Japan Time

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Kyoto Adventure: Day 2

I started my second day in Kyoto with free hotel breakfast and a Skype chat with Laura. Then I decided to venture out to Kiyomizu Temple. I took the bus, thinking it would take me to Kiyomizu, but instead, I ended up way on the outskirts of Kyoto in front of Kamigamo Shrine. I had never heard of it, but I decided to check it out since I was there and I was a little sick of riding on the bus. Turns out it's a World Heritage Site and one of the oldest shrines in Japan.

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.

10 of my favorite shots from today...

...more photos and today's Kyoto adventures to come later.

Yasaka Shrine

Kiyomizu Temple

Fortunes at Kiyomizu Temple

Kiyomizu Temple




New Year's Eve, Yasaka Shrine

New Year's Eve, Yasaka Shrine

New Year's Eve, Yasaka Shrine

Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Kyoto Adventure: Day 1

Today I arrived in Kyoto at 5 am to begin my New Year vacation in one of Japan's most beautiful cities.
I took the bus from Shizuoka at 10 pm and we drove all night to get to Kyoto this morning. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep. The bus was pretty nice, though, considering it was fairly cheap (10,000 yen round trip - about $100). There was a lot of leg room and we got complementary slippers and a blanket.


Kyoto station.

After wandering around for a good half hour looking for my hotel (my terrible sense of direction never fails on vacation in a new place), I finally located it, dropped my stuff off (but couldn't check in until 3 pm), and made my way to Fushimi Inari Shrine, the place I wanted to visit the most while in Kyoto. I've seen photos of the hundreds of red torii gates and think they are so beautiful and great for photos. I took the train from Kyoto station to Inari and made my way up the mountain under the torii gates.

Actually, I say in this video that there are 1300 torii gates, but I may have made a mistake. I don't think there are quite that many.

There are many fox statues and things throughout Fushimi Inari. They are considered to be messengers.

Quail? Maybe.

Grilled eel.
After Fushimi Inari, I went to Nishiki Market, a famous food market with over one hundred shops sellings all kinds of Japanese food. It was crazy crowded, though, and I literally had to push my way past people to get through. You may think that Japanese people seem meek and mild, but man, can they be pushy!

Shrimp and other shellfish.

Octopus and such.

Japanese sweets in little sculptured shapes.


Well, hello to you, too!

Very expensive crab.

Creepy looking white fish.
After the food market, I was getting pretty exhausted from the bus ride, not much sleep, and getting pushed around by shoppers, so I went back to my hotel.

And even though it's only 9 pm, I'm in my hotel-provided pajamas and going to bed, baby! I want to get an early start tomorrow.

Stay tuned for more Kyoto adventures!