After 4 amazing days in Tokyo it was off to Kyoto, and out first trip on a Shinkansen bullet train. This was easily the best and fastest train journey we have ever had. I’m not a natural train spotter, but Japan has some amazing trains and train journeys and we could easily do a blog about that (and maybe we will).
When we arrived in Kyoto we had arranged to be collected and taken to our guest house, unfortunately Kyoto station is so massive and sprawling that we got lost, eventually finding our lift 30 minutes late (he had gone back to the guest house, as we had been so late and come back again). We had a longer drive than we thought from the station, into the suburbs, and the last part of the journey was up quite a steep hill, we did wonder if we were too far out.
We got settled, found out the bus we needed to get into town and set off on our way. The first bus journey was a bit of an ordeal, Japanes buses are excellent, but you dont pay when you get on, rather when you get off, and you have to have the exact fare, which I put into the change machine so my 100 Yen was changed into ten 10s, which I then had to pay into the machine whilst a queue to get off was gathering behind me – ho hum. Once you get used to the system it actually works quite well and you never make those mistakes again.
It was dark when we got into town, so we wandered around the Gion district, before heading back to our very comfortable room for a nights sleep, one thing to note here is that the toilet and shower room were out on the balcony so if you needed the loo in the night, you were going to get cold!
The next day we went sight seeing, there are so many temples and sights to see in Kyoto that you cannot possibly do them all in the time we had, so we had to be selective. We decided to go to the Zen garden at the Ryoanji temple, a beautiful spot, but 2 buses away (not a problem this time), this is a famous very minimalist garden, we spent a couple of unrushed hours here soaking up the Zen-ness of it all, a busy place, but very peaceful.
After that, it was on to the big site of the day, the Kinkauji temple (or Golden temple), this really is an amazing place, we weren’t the only people to think that, thousands of other people thought it too. It was mobbed, but it is easy to see why, the temple and the gardens are beautiful and really should not be missed if you are in Kyoto, also the vending machines sell squeezy ice cream, possibly my highlight of the trip so far!
We took a couple of trips out on the train from Kyoto, but we will cover those on another blog, but on our last day we had an early morning, 2 bus ride journey on a fairly grey day to the Ginkaku-Ji Temple (or Silver Temple), it was not so silver as you would expect, but it was a magnificent temple set in beautiful gardens, getting in early was well worth while as the coach loads starting coming in as we were leaving and we had a relatively quiet walk around.
We then went to the near by Philosophers walk, a beautiful walk by a stream. This is particularly famous for its display of cherry blossom in the spring, when the crowds of tourists are massive, fortunately we didn’t see many people at all so were able to enjoy the solitude and ponder the bigger things in life, like what would we have for lunch, would we know what we were eating even when we were eating it, and was it too early for a beer? Big questions for difficult times!
Lifes bigger questions answered we went to a nearby park where a flea market was being held, we didn’t see any fleas (too small I guess), but this being Japan we did see some odd things, a troupe of Hawain dancers performing in the cold, and 2 teenage girls performing pop numbers (not really our taste, but I don’t think we were the core demographic).
After being thoroughly entertained, it was back to Kyoto central for some street food from Nishiki Ichiba food market, a couple of fish fritters, a corn dog (just dont!) and steamed buns, and no, we weren’t exactly sure what we were ordering, we just pointed. We went on to the OiOi department store for a coffee on the 6th floor to watch the world go by and get my fix of caffeine. We finished in the town at Pontocho alley one of oldest streets in Kyoto, by the river and the centre for Geishas in kyoto. Unfortunately real Geishas are rarer than tigers, we didnt see one.
We had 5 nights in Kyoto, our longest stop so far, and we were really lucky with our guest house (Hennka), because our landlady was a delight, and being in the burbs we got to see a bit of normal Japan (plus it was relatively cheap for Japan). It’s an amazing city,there are temples on every corner so it’s a perfect mix of old and new. We loved it and are loving Japan (I think I’m turning Japanese – I really think so!)