery. Perhaps its because I went during the later parts of the day (reached at about 3:30PM), I didn’t see much of a selection. Nevertheless, since I already made the journey (on foot no less), I decided to pick up some bread for tomorrow’s breakfast. One of the items which stood out to me was the cream bun that I got. The bread was indeed pillowy soft and fluffy with a chewy texture, and the cream inside was mildly sweet and airy with none of the heaviness of butter cream. Despite being initially disappointed by the lack of choice, the taste of this cream bun definitely made up for it 🙂

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With bread in my hand, I made the journey back to the hotel, this time by taking the subway because my poor feet was aching pretty badly. Finished checking in successfully and I unpacked some of my stuff while taking the opportunity to sit down for a bit.

For dinner, I decided to have dessert or more specifically the trendy fluffy souffle pancakes! I walked over to Cafe Dining and Fleur, since it was located pretty near my hotel. It was a good decision to eat those pancakes at that time (I reached at 5:30PM) because the cafe was pretty empty, and this meant I wouldn’t have to wait extra long to eat. The pancakes took 30 minutes to make so I only ended up eating at 6PM.

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Review of the pancakes: They were really good!!!! Super thick and fluffy and airy and bouncy – I had so much fun jiggling the wobbly stack using my utensils and taking instavideos 🙂 For the dipping sauces, I had the matcha sauce and vanilla ice cream which in my opinion make a pretty darn good pair. The warm, bitter and rich taste of the matcha sauce with the cold, sweet, creamy vanilla ice cream was just heaven to my tastebuds especially when the pancakes are dipped into this special mix. Apart from the pancake stack and 2 sauces, there was also a side of tiramisu (shortbread fingers with a heavier type of cream similar to that of buttercream). I initially thought that I would be able to finish the whole set by myself, but turns out I only cleared about 85% because after a while it gets a bit hard to swallow since the flavours are very intense and can be pretty heavy. Probably would have been better if it was shared with someone else, but since there wasn’t anyone else for company, so…

Dinner ended my first day in Kyoto and the remainder of the night was spent washing up and getting to bed (seeing as how I didn’t sleep a wink the previous night on the plane). The next day, I planned to catch a train to Kurama (a neighbouring small town) so stay tuned for my next post to see what I did there!:)

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