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Nanzenji Temple Autumn - Tenjuan Garden Maple Leaves Rock Path

7 Things to Do at Nanzen-ji // Kyoto’s Roman-Style Aqueduct Temple

Nanzen-ji (南禅寺) is a large Kyoto Zen temple located at the base of the undulating Higashiyama mountains and near the Philosopher’s Path. Originally a retirement villa for the Emperor Kameyama, it was later converted into a temple and restored numerous times after a war, a demonstration, and a fire.

Not delving too much into its history, we explored some parts of Nanzenji Temple during one early autumn when the Japanese maple trees had not reached their peak autumn colors of rich reds. Yet, they managed to soothe our senses, standing among gardens of rock, ponds, and an ancient Roman-style aqueduct.

After our coffee at Blue Bottle Kyoto, we set off to this landmark temple made of one main temple, many sub-temples, gardens, and structures.

Here’s our list of 7 things to do at Nanzenji Temple, a National Historic Site.

1. Enjoy the scenic walk into its sprawling grounds

Backed by the beautiful mountains of Higashiyama and flanked by Japanese pine and maple trees, the walk into the 800m by 500m grounds of Nanzenji was healing for us: leisurely strolling under the trees, mountains expanding before our eyes, birds and insects singing their autumn songs, pine cones hanging overhead, maple leaves just beginning to don their autumn coats and peeking over traditional stone walls.

Nanzenji Temple Entrance - Kyoto TravelNanzenji - Temple Entrance Walk Autumn

nanzenji temple entrance - autumn

2. Escape into the quiet beauty of Tenjuan Garden

A sub-temple located at the right side of the entrance and missed by many who were eager to head to the aqueduct, Tenjuan Garden (天授庵) holds a therapeutic beauty that seems to heal and calm our souls. We enjoyed this garden the most and spent more time here than we should, almost forgetting that this was only our first stop within Nanzenji.

Tenjuan Garden at Nanzenji Temple Kyoto

Nanzenji Temple Autumn - Tenjuan Garden Maple Leaves Rock Path

Tenjuan Garden Nanzenji Temple - Kyoto Autumn

Tenjuan Garden is split into 2 gardens: a landscape rock garden and a pond garden (jump to point 3). Both exhibit vastly different appeal. The former sees raked pebbles evoking watery waves, low-hanging maple leaves, and moss-invaded stone paths. Seated on the steps of the building, we lost ourselves in contemplation as much as we admire the glorious hues of fall foliage existing harmoniously with the stark whites, sombre greys, and mossy greens before our eyes.

Nanzenji Temple Kyoto - Tenjuan Garden Rock Autumn Maple Moss

Nanzenji Temple Tenjuan Garden - Kyoto Autumn Maple Leaves

Nanzenji Temple Tenjuan Garden - Autumn Kyoto

Tenjuan Garden - Flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We peeked in on a beautiful room overlooking the garden. It was out of bounds but held so much promise of a great view while having a warm cup of matcha, no? In Tenjuan Garden, only the gardens are open to the public. The building and its chambers are not open to visitors. We could only admire it from outside. Entry fee to Tenjuan Garden is a mere ¥500.

Tenjuan Garden Autumn Window - Nanzenji Temple Kyoto

Tenjuan Garden Abbot Chamber Building - Nanzenji

3. Relax to the ASMR of the pond garden in Tenjuan Garden

Hidden at the back, big stone slabs led to the humble entrance of the pond garden. As opposed to the dry rock garden above, this garden encircles a pond lush with trees. At the beginning of autumn, the color graduation was beautiful as the leaves started to morph, their colors reflecting off the pond.

Nanzenji Temple Tenjuan Garden Autumn Kyoto - Beautiful Must-Visit

It was a perfect autumn day: the fresh smell of woody pines, the murmur of water, the cool air on our faces, the sun reflecting off a still pond of young lotus leaves, the rustle of leaves overhead whenever a breeze blew through.

Tenjuan Garden Lotus Pond - Nanzenji Temple KyotoSomehow, this image of the lotus pond reminded me of Claude Monet’s Nymphéas bleus which I have had the blessing of seeing with my own eyes in my favorite Paris museum, Musee d’Orsay.

 

 

 

 

 

Here, we had a sense of being enveloped in a secret garden ⁠— strolling under the thick canopies of trees; striding across wooden planks across the pond; jumping across stone slabs in the shallow part of the pond; listening to the natural sounds of flowing water; eyeing the koi swimming idly and sending ripples across the pond as they surfaced in hope of being fed; being mesmerized by the trickle of water led by branches into a natural stone bowl. Ahhh…this IS healing!

Tenjuan Garden Autumn - Nanzenji Kyoto

Tenjuan Garden Maple Leaves - Nanzenji Autumn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nanzenji Tenjuan Garden Pond - Wooden Planks

Tenjuan Garden Lotus Pond - Nanzenji Temple Kyoto

The last, in fact, was a landscaping marvel to us. A bonsai pine tree, coaxed into its winding form and supported by beams, led the water track to the natural stone basin. We stood in front of this, minutes ticking away, enthralled by the ingenuity and beauty of its form, the hypnotic trickle of water, the soft ripples, and the ASMR of the water fountain.

Tenjuan Garden Nanzenji Temple - Bonsai Pine Tree

Tenjuan Garden Nanzenji Temple - Bonsai Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tenjuan Garden Nanzenji - Water FountainTenjuan Garden Nanzenji - Moss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tenjuan Garden - Rock Water Fountain

4. Peer through Japan’s largest temple gate, Sanmon Gate

Sanmon (三門) literally means 3 gates and that was how Japan’s biggest temple gate got its name. We didn’t use the word “doors” but instead the word “gates” because Sanmon has no doors, just entrances. Built in 1628, Sanmon Gate’s colossal structure extends over the treetops just beyond, offering a perspective view of the long path leading deeper into the temple grounds.

Sanmon Gate Japan Largest Temple Gate - Nanzenji Kyoto

Sanmon Gate Nanzenji Temple - Kyoto

Nanzenji Sanmon Gate - Path

Sanmon Gate Wood - Nanzenji KyotoSanmon Gate is built from wood of which some are of impressive sizes. One can witness the passage of time on these wood, already darkened with age, wood grain exuding such warmth and texture. We were smoothing our hands over these dark wood pillars, so beautiful are their natural wood grains!

 

 

 

 

Before passing through Sanmon Gate, there is a steep staircase leading up to the upper deck where you can get a view of Kyoto and the Nanzenji ground from the balcony. Entry fee to the upper deck is ¥500.

Nanzenji Temple Sanmon Gate - Kyoto

5. Stand in awe of the Roman-style aqueduct, Suirokaku

This Roman-style Aqueduct called Suirokaku (水路閣) — built during the Meiji Period in 1890 and regarded as a civil engineering marvel — transported water from Lake Biwa into Kyoto as part of the Biwako-Sosui Canal for the purpose of spinning cotton by the energy of water wheels, irrigating water, and keeping water for fire prevention. The beautiful red brick structure, faded and blackened by time and water age, passes through Nanzenji and is such a rarity that it became a popular photo spot.

Nanzenji Temple Aqueduct Kyoto

Aqueduct Kyoto - Nanzenji Temple Suirokaku

In fact, it was where everyone was rushing off to get that Instagram shot or selfie under the ancient brick arches and missing the beautiful Tenjuan Gardens. And true enough, we couldn’t get a clean shot without another fellow visitor popping into the frame or walking under the arches. We also observed that the arches are taller on one end and shorter on the other, something that was easily missed when seen as a whole.

Nanzenji Aqueduct Kyoto Suirokaku

Nanzenji Aqueduct Kyoto - Suirokaku

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have seen aqueducts before in our travel to Rome but they were mainly built with large stones or concrete and comparatively, seldom with these much smaller sized red bricks. It was our first red brick aqueduct!

Kyoto Aqueduct Temple - Nanzenji

Don’t leave just yet after the quintessential shot under the arches. Walk up these stairs to get a different view of the aqueduct. We felt that it looked amazing amongst the green leaves. Every time we see an aqueduct, we wish that we could see the top of it and how it connects to the conduit to transport water.

Nanzenji Temple Aqueduct Kyoto - Top View

For those who are into hiking or cycling, or have time for longer exploration, you can walk on the path alongside the aqueduct and follow the flow of water into the forest for a few hundred metres.

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6. Saunter through Hojo Garden of Nanzenji and calm your mind

Designated as a National Place of Scenic Beauty, Hōjō Garden (Hōjō Teien 方丈庭苑) winds around Hōjō (方丈) which was the abbot’s former living quarters and Nanzenji’s main hall. Visitors can amble along the raised wooden floors after taking off their shoes at the entrance to take in the view of this famous rock garden, said to mimic tigers and cubs crossing through water.

