Monday, 26 March 2007

Day 1: Kyoto

On the evening of Tuesday 20th I caught the sleeper train to Kyoto. It was quite a comfortable ride, or at least it would have been if I had taken earplugs with me. I got to Kyoto at 6.30am feeling relaxed as if I had just spent the whole night on a massage chair, but tired and with that 'Did I really sleep? I'm not sure' feeling you get when you have had a very disturbed sleep. I had to wait until 7.30 before I could buy my Kansai Surutto Pass which made travel so easy for me for three days. As soon as I did I caught a bus to Kiyomizu dera in eastern Kyoto. It was a bit harsh wandering up the hill to Kiyomizu that early in the morning, but getting there before the crowds was definitely worth it. Always busy, this year Kiyomizu is more popular than ever because it has been shortlisted as a candidate for the New Seven Wonders of the World. But it was nice and quiet when I went there, and I had a lovely wander around the grounds. I discovered when I got there that, although the cherry trees were not yet in bloom, I had been lucky enough to arrive in Kyoto when the plum trees were blooming.

After I had finished looking at Kiyomizu dera, I went for a walk to the Gion bus terminal, taking a few pictures along the way. Then I went to Ginkakuji. It was very sunny and the gardens looked absolutely beautiful. Since it was late morning by that time, there were quite a few tourists. After I left Ginkakuji I walked south along the Philosopher's Walk. It was lovely and sunny, and there was a gentle breeze, and the birds were singing, and it was all just lovely. The cherry trees were not yet blooming so the trees were bare, but that meant that there were not too many people sharing the path with me. In cherry blossom season it must be difficult to keep from being knocked into the water below.

Next I caught a bus (well, actually two) to Nijo Castle. I tried to walk on the nightingale floors without making them squeak, but i couldn't do it. Nijo Castle is very big, and I spent quite a while just walking around it and the gardens.

After that I caught the subway to Shijo and transferred to the Keihan railway and went to Fushimi Inari. (All of these forms of transport are covered under the Kansai Surutto ticket, so I didn't need to bother with buying tickets or anything.) Fushimi Inari Taisha (grand shrine) is the head of all the Inari shrines of Japan. All the vermillion gates there are donated by companies of Japan. After I had done enought wandering around the hills behind the shrine, I went and ate kitsune udon at a shop outside. Kitsune udon is udon noodles cooked with a slice of fried beancurd on top. Fried bean curd is said to be the favourite food of foxes (kitsune), and Inari is the god/goddess of foxes, among other things. The noodles were very nice and warm and tasty after a day of eating rice balls. I bought some fruit, caught the train back to Kyoto station (unfortunately having to take the JR line, which is not covered under the Surutto pass) got my bag out of the coin locker I had left it in that morning and then took a Hankyu company train to Osaka to check into my hotel.

Pictures of Kiyomizu dera
A picture of Gion
Pictures of Ginkakuji
Pictures of the Philosopher's Walk
Pictures of Nijo Castle
Pictures of Fushimi Inari Taisha
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