24 July 2014, Thursday, Mostly Cloudy, 24ºC – 37ºC
We arrived in Kansai International Airport (KIX) via SQ618. The Singapore Airlines Airbus A330-300 departed from SIN at 01:25 am and arrived in KIX at 09:00 am. We spent some time in KIX helping Baby E to be comfortable (i.e. changing, nursing → which leads to napping) before the next leg of our journey continues.
We went to the JR ticket office to purchase the Icoca-Haruka card, a discounted set of tickets which consists of the following:
- Haruka ticket, which allows us to travel direct from Kansai airport to Kyoto (just 3 stops, 75 min) by the Haruka limited express train.
- Icoca card, a prepaid card that has a value of ¥1500, that can be used on JR trains, subway, private railway and buses, as well as for shopping in the Kansai area and beyond.
We reached Kyoto Station at about 12:30 pm. Our friends YR and C invited us to join them for lunch at Hafuu Honten, where they have enjoyed high-quality wagyu beef steaks that “melt-in-the-mouth”. They have actually flown to Kyoto for their 1st day just to be able to dine there, before they fly off to Tokyo for their remaining trip! Such raving reviews, of course we had to try it too!
We parted ways with YR and C at Kyoto Station where they left to check into their hotel, while we find our way to our hotel – Hotel Vista Premio Kyoto Kawaramachi Street.
We checked in and walked to Hafuu Honten to meet YR and C for lunch. This small restaurant is located in a quiet residential area, away from the hustle bustle of town. If not for YR standing at its doorway waving to us, we would not have found it!
Hafuu Honten recently received the 2014 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence and we dare affirm there is no doubt the result of its delicious premium steaks, hospitable and attentive staff, and modern atmosphere. Although the exterior is rather nondescript, most reviews from their customers claim the steak here is the best that they have ever eaten in their life! In fact, Hafuu Honten is currently ranked #1 amongst Kyoto restaurants in Trip Advisor. We are very thankful to our friends for recommending it to us! We had the sirloin and fillet steaks grilled to a perfect medium doneness.
After the satiating lunch, we retired back to the hotel to rest before we continue to explore Kyoto-shi in the evening.
Pontocho Alley and Kamo River
The Kamo River is probably the most famous and arguably the most popular river in Kyoto. Residents and tourists alike were often seen walking, jogging or cycling along both sides of its riverbanks.
Every summer, the restaurants along the Kamo River erect decks built on wooden stilts (known as yuka), to form balconies that suspend over the banks of the Kamo River, on which patrons could enjoy a meal in the cool breeze that comes across the river as they dine in the open, watching the flowing river and its surrounding scenery, creating Japan’s only under-the-stars dining experience. The sight of all those balconies on a summer night with all their cheerful lanterns swinging in the light breeze and the chatters of happy patrons form one of the most enticing scenes in Kyoto.
The renowned Pontocho Alley near the eastern banks of the Kamo River is a narrow street no wider than 2 metres with adjoining restaurants, bars and chaya (teahouses) lining both sides of the street. Every night, waves of people sweep through the lively, elegant and tasteful Pontocho Alley. We bought some takoyaki from one of the shops and walked towards the end of the alley and dwelled a moment on the grass that borders the river, enjoying the cool breeze as we shared the octopus balls.
Although Pontocho is narrow, it was mysteriously exotic and dripping with atmosphere. Lined with Western-style bars and Japanese restaurants built in machiya-style houses, this street allows no cars, modern buildings or gaudy signs. The numerous Japanese paper lanterns further lend a traditional Japanese ambience to this famed alley that many Kyoto residents and visitors regard as the most beautiful street in the city.
We could not possible enjoy dining in one of these restaurants because it was Baby E’s bedtime. Hence, we walked further down to Sanjo-dori and settled down in a restaurant selling ramen, for our dinner!
It was an extremely eventful day, and we were exhausted from taking a late night flight. Baby E suddenly came under the weather with a high fever after we turned in for the night. Although we had to cancel our itinerary for the entire trip, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise… Besides caring for Elizabeth, while she feeds and sleeps, it actually allowed us to repose in the comfort of the hotel, escaping the summer heat that was burning outside. We prayed and rallied for prayers from our ever-loving and present family, who have always serve as prayer warriors for us. We are very thankful to Mum, Dad and JMIDM for fervently praying for us, knowing our dire situation (being in a foreign land and we do not speak Japanese). By the 2nd day afternoon, the fever had receded to the mild form, and Baby E was back to her normal happy self, without any intervention. Praise and all thanks be to The Lord for His mercy and immediate healing touch upon her!