Nanzenji Hojo Garden - Kyoto Rock Zen Garden

Hojo Garden Nanzenji Temple

This beautifully simple garden — also called Leaping Tiger Garden — exhibits a long stretch of space covered by only pebbles, sand, and gravel raked to simulate waves and ripples. At the corner of green, we saw pools of moss and formations of rocks of which one is said to resemble that leaping tiger. Can you tell which one?

Nanzenji Temple Hojo Garden - Must Visit Kyoto Autumn

Hojo Zen Garden - Nanzenji Temple Kyoto

Nanzenji Temple Zen Garden - Hojo Garden

Hōjō Garden boosts of calm, elegant beauty. We cleared our mind, strolling slowly through and sitting down to admire the dry landscape garden, unperturbed by the shuffling of feet and the soft creak of the wooden floor. During the peak autumn season when the maple leaves turn fully red, it must be gloriously beautiful here!

Nanzenji Temple Hojo Garden - Kyoto Autumn

Nanzenji Temple Autumn - Hojo Garden

Hojo Nanzenji - Tiger Drinking Water

Photo Credit: Nanzenji Temple

What we didn’t get to see is the sliding paper door painting of 2 tigers drinking water, designated as a National Treasure.

Entry fee to Hōjō and Hōjō Garden is ¥500.

7. Have tea at the Hojo’s tea room

Right at the entrance of the Hojo, a small tea room looking out to a miniature waterfall easily captured our attention. The light was so beautiful and the strip of red carpet on the tatami floor just added to the whole aesthetics. For an additional ¥500, you can sit in this room, sipping a bowl of Japanese matcha green tea and savoring a traditional Japanese sweet or wagashi (和菓子).

Hojo Garden Tea Room - Nanzenji Temple Kyoto

Alternatively, you can choose to head to Choshoin (聴松院), one of Nanzenji’s sub-temples, for a vegetarian lunch. Also known as shojin ryori (精進料理), it features simple dishes harmoniously put together, following Choshoin’s tradition for over 300 years. We heard that it would be better to arrive before noon to get a seat overlooking the garden or out on the deck overlooking the pond.

There weren’t any pictures of the food or matcha as we didn’t get to try both, having arrived too late. However, we do recommend these to our readers if you can plan to arrive early.

Nanzenji Temple Kyoto - Tree-Lined Exit

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pling thinks…Nanzenji is one of those must-visit Zen temples where there is much to explore. Being one of the five great Zen temples, alongside Tofuku-ji, Tenryu-ji, Kennin-ji, and Kodai-ji, Nanzen-ji is steeped in history and culture while offering stunning autumn colors, calming Zen rock gardens, and even a rarefied thing of an aqueduct.

Outside Nanzenji Temple - Bird Pedestrian RailingHow to get to Nanzenji Temple

〒606-8435 京都府京都市左京区南禅寺福地町86
Japan 〒606-8435 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Sakyō-ku, Nanzenji Fukuchichō, 86

 

Entry Fees:
Nanzenji Grounds – Free Admission
Tenjuan Garden: ¥500
Sanmon Upper Deck – ¥500
Hojo and Hojo Garden – ¥500

Open Daily 8.40am – 5pm (Last admission 4.30pm)
Tenjuan Temple 9am – 5pm (Last admission 4.30pm)
Sanmon, Hojo, and Nanzenin: Closed on Dec 28 – 31

If you are planning to visit Nanzenji Temple after Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto, you can see the temple entrance from its doorstep.

By Bus:

  1. From Kyoto Bus Terminal, take Bus 100 and alight at Higashitennocho Bus Stop.
  2. Follow the map above for the 7-10 minutes’ walk. Cross the road and walk along Shirakawa-dori (白川通り). Keep to your left and turn left at the 4th junction. Turn right at Daimatsu (清流亭). Keep walking till you see Nanzenji on your left.
  3. Alternatively, from Kyoto Bus Terminal, you can also take Bus 5 for 16 stops and alight at Nanzenji Eikandodo Bus Stop for the 7-10 minutes’ walk which will land you along Shirakawa-dori. Walking directions continue from (2).

By Train:

  1. From Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma Line at Platform 2 towards Karasuma Oike Station (烏丸御池駅).
  2. Alight at Karasuma Oike Station, take the escalator down to B3 and take the Tozai Line toward Keage Station (蹴上駅).
  3. Alight at Keage Station and exit the station to walk along the main road. Follow the map above. It’s a 13-minute walk along Niomon-dori (仁王門). Turn right at the traffic junction.
  4. A more expensive route would be to take the Tokaido-Sanyo Line Special Rapid Tsuruga at Platform 2 which will go direct to Keage Station.
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Blue Bottle Coffee Cafe - Kyoto

Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto // Cafe in a Century-Old Machiya

When we first heard that California’s Blue Bottle Coffee had opened its first café in Kyoto at the end of March 2018 — and what’s more, within a 100-year-old machiya (町屋) — it had been on our to-go list since. Besides the draw of a good cup of joe, which is always a good reason, another equally splendid reason to transverse to this part of Kyoto is enjoying coffee in a traditional townhouse that pays homage to its ancient beauty and heritage while melding with contemporary coffee culture.

Parked just 5 minutes’ walk to Nanzen-ji (南禅寺), the exterior of Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto is deceivingly bare. No showy logos or LED signboards decimate the time-worn facade. Only a wooden plague with their iconic logo bears the mark of the machiya’s occupant.

Blue Bottle Kyoto consists of 2 separate buildings with the above front entrance leading into the coffee purveyor’s store where one can buy coffee beans and merchandise. Continuing along alleyway just beside this front building, we were greeted by the café building with its tall glass windows that seemed to encase this Kyoto traditional townhouse like a piece of art.

Blue Bottle Kyoto Cafe

Stripped bare of its frontal walls, tall windows blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor space, lower and upper floors, and allow for the continuation of natural light into what would have been typically a dark space. Anyone who has been to a traditional townhouse can attest to the murkiness of its deep interiors.

Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto - Exterior of Cafe Building

Blue Bottle Kyoto Cafe Interior

Schemata Architects, the team behind Blue Bottle Kyoto’s design, did more than just stripping away unnecessary walls. Machiyas characteristically have ground elevation in their entryway. Here, the ground had been levelled to boost that continuation of indoor-outdoor space and in a way, made more accessible and welcoming to customers.

Everywhere in the café, we could see vestiges of the former structures — exposed wall corners revealing the interior wall frames and its straw-mud-bamboo composition, large preserved structural timbers — and the age-old wisdom of wood building with little or no nails like the connections between beams and structural columns.

Blue Bottle Cafe Kyoto Machiya - Preserved WallsBlue Bottle Coffee Kyoto - Preserved Walls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we looked up at the vaulted ceiling, we could even see where old timbers met new ones. Somehow, that stirred up curious emotions within us which we couldn’t adequately explain.

Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto - Cafe Wooden Ceiling

Blue Bottle Kyoto - Old Meets New

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Near the back, a simple garden allowed natural light to stream through to the inner part of the café, sustaining the flow of light from front to back.

Blue Bottle Kyoto Cafe - Simple Garden

Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto - Cafe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orders were taken at the terrazzo cashier counter right at the entrance. The menu, more varied than the one at % Arabica, included espresso drinks, drip coffee, New Orleans-styled ice coffee, cold brew, simple pound cakes, a couple of cookies, small waffles, a scone, and a blondie. Good as a pitstop for snack and coffee before heading to Nanzen-ji.

Blue Bottle Kyoto Cafe Menu

Blue Bottle Kyoto Cafe - Cakes Cookies Waffle

At the counter, we looked up and saw, laid bare before our eyes, how a part of the upper floor was taken away to lend a high ceiling to the lower floor entrance.

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Blue Bottle Kyoto Cafe - Interior Machiya Traditional Townhouse

The C-shaped counter saw the continuity of the terrazzo floor as though risen to form the baristas’ work areas and the cashier. Facing the customers on the left was the espresso zone and on the right, the drip coffee zone. Behind, we saw the kitchen where the bakes were prepped or heated up before serving.

Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto Cafe - Barista Area for Espresso

Blue Bottle Kyoto Cafe - Waiting for Coffee

Blue Bottle Kyoto - Drip Coffee Pourovers

I ordered drip coffee, the washed and patio dried single origin Guatemala Atitlan La Voz, which was poured over using the Kalita Wave. The brew was bright and clean with the mingling of the sweet and tart notes of green apple, green grape, and milk chocolate.

