Well it is a little bit past Tanabata o'clock but I thought I'd share a few piccies of this very special evening a couple of Tanabata's ago.
In the month of August Kibune shrine, in the northern mountains of Kyoto, hosts a special musical event for Tanabata.
When we visited two years ago there was a wonderful, lively duet playing by lantern light in the shrine's grounds. The atmosphere was very relaxed with a real sense of community and appreciation. And more than a hint of romance.
Whilst in another part of the shrine, dedicated to god of water and rain, is a natural spring - famous for its matchmaking properties and on this night in particularKyoto-ites pray to meet or keep the gal or guy of their dreams.
Wait patiently and all will be revealed - as the water soaks into the paper a secret love fortune appears....
It was a truly lovely experience - even though the hike up the hill from the station on a summer's eve was a little much for this heat-exhausted bod to cope with but in the end it was worth it - and the walk back down was a doddle - especially as we managed to hop a ride with a local shuttle bus driver part of the way.
One of the best things about coming up the mount to Kibune in summer is the fact you can dine outdoors on Kaiseki cuisine at ryokan (traditional inn) and restaurants which do not normally offer this al fresco service. Patrons are seated on specially built pontoons over a cool, running river. A very popular destination for escaping the summer heat of the city - which, yes, I have moaned about many times during the life of this blog. It is moments like these that make the summer magical.
We were a little bit late in the evening to find anywhere that would take us - they were closing up for the night but this gives you some idea of the experience
Thank you to our beautiful friends Michiko and Paul for introducing us to this event and sharing the evening with us xx
To reach Kibune Shrine -take the Eizan Kurama Line from Demachiyanagi station just north of the main city hub - to Kibune Guchi station.
It takes about 30 minutes and costs 420 yen. The trains depart fairly regularly.
From Kibune guchi station it is about a 30 minute walk up a steep hill - or you can catch the bus if you can get a seat!
Apologies, I have to confess I can't find any details for this Izakaya anywhere - mainly because I don't really know its name. The shop sign above features large Kanji (character) meaning Kaze (wind) which seems to be being nibbled on by a fish and I've looked up plenty of different versions of a possible name but so far no luck. (If any locals know what this place is called please let me know!)
However - all is well as it is really easy to find.
Just head to Kyoto's Hankyu Line's Omiya station (just west of the main city grid) which you can see on the right hand side of the pic above. (If you are downtown near the Shijo/Kawaramachi intersection you can easily locate the Hankyu station under the Takashimaya department store)
To the left of the Omiya station building you'll see the entrance to an alleyway - between it and the 711 - this is Omiya Dori/Street where you will find plenty of restaurants and bars - and the odd pachinko parlour.
This thin strip of Omiya dori is terribly atmospheric and worth a good wander - stop in wherever you like but the windy fish place was quite good fun once we got passed the gatekeeper grilling things on sticks in the window. He was clearly trying to discourage us by scowling in our general direction but it only made us want to go there even more!!
We walked up and back again a few times, gathering courage and taking in the surroundings
( oh, just for the record Nijo castle is very near the northern end of the Omiya dori so if you are visiting there late in the afternoon this is the perfect spot to come for a drink and early dinner)
Then eventually we just pushed our way through the door. The funny thing is that once he realised we could read and speak a bit of Japanese and that we were totally into our food he completely melted and became our best friend. This is not a completely uncommon story in Japan.
As you can see it was a pretty casual joint. The strips of paper on the wall? That's the menu.
As it was summer when we visited... well, first things first
Then came a range of small dishes ordered from the wall - super fresh raw prawns and their roe
then grilled bacon
Some excellent grilled wagyu with grated daikon and spring onions just in time for the first glass of sake
Apparently the bar at the back is where all the regulars hang out - they were having a grand ol' time
Next up yakitori
Then to our delight - the prawn heads and tails we'd left from the first raw course came back as crisp prawnie chips... deeelish. What a treat.
Then came some juicy Gyoza
A head of grilled garlic
Some squid tentacle tempura
And a vegetable and yuba gratin
And... strangely we couldn't fit another thing in
Don't forget - to look for this shopfront and sign above . It is a few minutes walk from the entrance of the alley way (Omiya dori) on your right hand side (ie eastern side of the alley). Once you return to the entrance point of of the alley you will see this building if you look to your right - Cote d'Azur is a Karaoke joint - go crazy!