"Kyoto" Top 5 Page for this destination Kyoto-fu by unaS

Kyoto-fu Travel Guide: 2,087 reviews and 6,812 photos

Quintessential Japan

Got to Tokyo station really early and sat watching the staff clean out 3 different Nozomi super-speed expresses one after the other as each arrived and left again a few moments later. There were three girls to a car. They all ran through at top speed grabbed and ripped off the white paper head rest, twirled the seats to always face front - the direction of travel - one ran down the car throwing clean white paper head rests on each seat back, the other two arranged them, grabbed newspapers, candy wrappers, whatever off seats, brushed down seats, all this at dead run while they also wiped off the put-up tables, train after train after train...

The hotel room is large but no closet, only an open niche with 3 hangers. When I checked in the reception staff tried to claim that there is no smoking in the hotel. This after I reserved a smoking-permitted room in advance. When I said: "...then I can`t stay here..." I got an ashtray and an OK!!!! Breakfast at this hotel is pretty basic. Best aspect of this hotel is the free Internet! Of course it is very busy and limited to a half hours use---will have to choose my hours carefully.

Kyoto is much warmer than Tokyo was. Strolled around for 1 1/2 hours. Got nice and lost on my little walk. Lovely little back streets, tiny houses, very small but bright and cheerful gardens.

Finally came across a major thoroughfare. Stores, people, noise. Bought an obento with noodles, salad and a bit of fish for supper.

Former Imperial Palace: Interesting. Very different styles from most simple and plain appearing to the grandiose Shogun style. Gravel surrounds all - raked into patterns of absolutely straight lines. Boggles the imagination of how the gardeners do it! Black gravel on the outer walks and white gravel within courtyards.

Kinkaku-ji: The Temple is 3 stories, each done in a different style. The 2 top stories are covered in gold leaf. Surrounded by a quiet lake that reflects the temple like a mirror. Very aesthetic. Nice walks in area with beautiful gardens, trees. No grass, moss covers everything. Quiet, only birds singing since I have left the groups behind. NICE!!

Ryoanji Temple: Much less people, school groups. Still difficult to meditate in Stone garden of Temple. People speaking all languages. Would like to be alone and contemplate life, rock, mosses here... The simplicity and austerity encourage meditation.

Good weather. Sunny, slight breeze. Interesting bus ride. I took a JR bus instead of the city bus as yesterday. Much more comfortable. Driver more accommodating.

Highly recommend this visit to anyone travelling to Japan.

Visited the Himeji castle and town. Took a local train from Kyoto to Takatsuki and changed there for the "Special Rapid" (Shin Kaisoku) (a simple matter of 6 steps across from platform 3 to platform 4) to Himeji.

From the station it is pleasant 15 minute stroll to the Castle entrance. There is a park below the castle filled with families and lots of Japanese tourists. This castle is the only original one of that period still standing. It is not replica!! Only 1 of the original 3 moats is still extant. Eight of the original 33 wells still have water. The defense arrow openings are like none that I have ever seen in Britain or elsewhere - they are angled by wooden inserts to cover all approaches. The climb up to the castle keep is steep but well worth it for the view. The defense works are impressive. This castle held out against all invaders.

Coming back down I heard music in the park precinct and went to investigate. There was an exhibition by little girls of Japanese dancing - adorable.

After my visit to the castle I stopped in at a small Japanese restaurant off of the main street and had a great shrimp domburi with Bamboo shoots. The rice bowl was so big I couldn't finish it. Included a delicious Japanese soup, a small, lightly marinated takuan: under 1,000 Yen.
I was able to return directly to Kyoto by shin kaisou without having to change trains. A pleasantly active day.

Lovely experiences

Spent 3 1/2 hours enjoying the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple and it's supplementary buildings, gardens and temples. Going back was slow because the streets are narrow, cobbled lanes with lots to see.