Blue Bottle Kyoto Cafe - Pourover Drip Coffee

Blue Bottle Kyoto Drip Coffee - Single Origin Guatemala Atitlan La Voz

For snacks, we ordered the gruyère cheese waffle and the Kyoto-exclusive Green Tea Mint Cookie. The former was savoury and the latter sweet, pairing well with the drip coffee. Well, nothing to shout about in the snacks department.

Blue Bottle Kyoto - Green Tea Mint Cookie

Blue Bottle Kyoto - Gruyere Cheese Waffle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drip Coffee Green Tea Mint Cookie - Kyoto Blue Bottle Cafe

Facing this café building and making up the back of the front building are alfresco seats that give off the chill vibes of indie cafés — think garden green metal chairs and white triangular tables. It’s also a good spot to admire the café building while enjoying a warm cuppa in the cool autumn breeze.

Kyoto Cafe - Blue Bottle Coffee

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Before we took leave of Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto, of course, we had to visit the store at the front to buy a bag of coffee beans home for our pourovers. Other merchandise sold here included mugs, kettles, tote bags, grinders, and chocolates.

Blue Bottle Kyoto Shop - Merchandise Coffee Beans Mugs Tote Bags

The principles of amalgamating new and old we saw at the café building were replicated at the shop building where we saw the same exposed state of walls fusing with modern touches of interior design. A window framed by the green foliage outside heightened the appreciation of the Japanese sense of beauty.

Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto Cafe - Shop Clay Walls

Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto - Shop Window

pling thinks…Blue Bottle Coffee’s Kyoto café seems to be the meeting point of numerous dichotomies. It is raw meets Japandi (polished and minimalist Japanese + Scandinavian styles); old meets new; heritage meets modern culture. Its interiors embrace the Japanese’s aesthetics of antiquity and tranquillity, intermingle them with urban elegance, and thus invent a sense of newness in today’s coffee culture.

Given the architecture and interior design, Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto makes for a superb place to have that cup of joe and we know of serious coffee drinkers who love the brew. We recommend that you come early (before 10am) to avoid the lines, especially during peak travel seasons when it can wind out of the café building.

If you like the atmosphere of a machiya, check out IZAMA, a restaurant also housed in a traditional townhouse.

 

Blue Bottle Coffee Logo - Kyoto CafeHow to get to Blue Bottle Coffee Kyoto

〒606-8437 京都府京都市左京区南禅寺草川町64
64 Kusagawacho Nanzenji, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8437

Open Daily 8am – 6pm

 

 

By Bus:

  1. From Kyoto Bus Terminal, take Bus 5 for 15 stops and alight at Okazaki Hoshojicho Bus Stop.
  2. Follow the map above. Walk for 5 minutes along the outer periphery of the Kyoto City Zoo on your right and some houses and offices on your left.
  3. Turn into Shirakawa-dori and turn left at the junction.

By Train:

  1. From Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma Line at Platform 2 towards Karasuma Oike Station (烏丸御池駅).
  2. Alight at Karasuma Oike Station, take the escalator down to B3 and take the Tozai Line toward Keage Station (蹴上駅).
  3. Alight at Keage Station and exit the station to walk along the main road. You’ll be walking towards Nanzen-ji Temple. Follow the map above. It’s a 10-minute walk along Niomon-dori (仁王門). Turn right at the traffic junction.
  4. A more expensive route would be to take the Tokaido-Sanyo Line Special Rapid Tsuruga at Platform 2 which will go direct to Keage Station.

 

Cafe Arabica Latte Art Coffee - Kyoto Arashiyama

% Arabica // One of Kyoto’s Best-Selling Coffee

%Arabica hardly needs any introduction for coffee-lovers who can be seen in long queues winding out of their cafés located around Kyoto and around the world — Hong Kong, China, Philippines, France, Germany, Morocco, Oman, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, and yes, Singapore. We first visited % Arabica in the autumn of 2015 when the café in western Arashiyama opened its doors 4 months back.

Cafe Arabica Logo - Arashiyama Kyoto

Backed by founder and coffee farm owner Kenneth Shoji’s specialty coffee trading experience and global head barista Junichi Yamaguchi’s title of Coffee Fest Latte Art World Champion from 2014, % Arabica quickly rose to cult status with long lines winding out of its first Kyoto café in 2014, near the photogenic five-storey Yasaka Pagoda (a 15-minute walk from Kiyomizu-dera), and subsequently, the touristy Arashiyama area in 2015.

Though the brand first started in Shoji-san’s home base in Hong Kong where he distributed the Slayer espresso machines and exported the Japan-made Tornado King roasters — both of which were used in its cafés — it was in Kyoto where the brand really took flight. Its sleek, minimal aesthetics rivalled that of Blue Bottle Coffee which we would review in our next post.

Cafe Arabica Arashiyama - Kyoto

Making coffee in front of the Arashiyama mountain, the Ooi River, the Katsura River & the Togetsukyo.

Arabica Cafe - Arashiyama Kyoto

In fact, we overheard the title of this post from one of the Arashiyama rickshaw driver or shafu (しゃふ or 車夫) when he was introducing the famous coffee joint to a couple. He actually commented while pulling the rickshaw past the Arashiyama café, “This café sells the most coffee in Kyoto.”. We didn’t know if that was true, but that was what we heard.

Contrary to what we were used to in Singapore’s café scene, % Arabica was not a sit-down kind of café. The cafés were small (more like a coffee stand) and the coffee was usually takeout. There was one long bench for seating at the counter in the Higashiyama branch while the Arashiyama branch saw a L-shaped stone bench outside. The long benches didn’t seat many so most of the patrons were seen clutching onto their takeout coffee and milling outside the cafés.

Arabica Cafe Arashiyama - Kyoto

% Arabica Coffee Stand at Arashiyama, November 2015

Well, at least that was the scene in 2019. Back in 2015, we could grab a seat outside their café and enjoy a cuppa while admiring the rolling hills of Arashiyama (嵐山) and the tranquil Katsura River (桂川). We nursed our java in peace for about an hour, basically zoning out and freeing our minds.

Now, their fame no longer allowed this luxury. When we went back in April 2019, the queue was so long that we had to forego the much-needed coffee and head to our next destination. Be prepared to queue for about 30 minutes to an hour during peak spring and peak autumn seasons.

Cafe Arabica Coffee - Kyoto Arashiyama

% Arabica Coffee Stand at Arashiyama, April 2019

Is it worth it to queue? That’s a difficult question to answer and there seems to be no right answer. And the only answer, it seems, is “It depends.” It depends on whether you think that it will be worth your time to queue, and whether the coffee will be of the same high quality in spite of its long queues and thus, making it under the pressure of time and many caffeine-starved eyes.

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They were also more known for their espresso coffees than their pourovers so that was what we opted for instead of our usual pourovers. Be good, my lactose-intolerant stomach! Let us have that latte, please.

Cafe Arabica Kyoto Arashiyama - Takeout Coffee Stand

Latte Art Cafe Arabica Kyoto Arashiyama

pling thinks…the % Arabica Espresso Blend latte that we had in 2015 was good. The milk foam was fragrant, thick, and creamy and it accentuated the roasty, aromatic espresso beneath with its slight acidity and notes of chocolate and caramel. We totally enjoyed our cups of coffee that day and bought back 2 bags of coffee beans for ourselves and another coffee addict back home.

Cafe Arabica Coffee Latte Art - Kyoto Arashiyama

Arabica Coffee Beans Pack - Kyoto Arashiyama

Coffee Beans at Cafe Arabica - Kyoto Arashiyama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having missed our cups of % Arabica coffee in Kyoto last spring, we are hoping to visit their Singapore’s branches when they open in Holland Village and Arab Street this year. We are also crossing our fingers that they will still taste as yummy as the ones we had then.

Bicycles outside Cafe Arabica - Kyoto Arashiyama

How to get to % Arabica Arashiyama

3-47, Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 616-8385 Japan
616-8385 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨天龍寺芒ノ馬場町3-47

Open Daily 8am – 6pm 

By Train:

  1. From Kyoto Station, take the JR Sagano line (Platform 32, 33) to the JR Saga-Arashiyama Station. The train ride takes about 20 minutes.
  2. From the JR Saga-Arashiyama Station, there are clear signs to indicate how you can walk to the famous Togetsukyo Bridge 渡月橋. The walk takes about 5-10mins.
  3. When you get to Togetsukyo Bridge, turn right before the bridge and you’ll see % Arabica Arashiyama in less than 5 minutes.

Alternatively, you can rent a bicycle when you get off the JR at the Saga-Arashiyama Station and cycle over. Map links above.

