Sunday, September 14, 2014

Japan Part III: Kyoto, Day 2

After a very busy, but wonderful first day in Kyoto we woke up early for more sightseeing.  It just happened that one of my friends from home, who also lived in Korea this past year, was also traveling around Japan before heading back to America.  Since he was also in Kyoto, we met up with him in the morning before getting on our way. 

Our first site of the day was Kinkakuji, more commonly known as the Golden Pavilion. This is a Zen Buddhist temple, and one of the iconic sites in Kyoto.  It's a bit of a trip away from the center of the city, so we decided to get it out of the way and hit it up first thing in the morning.

The day started off a bit cloudy, but this temple was still beautiful.  Take a look:

When I look at these pictures I almost need to pinch myself.  Was I REALLY there?!

While we were walking around the temple we were stopped by some students from Tokyo who were on a school trip to Kyoto.  Their assignment was to ask some questions to foreigners in English.  I guess Doug and I were pretty obvious targets with our light skin and hair colors, because we were stopped not only once, but twice.  Of course we were happy to talk with them, and actually I wish I could have talked to them more.  I love picking the minds of students in different countries, and I would have loved to have known more about their lives and how it compares to that of Korean students.  Naturally the students were shy though, so our conversations were pretty short, but I was still happy to have the chance to speak with them at least a little bit.  Megan and I were also stopped by students in Thailand, so I'm starting to think this is something that will happen in every country I visit.  I wouldn't complain!

After we finished at the Golden Pavilion it was getting to be lunch time.  We jumped on a bus without really thinking about our strategy for the rest of the day, so we ended up going back to the downtown area that we had been in the night before.  We were all wanting to eat some sushi, so we went back to the place where we bought the sushi on the street the day before.  The little sushi stand also had a restaurant, and since it was delicious the previous day, we decided to go in and sit down.

This restaurant was really cool because the different kinds of sushi rotated around on a big conveyor belt type thing and you just grabbed any kinds of sushi you wanted to try.  We were certainly not disappointed with our lunch, and I'm pretty sure this will now be the sushi I dream about from here on out.

The sushi just goes around and around!


Doug was much braver than Jen and I.  This is horse meat!!!

Tuna and avocado.  So good!

We ate A LOT of sushi.  Can you guess which stack of plates was Doug's?

Feeling refreshed after a great lunch, we made our way to Imperial Palace.  This was on the top of a lot of tourist guide lists, so we figured it was something we should definitely check out.  It took us a while to get there (Japan's transportation system is NOT the most straightforward!), and once we got off the bus it took us a while and a lot of walking in the hot sun to actually find the entrance to the Palace (signs in Kyoto were alarmingly scare).

Finally we did find the entrance, but there was a bit of a problem. On the sign to the palace it said:

Entrance to the Imperial Palace is by reservation only. 

This is where the lack of planning for this trip came back to haunt us.  Actually, to our credit we did read a bit about the palace before coming, but we just didn't read on any of the tourist websites that we needed to make a reservation beforehand.  Jen said she saw that you could make a reservation for a tour, but it didn't say that was the ONLY way you could enter.

Needless to say, we were disappointed that we spent so much time trying to get to the palace, only to see nothing.  Since all of the major tourist sites closed around 4:00, we wasted a lot of precious sightseeing time just getting to the palace.  At that point we didn't have a lot of time to get to another part of the city, so we just found some nearby temples on the map and headed there so at least we could see something else.

Eventually we found this shrine:

As we wandered a bit more, we stumbled across another temple.  It was about to close, but they let us in anyway.

After we finished looking around we were completely exhausted and our feet were in poor shape.  We decided to get on the bus and head back towards the downtown area since all the tourist sites were closed already.  

During our ride on the bus we noticed a street that looked cool, so we got off to explore a bit.  What we discovered was Gion, an area of Kyoto with lots of traditional wooden buildings and apparently the home of Kyoto's largest geisha district.  We didn't see any geishas, but we did see lots of people dressed in kimonos.  One thing that really surprised me about Kyoto was actually how many people were walking around in kimonos.  You seldom see people in Korea walking around in hanboks, so I expected it to be the same in Japan. The abundance of kimonos was actually a nice surprise, and I'm sad that we didn't get a chance to wear any!

Beautiful view along the river.
From there we said goodbye to Doug because he had to catch a bus to Tokyo.  Jen and I continued to wander to find something to eat because we were starting to get hungry again.  We finally just chose a random restaurant because we were tired and were sick of walking around. Dinner that night was ok, but not my favorite meal I had in Japan.

Monday night's dinner.
 After dinner we decided to indulge in some dessert because had been a long day.

 At this point we were full and exhausted, so it was time to head back to the hostel.  We had an early morning ahead of us as our trip headed to Osaka!

Goodbye Kyoto!

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