Monday, September 9, 2013

Around Japan: Kyoto.

The WorkCamp was over and it was time to start the real traveling part of the trip, so we took Sunday evening off to "charge batteries" -though actually, we did laundry, re-pack all of our stuff and got ready everything we needed for the trip instead- as we had to leave Tokyo early morning the next day and head off to Kyoto. 

We arrived in Kyoto after a couple of hours in the Shinkansen and went to the hotel to drop off our backpacks, then headed back out to meet up with Eric 
(our Spanish friend from the WorkCamp). We met at the Kitano Tenman-Gü Shrine and visited it together. It was weird listening to his full-on Spanish accent as we were used to listen to him speaking with his "Mexican accent" haha.

Kitano Tenman-Gü Shrine
Afterwards, we headed off to Kyoto Tower and went up for a view of Kyoto from the heights, it isn't very tall (131m) but it is the tallest structure in all of Kyoto and it was nice. When you reach 100 meters, you get to the Observatory deck and can get (with the help of several telescopes) a 360-degree view of the city. At this point I was a bit surprised as, for some reason, I was expecting Kyoto to be more of a small town rather than a regular-size city, so I really liked it as it has the charm of a small town but also the good things of a city -perfect combo!

Views from Kyoto Tower

Kyoto Tower by night
The night was falling and right after dinner, we went straight back to the place we were staying, which was a Ryokan, which is a type of Traditional Japanese Inn. It was quite nice I must say, though at the beginning I must admit I wasn't too excited about sleeping on a Tatami (Japanese floor) all over again, this time there was a futon though, so it wasn't really that bad, then I even got used to it.

Ryokan Kingyoya
Next day, we were supposed to meet Eric again but we had set up a very early time so we decided to re-schedule as we were still very tired from the whole workcamp and traveling from one place to another thing and we needed to sleep  a bit more. That day we went to visit Gion, the most famous Geisha district in Kyoto. I probably was expecting too much from it coz I didn't find it to be that amazing but well, I guess it's hard to meet a geisha if you're not a business man and are willing to spend lots of money in a tea ceremony/dinner. We only bumped into a few girls dressed in a Yukata just to hang out, which I learned is something Japanese girls do for fun. We visited the Yasaka Shrine along with the Maruyama Park which is really big and beautiful and we wanted to visit it since we saw it from Kyoto Tower the previous day.

Yasaka Shrine entrance
Yasaka Shrine
Maruyama Park

Japanese girls wearing Yukata in Gion

Right after that, we went to one of the most famous shrines in all of Japan, the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, which you might identify as the one with the "red" (they're actually orange) doors all-together. It actually ended up being my favorite temple/place in Kyoto and one of my top faves in all of Japan; I love architecture and the layout of this place is just fantastic and the bright color makes it all even better. After that, we went to have dinner at an Izakaya a friend of mine has recommended. He's French and usually has a good taste (I know because I'd liked a few things he'd previously recommended) but this time, he sort of failed. The place is called Izakaya Negiya (Negi=Onion) and I don't eat onion, in his defense, he didn't know that and he did say their specialty were onions, however, he failed to mention that was pretty much the ONLY thing in the menu. They had onion entrees, onion salad, onion side dishes and the main dishes were also onion-based -I guess you can imagine my disappointment. Anyway, the place was nice-looking but it was kind of empty; the staff was also nice though they took forever to bring the o̶n̶i̶o̶n̶s̶ food. After dinner, we stayed around Gion and hung out there for a while, it looked nicer by night than by day. We walked by the river and around the neighborhood, then, called it a day.

Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine
Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine
Izakaya Negiya
Nightwalk around Gion
The streets of Gion

 Next day, we went to the (in)famous Nijo Castle, which is the former Shogun residence and is supposed to be one of the must-see places in town, and it was just alright really; the architecture of the place was kind of boring and the inside wasn't much better; you could go in and walk around the whole Castle and see how the Shogun used to live, which seemed like an exciting idea, until I realized the castle was pretty much empty and all you could see were paintings on the wall (mostly similar between each other) and a couple of rooms with actual-size figures representing how the Shogun met the men from his (sort of?) court and another one with his maids and mistresses. Other than that, I wasn't that impressed. The Gardens are big and you can also walk around them.

Nijo Castle

After Nijo Castle, we went back to Gion, yes, for the 3rd time but not because we loved it that much (I already said I didn't) but because we needed to go there in order to get to Daibutsu (Giant Buddha): Ryozen Kannon, which is a concrete statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, oddly enough, a Buddha I loved since I first learned about it in an exhibit about Buddha (and all its representations) back in Mexico City years ago; and well, it is in a hill. So, up the hill we went, with 34 (Celsius) degrees and a million percentage of humidity -it was a lot of fun going up! lol Once there, well, we even went up and higher to see a sort of cemmetery thing, good news is once you get all the way up there, you get a really nice view of Kyoto and the day was clear so it was worth it. Then, we had to hurry back down as we did have to meet Eric that day, he was leaving and we wanted to say goodbye to him as we might not meet in a while. We arrived a tad late to our meeting but he was nice enough to wait for us. We went to have lunch before his train departed. We had a really nice talk and, as usual, it was good fun.

Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara
Panoramic view from Daibutsu Ryozen Kannon

And well, after a couple of hours trapped in a laundromat due to rain, we were done with Kyoto and ready for our next destination: Osaka! So, to sum it all up, I LOVED Kyoto and I am sure I will definitely go back as there are a few things left I need to do/see.

About to rain in Kyoto

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