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  • Day5

    Golden Palace in beautiful Kyoto

    August 13, 2016 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Today was our only full day in Kyoto so we were out early to make the most of it.

    We had a few things on the list and first was a trip to Arashimaya to see the famous bamboo grove. As we all know taxis are for wimps so we hopped on the subway in a north westerly direction to Uzumesa Tenjingawa and then walked a few hundred metres to Kaikonoyashiro.

    We knew this was a different line but not much else and it turns out it is a tram line. After a few minutes a small, bright purple tram clanked around the corner and we climbed on. I didn't realise Kyoto still had trams as there are none in the city centre but is seems a few areas still have them.

    The tram followed a road for a bit and then went off on its own line behind houses. The tram was small and the tram corridor it ran down was small, in some places it was 1 line so we had to wait at a station for the tram going the other way to pass us before we could proceed. People's houses backed onto the line and often they had pot plants growing right next to the track. They had gates so they could get out and water the plants - a prime example of every speck of space being used - no worries about Health and Safety, common sense prevails and you just don't get run over by the tram! The stations were also very small, usually a metre or so wide and only as long as the tram. Another interesting aspect was the level crossings, they were tiny. Often only 1 lane wide - a lot narrower than Allan Street!

    We reached Arashimaya and walked up past another temple to the bamboo grove. Really pretty and even though it was only 8.30am and the day was starting to heat up it was very cool in among the bamboo. The grove goes for some distance so we ended up back in Japanese suburbia. On the walk back to the station we found some cinnamon soy donuts which of course we had to try, not quite as good as the donut truck in Berry that's for sure.

    We hopped back on the tram and headed to the next stop Kitano Hakubaicho which is close to the Buddist Temple called Kinkakuji. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. There are a lot of temples in Kyoto and 'temple burnout' can be an issue. Anyway we walked up the hill from the station, cut through a few back streets and found where the rest of Japan was hiding - well everyone who wasn't at Nikko anyway.

    There were thousands of people. We paid our 500 yen (about $6) and went through. I can tell you now I am never going to forget this garden. The Temple is famous for 2 things: its gardens and the Golden Pavilion.

    The photos below don't really do it justice this building is stunning. It is covered in 24 carat gold leaf and sits in a centuries old garden that shows it off perfectly. There were thousands of people there but I managed to take photos without getting too many of them in. We all had to follow the same path and being a bit of a giant my arm was longer than any selfie stick - and aren't those things deadly to us normal height people?

    We wandered up and around the rest of the garden and decided it was time to head back into town. We weren't keen on walking back down the hill to the tram station as the day was really warming up by now so we caught the number 12 bus back into the city.

    Once back in the city it was time for lunch and we made our way into the Nishiki Markets where just about everything was sold - clothes, food, spices, etc etc. While T was in a shop I decided to try some Kyoto street food, a soy and okra fibre croquette, it was pretty good, followed by a potato and butter thingy. Next it was some sweet potato on a stick (they like food on a stick here) which also wasn't bad. But to cap it off we had a cinnamon pancake with ice cream and a creaming soda spider - all traditional Japanese food of course! The pancake shop was a bit of a surprise but very popular with the locals and really stood out from the other shops. They took us up to the first floor and for those of us of normal height it was a tight squeeze up the staircase.

    We made a pit stop in the Hotel to cool off and work out the afternoon's activities. We wanted to see the vermilion gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine which is to the south east of the city. We walked across the river another subway line and headed for Fushimi Inari station. A short walk across a canal and another train line brought us to the temple.

    Once again there were loads of people but the gates are impressive. Would hate to have the job of painting them all as there are a few hundred of them and they go right up a very big hill.

    By now it was mid afternoon and really hot so after finishing at the gates we headed back to the hotel to cool down. It's great you can buy beers (and just about anything else) from the local Lawsons convenience store, dunno why they are called Lawsons, there are a few 7-elevens around but not many.

    We headed out for dinner and found another small restaurant with helpful staff so we tried one of their set menus - chicken hearts and gizzards included - washed down by a glass of sake which is not bad at all.

    We then had to head back to the hotel to pack as we head to Naoshima tomorrow.

    Final impressions of Kyoto are very positive. Really loved this town and wished we had more time here and less in Tokyo. It is a lot more relaxed and really friendly to foreigners. Having said that at no time has the number of foreigners at a particular place been more than about 10 to 15% it is mostly locals or other Japanese. I should point out last Thursday was a holiday in Japan which explains why there are lot of people out and about at all the tourist sites.

    Tomorrow we get a little off the beaten track to an island in the Seto Inland Sea called Naoshima. Really looking forward to it, it is a luxury hotel so we are spoiling ourselves.
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