We have really enjoyed being in Kyoto. There is just so much to see and it is very historic. We have been trying to think of all the world heritage sites in Australia and we came up- with a list of about ten.- There are probably more, but the comparison that wre wanted to make is that this city has seventeen all on it s own. So far, we have visited five of them.
On our first day here, we went for a walk to a garden that was originally established in the 1200’s and then on our `way back to the hotel visited two temples near the station, both of which are on the world heritage list.
Getting around is quite easy – its a matter of jumping on the back door of one of the local buses and waiting until the right stop is announced in English over the PA system. Then it can be a bit of a battle beating your way through the crowd to the front where you drop 220 yen into the coin box as a flat fare for any ride in the city, If you don’t have the right amount, you can put a note or a large coin in the change slot and the console will spit out change for you to use for your fare. Mostly, we have been getting off at very popular`spots, so beating our way through the crowd hasn’t been necessary; the trick is to just go with the flow towards the front.
Yesterday, we first visited the Kinkakuji, the Golden Temple, and the walked down the road for a couple of kilometres to Ninnaji Temple which was at one time a ‘palace’ of a nobleman. It had a spectacular garden which was viewed from the veranda of a connected set of buildings. Walking around the buildings was obviously done after taking off one’s shoes. Slippers are provided, but my feet are far too large for them, so I just shuffle along in my socks. On the way, we passed Ryoanji Temple which is famous for its rock garden and raked pebbles.We found a little cafe on the way for lunch.
For dinner, we walked a few metres up the road from the hotel and found an unassuming little place that sold grilled food on skewers. We had a great feast of chicken, beef, pork, rice cakes and assorted thing until were were completely full.
Today, our second dull day in Kyoto, we caught the bus out to Ginkakuji, the Silver Temple. We got there to find that it was being renovated and although the gardens were opened, we decided not to pay the admission fee but to follow a walk that we had planned along an old canal. This route is known as the ‘Philosopher’s Path’ and follows a stone lined water can up stream for a couple of kilometres. This was a very pretty walk and even though we were probably a week too early to see the full flush of blooms on the cherry trees that lined the canal, there was just enough bud burst to get a hint of what it may look like in another few days. All along the way, we came across interesting little shops, galleries, people cooking various delights and of course, shrines. It was an area with a lot of character and the time went very quickly.
Towards the end of the canal it was beginning to rain and it was getting very cold. Fortuitously, we found a little restaurant that sold Okonomyaki which was cooked at the table. We took refuge there and had good lunch in a little quaint restaurant.
By the time we had finished lunch the sun was out again and we could continue on to Nanzenji Temple with its massive entry gate and park like gardens. This temple was built in 842 and is the head temple of the Omura branch of Buddhism.
Tonight, we hopped the hotel shuttle across to the station and found a little pace in which to have dinner. The station building is relatively new – built in 1997, and is an impressive steel and glass building. The public area is very large with a stunningly high ceiling and multiple floors of shops.
It is really a city in itself and has to be seen to be beli8eved. It contains three stations – four shinkansen platforms, ten JR local platforms and an additional station area for the privately run Kintetsu Line. The building includes dozens of restaurants and cafes, as many convenience stores and assorted shops, a nine story Isetan department store and an underground shopping plaza that is bigger than any regional shopping centre in Australia. To the north is a bus terminal that provides over a dozen bus stops, all of which are continually busy with arriving and departing busses of the thirty or so- routes that criss-cross the city. On top of all this, I realise that I haven’t yet mentioned the underground station for the local subway system. What a transport complex! Guess what – everything integrates well, and trains and buses all run exactly on time `too!
In one of the corners of tie station, we found this incredible fountain. This video comes from Youtube and it illustrates the fountain really well. It’s all done with falling jets of water!