I stumbled across a really nice tofu restaurant up one side street and had an unusually expensive - and delicious - meal there. I don't even know the names of most of what I ate. I was the only non-Japanese person in the place. A very large room with 2 huge marble fireplaces and a sun porch, all of which gave me the impression that it might once have been 3 rooms in a European style house.

One removed one's shoes at the entry (TG!) and sat on low chairs. The table had a sunken burner in the middle of it for the main serving of the meal - large white cubes of tofu in boiling water, which were removed with a special strainer spoon and dipped in tiny slices of spring onions and then in a brown (soy?) sauce. They were very soft I had all kinds of problems with my chopsticks! I was offered a spoon but laughingly refused it, so the waitress laughed too and so did people at a near-by table. Fun!

There were battered and fried vegetables. I know that one was eggplant and one was sweet potato. Of the other 3 one was quite hard to bite into but all were delicious. There were 2 solid pieces of a form of miso, with its own sweet sauce served with an orange frosting, each on their own chopsticks. A large bowl of rice and 3 balls of something that I also dipped in the (soy?) sauce. A pot of green tea, of course.

Left the restaurant so full I could barely walk. Began going downhill in the general direction of the bus I needed but took lots of interesting turnings. Discovered Maruyama Park and sat in the sun for a while to watch people and enjoy...

Visited the Jishu Shrine dedicated to matchmaking and the 30 meter tall Ryozen Kannon but missed the Yasaka Shrine. The whole Higashiyama district requires a couple of days at least.

On the way home went up to the top of the Kyoto Tower - don't waste the money.

Joined the "Johnny Hillwalker" walking tour today. His real name is Hajime Hirooka-san. This is not an orientation tour but a detailed look at a very small section of the Higashi district.

We visited the biggest Buddhist Temple, the Higashi Hongan-ji. This is an Amida Buddhist Temple, which means that it is the Japanese version of Buddhism, not the original imported Chinese version. Not usually used for worship, since individuals normally go to their small, local temples which are never open to the general public, nor to tourists.

We visited lots of small craft shops which are also the homes of the craftsmen. Then the Shosei-en garden. A private garden with a pond, ducks, giant carp and very Japanese style landscaped gardens. We had a snack of Inari sushi - on the go - which is *very* non-Japanese. They just don't eat in the streets not even ice-cream. On trains, picnics in parks and such yes, but not while walking.

Hajime san took us to visit an elementary school - the only one left in this whole district. The birth rate is dropping so seriously that this year they had an enrollment of only 33 new 6 year olds.

The tour ended at 3 pm. I had hoped to go to the Heian Shrine today after the walking tour but the weather clouded up and it looked like rain. The day was warm and I didn't have even sweater with me, so I returned to Kyoto station by bus and had me a sit-down cup of coffee - - - ahhh. How important the small pleasures of life can be.

For dinner found a nice little workers/students restaurant. Someone suggested that I try the tem doh (or tendon )- and I did enjoy it. There was a bottle of dried spices on the table. Looked interesting, all kinds of lovely colors: pink, green, black... After testing it carefully (LOL) I shook it all over my rice. A crisp and savoury flavoursome addition. If I understood correctly it is called furikake.

Interesting & Fun

It is easy to find Kintetsu Rail easily by following signs. Took the Express train to Nara. The trip is about 45 minutes, costs 610 Yen o/w.

The Tourist Info office at the Nara train station is staffed by some very pleasant people. I received a free map and a detailed explanation. It is possible to walk in a great circle to see the major sites.

There was a sudden electric storm with pouring rain, thunder and lightening. Everyone ran for cover under the roof of the Great South Gate - including the domestic deer :-). It was all over in about 20 minutes or so.

The Todaji Temple is huge and impressive. It is a simple, unpainted wooden building - but it is also the largest wooden building in the world. The Buddha and the guardians are meant to overawe. They succeed.

