Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Quite the place this here Kyoto. I've been hearing about how amazing of a place it is for two years, now I finally get it. Almost immediately after one gets off the bus and enters whichever neighborhood or temple one is visiting, you feel the weight of history upon you. It's as if the air is thick with it, different because of the events which transpired here over centuries and centuries. I am as pleased as ever to have waited until the end of my stay here to visit, as I now have a fuller understanding of Japan, its history and culture. I think Yoshiko and I are also enjoying doing the tour guide thing, while it is sometimes difficult to keep the whole group focused and on track. There are so many things to do here, and we are here for precious few days. I can't help but feel we are wasting valuable time while one looks for a toilet and another browses in a store while I see our bus drive by us... lol BUT! I did get everything I wanted done today, which is totally cool.

After breakfast at the hotel, we headed out directly to Nijo Castle, which is not so far from our hotel. Having bought a bus card at the hotel for 500 Yen, we had unlimited use of the really great bus system for the day, and figured it out relatively quickly. Nijo Castle was built in the 1600s, and is only the second castle I've visited in Japan. Here is the main palace building within the castle walls.

The detail that went into the building of the castle was astounding with ornate carvings and paintings throughout, complete with gold papered walls in some of the rooms. Here is the detail from the entrance.

While this one was more of a palace and official residence for the shogun than a military fortification, it was no less protected. For example, the hallways are covered with floors which make a squeaking noise when one walks on them, no matter how quiet you try to be. This was to prevent any would-be assassins from sneaking around the castle undetected. There are also multiple trap doors where samurai could lay in hiding while their lord conducted business within the walls of the castle, ready to jump out at a moment's notice. Very cool place to visit. The castle is surrounded by well tended gardens, which will be just breathtaking in a few weeks as the cherry blossoms pop out. Even without the sakura, they are quite nice. Here is the group, a first decent group shot from my camera. With 5 cameras in action on this trip, we're pretty much guaranteed to cover everything!

After touring the grounds of Nijo-jo, we hopped back on a bus and headed to Kinkaku-ji, one of Japan's two golden temples\halls\pavilions. I am now one of the lucky who have had the privilege of visiting both Kinkaku-ji here in Kyoto and the Konjiki-do up in Iwate Prefecture. They seem to be counterpoints to each other actually. With the Konjiki-do being housed in a protective building, one can admire the interior but not see it in the surrounding landscape. With Kinkaku-ji, you can see the golden hall surrounded by it's ponds and gardens, but not see anything inside. Interesting.

Here is some of the detail of the gold covering, which was recently redone as I understand it.

We then bused into Eastern Kyoto and hiked up the hill to Kiyomizu-dera, which is probably one of the most popular attractions in Kyoto, as could be seen by the crowds milling about the narrow street leading up to it.

The view from up here is really amazing. This is a view of the city with the gate to the temple compound in the foreground, a nice mix of the old and new Kyoto and the huge changes which have occurred over the centuries.

This one turned out a bit dark due to the difference in contrast, but I like it anyway...

Below Kiyomizu, there is a spring from which water with healing attributes flows. There was always a lineup of people waiting to grab a cup full with these cups on the end of long sticks.

And here is the main attraction, a temple which clings to the mountainside with the help of hundreds of wooden beams laid out in a lattice over a reinforced footing. Amazing that this was built hundreds of years ago.

In fact, we have a bit of a view of Kiyomizu from our hotel.

Here is a panorama I shot of all the temple building together.

After chilling out for a bit at the hotel, regrouping and putting on warmer clothes, we headed out to dinner and then to the Hana Touro which is essentially a series of illuminated streets, temples and such along a 5 km route through the Higashiyama area of Kyoto. As far as I'm concerned, this was the highlight of the day, just gorgeous.

This big boy is a cherry tree, again, you can just imagine what it will look like in full bloom.

And that was pretty much it. We made our way out of the area and back to our hotel before the lights were all shut down, possibly leaving us in the dark? A really great day.

Tomorrow, more temples of course, including Sanjusangendo which we missed out on yesterday. More to come! Good night.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your photos and story are touching as they remind me of my family and when they visited me in Japan. Yes it is hard work sometimes to play tour guide keeping everyone happy and so on but you guys are such a happy and good looking group that I think you can handle anything.

Good luck to you and your wife as you start on this very emotional time of preparing to leave Japan and of moving to Canada.

12:13 PM  
Blogger godzilla_rabbit said...

Thanks for showing these great pics.I hope all of your family enjoy the travel, and hope you enjoy the rest of your remaining stay in Japan.
Wednesday beer crew, Ray

5:36 PM  
Blogger ZayZayEM said...

Hey Mich.

Kyoto is great. (I even liked the train station).

A good days walking up and down the river (or a bike ride) is pretty good, I think. But you probably have lots of things already. Plus it's a bit exhausting.

10:22 PM  

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