Konnichiha from Kyoto

Trip Start Oct 03, 2011
Trip End Dec 25, 2011

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Where I stayed
IchiEnSou Guesthouse
What I did
Took in temples, manga and geisha haunts

Flag of Japan  , Kinki,
Sunday, October 16, 2011

An early start from Hiroshima (which felt especially early given Michael stayed up late in a Hiroshima Irish bar to watch Man U v Liverpool, with Amy staying up demolishing books) saw us heading back eastwards on the Shinkansen line. Before hitting Kyoto, we decided to spend a day in close by Nara, once Japan's capital. We stuffed both our bags in a SMALL locker in Kyoto station and set off.

Nara is pretty small but contains a fair few reminders of it's powerful past. A quick walk from the train station saw us wandering around octagonal temples, 5-story pagodas and other shrines. However, as with Miyajima, the place is packed with native deer hunting for food and/or paper. The best thing to come out of this is watching the tug of war that ensues while a girl wrestles with a deer clutching her map in it's mouth, or another tourist run away scared after trying to feed loads of deer and then running out of feed. Carefully avoiding the local wildlife, we saunter on to the next site: Daibutsu-den temple, which is the largest wooden building in the world and holds a huge (16m tall) bronze Buddha figure within. One of the pillars inside has a hole in it, known as Buddha's nostril. It's good luck for children to crawl through this hole - we join the queue and in a short while Amy receives a patter of applause for squeezing her way through. Michael decided not to try it for fear of getting stuck! A sunny Sunday afternoon ensues as we stroll around forested shrines, the highlight of which is hundreds of big stone lanterns lining paths surrounding one of the temples. On the way back to the train, we see a demonstration of how the gooey rice/bean based sweets we had in Asakusa are made. All you need is a big metal bowl, a couple of wooden hammers and some water. Whack repeatedly, occasionally screaming or wetting the mixture. Job done.

We arrive at our hostel and ask for recommendations for places to eat. Close by is a tempura place but on arriving it was shut. Luckily we had spotted an Indian flag flown by a restaurant nearby and pop in for a curry buffet, with cricket based banter thrown in by the waiter. The next day sees us hop on a bus to the north end of town to see the Golden Pavilion, which is aptly described by the name. Stunning. We then head over town to another large temple grounds which include a picturesque bridge and wooded walkway, in which it is said it is impossible to lie. With lunchtime fast approaching we set off to the Imperial Palace gardens with hopes of a stunning view to eat beside. We are greeted by a mammoth garden and an even more impressive wall surrounding the palace - ensuring not a glimpse was to be had. We console ourselves by noting the large number of guards with obviously nothing to do, which is topped off by a traffic warden dressed like an X-wing Star Wars pilot with matching light-saber similarly occupied. Next up was Kyoto's International Manga Museum, which to be honest is more like a library, but they do take their cartoons seriously. We both select tomes and sit engrossed for the rest of our visit.

Evening sees us try the tempura restaurant again; this time it is open (although obviously one for the locals). Having ordered the waiter comes back a few minutes later to Amy: "Blow fish OK?" Amy replies with "so long as it doesn't kill me!" which when relayed back to the chef didn't seem to impress him. To demonstrate his bravery Michael samples the battered fish too - so far so good on the poisoning front! Afterwards we take a walk around selected picturesque streets of Kyoto. We see a pretend Geisha (or as we are in Kyoto, a Geika) serving food in a restaurant but aren't too impressed. We read beforehand that real Geisha sightings are pretty rare really but take a walk down the best alley to see one nonetheless and much to our surprise see a couple strolling along into their respective tea houses. How's blow-fish and Geisha to top a typical Japanese day?!

Our last full day in Kyoto sees us on a mission to see as many temples as possible, the overall count (we guess) was 10. The first was well known for it's golden screen depicting the gods of thunder and wind, as well as housing the first ever tea-house in Japan, which Amy was thrilled to discover! Mmmmm tea. The following temples were huge and typically brilliant - the largest of which was holding a special service as we visited and was decked out in brightly coloured drapes and flags and filled with hundreds of worshipers, monks and TV cameras. 

To aid us with our ascent onward to the Silver Pavilion we help ourselves to an ice cream each: Amy cherry blossom (yum!); Michael sesame seed (yuck!). Now, let us get one thing straight: the Silver Pavilion IS rather lovely, DOES have impressive gravel designs and IS surrounded by one of the best gardens we have seen in Japan, but IT IS NOT SILVER! With that discovery behind us we walk back to the hostel along the Philosophers Walk which ambles along a sleepy river, calling in at another huge temple and gate structure next to a working brick viaduct. 

Our hostel by the way is run by an absolutely lovely Japanese couple and is tiny - 11 beds in total. We slept in the 7 bed mixed dorm which by this time is filled with other guests (including a couple of Brits, a German, an Aussie and Greek and Korean girls. Led by Yashi (who runs the hostel) our merry band set off into the night for Japanese cuisine and a few Sapporo's. While back at the hostel chatting, we learn a friend of the hostel is playing guitar on the street around the corner, so we speed off into the balmy Kyoto night to watch.

Early next morning we leave for Tokyo, behind us a fantastic city and fantastic people.

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Amutha Rasapalan on

Finally managing to catch up with your blog! 10 temples in one day has got to be some kind of record! Good going xxx

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