After Kamigamo, I got on the bus and headed back in the direction of my hotel (which, by the way, is in a great location...just a two minute walk to Gion), stopping at Yasaka Shrine first. Yasaka Shrine is the main shrine in Gion, the historical part of Kyoto known for geisha. Yasaka Shrine is also a popular shrine to visit for the New Year and I decided to scope it out before it got incredibly crowded in the evening. It was a bigger than it looked from the street, with the main shrine and a few buildings in the front and a park leading up the mountain in the back.
After Yasaka Shrine, I decided to attempt to find Kiyomizu Temple again by bus. I triple checked the bus schedule at the bus stop and my borrowed Kyoto guidebook and boarded the bus more confidently the second time around. Thankfully, the bus schedule and my guidebook matched and I quickly found myself walking up the hill to Kiyomizu Temple.
I had read online and in my guidebook and heard from students about Kiyomizu Temple, but, to be honest, the pictures online didn't look that impressive and I wasn't really expecting much. But I was pleasantly surprised when I reached the top of the hill. Kiyomizu is truly a beautiful temple with a great view of of Kyoto.
I took the bus back to Gion after Kiyomizu and wandered around the old street, admiring the historical Japanese architecture and hoping to spot maiko or geiko, but with no success.
I found Gion Corner, which is where I went four years ago when I come to Japan with SAU. The other girls and I came here to see a tea ceremony and other traditional Japanese performances. It's hard to believe that was four years ago!
I went back to my hotel to rest for a while and brace myself to deal with the big New Year's Eve crowds. At about 9:30 pm, I went back out to Gion, which was pretty much empty, and then made my way to Yasaka Shrine.
I wandered around for a while, taking pictures and checking everything out. When it got to be about 11:30 pm, I tried to go back into the main area of the shrine, but it was closed off! I think there were too many people inside, so the police had to make us wait until they cleared out to let us in. So, I ended up ringing in the New Year in a line of thousands of people outside of Yasaka Shrine, which was a bit disappointing, but shortly after midnight, they let us in. Thousands of people were there, throwing money at the shrine's base and praying for the new year.
So, all in all, it was a good New Year's Eve, and quite different from the typical ones I've spent in the States. It was cold and crowded and I was exhausted by the end of the night, but I'm really glad I went.
Click here to see my 10 favorite photos of the day.