On Tuesday morning we started our JR passes and took the express to Kyoto. On the express, the ride is only about twenty minutes, surprisingly quick. After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we walked to Nishiki Market for lunch.
We were a little bit frustrated because we were refused seats at a few restaurants (apparently for being foreigners) and then were served rather mediocre sashimi at a high price when we finally did get service.
After lunch, we walked to Nijo Castle, which turned out to be underwhelming as well. We took a cab across town to Ginkaku-
Outside the temple, we ate ice cream topped with real gold leaf. This is a tourist trap sort of thing they developed where this temple is the “silver temple” and another temple in Kyoto (Kinkaku-
With gold in our bellies, we pondered the symbolism of literally consuming wealth as we walked Philosopher’s Walk on the way to Honen-in temple. After taking a picture of a hut on a bridge I managed to kick my sunglasses (expensive Ray Bans, a gift from Sam) into the koi pond.
This was all happening after sunset with no natural lighting, which was why the glasses were hung on my neck instead of on my face and able to drop down on the bridge while I fiddled with my camera. The glasses are gold so they stuck out under the dark water of the pond. We were the only people there so we couldn’t ask for help. Looking around the complex we found some portable caution tubes (not sure what these are called since they don’t have them in the U.S., but they had hollow circles on each end to place over the tops of traffic cones. With Sam providing light via our portable crank flashlight (the same one that got me out of a jam in Joshua tree) after a few false starts I managed to fish the glasses of the water.
Triumphant, we celebrated by taking a cab to Nanzen-
Across the street from our hotel, we ordered a quick bite at a hip place. Sam asked to have the cook put more time into her nearly-rare beef bulgogi. After several more days of this, we realized that most beef is apparently consumed nearly raw in Japan. Also, “American Beef” is a big thing apparently.
Wednesday we set out walking with the goal of weeding our way north until we reached Yasaka Shrine.
We wandered down the back road from Yasaka visiting shrines and temples we’d not researched until we came to the famous one that sticks out in a crowd. Of people. Because it’s also on a busy intersection and crowded with people.
Unfortunately, it was raining most of the day. Doubly unfortunately, Kiyomizu-
After dinner, we took the train to Inari to walk the famous orange Torii gates on the staircase
As we walked down a concrete path on our way back from the shrine we heard a large animal grunting and snarling from one of the open areas. The path was poorly lit and the animal was somewhere in the dark patch of grass between our steps and the woods that cover Mt. Inari. When Sam shone a flashlight on it we discovered it was a wild boar a few feet away.
It was eating and seemed annoyed that we interrupted. After a few more snarls in our direction, it loped off into the woods. We would later come back to the shrine in daylight and see warning signs all over the place to avoid the boars. Woops.
In the morning, we walked to Kyoto station to travel northwest to
We actually had more fun in
Our friend (from Hong Kong/LA/Michigan) joined us at the monkey park as she recently moved to Nagoya.
We walked back through the bamboo garden at night together, which, curiously had none of the lights we had seen in photos and had nearly completely cleared out by nightfall. It left the place curiously creepy feeling (American horror movies often take place in the deep woods, so maybe Japanese ones could be deep in the bamboo forest?).
We walked back to town and visited the Kimono Forest again since the “trees” light up at night. And the people.
We took the train back to Kyoto together and our friend found a BBQ restaurant within a few minutes walk
After the meal, we walked back to the station to see our friend
On Friday we took a taxi to Kinkaku-
We’re talking Trevi Fountain levels of tourists here, all scrambling to get that perfect shot of the gold-adorned Pagoda. We figured if you can’t beat em, join em, and started taking pictures with the children (who delighted in saying “Herro! Herro!” to us to practice their English).
We took a cab back to the nearest JR station to visit Inari during the day and finish our hike to the top, but first, we sated our hunger with a stop at the floating sushi restaurant.
Back at the shrine during the day we were determined to hike through the thousands of torii to the top of Mt. Inari. And so was every other tourist in Kyoto.
On our way there we misunderstood the map and took a wrong turn into the forest valley at the base of the mountain where we found a small shrine covered in moss and a tiny man-made waterfall.
The trail took us by a small town and back up the hill, where the
We finally reached the true top of Mt. Inari about an hour later only to discover there were no views at all from the small shrine. I ran back down the trail to the earlier viewpoints to take photos of the sunset over Kyoto.
After walking out of the mountain in the dark we took a cab north to the park behind Yasaka Shrine and ate at a kaiseki restaurant recommended by our cab driver who assured us it was just as good as the others that cost $200 per person up the same street.
After dinner, we took night photos at Yasaka shrine and walked down Shijo Dori looking for the real geishas our driver told us about. Most of the geishas you will see in Kyoto are just Chinese tourists who rent kimonos at souvenir shops. After a while, we didn’t see any geishas and it was getting late so we hailed a cab. As the cab drove through an alley we finally saw two real geishas, and even though the driver stopped, they ducked inside a doorway and we didn’t get any photos.