Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Historic Kyoto Day 2 & 3

Our second day in Kyoto we  were able to take one of the sightseeing bus routes so we got an all day pass for 500 Yen. Kinkaku-ji (the golden pavilion) was our first stop. We were lucky enough to run into a foreign language class that gives tours to foreigners every Saturday for free (in English). While it wasn't the most comprehensive tour, we learned more from them than we would have just wandering around by ourselves. Seriously, where are all the signs? As I've said this was one of my favorite sights. It was a bright sunny morning so the pavilion looked particularly beautiful. I only wish we had been able to peek inside. From there we walked to Ryoan-ji, it was maybe a 20 minute walk. Luck struck again for there was another student giving tours. The temple itself was pretty barren but you go to this one for the zen gardens. Walking the grounds was pleasant, and the only problem with having a tour guide is that I didn't feel free to wander.

          Ryoan-ji Zen Garden

We walked back towards Kinkaku-ji and the bus, stopping along the way for some fantastic ramen. Then we hopped back on the bus, hopped off when we heard something that interested us and thus made our way to Nijo-ji. The castle was one of the biggest sights we saw during our time in Japan. The grounds were sprawling, though the gardens weren't as impressive as some of the temples. It was cool to see the different way business of state was conducted and housed though. I wish I had done more research prior to our trip though. I didn't notice till it was too late but you can get an English audio guide at Nijo.

View from a lookout tower

Our third day involved quite a bit of walking. We started the morning off at Ginkaku-ji (the Silver Pavilion) and then wandered down the philosophers path stopping at little temples and shrines along the way, before ending the day at Nanzen-ji.

Ginkaku-ji was another one of my favorites. The zen gardens were so tranquil and beautiful. I loved how the ground was covered in moss. The philosophers path itself wasn't looking its best since the trees didn't have any leaves but there were so many cute cafes, shops and houses along the way to make up for it. Right after leaving Ginkaki-ji we stumbled upon a vintage shop (I'm pretty sure it was the first shop we saw on the left hand side of the path) where I bought a Kimono for approximately $20 and Drew got a nice tapestry. We came across Honen-in and a mystery shrine further down the path. Honen-in is tiny but worth the look.

Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) and Zen Garden

Honen-in Zen Garden

By the time we got to Nanzen-ji we were pretty hungry, I would suggest stopping at one of the cafes along the path, (We found there were fewer after Honen-in) so we rushed through it a bit. We had seen enough temples and castles at this point that they all started to look the same so we didn't bother paying to go in and see the few open rooms and gardens. What I liked the most about Nanzen was the old brick aquaduct, mostly because it made for some cool pictures. 

Nanzen-ji aqueduct 

Kyoto is definitely a must see on your trip to Japan, but make sure you have a variety of activities planned so that you can appreciate each temple and castle individually. And eat all the ramen! 

Please contact me if you have any specific questions or Kyoto travel tips of your own. 


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