The former capital of Japan… but in fact nowadays the place where you can still see REAL Japan. This city was one of the few who had not been bombed to ashes during 2nd world war – what a wonder because this city boasts with old wooden buildings, colourful shrines, temples, sublime gardens and beautiful kimonos. Hard to believe that Kyoto counts 17 UNESCO world heritage sites, 1600 temples and 400 shrines… to be honest i wonder where they are hiding them all, we only saw maybe 20 shrines, 10 temples and 5 gardens or so. You start to lose track as you move along.
Kyoto worked excellent for us as it was much smaller than Tokyo and our hotel was on the top of the train station which is a comment thing in Japan. This makes travelling a lot easier and hey every taxi driver knows where the station is even if you haven’t written down any address!
The first day we did a walking tour around Gion ticking off some of the most important sites of that area including Kyyomizu-dera (no nothing about deers – they come in Nara) it is the temple you must see in Kyoto if you only have time for one – unfortunately the main building was under construction, so cannot really confirm this statement of LP and doesn’t count for autumn 2014…. However from its terrace you do have a great view over the city.
The other 8 bullet points in the walking tour i cannot really remember and yes there were more temples, more incenses that got burned by us and more shrines we walked through and more whishes got written on these wooden plates for a long healthy and happy life.
The nice thing though in Kyoto was the tradition of the Japanese clothing. We saw many Japanese in Kimono’s visiting these sights… even some western people were walking around in them. You could even rent one for about USD 30.00 for a day.
They had all kind of colours and different patterns in a way you think this would never match but in itself it was almost like a painting. Flowers mixed with geometric patterns, very traditional with cherry blossoms or orchids, anything is possible and they all have something in common they make women beautiful. You could call it the Japanese answer to our dirndls ha ha.
Day 2: we rented bikes to a) be able to move faster among the different sights that were spread all across the city b) have some fun with driving on the left side. Interestingly the most difficult part was to find the bike rental shop after we got off the subway. Once there all became gradually easier as the roads of this city are like a grid pattern (apparently based on a GO board) which makes it fairly easy to navigate even if half of the streets have no name signs.
So off we went to discover more of Kyoto’s treasures such as the Nanzen-ji. A Zen temple with the classic dry gardens, where they make patterns in the gravel, build cones from sand and even this one had a small pond all carefully fitted together like one big painting. As you can see in the ‘gardening pic’ – there is not much about meditating when actually making it…
The next one was Kinkaku-ji, the temple with its facade covered all in gold – luckily it wasn’t a sunny day as i think one would have been blinded by the sheer light – vanity! The temple is situated in a beautifully maintained garden combining trees and a little lake in which the golden temple was shimmering.
We started to run out of time and the weather was threatening… so we turned back and went for a pitstop in the all-time safe place: starbucks ha ha – sometimes a true relief as you don’t have to think ‘what may they have’… always clear case and it tastes always almost the same – not the best in the world but very relaxing – as predictable – for sure.
Day 3: visit of the Imperial Palace which was formerly the home of the emperor once Kyoto was still the capital. Admission is free but you have to apply for it in person and with the passport the day before. Unbelievable that we actually managed to arrange this as we are normally the ones who don’t foresee these kind of implications..
Thus we enjoyed a very good tour around the different buildings, gates and rooms in order to get a hint of an idea how life must have been when the emperor, his family and their entourage lived there.
After the tour we quickly grabbed a taxi and drove across the town to go and see the Tenryu-ji temple (the garden pics… camera refused to accept more temple pics ;-)) and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove which nearly didn’t fit anymore into the time frame. Luckily we managed as the Bamboo Grove is one of the most photographed and peculiar sights of Kyoto. However if you manage to take a picture without anybody else int it you were really lucky. But it was quite impressive to stand in the middle of this sprawling bamboo ‘forest’.
Kyoto definitely a must if you go to Japan – plan enough time for this gem of a city!