Today was a bit of an unplanned day where the group kind of split up and went their own ways. We had a bit of a sleep in, which was definitely needed! When we got up, we decided to go back to the Italian-Japanese restaurant and try their lunch menu. We sat there and ate lunch, while it was snowing outside - it's a pretty nice restaurant. From there we went back to the hotel and caught the bus to Kyoto station.

Late lunch
On the bus ride to Kyoto station we go past a really big temple, it was a little bit of a walk from where the bus drops us off, but we decided to go check it out either way. We walked for about 15-20 minutes, it was lightly snowing, but it wasn't too bad. When we got there, there was a couple of big separate courtyards with different temples in each one. The entire temple grounds were pretty big! It was a couple of city blocks easily and looked really nice from the street.

The large temple grounds from the street
The first section of the temple grounds with adjoined temples
Paper doors and walls
I'm not sure if it was because it was cold and lightly snowing, but there was barely anyone around, which made it great for us. Because we don't really understand the customs there, it was probably a good thing no one else was around, we were able to go inside and still comment on the intricate work on the interior without disturbing anyone in the middle of prayer.

Inside one of the temples
We moved on to the next section, which was a lot bigger and had a few more people around. There seemed to be quite a few people going into one particular temple, so took off our shoes and took followed along.

The next temple court yard
Another adjoined temple
The inside of one of the temples
Inside were a group of about 50 people or so sitting on the floor waiting for a ceremony to start, so we decided to sit there too and see what was happening.
After a couple of minutes, some very official looking people came out to conduct the ceremony. There were a couple of monks sitting at the front of the alter with large books in their hands and they both started chanting simultaneously. The chants were long, constant, repetitive phrases that we obviously couldn't make out, but between the two of them there were no gaps in the chant, so it was like a constant noise, almost like music for the entire ceremony.
At this point people started leaving, it seemed like during this ceremony people made their prayers and left straight after. It was quite strange to see as a foreigner without understanding what is happening, but it was an interesting experience either way.

The snow stopped and I had taken the photos I wanted to, so we walked back to the station. One of things Jonathan wanted to do on this trip was spend some time doing the shopping, so we spent a little while going from shop to shop. Jono bought some clothes, so he was happy with that.

Our hotel has a spa, a swimming pool and a gym, etc. The gym is off limits because working out on a holiday is against all the rules, to go into the spa you need to be naked, so none of us were comfortable doing that, but the pool was fine. I brought some board shorts, but Jono and Rob didn't have any, so while we were at the shops, they bought some for around $25. Rob didn't really want to get into the pool, but we talked him into it anyway.

We went back to our hotel to meet up with the others for dinner. We all swapped stories of what we did. The others went to the imperial palace which sounded really nice, but we weren't going to have enough time to do that. We started walking down the street to find a place to eat. There are not a lot of places to eat around our hotel, but we eventually found a place that looked inviting. I went inside to see if they could accommodate us and the chef came out from behind the kitchen to greet me and show me a menu. The restaurant was a Japanese restaurant with French influences - the chef described it as "Imagination food".

The menu was only in Japanese, but the chef was really friendly and spoke quite good English, so he read out every item for us! He pushed some tables together and we sat down. This is when we realised that he was the only staff member there, which explains why he kept referring to the restaurant as "his" restaurant!
The menu had about 30 meals on it, and we all ordered a different dish. Everything from grilled salmon and pork to soups and desserts and this guy managed to run around to take our orders, cook the food, serve us and the other patrons and try his best to translate for us - it was incredible! The food wasn't just slapped together either, it was like being in a five star restaurant, really tasty and very well presented.

It was so impressive we got a photo with him, it was a one man show that was much better than a lot of the fancy restaurants I have been to!

Chef/receptionist/waiter/owner and us
After dinner we went back to the restaurant to go for a swim. After 7:00pm it costs about $10 to get into the pool (instead of the usual $15). Rob was dreading going, but he came along anyway. After spending about an hour and a half in the pool, Rob changed his mind. It was nice and relaxing to just have a kick around. They provided free rental towels, goggles, swimming caps and even kick boards.

After feeling refreshed, we went back to our hotel room, did our best to dry off the board shorts and pack our things so we could check out the next morning. The pool was pretty good and it would have been nice to utilise it a bit more, but at least we got to use on our last day.

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