I have returned from Kyoto! I'm totally exhausted! However, I'm blogging now anyway! Why? Because otherwise I will procrastinate and it'll get done in late January or something.
As the title of this post suggests, Kyoto has a LOT of temples. Seriously, I saw so many that I feel I never need to see a temple or shrine again....
Anyway, our trip began at Tokyo Station where Rachel and I managed to get on our night bus with only minor hiccups. We got to Kyoto Saturday morning at about 7am but couldn't check in to the hostel until 3:30 so we dumped our luggage in a coin locker and headed for Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion).
Beautiful isn't it? That's real gold decorating it. At this point the sun was peeking out, so actually looking directly at the Kinkakuji was actually kind of hard it was so shiny. The area is really pretty too. Anyway, Rachel and I bought "dreams come true" charms and got our fortunes out of a vending machine before moving on. In this area we went to Ryoan-ji, home of a famous zen rock garden and Ninna-ji another beautiful temple. As we walked we also saw some other points of interest...
This was a closed storefront that Rachel and I loved. The words in the top corner say "Hobby Adviser". Japan and English can be incredibly entertaining.
Anyway, after this temple excursion we made our way back to Kyoto Station to pick up our things so we could go check into our hostel and meet up with my friends Rachel and Brian Pitt who are in Japan because Rachel's in the JET program. (I apologize that there are two Rachels. You'll just have to deal with that.) We briefly explored the area that evening before having an early dinner because Rachel Leppert and I were completely exhausted from the not sleeping much on the bus and all of our walking (seriously, we crashed around 7:30pm).
Sunday we all four headed up a path with a bajillion temples and shrines and all the shops that cater to the tourists that visit. We visited Daikoku-ji which is home to a HUGE statue of Kannon.
Kannon is an important figure in Pure Land Buddhism. He's the Boddhisatva that is sort of like Amida Buddha's right hand man and helps lead the faithful to the Pure Land. Another stop we made on this huge temple pilgrimage was Kiyomizu-dera (pure water temple). It has a wonderful view of the city and a large swath of mountains as well as water that is believed to have healing properties (I didn't drink any because it cost money and there was a big line, but Rachel Pitt and her husband did...unfortunately, the next day Rachel caught a cold).
This is the healing water viewed from higher up in the temple. By the time we got there, the line was much longer. Withing Kiyomizu-dera was a shrine whose name is eluding me at the moment (I'll look it up and stick it in later). It's the home of the famous love stones.
You rub the first stone while thinking of the one you love, then close your eyes and try to walk in a straight line to the second stone. If you hit the second stone, you're destined to be together. Help is allowed as it means you'll have assisstance on the road to love. We also saw something really awesome in the are that was NOT a temple or shrine: a geisha!
Sorry the photo isn't rotated correctly. Blogger's being annoying. We ended up seeing three geisha on our trip. This one saw us looking at her and getting cameras out so she stopped so we could get photos.
After all of this temple hopping, we were very tired (temples in the area lined a road going up the mountain so there was much uphill walking that was very tiring. However, we couldn't go back to the hostel yet so we ate some ramen and tried to go to the zoo but found it was closed until after New Years (we actually had several cases of bad luck with this kind of thing). So we found a place to sit and sat because we were super tired. That night we tried to go get gyoza at a famous gyoza place only to find it's closed on Sundays. We ate elsewhere.
On Monday we split up as Rachel and Brian (the Pitts) wanted to see Kinkakuji which Rachel Leppert and I had already done. We were really exhausted so we took it kind of easy and got some shopping done while taking frequent breaks for snacks (like a matcha cream puff--excellent by the way). We also stopped at a park where a bunch of children were feeding pigeons (what do you get? Fat pigeons!) and getting mobbed by said birds for their trouble, which was pretty funny. However, the cool thing was this guy:
I don't know if you can quite see, but he's got a cool beard thing. Anyway, he stood there and posed for pictures for a while before flying off. Though we came back later in the evening and he was in the park again in a different spot. He must like it there. That night we finally got our gyoza which was definitely worth it.
And then our last day in Kyoto rolled around. Rachel and Brian left by Shinkansen in the morning, but Rachel Leppert and I had to amuse ourselves from 9am (the hostel's check out time) until 11pm when we could board our bus home. A daunting task, but we managed to do quite well. First we wandered around the Kyoto station area and found another temple (not sure what it was though).
This is the fountain where you purify your hands and mouth. I liked the dragon a lot. After lunch we headed over to the area of Kyoto called Arashiyama which was my favorite part of the day if not the entire trip. In Arashiyama is a monkey park. Now at this monkey park you don't just get to see monkey's from a distance no. You hang with the monkeys and feed them and stuff. They were everywhere! And very cute! Of course at first it's a bit freaky because you are warned not to look them in the eye or they might attack, but you get used to them very quickly.
Sorry once again for the lack of correct rotation on the photo. iPhoto and Blogger are conspiring against me.
After the monkeys we explored the other areas of Arashiyama. We skipped going to Tenryu-ji as we were thoroughly templed out by this point. We did go to the huge bamboo grove right next to Tenryu-ji though. Apparently it's where they filmed that part of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon where they fight in the tops of the bamboo... We kind of got lost on our way there though so we actually only discovered it by accident. On the part of the excursion where we didn't know where we were going we met a really sweet cat that didn't want to get off of my lap. Seriously I pushed her off and she just turned around and crawled back on before I had time to get up.
As it got dark we eventually got cold and headed back to the station where we treated ourselves to ridiculously gorgeous cake. I've included the picture of mine.
We then visited the Skyway of the station before finally getting our stuff out of the coin lockers so we could get on the night bus. And now here I am, back in Tokyo. Sleep deprived but mostly happy (though my iPhoto is flipping out so I can't put any videos in...sorry).