Saturday, January 31, 2015

Historic Kyoto Day 1

My brother and I spent 3 1/2 days in Kyoto and were quite exhausted by the end of it. We saw a lot of amazing temples and shrines and ate the most amazing ramen on the planet but as you can imagine all this involved a lot of walking. A little side note, if you plan on hitting Tokyo and Kyoto on your future trip to Japan, do Tokyo first. We were so exhausted and templed out by the time we got to Tokyo that we didn't see as many sights as we could have had we done it first. But I digress, on to the pictures and travel tips.

Day 1:
Quite by surprise, we had run into a fellow Busan EPIK teacher at our hostel the first night we were there. Friday was her last full day and she hadn't done Fushimi Inari yet so she tagged along with us in the morning. As you know from my last post, this was one of my favorite sites. Perhaps because it had just rained, or that we had most of the hike to ourselves, the whole place had an almost mystical quality about it. I took a billion pictures here. There were so many little shrines scattered along the path and of course more than 1,000 gates to take pictures of.

Strings of brightly colored paper cranes hung along a wall before a small temple

One of the many smaller shrines we found along the way

After Fushimi Inari we split up, Drew (my brother) and I headed to Gion, the historic geisha district to explore some nearby shrines, temples and markets. We started just west of Gion at the Nishiki Market. It was a huge covered bazar full of clothing shops, cafes and fresh produce. Except for one curiously hemp hippy store we avoided the shops and spent our time pursuing the fresh produce. There was of course a lot of sea food and green tea shops. 

Tiny octopi make me sad

While wandering around Gion we saw the Yasaka shrine, Kodai-ji and Kiyomizu-dera. While at Yasaka we encountered a wonderful gentleman who had taken it upon himself to take pictures for all us poor folk without selfie sticks. I think the pictures he took are the only ones I have of Drew and I for the entire trip. Kiyomizu-dera was probably the most impressive of the three and the walk up was spectacular in and of itself with all the people strolling around in their rented kimonos and the delicious smelling pastry shops. That's right, I said rented kimonos. There were shops all around Gion were you could rent a kimono to walk around in for the day. I am not really sure as to the purpose except that it makes you look cooler in your selfies? Anyways part of the temple was under construction so it could have been more impressive but it did offer some spectacular views of the city. 

I love when the light breaks through the clouds like that!

I will break down Day 2 and 3 in the next post. Before I go I will give some quick travel tips. One K's House was one of the nicest hostels I have ever stayed in and is situation in an ideal location. Two, if you are not a fan of walking a lot I would suggest taking advantage of K's bike rentals. While Kyoto does have a subway, train and bus system, many of these shrine and temples are not situated directly on a route and many times it makes more sense to walk between them then hop on a train for one stop. Be proactive and plan to do things in geographical clumps and check out the bus routes (especially the 3 sightseeing express routes) to see if it makes sense to get a 500 Yen bus pass for the day. Third and finally, eat at this ramen restaurant! It was recommended to us by the staff at K's house and we went there twice while in Kyoto because it was just that amazing. 

I will try to think of more advice for the next post. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions about how we got to a sight, what I would or wouldn't do again, please feel free to leave a comment.


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