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We had high hopes for Kyoto.  Really high.  We had heard from a lot of friends that that it was the most interesting city in Japan, and after arriving we saw a lot of ads to that same effect.  It goes to show that everyones’ travel experiences are unique.  Although there were many beautiful sites, I think it was actually my least favorite city in Japan.  It is as if it has been bombarded by so many tourists for so long, that people have pretty much given up on being friendly and instead are just focusing on shuttling tourists through.  It was also the only city where we saw litter around the streets.  Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal at all, but in comparison to sparkling clean streets and overwhelming hospitality that we experienced in other parts of the country, it really stood out.  I don’t want to be too negative though because we did have some awesome experiences here.

We took the Shinkansen (high speed bullet train) into Kyoto from Tokyo and we made sure to request right-hand seats so we could see Mt. Fuji on the way in.  We were still feeling a bit rough after our big night out in Tokyo.  The train station in Kyoto was super crowded but we made it to our hotel without much issue.  We took quick naps and then walked to Maruyama-koen, a huge park where there were having a carnival-like hanami party.  The park is near Gion, where the Geishas hang out and we actually saw a Geisha at one of the carnival booths, shooting a pop gun at some cans.  So cool!  There was also a huge weeping hanami tree that was lit up, and we saw small crowds of people, drinking sake and eating delicious festival food.

The next morning, after we finally got a good night’s sleep, we then went to go meet up with my old friend Noah, who was also traveling in Japan and just happened to be traveling though Kyoto at the same time as us!  Among many other talents, Noah is a film maker and currently filming his second walking journey across Japan.  He films and edits and publishes the whole thing from an iPhone and the web videos are pretty awesome.

We went to check out a few temples in Southern Higashiyama, and then it started to pour rain so we stopped in a little restaurant in Gion for a soba noodle set.  At the next table, there was a group of about ten Japanese guys who were all in town to celebrate hanami.  Noah’s Japanese is really good so he struck up a conversation with them and before we knew it they were buying a bottle of sake for me and Amanda to celebrate our “new” marriage (even though we have been married two years)!  Somehow Noah, then talked the owners into giving us some free umbrellas and then we jumped on a bus to Fushimi-Inari Taisha to see the famous torii (red gates).

The gates were absolutely beautiful, and one of my favorite things in Kyoto.  It stopped raining when we got there but the damp atmosphere and droplets falling off of the gates gave the whole place a mystical vibe.  Unfortunately, Noah had to leave after that so Amanda and I headed back to the hotel, but not before stopping at Ippudo, a small ramen chain that is known as having some of the best ramen in Japan.  It came with tasty garnishes like kimchee, ginger, seaweed, garlic, ground sesame, and some sort of black sesame/garlic mixture that was delicious.

The next morning, after an early 7-11 breakfast (still enjoying cheap convenience store meals!!), we went to the big Geisha theater so we could reserve tickets for that night’s performance.  The Geisha dances run year round, but during Hanami season they put on a special show.  After getting our tickets we rushed to get to Saihoji.  Saihoji is a small temple, that is not on many maps or in most guidebooks.  In order to enter, you must send them a letter at least a week in advance requesting permission (I had done this from Tokyo), you must then pay roughly $40 a person when you arrive.  In return, you get to see an absolutely beautiful moss traditional japanese garden that is composed mainly of different types of moss.  Before entering though, you have to enter the temple, and trace the characters on a prayer scroll with a brush and sheet of tracing paper.  Then you write a wish on it and hand it to the monk.

Then we went and walked along the Philosopher’s path, a famous walkway surrounded by cherry blossom trees, and checked out a few more temples including some nice rock gardens and koi ponds, before heading back to the theater to watch the Geisha show.  The next morning we had breakfast at one of the many delicious boulangeries (French bakery) around town, then we went to the famous Nishiki market to check out all of the fresh produce and prepared foods.  That was probably my favorite part of Kyoto.  The assortment of delicious fruits, fish, vegetables and pastries (all with free samples) was awesome.  Then we went to go see the famous bamboo groves at Arishiyama before going back to Ippudo one last time.

  • Nishiki market was awesome!
  • So many delicious Japanese pastries
  • Arishiyama bamboo grove
  • Arishiyama bamboo grove
  • Arishiyama bamboo grove
  • Kyoto-80
  • Excellent green tea cookie
  • Kyoto-78
  • Saihoji moss garden temple
  • Amanda and sakuras
  • Saihoji moss garden temple
  • Saihoji moss garden temple
  • Saihoji moss garden temple
  • Saihoji moss garden temple
  • Saihoji moss garden temple
  • So much delicious sushi
  • Kyoto at dusk
  • Saihoji moss garden temple
  • Mt Fuji from the Shinkansen
  • Lanterns in Kyoto
  • Hanami at Maruyama Koen
  • Geisha with pop gun
  • Geisha wins a prize
  • Huge weeping cherry tree at Maruyama Koen
  • Hanami at Maruyama Koen
  • Fish shaped waffles?
  • Friendly bunny traffic barricades
  • Noah drinking some temple water
  • Temple and fountain in Kyoto
  • Bridge to small shrine
  • Small headstones and moss garden
  • Giant bell in Southern Higashiyama.
  • Dancing in the falling sakuras!
  • Noah likes to chat up the locals
  • Menu
  • Noah near a pond
  • Us in front of pond
  • Friendly group of hanami partiers
  • Helpful sign
  • Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Amanda ghost at Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Amanda Ghost at Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Looking down on the arches at Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Model session at Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Noah is awesome
  • So happy to be at Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Adam and Amanda at Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • White nekko (cat) at Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Fox guardian
  • Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Adam and Amanda at Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Sakuras and temple
  • Leaving Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine
  • Falling blossoms
  • Sakura storm!
  • Koi
  • Cemetary
  • Rock garden #3
  • Gazing at the rock garden
  • Together at the rock garden
  • Rock garden #2
  • Rock garden
  • Sakura and temple
  • Cherry blossom photogs
  • In front of sakura trees
  • Beautiful sakura
  • Kimono ladies
  • The gutter is filled with blossoms
  • sluuurp
  • Sakura (cherry blossom) mochi are so good!
  • Philosopher's path #3
  • Geisha dance
  • Kimono lady
  • Philosopher's path #2
  • Philosopher's path
  • Bunny themed shrine
  • Udon set

Posted: May 9, 2012

Author: Adam and Amanda

Category: Asia, Blog, Continents, Japan


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