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05 January 2009 @ 04:25 pm
All right. Now that I'm no longer sick, I can actually write about our Kyōto trip!

We were going to leave last Friday after softlykarou got back from work, but when we arrived in Hiroshima bus center she noticed that her purse was missing. It turned out that she had left it back in Chiyoda, where one of the station attendants had picked it up, checked the identification, noticed it was all in English and called the school. We went back to get it, and by that point, it was too late to take the train to we waited for the next day. This later turned out to have been very good, since our original plan would have gotten us into Kyōto hours after check-in time at the youth hostel closed.

On Saturday, we woke up early, took the bus into Hiroshima and then went to the train station. Once there, we learned what all the fuss about shinkansen was about. Unlike an airport, there was no waiting in security lines, no sitting around, no weather delays, no tin-can feel, nothing. We went up to the counter, asked for tickets to Kyōto, and the agent asked us if we wanted the train that left in 10 minutes or in 20. Around 2 hours later, we were in Kyōto, right around the time to check into the youth hostel. The guy behind the counter was kind enough to not charge us full price for the first day because softlykarou had called in and told them why we were late. We didn't do much the first day...just met up with softlykarou's friends and went out to find a place to eat, mostly. The hostel was in Gion, but most of Gion is really touristy now, so finding a restaurant open late wasn't too hard. It's a bit of a disconnect to hear Indian waiters welcoming you in Japanese...but we are in Japan, after all.

Pretty much all of our sight-seeing time was taken up by going to temples. The first day, we went to Kōdai-ji, which was probably my favorite place, and Kiyomizu-dera. Kōdai-ji was still obviously a working temple--while we were there, the call to prayer bell was rung and we could hear chanting coming from somewhere. softlykarou also got a good-luck charm there blessed by a monk (which we later learned was specifically for good luck in travels). Kiyomizu-dera is one of the places that people usually go to when going to Kyōto, but it was still neat. One of the big draws of Kiyomizu-dera is the sacred spring there. It's the original reason the temple was founded, and it's supposed to grant good health to people to drink from it, though considering softlykarou and I both got sick after we got back from Kyōto it clearly didn't work for us. :-p The temple also has two rocks around 10m apart--if you can walk between them with your eyes closed, you will find your true love. softlykarou did it and got excited congratulations from some Singaporean tourists, though they were less excited when they learned she was already married. :-p We saw a maiko (an apprentice geisha) on the way back, and although she had a very worried expression when we asked to take her picture, she did stop and let us, which was nice of her.

We were going to go to the zoo after this, but it was closed for New Years, so we walked down a bit farther down the street and went to Murin-an, the old villa of a Diet member from the turn of the century. The garden was really pretty, but our guidebook mentioned that they would serve you tea for an additional fee, and we couldn't find any sign that told us where it was. After that, we split up with Rachel's friends--they were tired, so they went back to the hostel and we went on to Nanzen-ji. The party we really wanted to go to (Nanzen-in) was closed for New Year's, but we were able to see the aqueduct. It was all red-brick and neat looking. We went up top and followed it for a while, but it just led to a water treatment plant. The rest of the day was mostly window-shopping in the overpriced touristy areas of Gion and looking for food.

The second day, we went to Kinkaku-ji and Ginkaku-ji (respectively, the Gold Pavilion and the Silver Pavilion). We only went to Ginkaku-ji because we were confused, but I actually liked it better than Kinkaku-ji. Kinkaku-ji (so named because the top two floors are covered with beaten gold) was incredibly touristy. There was one path lined with ropes that people took, it was crowded, there were no monks anywhere, etc. Ginkaku-ji had no gold (or silver--they were going to put silver foil on it but never actually got around to it), but it did have a neat display of all the mosses you could find growing on the temple grounds. Dinner was at a place called Senmonten, which only makes gyoza and pickles, but they were by far the best gyoza and pickles I have ever had in my life.

The next day we basically just woke up and went home, but we also learned the bad side of shinkansen travel. On the way there, we had gotten reserved seats, which were a bit more expensive but meant we had a number, assigned seat, etc. On the way back, we got unreserved seats. What this meant is that the car was packed (standing room only, the aisle was full so we stood in the entryway) and that the conductor pushed people in with a pole to back us all in before the train left. That was quite a bit more uncomfortable, but at least now we know to request reserved seats in the future!
Current Mood: tiredtired
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Brian Walgrenuriany on January 5th, 2009 10:47 pm (UTC)
dorchadasdorchadas on January 6th, 2009 02:10 am (UTC)
Yes, though that's probably Tokyo rush hour. :-p