What’s New in Kyoto, Japan for 2019 – Part 2

We pick up from Part 1 of our What’s New in Kyoto, Japan post with more on temple construction, soda updates (including new Coke and Pepsi flavors), cool summer fun in northern Kyoto, and more. We’ll also share some ‘just for fun’ photos from this visit to Kyoto.

But first, we encountered a family of boar! If you’ve read our Fushimi Inari Shrine at Night post, you know this is not uncommon (and has happened to me before), but it’s no less surreal. Monkeys and boar sightings are becoming more frequent, or so it would seem based upon warning signs at various temples and other locations around Kyoto, especially in Higashiyama and Arashiyama.

Just before the Senbon Torii loop entrance, we heard a weird sound coming from behind a sub-shrine in a clearing. Upon looking over, we saw that it was a mother boar and 4-5 piglets. We were a pretty safe distance away, so I quickly fumbled for my camera to grab a photo. Unfortunately, it’s awful–and the mother and most piglets had already wandered off…

As much as I was tempted to peek around the corner to grab something better, wild boar in Japan are no joke. The last one I encountered sounded and looked like a monster, and caught me off-guard because it was literally separated only by the torii gates and me.

The mother here was about half the size and seemed comparatively “chill” but it still wasn’t worth risking. We hung back and waited for the remaining boar piglet to clear, gave them a bit of a buffer, and then proceeded up the Senbon Torii path.

On an amusing note, one of Fushimi Inari’s stray cats was in this area, and it was slowly creeping towards the last piglet before arbitrarily stopping to plop on the ground. I’m not sure what this cat planned on doing or why it wasn’t terrified of the boar, but even as a piglet, the boar was much larger than it.

If you’re looking for more “wildlife” photos, you’re in luck, as we saw some cats this trip:

That last one sneakily jumped up to inspect (and sit next to) our bags while we were distracted by the cat pictured above him. This is like the cat version of a group velociraptor attack.

Moving on to construction work happening around Kyoto’s temples…

Not really anything new to report here, but the work on Kiyomizudera Temple that’s slated to be completed in March 2020 remains ongoing.

We can’t wait for this to be finished. Kiyomizudera is a must-do regardless, but it’ll be nice to see the sprawling temple sans a giant warehouse.

On a more upbeat note, nearby Chionin Temple has made great strides in its similar multi-year refurbishment project. Here, the giant warehouse surrounding its main hall has been removed, revealing the finished product–at least, the exterior of it.

The interior is slated to reopen in May 2020, and other smaller-scale projects around the grounds should conclude at the same time. Chionin Temple is much more pleasant now, but there are still construction vehicles, workers, and noise up here. Nevertheless, seeing the main hall was a pleasant surprise and we also can’t wait for this complex to be devoid of construction.

North of Kyoto, Kuramadera Temple has entirely reopened following Typhoon Jebi. This area was hit hard by that storm, which caused the Kurama Fire Festival to be canceled, and took down train lines in the area, while also closing off portions of Kuramadera Temple.

While damage is still visible in the temple (and work is visible on the train ride up…and while walking around Kurama and Kibune), everything is once again accessible. This includes the walking path to Kibune.

This is more or less the story of Typhoon Jebi in and around Kyoto. We’ve noticed several other temples–too many to list–are still attempting to recover and repair damage from the storm. Most don’t have extensive devastation, but they do have some structures that were damaged during the typhoon.

Speaking of Kibune, we had an excellent time here eating at a few restaurants doing kawadoko, over-the-water dining.

In Kibune, ryotei have kawadoko patios lined up one after the other, and many of them serve summer specialties.

I didn’t keep count, but there are about a dozen or more ryotei in all. The best of these incorporate the flowing river, waterfalls, rocks, and other landscape elements into their kawadoko.

These are popular in summer for Kyotoites to escape from the heat.

Above is the most famous of these is Hirobun, which draws a wait measured in hours. We grabbed a reservation here and dined elsewhere while we waited.

Hirobun is well known for its nagashi somen, which are flowing noodles that you grab with chopsticks as they pass. Sarah called this one of her favorite experiences ever in Japan–it was definitely a ton of fun and we’d highly recommend it. (I’ll do a full post on it at some point.)

Another summer delicacy in Kyoto is the ayu sweetfish.

Kyoto anglers fish for these in the Kamo and Katsura Rivers, and the best-tasting (and fattiest) ones are caught this time of year. You eat the entire thing, head and all. If you can’t make it up to Kibune, Nishiki Market’s vendors also have delicious ayu that’ll only cost 400 yen or so.

Heading over to Northwest Kyoto for more temple updates…

Genkoan Temple is a modestly popular spot north of Golden Pavilion. It’s inexplicably closed until 2021, a fact we (and other visitors arriving on the same bus as us) didn’t learn until arriving at the temple.

Genkoan is famous for it two large windows. One is round and is called “The Window of Enlightenment.” Its square counterpart is called “The Window of Confusion,” with corners representing life, old age, illness, and death.

Genkoan is also known for its bloody ceiling of the main hall, which was made using floorboards from the disassembled Fushimi Castle. In 1600, this castle was besieged by enemies of future shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. The blood of the defenders was shed all over the castle floor, and subsequently installed as ceiling boards of five temples in Kyoto to honor them.

Kotoin is one of the most popular subtemples at the Daitokuji Temple complex, which is one of our top picks for Kyoto. It’s famous for the maple trees on its approach. It has been closed for the last couple of years due to ‘maintenance and seismic retrofit.’ (During which time it has, oddly, appeared in a nationwide advertising campaign for fall colors.)

It was originally supposed to reopen last year in June. That date slipped to October, just in time for the popular autumn travel season. That date was moved forward to this March, and is now slated to reopen in October 2019.

Early readers of the blog might recall our Cool Japanese Vending Machine Beverages and Cool Japanese Vending Machines: Drink 2 posts. In the “sequel” we promised more of these, but haven’t delivered.

In large part, this is because we’ve shifted most of our soda budget from vending machines to convenience and grocery stores.

Nevertheless, sometimes we still partake in the vending machine scene, and stumble upon something that needs to be shared.

In this case, it’s a cautionary tale: the 100 yen coffee pictured above is probably laced with rubbing alcohol, and should not be purchased under any circumstances. That “Best Tasting Coffee” tagline is a bold-faced lie.

At the other end of the spectrum, Pepsi and Coke continue to release interesting new beverages in Japan. At some point, I should do a post rounding up all the unique Coca-Cola and Pepsi options we’ve tried over the last few years.

Finally, some random photos from around Kyoto:

That wraps up our summer updates from Kyoto, Japan. If you’re planning a trip later this year or next, be sure to consult all of our regularly-updated resources (links below) for pretty much everything you need to know!

If you’re planning a trip to Japan that includes Kyoto, we recommend that you start by consulting our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan to plan all aspects of our vacation. You should also check out our other posts about Japan for ideas on other places to visit! 

Your Thoughts

Any thoughts about the latest developments in Kyoto? What about our wild boar encounter? Does summer in Kibune intrigue you? Would you try one of the ayu sweetfish? About about the unique flavors of Coke and Pepsi? Any topics you’d like to see us tackle in future posts about Japan? Any questions about what we’ve covered here? Does visiting this spot in Kyoto interest you? Hearing about your experiences—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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