Non-Fiction

My Trip to Japan | Day 8, Pizza Buns and Gyoza

Previously: I walked around and enjoyed Fushimi Inari shrine.

After I bought my charms, I felt I had gotten my fill of Fushimi Inari. I had other places I wanted to check out and it was noon. Just before leaving the souvenir area, I grabbed another photo of some torii gates with no people in a – truly an irregularity.

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Trust me, it wasn’t easy getting no one in this shot

With the map from the J-Cycle and a quick google, my next destination was Yasaka shrine. It looked intriguing and it was near the Gion area; where the Geishas worked.

I got back on my bike and the weather was in my favour for the next hour – no rain and even some sun. Just before I left, however, I stopped at nearby 7/11 and grabbed a pizza bun to satiate my hunger.

Jessica had exposed me to the beauty of pizza-buns on our onsen trip. They’re exactly what they sound like – a steamed dumping bun, but inside is pizza sauce and pepperoni instead of beef or red bean paste. They hit that pizza craving so good and are the perfect on-the-go snack.

pizza bun
My mouth is watering looking at this photo. They were so good :’)

It wouldn’t be my lunch, however. I told myself I’d find somewhere to eat around Yasaka shrine.

Maps, once again, took me though the non-tourist areas. Just normal, everyday life. I went by a hospital, a shopping street, and some fancy looking government buildings.

The path I was on, that was sometimes a sidewalk sometimes the side of the road, wasn’t forgiving in width. I frequently took up all the space with my bike and had to awkwardly accommodate people coming the other direction. Passing by another bike was the worst.

I was enjoying my time, but I was antsy. There are weird bike laws in Kyoto; one included specific “no biking” areas. Every time I was sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians, I kept wondering if I was allowed to be there. If I passed by an officer, would I get some sort of ticket? But if biked on the road, I might’ve gotten hit by a car! There wasn’t exactly a lot of room…

I’m very grateful I didn’t get into any trouble. #GaijinSmash

It was around 1:00PM by the time I made it to the Yasaka shrine neighbourhood. I came at it from the South (the side of the shrine), thinking I could find a proper bike parking lane – but no luck. I tried from the front, but that was worse. Pedestrians were everywhere because it was a bus stop, (I’m guessing) school had just let out for lunch, and students were crowding the streets. It didn’t help that it was raining again and breaking was risky-business because I would slide when I did.

I tried approaching from the other side of Yasaka shrine, following a side-road that I thought would lead to parking. Halfway up the path, however, I turned around, unconvinced I was supposed to be there.

By then, my stomach was growling. My small breakfast and small pizza-bun snack couldn’t compete against the energy output of all that biking. I needed a serious, sit-down meal.

I wanted a restaurant with a quick turnaround. There were several “No Bike Parking” signs in the area, so didn’t want to stick around too long. By luck, I had passed by a such a place that had a few other bikes locked up near a telephone pole. I took that as a good sign – if they were risking it, so could I.

I was further convinced by the shop’s signage – a deal for Gyoza, 10 pieces for some reasonable price.

I walked in and took an seat at the bar. I was then promptly shooed out of said seat.

See, I was not privy to this style of Japanese restaurant. It was like a ramen stall, where the food is made right in front of you and you’re in-and-out in 15 minutes. Except, this was inside and it was apparently the lunch rush. There was a line ahead of me, somewhat disguised by it’s awkward placement away from the door. A group of six (big for a place like this) was waiting to be seated together. Not easy since this place usually hosted couples or solo diners. A few people went ahead of this group, but I wasn’t so lucky.

After a reasonable time, I was seated; one spot over from my first try. I was next to a love-dovey (well, as lovey-dovey as they get in Japan) couple, so I focused on keeping my space and not looking at them. Although there were no English menus, it was easy enough to decipher and I already knew what I wanted – that special with the 10 piece gyoza.

But I was against my newly developed fear – calling out the waitress in a crowded restaurant.

As I’ve said in early posts, I was sick with a sore throat, so my voice was cracked. I also can’t speak Japanese and I had no confidence in saying “Sumimasen!” with all those people around.

I used my go-to move: catching the waitress’s eye with my index finger up, as if saying ‘one please!’ … it took a few tries.

Lord above that lunch was a trial on my psyche.

I ordered the special and took a few snaps of the kitchen. I was tense (everything I just described plus all the bike parking nonsense) but I liked the atmosphere of the place. It was busy, but efficient. Tight, but not crowded.

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I get served and the food was beautiful. I foolishly only took a picture via Snapchat and not my phone camera. Damn that was good gyoza.

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Example gyoza, not my pic.

I left about 15-minutes later. I almost forgot my change purse which held a good sum of money because it fell on the floor. Thankfully, I noticed just before I paid my bill. Also thankfully, my bike was still outside.

Stomach full, I was back to touring. It was 1:30PM and I had one last intended stop before returning the bike – the Imperial Palace.

Next time: Biking around the Imperial Palace of Kyoto

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