Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Japan - Day 10 - Exploring Kyoto

Today started at 8:30, with a Cup Noodle and gyoza from 7/11 the day before.  We met with Ruston and Jacob at 9:10 and headed out.  First we went down in the subway to one of the ticket booths and bought an all day bus pass for 500 yen.  We then took the bus down to the main JR station, and then out to see the Fushimi Shrine in Kyoto. 

At the station, we all grabbed a donut from Mister Donut.  I got a chewy honey flavored one, Theresa got a crystallized sugar rice donut.  Very tasty.

We arrived at the station, and it was hard to miss the giant gates right across from it.  We sat down and ate our donuts and then started looking around.  

We saw two older ladies who were working to sweep up the grounds using some really old looking twig brooms.  I'm sure the whole thing could have been done with a leaf blower in no time at all, but it would have totally ruined the mood.

The main area was very crowded with people ringing the bells.  We saw a cute little girl probably around 3 all dressed up in a kimono along with her parents and grandparents.  It looked like there was a dedication ceremony or something like it going on in one of the temples, because they would wait their turn, then hand the monk a slip of paper with writing on it and he’d lead them to the main altar.  

Just off to the side was a section with tons of fruit and drinks.  We were thinking they were some sort of offering.  When we came down later, everything in this area was gone.

We continued up the steps and were blown away by the number of gates there were.  We’d seen the picture in the guidebook that got us to come to this place, but I was expecting that to be just a small section in the whole area.  Boy was I wrong!

Here's a video I made of just a small section of these Tori gates.  Hopefully it'll give you an idea of how many gates there were.

We found some of those cool stick brooms.

All along the path were these crazy spiders.  I think the bright colors means they're friendly!  There's some good motivation to stay on the path!

It was quite a hike up the mountain.  Along the way we found a few tea houses.  I guess they have problems with people stopping and not buying anything.

We were getting pretty high up the mountain and starting to get tired.  We passed a couple very old ladies making their way up the steps.  They laughed and said what we later learned was “Go ahead, go ahead.”  After seeing them making it so far, we knew we had to continue and make it to the top.

Along the way, we saw lots of tiny Torii, just 12” or so tall.  Ruston commented that you are supposed to plant them and they’ll grow into the big 10’ ones we are walking through.  A short time later, we made it to the top and were presented with two loops; one that would take 40 minutes, another that would take 10.  We decided on the 10 minute one and were rewarded with seeing the giant Tori gate we had seen from the bottom of the mountain.

Too bad it was such a hazy day.  I'm sure the views from here would be amazing on a clear day.

Even seeing all the spiders, I hiked off the trail just a bit to get a photo of the other 3, then Ruston risked life and limb to do the same and get a photo of me and Theresa. 

We were satisfied with what we’d seen and we've got quite a few things to see today, so we began the hike back down to the train.  Here's the two older ladies still working their way up the hill.  What good exercise it must be to go up and down these every morning.

And that's where we were a short time ago. 

We took the train back to Kyoto station and walked over to Delifrance for lunch. 

Here's a sign I can get behind.

Since we were so close, we all decided to stop in the Kyoto Yodobashi electronics store and try out their massage section.  Theresa spent most of her time again on the foot massager, and seriously considered buying one to take home.

If anyone knows the models of these or knows where I can order the Japanese versions of these, we're definitely interested. 

I headed over to the massage chairs that were just fantastic.  Poor Ruston and Jake.  Too tall for the chairs for them to work right. 

We took the train over to Nijo castle and gardens. 

The castle was different than what we’d normally think of as a castle.  It was just a big house with wide open areas.  It had paper walls, sliding wooden doors, and wood floors, and little to no furniture.  The only real decoration was the paintings on the sliding paper doors.  Much different from a European castle where it’s all paintings, carvings, tapestries, etc.  Unfortunately no photos were allowed inside.  One interesting thing here are the nightingale floors that “chirp” like birds when you walk on them, supposedly to help detect intruders by making noise.  Ruston got an audio recording on his phone of the floors. 

We walked back outside into the gardens and saw some beautiful trees with their leaves changing colors, some ponds, and rock decorations. 

Who's that in the background?


Oh how I wish I had clear blue skies today.

We continued walking and even found what Ruston called “Poodle Trees”. 

We each paid an extra 100 yen each to see some additional paintings that came from the original temple that weren’t normally on display.  The building this was in was huge.  As soon as we walked in and paid though, it was just a small room with the artwork (no photos allowed).  We later learned the rest of the building was off limits and for storing other artwork.  We didn’t find anything all that special about the artwork and would probably skip it if we had to do it again.  From there, we exited the temple and caught the bus back to the hotel.  Ruston got a photo of a sign we saw in the Niji grounds and showed it to the hotel staff to get a translation.  Apparently it said “No Fireworks”.  People really light fireworks inside the palace grounds?  

We took a 45 minute break at the hotel and then headed out for dinner.  We'd seen this place a few times as we'd walked by and it was very busy.  Might as well eat dinner at a place that looked really popular with the locals.  We had the option of eating at a traditional Japanese table, but decided the one time in Hakone was enough. 

We got a lot of food for only 800 yen each.  And we saw them making the gyoza right there and it was really tasty.

You'd think we'd be done for the night by now, but no, we've got more planned.
We caught a bus over to Pontocho alley where the nightlife was supposed to be old school Kyoto. 

It was a narrow alleyway too small for a car or moped to ride down, with lots of restaurants and lit up signs.  It was cool to see, but we wondered how all these places stay in business with so much competition. 

We were finished walking there and going back to the bus stop, when we saw what looked like an outdoor mall that just stretched on for blocks and blocks.  We went down and stopped in a few interesting stores. 

We really like finding different candies.

Umm, I'll have....

Finally found a few different Kit Kat flavors.  We saw a Tea flavor, cinnamon cookie, and green tea.  We wound up getting a Mont Blanc flavor, and one we couldn’t read but it looks like a pumpkin flan on it. 

We even ran into the Colonel.

At exactly 8pm, all the shops started closing up and turning lights off, so we knew it was time to get going.  We hopped back on the bus and we were back at the hotel shortly afterward.  Tomorrow we’ll be doing more of Kyoto.  Maybe not so much hiking.

Click here to go to Day 11 - Even more Kyoto

Day 1 - Flight to Japan
Day 2 - First Day at Tokyo Disneyland
Day 3 - Tokyo Disney Sea
Day 4 - A Rainy Day at Tokyo Disneyland
Day 5 - The Last Day at Disneyland
Day 6 - Leaving Disneyland and the first day in Tokyo
Day 7 - Exploring Tokyo 
Day 8 - Off to Hakone
Day 9 - Off to Kyoto
Day 10 - Exploring Kyoto
Day 11 - Even more Kyoto
Day 12 - Leaving Jacob and Ruston and heading back to Tokyo Disney Sea
Day 13 - Hanging out at Tokyo Disneyland 
Day 14 - Last Day in Japan
Day 12 to14 - Ruston and Jacob's last few days in Japan
Day 15 - Leaving Japan

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