Travel Post: Our Japan Trip - Day 9 (From Osaka to Kyoto - FLAMING RAMEN RESTAURANT, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Pine Rice Restaurant and Nijo Castle)

Join us as we explore Kyoto on day 9! 
We were kind of silly to travel back and forth from Osaka to Kyoto two days in a row but the commute between the two cities are faster than me traveling to work. 
It literally only takes 40 minutes via bullet train, so save the money and stay in Osaka!

Things were unplanned today due to weather. There's actually lots to do in Kyoto for wet weather but we were not prepared so we spent a long time wandering around in Kyoto station. We were contemplating to visit a giant shopping mall called Aeon. But we didn't have an umbrella so that backup plan on the spot failed. Since we were on holidays, no point not enjoying the day due to wet weather. So this was what we did! Read on :) 

Kyoto station is the station, the 11th floor is filled with many restaurant choices.
Be sure to get in quick before the queues start! We saw a sign to "sky garden" 
We were curious and decided to take the never ending escalators all the way up. 

Nearly there....
This is the sky garden! I'm not going to lie, my initial reaction was .. is this it? 

After making our way back down the escalators, we found cute little cafes underground. 
You can spend a good hour or so exploring Kyoto station. We were sort of frustrated at this point. We didn't have a plan (and feel so lost without one). We decided to catch the train from Kyoto station to Inari station and our day got better :)

Once you arrive at Inari station, follow the crowd and Fushimi Inari Taisha is literally around the corner. We were hoping that less people would be here but we learnt one matter how bad the weather is, major tourist spots will ALWAYS have tourists. 

We were lucky enough to witness a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony but thought to respect the bride and groom by not posting a picture here. It was a surreal experience though.... many tourists were videoing, photographing and just stunned by the process.  
Look at all the cute geta (japanese clog flip flops)

Time to start our trek up to the top of the mountain.  The map is definitely not accurate, the walk was a lot further than illustrated.
Did the super lazy, unfit couple make it to the top? 
Ehhh... read on! 

On the map, there was a cherry blossom section that we were desperately searching for but I guess we followed the map incorrectly? Either way, we reached a checkpoint with a view. 
Was it amazing and worth it? YES!
Did we bother walking all the way up? Nope!  But we did make it to the 5th or 6th checkpoint and the view took our breath away (or it might have been the hundreds of steps we just walked up).
So off we went for lunch (as we were starving at this point)

We went back to the 11th floor restaurants in Kyoto station to have lunch. Every restaurant had a queue outside except Pine Rice. We wondered why and asked the owner. Turns out they had only recently opened up (by recent, I mean a couple of DAYS only!). I can see Pine Rice become increasingly popular (if they worked on their service) because the food is amazing. 

I ordered option B from the Plate menu which came with prawn tempura, chicken karrage, spaghetti, salad, pine rice with egg and curry! This was so filling, so flavoursome, so delicious we came back on our second day in Kyoto!

Matt ordered the curry dish - he demolished the plate in less than a minute. I wonder if he was hungry or if it was absolutely amazing? It was definitely the latter, because to this day Matt still raves on about the curry and how you can't find anything like it in Sydney!

Moving on, we decided to visit the FAMOUS FLAMING RAMEN restaurant at night. So we started our trek there (yes, we did all this by foot). Make sure you get there early as they don't take reservations.

Taking snaps of random displays on the streets of Kyoto. How real does the beef look? 

Before our trek started, we must need energy. What better than sugar right? 
Not too sure if we have this flavour in Sydney (most likely) but we tried the marshmellow flavour. 
It was sweet, enjoyable and super cute! They literally had 5 staff serving in such a tiny store, when you compare this to Sydney having one or two staff for a much larger district. Very customer centric and surprisingly their English wasn't too bad!

On the way to the flaming ramen restaurant, we visited a nice park with many cherry blossoms and NO ONE in sight! We took heaps of photos here and enjoyed the view 
(quite rare to see no one in sight)

We had a feeling Nijo Castle was closed (close to 5pm) but we decided to walk past it anyway! 
We didn't see the whole Castle but we saw the gates. 
We saw lots of people walking their dogs and suddenly realised we were in the suburbs of Kyoto! Thank you again Pocket Wi-Fi, without you... we wouldn't be able to explore Kyoto like a local.

Lovely river/lake surrounding Nijo Castle

Suburban streets of Kyoto

Finally we made it! We were early and waited with another couple outside in the cold. I was thinking "psshhh we didn't even need to get here early. There's no one waiting". LUCKILY WE DID.
When the boss came, no one was here. We were seated and somehow the whole restaurant filled up within minutes. There was a queue already 10-15 minutes after the restaurant opened for service!!!!

All customers are treated the same, and all customers are greeted very friendly. The boss would ask where everyone is from and tried to introduce his customers from similar backgrounds. He would also ask that we spread the word of his business, and after what we experienced, there was never any doubt that we wouldn't. This has got to be one of the more enjoyable experiences in Japan we had!

Fire ramen is the one you want to order!
We selected set B.

Read this guys, it literally made me laugh out loud in the restaurant. 

What we should probably mention is the reason why it is called fire ramen. Well it is because, quite literally, the bowl is engulfed in a large flame only centimeters away from your face. It lasts for only a couple of seconds, but the feeling is intense! Don't worry, they take their job very seriously and take all the precautions in order for you to enjoy your meal without loosing an eye brow.

The soup was really tasty. I was eating this expecting to have a burnt taste but to my surprise, it tasted like a normal ramen. In fact, it was better! The soup had a rather strong garlic infusion which made it stand out from all other ramen. This was one of the better bowls of ramen we tasted during or trip. Probably because it was full of oil!

Chicken Karaage was presented in front of us (but we didn't order it so we reminded the owner that we ordered set B)

Fried rice was super oily! I liked it but SOOOO oily. 

Gyoza wasn't too bad either. It wasn't like what we tasted on Dotombori street, but it was definitely worth noting.

When you ask to take a photo with the 'boss'....they have special props and he bangs your heads together OUCH - but this only captures real happiness - look at our smiles (and the angry face from BOSS)

As you leave, the boss provides you with a mini map and his business card. He spent time suggesting the best route to go back to Kyoto (via bus). It was dark at night but we had no fear because Japan is SO SAFE! We decided to not catch the bus and walked back to Nijo station  and caught the train to Kyoto station and made our way back to Osaka. 
We were tired but we needed to find dessert for the night and breakfast for the following morning!

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