A delightful friend of mine, currently visiting the Osaka region, has inspired me to do a little post about Kyoto.
Kyoto is an amazing place to visit. There are so many cultural sites that are so easy to get to. The place feels like what you imagine Japan is like.
Since we went during the new year holiday, we saw a lot of people wearing traditional attire to visit the temples which just compounded this JAPAN vibe you get from the place.
I don't have any stories in particular from this adventure; it was all great.
The first night we stayed at a hotel I highly recommend. Try it. Really.
Have you ever seen the movie, the Island with Ewen McGreggor? Spoilers. It's that clone one and they all wear white close and everything is fancy pants? Well, that's what this hotel felt like.
This place is everything you imagine a capsule hotel to be and more.
How do I explain it? ...It feels like the future. It feels like you're about to sleep in the future.
Everything is white, chic and clean. Even you.
When you get there, they give you a uniform. Everybody matches and the floors are divided by gender. The bathroom is also white as light with icon signs instructing you about all the things. The showers have a back door that leads to a large bath. I was too shy to use it, but now I'd probably give it a shot.
The other place we stayed was a great hostel. They had a really welcoming common room and a lot of activities for the guests. On one of the days they were making octopus balls. Delicious.
Anyway, Kyoto has amazing temples. The big three that I went to were Kiyomizu-dera, Ginkaku-ji and Fushimi Inari-taisha.
Kyomizud-era is a huge structure on a cliff. To get there, we took the train and opted out of the bus (the walking directions seemed easier). Let''s not be fooled by the 'ten-minute' walking thing. That's Buuuulll. It wasn't a terrible walk, but it was way longer than ten minutes. I'd say about 30 minutes, but we stopped to ask directions a million times 'cause we didn't know if we were going the right way or not.
When we got there, we followed the crowds through the massive temple grounds, exploring and taking pictures. It worked out pretty well, and we left the place around sunset.
We did Kyomizudera the same day as Fushimi, my favorite temple. Visitors actually go there for the series of gates than the temple. There are thousands of big orange-red gates along a mountain path that you walk through. It's really surreal. We didn't get to the end, just wandered for a bit before heading back and catching the train to Kiyomizu-dera. At night, we checked out the town and ate at a little restaurant. The waiter suggested a bottle of sake, so we partook of that. Budget or not, you can still have a good time. A little while later we found the Geisha district. Unfortunately, we didn't see any Geishas, but we did catch a neat street performer.
That morning was the first time either of us had seen snow in years. As students, we only had time to go back in summer. Or in my case, no time was right. In the 6 years I lived in Taiwan, I went home to visit just once.
Anyway, the other temple we went to was golden. Literally covered in gold.
Ginkaku-ji is covered in gold and used to be a samurai home. Kiya. It gleams and is almost too bright to look directly at. The light, she burns!
We caught it at the perfect time, close to the sunset. Nearby is another temple park that we managed to get into just before it closed. Instead of taking the bus, we took the walking route again, and after asking for directions a few times (as usual) it appeared. The thing is that a lot of these places are kind of in the suburbs and don't really have huge signs, or tourist lead ups to them. It makes them very relaxing places to visit, but not exactly easy to find. Wouldn't change a thing.
Bottom line: Kyoto is full of culture and beautiful temples.