Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kyoto - {my newest favorite city}

The astonishing number of temples, shrines, and palaces that adorn the city make Kyoto's architecture its most famous feature abroad. Japan's capital for more than 1,000 years, Kyoto was the center not only for politics, but religion, philosophy, art, culture, and cuisine. Every one of Japan's refined cultural arts blossomed from seeds that were planted here, including the tea ceremony, Kabuki theater, Zen, and Tantric Buddhism.  - Fodor's JAPAN
Wednesday the 10th we ventured into Kyoto for the day to explore and sight see. Our neighbor Vinny had his girlfriend, Missy, visiting for ten days. They went into Kyoto a few days before to explore together but didn't get to see all that they she wanted while they were there. Since the boys still had to work we decided to go together. We took the train over which took roughly one hour. Despite hitting rush hour on the train it was an easy route to follow. Since she had already been she knew exactly where to go get our all day bus pass, maps, and where to catch a bus. It was perfect for her to show me the ropes so if I have a day and I want to go back I know exactly what to do. And I definitely plan on going back when my parents come in LESS than three weeks!
So back to sightseeing. I didn't do any research prior to our visit. I knew that there were a few places and things she wanted to see and I was more or less along for the ride. The map they give out is very detailed, borderline confusing, but we managed to find our way and we didn't care if we did get lost.
Our first stop was Kiyomizu Temple. We walked up the streets and at first we thought this was it. Until we quickly realized it wasn't. This is the Yasaka Pagoda. Maybe the lack of tourists was the first clue, but anyway we marched on and enjoyed the scenery along the way.
Brandon and I had a discussion if there were Japanese classic cars the day before and then I saw this. Turns out there are.
We walked the winding cobble-stone street lined with tea shops and vendors it was AMAZING.
We made it to the Kiyomizu Temple and so did thousands of other people! It was packed with tourists. And then we took pictures, lots and lots of pictures. Photography is a hobby for Missy so I am really excited to see how some of her photos turned out. I don't know much history about this temple except that many young people visit the shrine to seek help in finding their life partners. There is also a waterfall we passed with lines of people waiting for a drink. I later found if you drink from the waterfall, it supposedly helps with health, longevity, and academic success. We skipped the drinking of the water due to the long lines, but now that I know its effects and importance I will make my way back to have a sip. Can't hurt right?


Standing on the huge veranda jutting out over the valley with gorgeous views of the city.

I am not sure the name of this colorful pagoda and I tried looking online and on the map without any luck. But it was funky, orange, and very photogenic.
As we ascended back down the winding streets we visited several adorable pottery shops and gift stores. We may have also go busted for trying to take a picture of a Green Tea KitKat. They can be very strict about picture taking. Our mistake, just two Americans intrigued that they can make green tea anything here. We then searched for a little while to find the next bus to take us to our next destination and ended up walking pretty much the entire way. Missy also spotted three geisha girls, which at the time I had NO clue what that mean, but after getting home I quickly did some research and watched Memoirs of a Geisha in no time flat. Go, watch it now if you haven't. I am obsessed with the history and culture of the wonderful city of Kyoto and eager to go back.
We weren't finished. We found a huge market with fresh fish, food vendors, flower shops, craft shops, and my favorite candy store in all of Japan. It had the most elegant and adorable presentation for candy I've ever seen. I also loved the gorgeous fabric that a few of the shops carried.
From there we had a few more temples to check out before we headed back to Kobe and finding a bus that was headed that direction that wasn't full was quite a challenge. Once we did it seemed like it took forever to get across town. Some of us, Missy, even fell asleep on the bus ride (it's okay we can blame it on the jet lag). After the somewhat difficult task of making our way across town it was well worth it when we arrived at the Kinkakuji Temple, also know as the Golden Pavilion.

Gorgeous isn't it?  It is actually gold, although it appears yellow. The temple was reconstructed in 1950s after a monk set fire to the standing structure that was built in 1393. I didn't know, but there is a novel about this temple called, Temple of the Golden Pavilion. I added that cause I know my grandparents are reading this, Hi Grandma and Grandpa, and maybe they need a new book recommendation. Let me know if it is worth reading after you finish. :)
From there we planned to walk to our final site of the day, the Ninni-ja Temple, until we realized it was going to be more of an uphill hike than a walk. We waited for a bus, the wrong ones came and went, for a while, until we called it quits and headed back to the train station. We covered a lot of ground in one day, so we weren't too disappointed on missing out and I think our bodies thanked us for giving in.
On my next trip my plan is to first go to the Fushimi Inari Shrine. A scene from Memoirs of a Geisha takes place here in the midst of 10,000 tori gates. There are so many other shrines, temples, and gardens to visit, that I hope before October I can make it to them all.
Kyoto was what I imagined when I thought of Japan before we moved here. This day trip was so good for me and gave me the itch to continue to visit and discover much more of Japan. Although we are residents for the next few months, it felt good to sling a camera around my neck and go be a tourist for the day.
Thank you Missy for showing me the way and opening my eyes
to embrace this adventure here in Japan!  

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