 

Jojakko-ji Kyoto Arashiyama - Autumn Maple Moss Roof

Jojakko-ji // Where Moss and Maple Leaves Meet in Kyoto Arashimaya

Nestled in the quieter part of the renowned Arashiyama district and away from the overcrowded Bamboo Forest is a humble temple hidden away at the base of Mount Ogura. However, there is nothing humble about its view and unassuming beauty. Jojakko-ji (常寂光寺) is the place where we saw our 3 favorite autumn highlights: Japanese maple leaves, Japanese ginkgo trees, and moss. Its location spoke of the intention of its founding monk who wanted to live in seclusion on the tranquil mountainside.

After the ticket doorway, the main entrance of Jojakko-ji was preceded by a canopy of autumn leaves just turning into its early autumn coat of golden yellow and patches of moss on its stone parapet, setting the stage for what we were about to experience in this off the beaten path destination in Kyoto.

Jojakkoji temple entrance - Kyoto Arashiyama

Upon entering, we were immediately greeted by a long flight of stone stairs with moss and fallen autumn leaves flanking both sides.

Jojakko-ji Temple Arashiyama - Kyoto Japan

Crimson red autumn leaves fell and were wedged in the valleys of moss and in the crevices of rocks. The moss looked so soft and velvety against juts of rocks here and there. And that juxtaposition of colors! The deep luscious green and that blazing red were stunning. Coupled with that, the textures all around had us in a moss-maple-rock wonderland. If such a place even existed, it’s here!

Jojakkoji Moss Autumn Maple Leaves - Kyoto Arashiyama

An earlier visitor laid out the fallen maple leaves in a heart on that moss carpet. 🍁

Moss in Autumn - Jojakkoji Temple Kyoto Arashiyama

Jojakkoji Temple Kyoto Arashiyama - Autumn Maple Heart on Moss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we ascended the stairs, the maple leaves got redder. At the top of that first flight of stairs, we turned around and admired the beauty of the moss-covered thatched roof under the arches of the Japanese maple trees.

Jojakkoji Kyoto Arashiyama Autumn - Moss Covered Roof

Thatched Roof at Jojakko-ji - Kyoto Arashiyama

Red Maple Leaves Against Sky - Jojakko-ji Arashiyama Kyoto

We got to a small resting area before the next climb where we sat down to sip some tea from our thermos and sampled some sansho (山椒) snack which the temple was selling. Even at this humble resting area, the maple trees decked out their reds.

Jojakkoji Temple Resting Area - Kyoto Arashiyama

Jojakko-ji Temple Autumn Colors at Resting Area - Kyoto Arashiyama

Ready to tackle the next flight of steps, we got up and passed a small bamboo garden. There is indeed no lack of them at Arashiyama.

Bamboo Garden in Jojakko-ji Temple - Kyoto Arashiyama Bamboo in Jojakkoji - Kyoto Arashiyama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standing at the pride of place is the 12-meter pagoda, which Japan designated as an Important Cultural Property. Surrounded by ancient pine trees and Japanese maple trees, this is the most scenic spot at the temple with the cityscape sprawling in the distance.

Pagoda Jogakkoji in Autumn - Kyoto Arashiyama

Jojakkoji Temple Pagoda Autumn Color - Kyoto Arashiyama

Jojakkoji Pagoda Autumn Maple Leaves - Kyoto Arashiyama

The maple leaves were just turning red and the graduation of colours — from green to yellow to orange to red — on every single leaf on the lower branches was stunning. Having seen the peak autumn reds of these maple leaves at Tokufu-ji, we have come to appreciate actually witnessing this color change of the maple tree’s autumn coat.

Jojakko-ji Maple Leaves turning red - Kyoto Arashiyama

Autumn Maple Leaves at Jojakko-ji Temple - Kyoto Arashiyama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn Japanese Maple Leaves - Jojakko-ji Kyoto

As we climbed higher up the steps beyond the pagoda right to the top, the Sagano area spread out before our eyes with the rolling hills on our left.

Jojakko-ji Temple Top View - Kyoto Arashiyama

Kyoto Arashiyama Jojakko-ji

And if you’re wondering “What about the Japanese ginkgo trees you mentioned earlier?”, a towering gingko tree was located near the restrooms, beckoning us with its bright yellow leaves silhouetted against the blue skies.

Jojakko-ji Temple Japanese Gingko Tree - Kyoto ArashiyamaGingko Tree Jojakkoji - Kyoto Arashiyama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jojakkoji Temple Japanese Gingko Tree - Kyoto Arashiyama

The way down and out of Jojakko-ji was just as picturesque! Moss-covered lamps, mossy grounds, the beautiful camellia japonica (or tsubaki 椿), and the arcadian thatched roof in the background all made for a dreamy stroll down to the exit.

Jojakko-ji Temple in Kyoto Arashiyama Sagano

Jojakko Temple Moss Path - Kyoto Arashiyama

Moss at Jojakko Temple - Kyoto Arashiyama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mossy Ground at Jojakko-ji - Kyoto Arashiyama

Tsubaki Camellia Japonica - Jojakko-ji Kyoto

Moss at Jojakko-ji Temple - Kyoto Japan

If you are into moss like we are, you might like to add Kokedera to your itinerary. Their moss garden is simply magical, surreal, and resplendent! To me, no superlatives are enough to describe the exquisite beauty of that moss garden temple.

Okay, back to Jojakko-ji.

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pling thinks…with no UNESCO title to its name, it’s easy to undermine Jojakko-ji’s rustic beauty. Though its autumn colors may not be as spectacular as Tokufu-ji, nor is it as famous as the vicinity’s Tenryu-ji, the temple definitely has its own charms — quiet as these charms may be, rustic as the landscape may be, small as the place may be. It’s less crowded here and maybe that itself is charming enough in the Arashiyama district.

Jojakko-ji Temple Ticket - Kyoto ArashiyamaHow to get to Jojakko-ji

〒616-8397 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨小倉山小倉町3
3 Sagaogurayama Ogurachō, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8397, Japan

A PDF Map to Jojakko-ji is available in English and Japan

Entry Fees:  ¥500
Open 9am to 5pm (Last entry: 4.30pm)

By Train:

  1. From Kyoto Station, take the JR Sagano line (Platform 32, 33) to the JR Saga-Arashiyama Station. The train ride takes about 20 minutes.
  2. From the JR Saga-Arashiyama Station, follow the PDF map link to see the 3 ways to walk to Jojakko-ji. What’s helpful is using Tenryu-ji or the Bamboo Groves as a landmark anchor to guide your direction. Personally, we walked past the shopping street upwards and in the direction away from the Togetsukyo Bridge (perpendicular to Katsura River and the Hozugawa River).
  3. Alternatively, if you are planning to take the Torokko, you can alight at the Torokko Arashiyama Station and walk from there. Though it’s a shorter walk, we don’t recommend this because you would not be able to enjoy the full ride and the scenery along the Torokko route which you’ve already paid good money for.
  4. Walk till you see the entrance of Jojakko-ji.Jojakko-ji Entrance - Kyoto Arashiyama
IZAMA Kyoto Japan - Lunch Autumn Special Set

IZAMA Kyoto // Pretty and Nutritional Home-Style Platter Meals

On every trip, we always try to eat a few local meals, something the locals usually eat at home as their breakfast, lunch, or dinner, something that is their everyday food. We discovered IZAMA (居様) while exploring the backstreets of the busy Shijō area in one of our Kyoto trips.

IZAMA serves traditional home-style platter meals or what Japanese calls obanzai (おばんざい). Concocted of multiple small dishes using local and seasonal produce, the chefs focus on bringing the natural flavors, colors, and Kyoto style of cooking to the forefront. Carefully and skillfully arranging each meal, they ensure that each platter is not just pleasing to the palate and to the eye but also nutritional and well-balanced.

IZAMA Kyoto - Tai no YakuzenIZAMA Kyoto - Afternoon Snack Platter

 

 

 

 

 

IZAMA Kyoto - Obanzai Lunch IZAMA Kyoto - Sashimi Tempura Lunch

 

 

 

 


Above 4 Photos Credit: IZAMA

Though the restaurant is located within Mitsui Garden Hotel Shinmachi Bettei (三井ガーデンホテルズ), its main entrance (top picture below) opens to a row of quiet boutiques, artisanal shops, apartments, short office buildings, and traditional Kyoto townhouses or machiya 町屋, away from the main shopping streets and the busy business area.

Izama Entrance - Kyoto Shijo Restaurant

Izama Hotel Entrance - Kyoto Shijo Restaurant

Its interior is tasteful and minimal, reflecting a Zen aesthetic. A long table sits in the middle with more tables running on the flanks. Even though it was a full house when we went for lunch, it was peaceful, unchaotic and there were no loud noises from other tables. I guess this might be the Japanese’s way of respecting the ambience that the owners are trying to create in this restaurant.

