Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Day in Kyoto

Over Memorial weekend we decided to take a trip up to mainland Japan to explore the cities of Osaka and Kyoto. We only had a couple of days, so we tried to cram in as much as possible into the time we had. I had a completely wonderful time and I think we got a good taste of what each city had to offer.

Osaka is Japans third largest city, and an economic powerhouse making it the 7th largest metropolitan economy in the world. Kyoto used to be the imperial capital of Japan, escaped being bombed in WWII leaving the city mostly intact and therefore is one of the best preserved cities in Japan.

We stayed in Osaka at the Hotel Unizo, but flew into Kobe Airport, so after our plane ride we had to take the Port Liner train to the JR Sannomiya station, then take the JR train to Osaka and then take the Osaka Subway to the stop near the hotel. It was a lot, but fortunately between the both of us we were able to follow signs, purchase tickets and get on the right train at each station. The hotel was very nice and in a convenient location. Our airfare and hotel came as a package deal, so we didn't pick out the hotel, but I'm glad it worked out. Our room was extremely small, but had everything we needed. Leave it to the Japanese to be creative at conserving space.

We got up the next morning and went down to the hotel's cafe for breakfast before heading out to Kyoto. The staff did not speak English, so we weren't exactly sure what we were ordering, but it turned out to be toast, a hard boiled egg, yogurt with fruit and salad. So healthy of the Japanese to have salad with breakfast!

So, then we got back on the subway and took it to the JR Osaka Station and rode the train up to Kyoto.

When we got out of the train I was amazed at Kyoto Station. Kyoto Station is Japan's 2nd largest train station, one of the countries largest buildings and has a mall, movie theatre, lots of restaurants, a hotel and a great view of the Kyoto Tower. We roamed around the building for a while, had lunch and enjoyed the interesting architecture.

From there we hopped on the subway to Kitaoji Station. When we got off the subway we accidentally went the exact opposite direction from were we were trying to go. But, it was worth it because we got to enjoy this pretty river park area.

We then headed West towards Daitokuji Temple. As the link will tell you, the temple complex is "the head temple of the Daitokuji school of Rinzai, a sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism." It was founded in 1319 and is thought to be located on a sacred mountain. It was a beautiful, quiet and serene spot. I did feel more Zen from just being there.

From there we walked North to another temple, we had thought it was Daisen-in, but now googling it I've discovered it's not the correct name. We happened to see this one on the way to the next temple and of course went in to check it out. It was a vibrant, busy temple and I'm glad we went in. There was a big rock that a group of ladies were patting and then lifting, one of those times I wished I could read Japanese to see what this rock could do for me. :o)

From there we went to Kinkakuji Temple, or the Golden Palace, a must see if you go to Kyoto. This beautiful Zen temple is on a pond where purple Iris's were blooming. We went in and imediatly went for the soft serve ice cream stand, as we had been walking for a good while at that point. We bought our tickets and followed the path around to view the temple (you can't go inside), the path took us around to to see the gardens, waterfalls and areas where you can toss coins into bowls around statues for good luck. We passed by the Sekkatei Teahouse where you can have tea and sweets for 500 yen. At Fudo Hall I paid 100 yen for an oracle/fortune and I am happy to report that my fortune was "excellent" and told me I'm succeeding in life, to be faithful, to believe in love and to "walk, don't run. Take your time." I got to keep my fortune, if it wasn't excellent I would of had to tie it to the strings with the other less than excellent fortunes.

From there we made the extravagant decision to grab a cab instead of walking all the way back to the subway, but since we were pressed for time we wanted to get onto the next thing. We wanted to go to Nijojo Castle, but our cab driver told us it was already closed for the day. So, we went to the Imperial Palace area instead and while we couldn't go in, we had a great time strolling the beautiful grounds, park and found the southern most garden bridge. Couples were walking hand in hand, kids and dogs were playing in the grass and families were spread out on blankets under the trees.

We got on the subway again and went from Marutamachi Station to Higashiyama Station to Gion. Gion is a famous Geisha district and I was hoping we'd spot one, but we didn't. We did however visit the Yasaka Jinja Shrine.

We walked up Shijo Dori shopping road to the Minamiza Kubuki Theatre and had dinner across the street. We sat in the front window hoping a Geisha would walk by any moment. We didn't see one, but we did do some fun people watching.

By the time we were done with dinner it was dark and I wanted to try and see some temples all lit up at night. We walked through the Yasaka Jinja Shrine again to get to Maruyama Koen, but were happy to find a Shisa dance going on. It was a fun surprise!

We walked to Kodaiji Temple that I thought were giving night tours, but the monks were closing up when we got there unfortunately. I was bummed we couldn't go into the complex because over the wall I could see a giant Buddhist statue. I tried to get a picture of it, but I was too far away and it was too dark. From the high vantage point we could also see Yasaka Pagota, Kiyomizudera Temple and the Kyoto Tower.

We headed back to Kyoto Station, but before heading home we wanted to go up in the Kyoto Tower to see the city lit up at night. Well, the tower stopped selling tickets at 8:40 pm, so we couldn't go up. At that point we were ready to go back to our hotel in Osaka, we were tired and had aching feet, but it was a wonderful, jam packed day!

Stay tuned for our adventures in Osaka!

1 comment:

Mary said...

The shisa dog dance was fantastic! What good luck.

And very smart of you not to pick up that rock before you found out what it did. You might have ended up preggers or something. :D