Sunday, June 23, 2013

Kyoto, Japan part 1

We arrived at Kyoto Station midday on Sunday. Unfortunately, due to lack of foresight, we did not find a church service in Osaka. Through a google search, I found a couple of services, but I couldn’t figure out where they were in relation to where we were.

Kyoto Station is very futuristic and modern, quite a contrast to the rest of the city. The station was completed in 1997 – only 16 years ago. It has lots of restaurants and stores, but seemed slight on non-Japanese take out. *sigh*

The hotel provided a free shuttle bus from the train station, so we loaded our luggage into it and checked in. The first highlight was that there was a parade piece in the lobby of a giant that never leaves Kiyomizu Temple . As Ashley has a bearded dragon, this reminded her of Sandy.

We were too early to check into our rooms, so we left our bags and started our adventures.

Our first stop was Nijo Castle. The claim to fame of this castle is it’s interiors. The walls were painted by various members of the Kano family and the Kano School of artists. The little we learned about them reminded us of the Peale family – Charles Willson Peale painted a very famous portrait of George Washington standing in front of Nassau Hall at Princeton University. Most (if not all) of his children became artists. The Kano family began as a low-ranking samurai family and became famous artists in the 15th century.

The castle is most famous for its nightingale floors. No matter how quietly you walk, the floors creak in a way that sounds like music. This is so no one could sneak up on the ruler and kill him.

What stood out to me was the huge size of the rooms, and the lack of furniture. Unfortunately photography was strictly prohibited.

We walked around the gardens. The famous Karamon Gate, which looks beautiful in our tour book photo, is under construction until September 2013. Just seeing the sign made me think of Paris. It seemed every time I went to Paris (keep in mind, I spent 1987-88 as an exchange student in Belgium, spent fall 1990 as a exchange student in Paris, and honeymooned there in May 1993), I felt I’d have to keep returning in order to see every building without scaffolding at least once. There is always a reason to return someplace.

The entire complex started a massive renovation in 1972 to preserve the then-450 year old building. I'm impressed they thought about preservation as early as the 1970s.

We walked around the gardens. Unfortunately nothing seemed to be in bloom. We were too late for some flowering trees, and too early for others.

We hopped back on the bus to the Kyoto Station for lunch. We went to a
Ramen noodle shop. See, we can eat Japanese food. (Looking at my pictures later, the front of the restaurant said it was a Chinese Restaurant. We tried!)

Our travels took us to the Toji Temple, a 5-Story Pagoda, and Japan’s tallest wooden structure. At 55 m (180 feet) it seemed much taller than the one we saw the day before in Nara that is the second tallest wooden structure.

Within Toji Temple complex were a couple of other buildings. One had Buddha in it, which made it a Temple instead of a Shrine. It reminded me of being in Paris (I guess being in a foreign country, I have France on the brain). In Catholicism there is a difference between a basilica and a cathedral and other kinds of
churches. I’ll have to refresh my memory on that. The Buddha at Toji Temple was much smaller than the one in Nara, but still quite impressive. He was first built in 796, the building it currently resides in was built in 1603. This was the Buddha of healing, so I asked him to cure my cold. It must have worked, because my cold did go away later that day. Even so, I’m still a Christian at heart.

We decided to walk to the Gion District. Since we are all shutterbugs, the 30 minute walk took closer to an hour. Oh well. On the way we hung out by the Kamo River. Don stopped into a couple of bike shops. He is that much closer to finding something that will
work on his bike at home.

Gion District 

The tourbook said to go at dusk, however there was not much life on a Sunday night. We did see a couple of Geishas and dashed down Ishibe-Koji Lane – a street filled with tea houses and inns so discrete we didn’t notice them. We walked up to the Yasaka Shrine – a pretty red and white shrine that hosts a huge festival every July.

Ashley’s contact lenses started to bother her in the Gion District. Fortunately there was a Family Mart – a huge drugstore chain and Hiroko was able to find the perfect solution – a single use bottle of saline solution and a contact lens case for 100 yen ($1). She then crashed for the night. If it wasn’t that we had no idea where the hotel was located, we would not have been far behind her.

Sleep is for wimps, right?

More pictures of Kyoto Kyoto Part 2
Kyoto Part 3

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