Long table at Izama Kyoto Interiors - IZAMA Kyoto Japan Restaurant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Izama Kyoto Restaurant - Interior

IZAMA has 3 separate opening hours for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As IZAMA serves breakfast to the hotel patrons of Mitsui Garden Hotel, we thought it would be better to have our lunch (¥1,800 ~ ¥3,500) to there when it would be less crowded than the morning rush hours and less expensive than the dinner menu (¥3,300 ~ ¥7,500).

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Besides signature meals, IZAMA offers special limited-time platter meals that feature seasonal ingredients. We jumped on the opportunity to order the Obanzai of Autumn (秋のおばんざい御膳 ¥2,000). As some elders believe, it’s more nourishing for the body to eat seasonal produce and food.

As we made a reservation (more of that later) and pre-selected the meal, it arrived quickly and we were already full of anticipation! It was like those classic bento boxes of bygone days where each tier held surprises, prepared and packed with a big heart.

IZAMA Kyoto Shijo - Seasonal Lunch Obanzai Meal

IZAMA Kyoto Shijo Japan - Lunch bento box design

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unveiling each tier, we found exquisitely arranged small dishes. There were a rice staple, clear broth, tofu with gravy, a vegetable and potato salad, fried and simmered tofu or yuba with pumpkin, gingko, Kyoto vegetables, soy sauce egg (ajitsuke tamago 味付け卵), marinated tuna, candied sweet potato, and a leaf-wrapped surprise. We wish we could put a finger to some of the dishes in this meal. Some of them were new to us and we have eaten a lot of Japanese food! This limited-edition obanzai changes every season. There’s one each for spring, summer, autumn, and winter. So, it was okay that we did not know everything in our meal right? 😁

Autumn Lunch Set - Izama Kyoto Shijo Japan

IZAMA Kyoto Lunch Meal

The leaf-wrapped pouch in one of the small dishes (bottom left of the picture above) contained a surprise. At first, we thought it might be chicken (something like the lotus leaf chicken we have back home) but it turned out to be a mini daifuku mochi 大福 filled with a sweet white bean paste 白あん.

Autumn Obanzai Lunch - IZAMA Kyoto Shijo IZAMA Autumn Obanzai Lunch - Daifuku Mochi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All we know was that each dish was delicious and balanced in its overall taste. Not overly seasoned and thus not overpowering, we could still taste the natural flavors and freshness of the ingredients. Our favorite was the marinated maguro (tuna fish) which was umami 旨み!

IZAMA Kyoto Lunch - Marinated tuna fish Kyoto Obanzai Lunch - IZAMA Marinated Maguro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kyoto Rice - Lunch at IZAMA ShijoThe Kyoto rice was soft, moist, and sweet. Chewing the plump and slightly sticky grains was so satisfying!

pling thinks…IZAMA is a lovely restaurant to experience Kyoto home-style food featuring the season’s bounties. The whole atmosphere in the restaurant, which resides in a traditional Kyoto townhouse, and the dainty presentation in the tiered bento box compelled us to eat slower and thus savoring every bite — something we tend to rush through in our daily life back home. At the end of the meal, we gratified both our hunger and tastebuds without any feeling of heaviness. Our steps were light as we continued on our trip.

How to get to IZAMA

京都市中京区新町通り六角下る六角町361番
三井ガーデンホテル京都新町 別邸
Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Shinmachi Bettei 1F,
361 Rokkakucho, Rokkaku-sagaru, Shinmachi-doori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto

Open:
Breakfast: 6.30am to 10am (Last order (9.30am)
Lunch: 11.30am to 2pm (Last order 1.30pm)
Dinner: 5.30pm to 10pm (Last order 9pm)

For lunch and dinner, we recommend that you make a reservation first and choose your menu. We understand that the restaurant can get full quickly and the obanzai sets can sell out. For dinner, the menu is different which includes kaiseki 懐石料理 ¥7,500 and shabu-shabu しゃぶしゃぶ ¥3,300 to ¥6,000.

By Train:

From Kyoto Station, take the JR Karasuma Line and alight at Shijō Station (四条駅). Walk towards the cross junction of Karasuma-dori (烏丸通) and Shijō-dori (四条通). You will pass by Cocon Karasuma. Turn left and walk till you reach Shimmachi-dori (新町通). Cross the road and walk along Shimmachi-dori till you see IZAMA on your right.

If you look at the map links above, IZAMA is slightly opposite of Nishiki Market, further away from the Kamo River (鴨川). It is also about 20-25 minutes’ walk from Nijo Castle if you are coming by that way.

By Bus:

From Kyoto Station, take Bus 5 or 26 and alight at Shijo Karasuma. Walk till you reach Shimmachi-dori (新町通). Cross the road and walk along Shimmachi-dori till you see IZAMA on your right.

Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens - Glasshouse Plaza

15 Things to do in Nunobiki Herb Gardens // Kobe’s Botanical & Flower Theme Park

Planted on the mountainside of Mount Rokko in Kobe, Nunobiki Herb Gardens (神戸布引ハーブ園) is Japan’s largest herb garden and home to 75,000 herbs and flowers. It is a gorgeous place to visit in almost any season, maybe except for winter. There are so many species of flowers, seasonal blooms, plants, and herbs in Nunobiki Herb Gardens that the “herb” in its name could easily hoodwink travellers. It is easily accessible especially if you are in the Kitano neighbourhood. We went right after brunch at Café Freundlieb.

If anyone were to think that it’s just a huge park with nothing much to see and do or say “it’s just another garden”, we would differ. So, let’s plunge into some of the things to see and do at Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens.

1. Ride the Nunobiki Ropeway and capture Kobe’s panoramic skyline

Yes, you don’t have to hike your way up Mount Rokko to get to Nunobiki Herb Gardens. Thank you very much.

At ¥1,500, the return ropeway ticket got us to the top of Nunobiki Herb Gardens where the View Plaza is. We suggest that you work your way down from the top so that it’s less strenuous and easier on your thighs unless you are pressed for time and have to select a few choice areas to visit. The price of the ropeway ticket also covers a full-day admission. Woo-hoo!

Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden - Ropeway Cable Car TicketKobe Nunobiki Herb Garden - Ropeway Cable Car

 

On a clear day, you get a panoramic view of Kobe’s cityscape in the 10-minute ride. You can see the port and the sea sprawled out before you. As we went higher, we saw a great many bridges in Kobe. But don’t forget to turn the other way instead of just facing the city below. Jump to point 2, please!

Nunobiki Herb Garden - Kobe Skyline Cityscape from Ropeway Cablecar

2. Glimpse Nunobiki Waterfall and the first concrete gravity dam in Japan

During the ropeway ride, we took occasional glances to our left, not wanting to miss the two sights that are situated along the mountain. First up, the Nunobiki Waterfall which — to us from our angle in the cable car — looks like a piece of thin, long cloth draped across a heart made of stones.

Nunobiki Waterfall - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden

In less than a minute, we saw the Nunobiki Dam, Japan’s first concrete gravity dam. Designated as an important heritage site for the modernization of water resources, Nunobiki Dam is built along the same mountain stream as the Nunobiki Waterfall and was completed in 1900.

Nunobiki Dam - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden Ropeway

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3. Grab a snack or the honey soft serve at the View Plaza

European feels are all over this place — German Wartburg Castle-inspired cottage, soft classical music, English-inspired rose garden, numerous flower plots and herb carts, and a small wooden concert hall.

Nunobiki Herb Garden Kobe - View Plaza

A green bronze girl statue caught our eyes as we walked out of the ropeway station. Titled “Arigato”, a Salvadoran sculptor presented it as a token of gratitude for Kobe’s support during the El Salvador earthquake in January 2001.

Arigato Girl Statue - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden

Main Plaza - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cosmo Flower - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden

Cosmo Nunobiki Herb Garden - View Plaza Welcome Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main cottage houses a few stalls selling burgers, tarts, soft serve ice cream, and drinks including the gift shop, Herbal Market, and a restaurant called The Herb Dining.

The Herb Dining - Kobe Nunobiki Gardens

Photo Credit: The Herb Dining

As we’re still digesting that brunch from Café Freundlieb, we skipped lunch. At The Herb Dining, The Garden Plate Collection goes at ¥2,380 with a choice of main dish (meat, fish or pasta), appetizer buffet (15 varieties), and original herb blend tea. The restaurant says that the dishes use herbs and flowers from the gardens themselves and they sure are pretty as a picture!

 

 

Honey Soft Serve Ice Cream - Nunobiki Herb Gardens Kobe Japan

Instead, we had dessert. We tried the honey soft serve which was not overly sweet. It had a very subtle taste of honey. We wished there was a dollop of honey drizzle over this!

While we were lapping up our ice-cream, we studied the various herbs in each themed cart lined before the patio dining area — cookery, craft, tea, and fragrance.

