After bus, airplane and train we arrive at Kyoto station, a train station that seemed to take forever to traverse. We made it across the station and across one road to our hotel which seemed rather luxurious – and it was! The rooms were unusually large and accommodating.
We sorted out our luggage and we were down to the lobby and across the road in an effort to explore this expansive railway station and find somewhere for dinner. We climbed open-air flights of stairs or rode escalators to get to the top of this railway station. The view from the top showed off Kyoto to the mountains. We descended a couple of flights to find dinner and ice cream then off to Lawson’s (a convenient store) for snacks and drinks (often Pocari Sweat).
After a good night sleep we set off for a big day of temples, shrines and the complex bus system. We took a bus to Kiyomizu Temple which required a lengthy uphill walk past tourist gift shops and high density living. This sanctuary, built on a steep cliff, wasn’t lost on us. One of the many World Cultural Heritage Sites of Kyoto and it was built pre 800AD. Inside this Temple site was also the Jishu-Jinja Shrine devoted to gods (kami) of love and relationships (en-musubi). Here many world travelers seek fulfilment through new or renewed relationships. Beyond this temple and shrine the views, the gardens, the pure water (which the temple is named after) were extraordinary. The descent to the bus stop with green tea ice creams and others was much easier than the ascent. Next bus took us to Kinkaku-ji Temple (The Golden Pavilion). After a short walk we arrived at an oft photographed sight – the Golden Pavilion and its mirror image in the pond. With a golden Chinese phoenix rising from the roof it is breath taking. Again the carefully crafted gardens, ponds and waterfalls were special to walk through. We made it to the bus stop in time to eat our bentos which we picked up from Lawson’s early. This may have saved time but not our legs from the walking!
Next bus trip took us to the awe inspiring Ryoanji Temple and its renowned rock garden – a rectangular Zen garden comprised of 15 rocks and raked white gravel. It was hypnotizing as our students sat by it. The surrounding gardens and ponds were again beautiful. In a familiar pattern for the day we boarded a bus bound for Nijo-jo Castle – the official residence of Kyoto’s first Shogun. Here we saw an Edo period building like a step back in time with lavish paintings and sculptures in spacious expansive grounds which included moats.
We boarded a bus to our last sight – Gion. Gion is home of the Geisha and wooden machiya merchant houses on cobblestones streets. Turning our first corner we were immediately privileged with a Geisha focused on her way to an engagement at an ochaya (teahouse). With cameras and iPhones flashing we knew we were lucky as many spend hours only for glimpses.
Given our luck we headed for dinner and a well-earned break in the heart of Kyoto. A final bus trip to Kyoto station saw us get value out of our bus day pass. There was also much discussion in terms of how far we had walked and we believe 12 kilometers is an underestimation. With bath salts in hand and a lower-leg stretching routine we retired to our rooms.
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