So after my longest day of intra-Asia move which involved a stop in Bangkok, and a train from Osaka to Kyoto, I arrived late Thursday night after a full day of travel in Kyoto, Japan. You might remember (or at least I did) Kyoto from Lost in Translation, where ScarJo takes off on the train and visits all the temples and zen rock gardens for the day. Kyoto is that and much more. A mid-sized city (#6 in Japan), with 1.4 million people, its best known as the previous Japaneese capital (for about a thousand years!) and also as the "City of Ten Thousand Shrines". Kyoto reminds me a lot of a Seattle or Portland. It's an extremely clean and orderly city laid out around rivers and streams with an abundance of low rise residential plots and picturese Japaneese scenes and shops scattered throughout the landscape which is rich with culture.
I spent all day Friday on foot, by my estimate about 13-14 kilometers visiting a laundry list of Temples and culture stops in the eastern part of Kyoto, the old portion of the city. I started with a morning visit to the Yasaka Shrine, Kodaji Temple and the Kiyomizudera Temple. I spent about 30 minutes to an hour at each, snapping pictures and walking throughout the temples and grounds. The grounds surrounding each is impeccably manicured and landscaped, and extrememly picturesque. The temples and shrines range in crowds and tourists from the quietest and serene to the ones that you can't walk ten feet without getting hit by a selfie stick. Regardless, each was unique and provided ample photo taking opportunities. The journey itself though, between sites, was a great walk that varied too, from quiet lonely residential streets, to crowded pedestrain shopping disctircts lined with food and small kimono shops. Its definetly a great way to see the city. I stopped back at the hotel to drop off some purchases and made my way (by cab) north to the Ginkakuji Temple, known as the Silver Pavillion, one of the landmark locations in Kyoto. From there I made my way back on a path known as the Path of Philosophy towards the hotel. The path is a 2 kilometer mix of alley and path, along a stream through small residental areas, scattered with small shops and artisans and is mostly a quiet walk with your thoughts. Famous for the cherry blossoms, here mid-summer was not in bloom, but was still a great way to get through the city. I made a quick stop at the Heian Jingu Shine on the walk back before returning to the hotel late in the afternoon. After a quick shower, I headed out to an izakaya I had seen on my walk for a few beers and an omakase dinner after a long and tiring day.
Saturday morning I took a cooking class in Japanese cuisine. The class spent the first part of the morning learning about essential Japanese ingredients and their history like miso paste, mirin, soy, dashi, etc. After a bit of background and learning, the group got to create our own lunches in a bento format with a sushi roll, tempura, spinach salad, chicken teriyaki and miso soup. It was a super fun format, and great to learn a lot about a cuisine I love, and never cook. Everything was super simple and intuative, yet complex in flavor and composition. It was awesome to be able to build it and of course eat it. After lunch, which I must say was delicious, I headed out to another famous and must-see on the list - the Kinkakuji Temple, or more commonly the Golden Pavilion. Being one of the more popular attractions, by early afternoon it was very crowded, but I managed too get some great shots by dodging a few selfie sticks and crropping out the tourists. From there I walked about 20 minutes to the Ryoanki Temple which is famous for its rock garden. this was a great stop, with a much smaller crowd and a much more zen atmosphere with a beautiful pond and its "internatinally famous" rock garden, which when everyone is quietly sitting around does envoke some pretty powerful thoughts for something so seemly simple. After Ryoanji, I headed over to another area I was told I had to check out further out of the city called Arashiyama. Its a really picturesque suburb, I guess you could call it, on the banks of the Hozu River, with a couple really great tourist streets around some of the culture spots. I visited the Tenryu-ji Temple and the Bamboo Walk, a great path through a seriously tall bamboo forest. It was a good trip outside of the city, and allowed me to navigate some public transpartation coming back in, starting with Randen train, an electric railway tram dating back to 1910. It was a fun ride and definetly a juxtaposition from the connection I made to Kyoto's modern subway, but it wrapped up another long day of touring.
Sunday I was off on the bullet train to Tokyo, saying goodbye to my Lost in Translation moments in Kyoto, which earned itself a very favorable city rating on the Asia tour.
Tons more pictues available on the iCloud folder.