Bit of a Boar

By Colin McFadden
This post is part of a series called Japan 2019
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After failing at dinner last night, there was a bit of traveler pride at stake for breakfast this morning.  Luckily, some internet research came through, and we ended up at Lorimer, a Kyoto branch of a Brooklyn restaurant, doing breakfast and lunch.  We had a mind-bogglingly awesome Japanese set menu breakfast, with fish, vegetables, rice, and some amazing tofu.  On of the employees is from the Brooklyn location, so it was fun to chat with him a bit about the city and his experience relocating.  It’s one of those meals that you eat, feeling slightly sad that you likely won’t get to eat it again.

After breakfast, we traded pride for reliable wifi and sat on the patio at Starbucks to get some work done.  By late morning, we were ready to catch the train out to western Kyoto to see Tenryuji temple and the bamboo grove.  We had some curry for lunch at a charming little hole in the wall near the station, and then went to Tenryuji.  The area is a big tourist draw, so it was swarming with tour groups.  We explored the temple and the gardens, but there are precious few places to sit and pause.

Outside of Tenryuji is the Arashiyama bamboo grove, which consists of a few paths through the bamboo.  It’s very cool to see bamboo in various stages of growth, but we didn’t get much sense of the “magical otherworldliness” that the guidebooks describe.  The guidebooks must predate Instagram, as mostly what we saw were people doing their best to take pensive, serious photographs with a magical otherworldly backdrop.

Craving some quiet, we pony’d up the 1000 yen for entrance into the Okochi Sanso Garden, a private garden built by a 1930s film star.  The admission keeps the crowds to a minimum, and includes a cup of tea and a cookie.  The path weaved its way back and forth across the garden, slowly climbing the hill with views of all of Kyoto.  As a final treat on our way out, we followed an unmarked path to a quiet little hidden garden and building where quiet meditation is encouraged.

Centered and relaxed, we ventured back into the tourist crowds to explore the area a bit more and eat some snacks, before catching the train back to the city center.  We vacillated a bit on plans for the evening, but finally settled on grabbing a quick bowl of ramen at the restaurant next to our hotel, and then heading for Fushimi Inari Taisha, one of Kyoto’s most iconic sites.  In fact, it’s one of the most iconic in Japan – endless orange gates winding their way up a mountain.  It’s also one of the few shrines that stays open 24 hours, so you can hike the path day or night.

We arrived as the sun was setting and worked our way along the path.  The hike is guided at 2-3 hours, with plenty of small shrines along the way.  Midway up the climb, we caught a glimpse of a wild boar tearing across the path.  We froze and questioned whether to believe our eyes.  We heard him snarfling off in the forest, enjoying his wild boar life.  A little while later, we came across a sign warning us that wild boars had been seen in the area.

As a last stop for the evening, we returned via Pontocho, another iconic site in Kyoto.  It’s a narrow alley lined with restaurants, near the river. It’s one of those atmospheric locations that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back 500 years.

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