Herb Carts - Nunobiki Herb Gardens Kobe Japan

Cooking Herbs - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden Herbs Tea - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Daydream in the Rose Symphony Garden

We felt like we walked into a Jane Austen novel! In late October, we’re a little offseason for a garden of full blooms but we still managed to see a few beautiful roses in this garden encircling a mini fountain centrepiece.

Rose Symphony Garden - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens Japan

It could have looked like this in summer from May to June. How pretty!

Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens - Rose Symphony Garden

Photo Credit: Nunobiki Herb Gardens

There are 4 plots of different color groups of mainly English roses. With over 60 varieties of roses, we found some that we seldom see in the flower shops and wholesale centres in Singapore.  Some are even heritage roses of which the varieties are more than 75 years old. We saw Pemberton (1925), Igoult (1924), and Barbier (1906) to name a few.  And of course, we put our noses close to catch a whiff of their fragrance.

Kordes Rose - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden Pemberton Roses - Nunobiki Herb Gardens Kobe Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pink Rose - Rose Garden in Nunobiki Herb Gardens Kobe Japan Red Rose - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With soft classical music playing in the background combined with the relaxing bubbling of the mini fountain and rosy scent lingering in the air, it was easy to daydream here seated in one of the wooden benches along the perimeter of this compound.

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5. Discover the essential oil for you at the Fragrance Museum

Fragrance Museum - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens JapanBeyond the clock tower and just behind the Rose Symphony Garden lies the Mori no Hall (Forest Hall) where you will find the Fragrance Museum and a wooden concert hall (coming up in the next point).

Seek out the essential oils that appeal most to you, calm your mind, relax your body, and promote your emotional well-being at the Fragrance Museum that houses more than 80 types of essential oils, perfume bottles, and equipment used to extract the essences of flowers & herbs.

 

Thirty of these 80 are sold as ready blends. Uncap them to slide quickly across your nose, note the ones that enchant your olfactory senses, and take the corresponding number tag (colorful ones on the right of the picture below) to make your purchase in the Herb Market and Ropeway Store.

Essential Oils - Fragrance Museum at Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

There’s even an aroma studio where classes are conducted to make soaps and room sprays.

6. Peek into the octagon concert hall constructed of wood

Within this same hall, head up to the 2nd floor for the wooden octagon concert hall where the balconies provide magnificent views of Kobe. A pathway also links this floor to the clock tower opposite.

Kobe City Panorama - Nunobiki Herb Gardens Japan

It is a charming concert hall for recitals and concerts. We wonder how this unique octagon shape and the wood panelling would help with the acoustics. Loving the geometry, the lines and the warmth of wood here!

Octagon Concert Hall - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Wooden Concert Hall - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens Concert Hall Control Booth - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concert Hall - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

7. Calm yourself in the Lavender Garden

If you’re visiting from May to July, make your way down to the Lavender Garden from the View Plaza. Dubbed the Queen of Herbs, lavender flowers are used for culinary, fragrance, herbal teas, and traditional medicine. In June, there is also a lavender-picking event. Check out the Kobe City Facebook Page for updates.

Lavender Garden - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Photo Credit: Nunobiki Herb Gardens

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8. Get drunk on flowers, flowers, and more flowers

The key highlight for us is the profusion and variety of flowers we can see in one single venue. Walking down from the View Plaza past the Herb Museum, we stopped so very often at many gardens to admire the flowers blooming during that season which was early autumn. The stretch from the Lavender Garden all the way to the Glasshouse saw cosmos, roses, rosemary, and many more. Along the way, the Four Seasons Garden, beautifully landscaped and arranged according to seasons, is a must-go in Nunobiki Herb Gardens.

Brace yourself as you are about to be bombarded with pictures of some of our favorites! And yes, we have a thing for cosmos — cosmos in a field, the back of cosmos against sunlight, cosmos swinging their thin stalks in the winds, cosmos at dusk, you name it.

Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens - Cosmos Autumn Japan

Nunobiki Herb Gardens Kobe Japan - Cosmos Field

Nunobiki Herb Gardens Autumn Cosmos - Kobe Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden - White Cosmo Bee Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens - Flower Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cosmos at Dusk - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden Cosmos Field Autumn - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In early summers, these trellises would have formed a sweet-smelling rose path to walk through. Still, we managed to spot a few fully bloomed autumn roses.

Rose path - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Rose Bloom - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens Autumn Rose Garden - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instead of showy blooms, we tend to favor the smaller flowers and beauties with interesting textures.

Nunobiki Herb Gardens Kobe Autumn Flowers - Japan Nunobiki Herb Gardens - Kobe Japan Autumn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden - Rosemary Flower Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens - Colorful feather duster flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Make believe in Herbal House like a theatre actor

Before entering the Glasshouse, we stepped into a house set up like a living room and kitchen. Having produced stages during school and college, it was almost like stepping onto a theatre set with all the props in place, just waiting for actors to take the stage. Dried flowers and spices dressed up the set.

Nunobiki Herb Garden Kobe - Dried Flowers

We saw some kids having a swell time here pretending to cook behind the kitchen setup. How cute! Sunlight was just beautiful that day.

Nunobiki Herb Garden Herbal House - Kobe Japan

10. Take a nap in one of the hammocks

Scattered in a couple of locations (near the Four Seasons Gardens and the Kaze no Oka Flower Garden 風之丘花園) are hammocks which visitors can lie down, rest, swing gleefully, or take a snooze. Please don’t forget your sunscreen!

Hammocks - Nunobiki Herb Gardens Kobe Japan

Kaze no Cha Garden Hammock - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens - Hammocks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resting in Hammocks - Nunobiki Herb Gardens Kobe Japan

11. Wander in the Glasshouse

The Glasshouse is a distinct feature of Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens, easily identifiable when riding on the ropeway and when you are higher up at the View Plaza.

Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens - Glasshouse

Sectioned, the Glasshouse showcases a tropical forest — we get a lot of that in this part of the world — and thematic displays of flowers, plants, spices, and herbs. We saw a Halloween display then.

Nunobiki Herb Gardens Kobe - Tropical Forest Glasshouse

It seems that the centrepiece of the Glasshouse is this sculpture titled “Mother and Child” (愛の像) which was presented to Kobe city by the Italian city of Terni, the birthplace of Saint Valentine. It embodies the desire for eternal friendship and for love to be born and nurtured throughout the world.

Mother and Child Status - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens12. Relieve your tired feet in the Herbal Footbath for free

With compliments from Nunobiki Herb Gardens, we soaked our tired feet in the Herbal Footbath located just outside the Veranda to its left. It was free of charge and opened from 10am to 4.30pm. We just had to limit the usage to 10 minutes. A few of organza pouches filled with seasonal herbs were floating in the warm water appeasing our angry muscles while we took in the view. It was a relaxing way to end off our tour of Nunobiki Herb Gardens.

Free Herbal Footbath - Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Photo Credit: Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Herbal Footbath at Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens - Japan

View from Herbal Footbath - Nunobiki Herb Gardens Kobe

To dry off, bring your own towel or pre-loan one near the Herbal Football at ¥100 (self-serve).

13. Have tea at The Veranda

Veranda Cafe - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Photo Credit: Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Situated just beside the exit of the Glasshouse, The Veranda at Kobe is decked out in a color palette that’s soothing, romantic and yet classical. The café would be a gorgeous place to have a spot of tea and a sandwich or cake. From now till February 2020, there will be a 20-min live music performance at 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm at 2F.

Veranda Cafe Kobe - Nunobiki Herb Gardens

The Veranda at Kobe - Nunobiki Herb Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nunobiki Herb Garden - The Veranda at Kobe Outdoor Terrace at Veranda - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 1F terrace and the 2F café lounge have different menus. Go for the cosy 2F café lounge if you want some tête-à-tête and the 1F outdoor terrace if you want to enjoy more of that view and breeze. Prices range from ¥500 to ¥1,200.

Terrace Veranda - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Veranda Cafe Lounge - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Left: 1F Terrace; Right: 2F Cafe Lounge. Photo Credit: Nunobiki Herb Gardens

14. Shop for souvenirs at the Herbal Market and Ropeway Shop

We hope that we could have carted back some of those pots of herbs and plants but you know, there are airline and AVA regulations we have to adhere to. However, there are plenty of options like bath salts, rose and lavender pillow and wardrobe sachets room sprays, essential oils, herbal teas, and Nunobiki honey which make for good gifts. We recommend that you shop at the Herbal Market within the View Plaza (top of ropeway) which has occasional sampling and a wider range than the bottom ropeway shop.

Herbal Market - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Herbs and Plants - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Lavender Honey - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens Nunobiki Honey - Herba Market Kobe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15. Behold Kobe’s nighttime scenery

From the top and during the ride up the ropeway, you can also get a view of Kobe’s famous nighttime scenery. There are also nighttime illuminations at the View Plaza and drinks at The Veranda at Kobe.

