Kyoto - City without Accommodation
Trip Start Mar 15, 2008
30Trip End Oct 02, 2009
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The problem is, Kyoto is just soooo popular, that there's pretty much no accommodation available. When we were there, the tourist information centre had a sign up saying all accommodation in Kyoto for Saturdays in the month of April are booked up. So the story of Kyoto begins.
Due to the supposed brilliance of the city, we arrived expecting to spend about 4 - 5 days of our 14 in Japan in Kyoto. The first day we arrived, we'd stupidly (in retrospect) not booked any accommodation
So, our first day in Kyoto was spent trying to find accommodation, getting really frustrated that we couldn't find any for the next three or four days, and then spending more time looking for accommodation somewhere else. We learnt an important lesson at least: in Japan, book ahead, which we did for the rest of our trip.
That being said, we couldn't, with reasonable searching, find any place to stay in Kyoto at any point in our time in Japan, so we had to stay in Osaka and catch the train to Kyoto, which, on a good day is about a 45-minute journey. So we did get to Kyoto, but only for 1 full day in the end, due to the difficulties and time lost
The full day we spent in Kyoto, as tourists anyway, it was raining. Freakin' typical. It was the first time since we left Adelaide that it had rained during the day. Plus we'd forgotten to bring our rain jackets!! So we hung around the train station, which, I might add, is the most impressive train station I've ever been in. Bigger than some International Airports and with impressive glass/metal architecture, it was a sight in itself. And it was at the station we found our first exciting thing to see in Kyoto.
It was an Astro Boy exhibition! For those of you who don't remember, Astro Boy was a famous Japanese cartoon from our childhood, which involved a robot boy who saved people from evil things, as those sorts of cartoons generally go. The exhibition involved a screening of the first episode of the Astro Boy cartoon (in Japanese, but still cool) and a visit to an Astro Boy shop. It was a great trip down memory lane and we indulged as well, since we were so excited by the nostalgic find: I bought a T-shirt and comic, Leah bought a jacket.
After that we braved the rain and caught a bus out to the Higashiyama region. We wandered in the light but persistent rain for a while, but eventually decided to buy some umbrellas from a stall
Finally we arrived, a little damp, at the temple we'd been seeking. As with other temples we'd seen, this one had a very large, impressive entry gate - in ancient Japan they didn't do things by halves. We arrived at the temple too late to enter for any significant time, so we wandered the grounds, which offered some impressive sights. One sight in particular was a long row of red brick aqueducts that looked very similar to those famous aqueducts that run through the city of Rome, an example of ancient Roman architecture and technology. (I hope I'm getting my history right here.) We were able to climb to the top of the aqueducts and see the rainwater running down through the top, a good example of early water management systems.
We left the beautiful temple and made our way to the Gion district. The Gion district of Kyoto is where the nightlife of the city gathers - a bit like Rundle Street in Adelaide actually. On a good day you might find an authentic Geisha girl walking the streets here, but, as our luck in Kyoto had it, we only saw everyday people with umbrellas.
We sought out and found a place that had been recommended to us as the best in the city for dumplings. The dumplings were indeed delicious, crispy and savoury in the warm, local bar setting. We also tried something we'd both been aiming to try as a part of our Japanese culture binge: Sake
After the dumplings we enjoyed perhaps the best meal we'd had in Japan: ramen noodles with pork and sides of deliciously golden fried chicken, which we ate at a quiet little restaurant down an unassuming side street. After dinner and after strolling the wet Gion district, it was getting late and we had to catch a train back to Osaka.
Our time in Kyoto had been filled with frustrations and let downs, but also pleasant cultural surprises. Perhaps, next time, with a bit of pre planning and forethought, we might be able to unlock more of the joys of this still mysteriously famous city.