Kyoto - Cultural Capital

Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
Trip End Mar 28, 2010

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Flag of Japan  , Kinki,
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Previously to visiting, my only conception of the city was that it was a place for negotiation.  Kyoto Protocol, anyone?  But the city is so much more than that.

For one interested in the background of the country, Kyoto is the former capital (much like Xian was for China).  It is filled with Buddhist temples and old architecture.  It was here that I got my fill to see all that was offered from that time period.  At the same time, it is a thriving city which has just as many shopping selections as other major cities.

Only having an afternoon (arriving around lunch), I made the most of it:
- Observatory deck from main station - I don't really recommend this unless the weather nice.  It was somewhat of a cloudy day and to add to it, the windows were shaded.  Needless to say, I did not take any photos from it.
- Rather than going to the famous golden temple which was about 45 min outside the city, I went to two other place closeby.
1) Inari Shrine - Being ignorant again, I did not realize that this was located near Kyoto (2 stops from the main station).  Thankfully the guy from the hostel was able to recommend this.  It is fascinating because it is built on a hill and has tons (literally) of red gates which are donated by devout Buddhists and erected throughout the paths of the place.  One artist supposedly did a controversial take on this in NYC's Central Park.
2) Kiyomizu-dera temple - It was aptly UNESO-branded and gives an excellent view of the city.  Getting there is somewhat of a hike but it was worth it.  One thing I didn't enjoy was how the streets throughout the path there were highly commercialized.  What could have been a peaceful walk was every kind of cultural souvenirs possible.  I was so turned off and eventually purchased candies for my coworkers just to have peace.  
- Shimbasi - Deemed as likely the most beautiful street in Asia by Lonely Planet, I had my hopes quite high.  But winter time did not allow for the cherry blossoms to bloom and while it was still nice, I didn't spent a whole lot of time here.  I'm sure eating at one of the restaurants would have broke my bank.
- Nishiki Market and surrounding area - The market had a seemingly endless amount of Japanese traditional foods.  From sushi, to fish to dried seaweed and all kinds of pastries.  Nearby, there were lots of markets to buy clothes and other items.  From there to the main street began the contemporary department stores.

I can understand why people want to take their time with this city.  Amazingly, I felt like I had completed my mission there (all in half of a day).  Had I spread out the activities, I'm sure they would have been even more enjoyable.  My feet survived what felt like 30 km of walking... I wish I had a step counter.  Definitely a worthwhile stop.
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