Nighttime scenery - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Photo Credit: Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Nighttime Illuminations - Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Photo Credit: Nunobiki Herb Gardens

pling thinks…there are numerous things to do at Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens so much so that this post is sooooo looooong. During spring to autumn, kids can run around, people who love hiking can trek up, people who love flowers and herbs can definitely feast their eyes on the flora, people can admire the nighttime scenery and have a drink, and people who just want to chill can have a relaxing time strolling through the gardens.

If you’re pressed for time to tour the whole garden, here’s a guide map to help you plan ahead.

How to get to Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens & Ropeway

〒650-0002 兵庫県神戸市中央区北野町1丁目4−3
1 Chome-4-3 Kitanocho, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0002, Japan

Entry Fees:
¥1,500 (inclusive of Nunobiki Ropeway Round Trip, 9am to 5pm)
¥950 (inclusive of Nunobiki Ropeway One-Way Trip, 9am to 5pm)
¥900 (inclusive of Nunobiki Ropeway Round Trip, 5pm to 9pm)

Open:
9am to 5pm
5pm to 9pm

Nunobiki Ropeway Kobe - EntranceBy Train & Ropeway:

      1. The nearest station is Shin-Kobe Station. From there, walk about 10mins to the bottom Nunobiki Ropeway Station.
      2. You will pass by ANA Crowne Plaza Kobe. Take a short escalator up.
      3. Walk through the gate indicating the Nunobiki Herb Gardens.
      4. Take a lift up or climb the stairs to reach the bottom Ropeway Station.Lift to Nunobiki Ropeway Station

If you are in the Kitano area or at Café Freundlieb, it is an easy 9-min walk.

Cafe Freundlieb - Kobe Japan

Freundlieb // Kobe’s Charming Bakery Cafe In Former Church

Housed within the former Kobe Union Church built in 1929, Freundlieb (フロインドリーブ) is a bakery and café located in the Ikuta area in Kobe, near the Kitano neighbourhood where many foreign merchants and diplomats resided after Kobe opened its doors to foreign trade in 1870.

The Gothic-style church was designed by American architect, W.M. Vories and survived the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 with some damages. On the other hand, Freundlieb had suffered immense damage to the store and factory in the same area, Nakayamatei (中山手).

Freundlieb - Kobe Must Visit Cafe Bakery

Freundlieb Bakery Cafe - Kobe Japan

Freundlieb itself dated back to 1924 when its German founder and 1st-generation master baker, Heinrich Freundlieb came to  Japan as a prisoner of war during the First World War and eventually settling down with a Japanese wife and opening his own bakery which he handed down to his son, Heinrich Freundlieb II. It was the 3rd-generation master baker, Bella Freundlieb, who moved the then-damaged store and factory to the former church in 1997 after it was being restored to its neo-Gothic style and remade into a bakery, a store, and a café. The building is registered as a Tangible Cultural Asset in 1999. It also received an Award for Urban Design of Kobe in 2000.

Freundlieb - Kobe Bakery Cafes

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On the 2nd floor, Café Freundlieb boosts a charming aesthetic and a bright, airy atmosphere with its vaulted ceilings and tall arched windows. The dark wood panelling accentuates the high ceiling, further enhancing the elegance of the space. The light streaming in from the beautiful windows and the soft amber glow from the branched chandeliers make for a relaxed ambience while one is having a meal.

Cafe Freundlieb - Kobe Top Cafes

Cafe Freundlieb - Kobe Former Church

The stained glass window could be seen at what would have been the narthex where the choir burst into songs of praise and worship. On the opposite end, the crossing seats a couple of tables in a cosy embrace while the altar and the sacristy have been converted into the kitchen and serving area. From the entrance of the café to the kitchen is a long nave — where the pews must have been — seating 4 sections of tables.

Cafe Freundlieb Interior - Kobe Japan

Cafe Freundlieb Brunch Lunch Breakfast - Kobe Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had breakfast there and ordered the morning set (¥1,036) of egg sandwich, ham n’ cheese sandwich, a side of fresh salad (dressing on the side), and a pot of tea. The bread was soft and fluffy. We could tell that it was freshly baked, having helped a client open a bakery cafe in Singapore and ate mountains of bread. And eggs! We can never leave out egg sandwiches in Japan — the Japanese just do the egg mayonnaise filling so well that they never fail to satisfy. These were the same, plus the delicious bread! Morning sets are available from 10am to 11.30am and lunch sets are available from 11.30am to 2pm. Set menu is available from Mondays to Fridays.

Breakfast Sandwich Set at Cafe Freundlieb - Kobe Cafes Japan

Egg Ham Sandwich Set at Cafe Freundlieb - Kobe Japan Cafes

One can really while away time here which was exactly what we did reading a book and planning our next destination. Many Japanese ladies were seen catching up and even greeting neighbours in the next table. When the clock neared 12noon, Café Freundlieb started to fill up with lunchtime goers and business crowd. When we left, a queue can be seen in the waiting area just outside the entrance of the café. There was even a waiting room if this area overflows.

There are numerous spots of history in this building. At the stairwell, we spotted an antique public phone which was plugged in so you could actually use it! The toilet exudes an old-world elegance which made us want to refer to it as the powder room.

Cafe Freundlieb Restroom - Kobe Japan

Antique Telephone - Cafe Freundlieb Kobe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Renowned among the locals, the spacious Bakery is located on the first floor. There are bakes, biscuits, chocolates, confectionery, and honey that make for good souvenirs for foodie friends back home. Its most famous bake is no doubt the iconic pig’s ear pastries (see top right) which the bakery is accorded as the one introducing this Western pastry to Japan.

Freundlieb Bakery - Kobe Cafes Japan

pling thinks…Freundlieb is a must-visit for brunch lovers and for cafe-goers who love fresh bread and spending a charming time in a historical building with friends or families. It reminds us of CHIJMES in Singapore whereby the chapel is also converted into an event space instead of letting the beauty of the old church architecture go to waste and demolished especially when it had undergone damage due to war or natural disaster. We are praying for the restoration of Notre Dame in Paris as well. 🙏

Freundlieb Cafe - Kobe Kitano Ikuta JapanHow to get to Cafe Freundlieb

〒651-0092 兵庫県神戸市中央区生田町4丁目6−15
4-chōme-6-15 Ikutachō, Chūō-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 651-0092, Japan

Open 10am to 7pm
(Last order: 6.30pm)

By Train

Take JR West, Kobe Municipal Subway, Hankyu Railway or the Hanshin Electric Railway to Sannomiya Station and walk about 10-15 minutes toward Kitano neighbourhood. Use the map links above to navigate your way.

or

Take the JR West to Shin-Kobe Station and walk 10-15 minutes. You can pass ANA Crowne Plaza Kobe or the Nunobiki Herb Garden. Use the map links above to navigate your way.

Cherry Blossoms Nara Must See - Fujiwara Palace Ruins Rapeseed Flower Field

Fujiwara Palace Ruins // Nara’s Flower Field Paradise

Spring beckons more than just the much-loved cherry blossoms in Japan. It is also a time when we can admire other seasonal flowers — one of which blooms in abundance in the ancient city of Nara (奈良) against a backdrop of mountains and yes, cherry trees.

Fujiwara Palace Ruins Nara - Cherry Blossoms Yellow Rapeseed Flowers MountainAt Fujiwara Palace Ruins (Fujiwara Kyūseki 藤原宮跡), this combination of rapeseed flowers, cherry blossoms, and mountains in the background lured us off the beaten path to Kashihara (橿原市), a city in Nara Prefecture and away from the main Nara city’s attractions. It took us 3 transfers from Kobe (2 if you’re traveling from Osaka) before we could step into this flower paradise.

The “Palace” in Fujiwara Palace Ruins is long gone. All that remains are ongoing evacuation works and red mock pillars to mark where the Imperial Audience Hall once was.Fujiwara Palace Nara - Imperial Palace Mock Pillars

Nara, like Kyoto, used to be a capital city and Fujiwara city was picked to be the capital by Emperor Tenmu (631-636) where he planned and built the first-ever tile-roofed imperial palace. However, a fire in 711 burnt down the whole city and nothing remains of that piece of history except the immutable mountains and whatever archaeologists can unearth. If you’re interested to know more about ancient Fujiwara, hop over to the Fujiwara Capital Information Centre, located at the stop where one takes the Community Bus.

Having gotten that out of the way, let’s bring you to the main attraction!

