Japan Pt.3: Arashiyama岚山 & Dinner at Jugyuan 十牛庵

Another day, another outfit. A winter skirt is such a great layering piece to both keep you warm, and injecting some femininity back into the look. Teamed up with a pair of trusty old heat-tech leggings and over-the-knee boots, I’m ready to walk about Kyoto in a cold but sunny winter day.

And when I said “walk”, I meant some serious walking. Taking advantage of such a nice day, we headed over to the monkey mountain in Arashiyama. It takes a relatively short but somewhat steep uphill climb to the top of the monkey mountain, where hundreds of fluffy local residents take their habitats. The monkeys really have the very best view of the entire Kyoto city up there. But being monkeys, most of them of course concentrate on picking out fleas from each other much more than the scenery.




After the morning hike, I went to have a much needed massage session in Gion: the famous area of Kyoto with all the traditional stone paved roads and traditional houses. And hidden under the modest facade, are some of the most prestigious restaurants and shops, including this traditional spa Hiyoshido. If you ever find yourself needing a little extra pamper from all the long walks and the jetlag, that place is your answer. Inside, you’ll find yourself relaxing in one of the rooms, on a warm futon on top of the traditional tatami, receiving a firm shiatsu(or whatever style of your preference) from a highly experienced, local obasan. Booking in advance is highly recommended.

It was already dark when I got out of Hiyoshido. Feeling like a new person, I was ready to explore Gion in the evening. With the lamps lit and all the bars and restaurants starting to open for business, the place really come fully to life in the evening. If lucky, you’ll even get to encounter a Maiko or two, taking their tiny steps and disappearing behind one of the wooden sliding doors along the way.

Wandering around exploring the backstreets are so much fun that you lose track of time easily. By the time we realised, it was already time for dinner at the newly opened Jugyuan in the heart of Gion. The restaurant is situated in the prestigious location of Kodaiji temple in the very centre of Gion district. By the time the car pulls up to the front gate, if you have a reservation, you’ll see your waitress of the evening waiting by the street for you dressed in her seasonal kimono. Following her through the beautiful garden, she’ll show you to your private dining room. Usually the room would sit 8-9 customers. If dining as a couple, you’d be looking at sharing the room with 1/2 other couples. The chef cooks right in front of you and you’ll get a great view of action wherever you’re seated.

But luckily, the other diners canceled last minute(which is usually considered a very rude and disrespectful action by the restaurants in Kyoto), so we had the luxury of the whole room to ourselves, meaning: undivided attention from the chef, a great chat with the staff, and just simply the freedom to kick off your shoes(well, they would already be off, but you get what I’m saying) and relax, take pictures, admire view of the achingly beautiful gardenscape surrounding the room.

 Food menu changes seasonally as most traditional restaurants do in Kyoto. Being winter, we had a beautifully cooked crab course, with every part of the crab cooked in a different method, and bringing out the best flavour of each bit. Below is a crab roe miso soup. I mean… there’s no words for how tasty and sumptuous that was.  It’s relatively easy to book your meal too. They have an online booking page, which is not commonly available for this type of restaurant in Kyoto at all. They are not a budget place as you may have already guessed. But make it for a memorable evening with someone special, and it’ll make such a great memory of Kyoto.