Travel Magazine

Kyoto

By Hanacooper
After our great experiences in Tokyo and Mt.Fuji, we were ready to try the cultural heart of Japan, Kyoto. People have been telling us what an 'immensely beautiful' city it is and how it compares to Rome and Paris, so needless to say, we were excited when leaving the Mt.Fuji area on Tuesday. It was quite a journey to get here which included a ride on the bullet train (very fast!), but we finally arrived on Tuesday evening. Our optimism was dashed as we stepped out of the huge train station and found ourselves surrounded by a concrete jungle...not quite the vision of traditional Japan that we had in mind! After checking in at the hostel, we walked into downtown Kyoto, which again was a disappointment.
On Wednesday we set out to find the amazing Kyoto that we had heard people talking about. We took the train to the West of the city to a place called Arashiyama.We saw a cool temple there which had some really lovely gardens and the famous bamboo grove. We walked through the bamboo trees and explored the surrounding area, and things started to look up! That area of the city was prettier for sure. After lunch however, we made a mistake! The scale of our map (or our map-reading skills) must be wrong as the golden pavilion (a recognisable landmark of Japan) looked as if it was close to the area we were in, so we started walking towards it. An hour and a half later, we were only halfway there and lost! We somehow ended up in a suburban area of the city. Back on track, we finally found the temple a mere 3 hours after we had set out on our walk....and it was closed! Good times!
Yesterday was a far more successful day. We caught the train to nearby Nara, which was the first capital of Japan. There were loads of temples and shrines to see there so we spent the morning ambling around the park and admiring the wooden Buddhist sites. We saw a giant bronze Buddha housed in the largest wooden structure in the World (thanks for the recommendation Grandad!) My favorite thing about Nara though, was that there were wild deer roaming around the park! They were very friendly and liked to be stroked and fed deer biscuits, which you could buy at stalls around the area. They were everywhere! So Thursday was the best day in Kyoto.
Today (Friday) we got a bus to Higashiyama, which was pretty. There are cobbled streets and traditional Japanese shops framing the paths up to the main temple sites. We followed a walking tour suggested in our guide book and managed to catch a quick glimpse of two geisha's! It was very impressive to see them entertaining behind the glass doors of a posh restaurant. Another great experience was touching the 'womb stone' inside a dark basement in a temple. We paid 100 yen to walk in the pitch darkness towards a lit up stone in the center of the temples 'womb'. Once we reached it we spun it 180 degrees and made a wish. God only knows what the Japanese think it does, but it was fun! We spent the rest of today walking around the main sightseeing area and admiring yet more temples and shrines.
So, to sum it up, Kyoto has been an interesting experience. I personally think it is a bit of an insult to Paris and Rome but it has offered an insight into Japanese culture and history. We have had some fun experiences and some very annoying ones, but our boundaries have been tested and that can only be seen as a positive! I am looking forward to returning to Tokyo tomorrow and onwards to Australia on Monday.
We will post some more photos and another update soon. Please keep in touch and comment on here if you are reading it.....Mum I know you are my dedicated follower!!
Lots of love to you all
xx

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