Spring

Best Place for Cherry Blossoms - Nara Fujiwara Palace Ruins

Summer

Fujiwara Palace Ruins Nara Kashihara - Orange Cosmos in SummerFujiwara Palace Ruins Nara Kashihara City - Lotus in Summer

 

Autumn

Fujiwara Palace Ruins Nara Kashihara - Pink Cosmos Field Autumn

Summer & Autumn Photos’ Credit: Kashihara City Facebook Page

Most locals who visit Fujiwara Palace Ruins come for the lyrical display of seasonal flowers. In spring, 2 wide fields of rapeseed flowers swayed and bowed in the intermittent breeze against a backdrop of cherry blossoms. In summer, pink lotuses and orange cosmos took their turns to switch on their charm. And finally, in autumn, pink cosmos bow their blowsy heads in goodbyes before snow descends. We made a mental note to return in autumn — still our favorite season.

Fujiwara Palace Ruins Nara - Entrance of Cherry Blossoms

Fujiwara Palace Ruins Nara - Close Up of Cherry BlossomsAt the entrance, it already looked promising in terms of wow-ing us — by that time, we were cherry-blossomed-out from a week of non-stop cherry blossoms viewing (hanami お花見) in western Japan. The bar was raised much higher after all that chasing after cherry blossoms and definitely, after Himeji Castle.

Enter through a small gate and walk along a roughly hewn path lined with cherry trees on the right. We can already see the yellow rapeseed flower field in the distance. Excited, we hurried on.

 

 

These cherry trees lining the 2 peripheries of the rapeseed flower fields lent a delicate shade of pink to the lemony yellows of these flowers. We saw some painters welding their paintbrushes and capturing the scenery with their choice of medium. And indeed, this scenery might be the sort of landscape that Claude Monet and Mikhail Larionov would have painted?

Fujiwara Palace Nara - Cherry Blossom Season Yellow Flowers

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Besides painters and photographers, we saw families, friends, old-time pals, and pups basking and lounging in the springtime sun, either seated at the benches dotted along one side of the field or strolling with hands behind backs. Without doubt, mats would have been unfurled and laid down if the ground weren’t still a tad wet from yesterday’s rain. Nonetheless, exclamations of the stunning beauty could be heard all around.

Nara Fujiwara Palace Ruins - Cherry Blossoms Canola Flowers

Turning the other way, the view is just as breathtaking — lemon rapeseed fields set against the panorama of the Three Sacred Mountains of Yamato: Unebiyama (畝傍山), Kaguyama (香具山), and Miminashiyama (耳成山). As the clouds moved over and from the sun, we saw varied shades of yellow as the light shifted.

Fujiwara Palace Ruins Nara Japan - Spring Cherry Blossom Season Yellow Flowers

Fujiwara Palace Ruins Nara - Mountains Cherry Blossoms Rapeseed Flowers

Nara Fujiwara Palace - Cherry Blossoms Canola Flower Mountains Yamato

It was soothing to walk under the canopy of cherry trees — which were on a slightly higher elevation — with the rapeseed flower field just softly rustling on the other side.

Cherry Blossom Path Rapeseed Flowers - Nara Fujiwara Palace Ruins

Whenever the wind picked up, the rapeseed flower fields undulated and rippled as the flowers swayed with the push and pull of the breeze blowing through. Sometimes, the flowers quivered and danced. A whisper of swishing got us lost in reverie. Added to this, a fluttering of cherry blossom petals as they detached from their receptacles and rode on the wind.

Fujiwara Palace Ruin - Sign Flower Field

Notices are placed around the boundaries of the flower fields. So, we urge travelers to respect nature and do not tread onto the flower fields. Even if you’re selfie-obsessed, don’t. Even if you’re aiming for that perfect ‘gram, don’t. Just don’t. We can’t imagine this beauty being annihilated by trampling feet just because one needs to gain more likes or followers. Just be shutter-happy within the boundaries of respect for nature and for people. Thank you! We shall stop being naggy here. It’s just that we witnessed too many such occurrences during our travels as could be seen even in the next photo.

Fujiwara Palace - Spring Japan Nara Cherry Blossom Trees

We went shutter-crazy and snapped a total of 442 photos & videos of this flower field in Fujiwara Palace Ruins, knowing full well that our amateurish skills and equipment would not do full justice to this place, always conscious of that nagging weight of failing to capture its full beauty. Seeing the beauty of the real thing trump what we could capture with our cameras.

Fujiwara Palace Ruins Nara - Cherry Blossoms Rapeseed Flower Must See Japan

Nara Cherry Blossoms Season - Spring in Fujiawara Palace Ruins

pling thinks…Fujiwara Palace Ruins is a must-visit for catching cherry blossoms with a different perspective — one that is of a supporting role instead of being the main star which can be seen in most other attractions — and before it gets more known, popular, and crowded. It’s not on the usual tourist route (there were less than 5 foreigners then, including us) but if you appreciate scenery and nature, you will love it!

How to get to Fujiwara Palace Ruins

〒634-0072 奈良県橿原市醍醐町
Daigocho, Kashihara, Nara 634-0072, Japan

Admission is free.
Fujiwara Palace Ruins is always open but note the last Community Bus back to the Yamato-Yagi Station is 6.09pm on weekdays and 5.29pm on weekends if you are taking that route.

Not knowing if we would be able to do a 30-minute walk from a station without getting lost in more rural areas, we opt for the train+bus mode (top) instead of the train+walk mode.

By Train & Bus:

  1. From Osaka Station, take the JR to Tsuruhashi Station. Find the Osaka Loop Line at Platform 2.
  2. Alight from the train and change to the Kintetsu-Osaka Line. But BEFORE you exit via the station exit gates, buy the tickets at the manned ticket window located between the gates and the automated ticket counters. It’s better to take either the Aoyamacho 急行 (skip some stops) or the Ābanraina アーバンライナーKintetsu-Nagoya (more expensive due to its non-stop route).
  3. Alight at Yamato-Yagi Station and exit the gates.
  4. Upon exit, you will see a sign pointing to your right for the bus terminal. Listed is the Community Bus for Fujiwara Palace Ruins.

Yamato-Yagi Station - To Fujiwara Palace Ruins

  1. At the bus terminal, go to Bus Stop 1. The cute bus is easily recognizable as it’s different from your usual city bus.

Bus Terminal Fujiwara Palace Ruins - Yamato-Yagi Nara Kashihara City

  1. Alight at Fujiwara Capital Information Centre which is 4 stations away. Pay the one-way bus fare of ¥170 when you alight.
Kashihara City Community Bus Map

Image Credit: Kashihara City

  1. You will see the 菜の花 sign beside the bus stop pointing to the left. Cross a tiny traffic junction and you are at the entrance of Fujiwara Palace Ruins. It’s about 1-3 minutes away.

Bus Stop at Fujiwara Palace Ruins - Kashihara Nara

  1. When you are leaving, take the same Community Bus from the diagonally opposite this bus stop.

Sharing the bus schedule to Fujiwara Palace Ruins here so that you can plan ahead. The information is correct at the time of publishing.

Weekdays

From Yamato-Yagi Station to Fujiwara Palace Ruins 7.20am 8.50am 10.20am 12.20pm 1.50pm 3.50pm 5.20pm
From Fujiwara Palace Ruins to Yamato-Yagi Station 8.09am 9.39am 11.39am 1.09pm 2.39pm 4.39pm 6.09pm

Weekends

From Yamato-Yagi Station to Fujiwara Palace Ruins 7.20am 8.50am 11.00am 1.50pm 4.05pm
From Fujiwara Palace Ruins to Yamato-Yagi Station 8.13am 10.17am 1.02pm 3.27pm 5.29pm

By Train & On Foot:

  1. From Osaka or Kyoto, take the JR Sakurai Line and alight and JR Unebi Station.
  2. Walk 30 minutes.

Kashihara City also said that you could use the Kintetsu and alight at Kintetsu Miminashi Station or Kintetsu Unebigoryomae Station and walk 30 minutes.

Golden Pavilion Gold Temple Kinkaku-ji - Kyoto Japan

Kinkaku-ji // Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion and Its Perfect Water Reflection

Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺 is undoubtedly one of Kyoto’s shining landmark. Literally, it shines.

Known as The Golden Pavilion for its gold leaf gilded facade, this temple is many photographers’ dream of a perfect water reflection. When the sun hits the right spot, its exterior gleams and glitters like a gem. Its reflection in the waveless waters of the surrounding pond is nothing short of magnificence.

Before we even beheld the razzle-dazzle of Kinkaku-ji, we were bewitched by the entrance path to the temple grounds, lined on both sides with Japanese maple trees. Resplendent with flaming reds and bewitching oranges, it was such a joy to just stroll towards the entrance.

Kinkakuji Entrance Autumn Maple Leaves - Kyoto

Autumn Colors Kinkaku-ji - Kyoto