Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Kyoto Adventure

Moving on. While I still have some steam. (Man, 1 am already?) Here’s the rundown of what happened in Kyoto.

From our hotel, or more precisely, Nakanoshima Station, it cost 460 one way to get to Kyoto. This was way cheaper than I thought it would be, so it was a bonus point for me. I spent a total of two days in Kyoto. The first day I headed out solo and somehow managed not to get lost with my Google map for a guide.

My first stop was 金閣寺or the Golden Pavilion. 

The Golden Pavilion

Before I continue I just want to say, there is something really amazing about finally arriving at a place you’ve learned and heard about for so long. Really. Years of saying “I’m going to go there someday” later and that day arrives and it makes it all the better. 

I’m in love with areas like this and I’ve probably already said this a million times, but Japanese temple and shrine areas are amazing. I’m not sure if the Golden Pavilion counts as either of those it was still amazing. And it really was golden to boot. 

While at the Golden Pavillion I had a guy take my picture and I was going to take his in return. He gets this really nervous look and says he wants to take a picture with this thing. So he reaches into his bag and pulls out sheet of golden plastic wrapping paper. Probably the best thing ever. He kept waiting for it to clear out a bit and finally said he was “too weak” to do it alone and asked if I’d take the picture together. Long story short, I now have a very unique photo at the Golden Pavillion. 

Next stop was Ryoan-ji. If you don’t know Ryoan-ji that’s cool. It’s famous for its zen rock garden. And before you ask (looking at you dad), yes, I paid money to go look at a bunch of rocks. Despite being pretty crowded the place was actually very nice.

My final stop of the day (due to bad train directions, thanks Google, and missing an event) was Fushimi Inari Taisha. I think this location is probably most famous in the U.S. for the scene in Memoirs of a Geisha when she runs through the rows of torii gates.

This place costs nothing but time to enter. If you walk up the stairs and towards the right you’ll reach a fork that looks like this. 

It doesn’t really matter which side you choose as you’ll come out in roughly the same place and you’ll continue on the only path provided. Eventually you’ll reach a plateau-ish area with a lot of people resting. 

Let me make this clear to you. There is a reason people turn back there. Okay, not really so menacing as all that, but be warned, if you continue (and don’t turn back) it will take you around an hour to walk the entire circuit. Definitely not a 15 minute in and out area. 

Lots of little shrines along the path.

Me, being unprepared, entered this part of the path at Fushimi Inari Taisha and kept walking. And walking. And I’m telling you, there are some stairs and inclines like you wouldn’t believe. At one point I stopped, stared up at this stair case that seemed to be the longest, steepest staircase ever and I just started crying. 
Not THE stair case. But this is one of the gentle inclines.

This was just after I’d realized what I’d gotten myself into and seen my first real map of the place. Realizing I was just over half way, there was no point in turning back, but I managed to do the whole circuit and live to tell the tell. Victory photo!

Fast forward to Monday. Google maps got me, or rather us, Chelsea and I, in trouble again. We overshot our mark heading to Maica. Maica is a studio where you can dress up like a maiko (apprentice geisha) and have you picture taken. For 6,500 they’ll do your makeup, wig and dress you in a kimono. They then take and give you one photo free. They also offer a CD with that photo and a few other poses they will take for about 2,000 extra, completely optional. You then are given a one hour window of free time in the house to take your own photos. Of course, if you have a more expensive plan you are allowed to leave the house. I was allowed in the garden area, but unfortunately, it was raining by that point so I didn’t take advantage of that option. 

Me, me, me! That's me, right there!

After splitting up I went off to Kiyomizu Dera in the rain. When I was a kid my dad gave me this camera and on the camera were pictures. We knew it was somewhere in Japan because the camera had been set in Japanese (took me days to figure out how to change it). I remember thinking it was pretty and one day I would like to go. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was researching placing to go in Kyoto and lo-and behold I came across and almost identical picture the one I’d seen. Needless to say, going was a necessity. And it turned out fantastically. I’m really glad I went.

Also in Kyoto. I rode in my first taxi. Ever. That was interesting. And not nearly as expensive as I thought it’d be. Still. I don’t want to make a habit out of it. It was still exponentially more expensive than the trains.

So that sums up Kyoto. A lot quicker than Osaka. Hmm… Oh. Forgot to mention, of all the places I’ve been to in Japan, Kyoto was by far the most foreigner laden city thus far. I’d call it tourist central. Not sure why this was surprising to me, but it was. Anyways! Until later. Maybe tomorrow? I still need to tell you guys about Ise Shrine, Himeji and Kobe!!!


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