One interesting side note. The monks and priests of this temple take a special interest in severely handicapped children, mostly with CP. The first sign that I have seen of any interest in children with special educational needs in Japan.

Yes, one can become "over-shrined", just as one can become over sated with museums, art and churches in Italy. I decided to skip a couple of extra shrines. Visited the Nara National Museum. Nice ending for a long day on foot

Went back to my workers/students restaurant for supper. Soup, noodles ( udon ) with tuna fish, a salad and a pot of green tea. I picked up a sweet bean paste pastry to have in my room with coffee later.

Fushimi Inari: A stiff climb up to the top of the mountain (233 meters) and much of it stairs. At least 3 times I thought that I was at the top, then the continuation of the path that seemed to lead down suddenly started climbing again. I took it real slow with lots of rest breaks.

I thought that I was doing great - actually reached the top and was on my way down again when I met up with an 81 y.o. woman with her 50 y.o. son doing the climb! So much for my pride LOL. To top it off she had heart surgery! She didn't speak any English but her son explained that she has done the climb every year of her life and wasn't ready to stop. He had come along to slow her down!! How embarrassed I was at being tired and of thinking that I had done something special...

Stopped for a cold green tea at one of the rest spots. A woman and her husband began asking lots of questions in fractured English. Took me a while to understand and answer (I couldn't have used Japanese at all except for my gonnichi wa that began the conversation). She mentioned that she lived near-by and pointed out the area. I asked her if she climbed Fushimi Inari often, but she was absolutely sure that I was asking what time it is! I tried again and again, in different words and found out repeatedly that it was nearly 3 pm. :D Two more times - complete confusion. She must have thought that I was really weird asking he time again and again :D

Discovered that during the month of April only there are daily performances put on by the Geisha themselves, not the Maiko only as usual. A bit expensive, but what heck - it is my last evening in Japan and it is not likely that I will be able to return.

The Spring Blossom dance was worth every yen. I had an exceptionally good seat - right under the musicians, below the entry walkway of the dancers and just 9 rows from the stage. It was an entrancing performance.

The dance told the story of one entire year from Spring Blossom time in the life of a Geisha. Included an agricultural scene in the summer, a fight between a palace guard and a Samurai, the loneliness and abandonment of winter and of course, the beauty of re-birth in the Spring.

I understood not one word of the minimal amount of dialogue, nor of the songs - but it wasn't necessary. The formal beauty of the dance, the stage scenery done with lights and the costumes made it all comprehensible.

A marvelous finale for my visit to Japan.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Quintessential Japan
  • Cons:Expensive but doable if...
  • In a nutshell:Do your homework!
  • Last visit to Kyoto-fu: Apr 2005
  • Intro Updated Mar 7, 2009
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Reviews (10)

Comments (6)

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Sep 22, 2010 at 2:17 PM

    This certainly does look like quintessential Japan! Nice tips and photos. Your Kyoto intro page is very informative, and I liked the story of the three girls cleaning train after train at lightning speed and even reversing the seats for the return trip.

  • sirgaw's Profile Photo
    Dec 17, 2009 at 9:49 PM

    Ah the fun of eating with chop sticks. We must try and forget our Western manners when eating Asian, but old habits are hard to shake - even in a foreign country. Great tips and write up.

  • Jun 22, 2009 at 7:00 PM

    Ach, not in the foreseeable future.. But find it way too fascinating not to visit ever - would love to sink in a bit of culture myself ;-)

  • jumpingnorman's Profile Photo
    May 23, 2009 at 8:24 AM

    That April show of the Geisha / Spring Blossom Dance looks like fun and the picture of the deer running from the electric storm is precious...

  • SapineKuu's Profile Photo
    Apr 16, 2009 at 2:45 PM

    Nice tips you put me to shame:)

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Mar 7, 2009 at 4:51 AM

    Thanks for your nice tip....

unaS

“Courage is the willingness to be afraid and act anyway.”

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