Japan (Part 1) Introduction- A Babymoon…….Sakura Style!?
Japan (Part 2) Japan Airlines First Class Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo Narita
Japan (Part 3) St. Regis Osaka
Japan (Part 4) Around Kyoto
Japan (Part 5) Around Nara
Japan (Part 6) Andaz Tokyo
Japan (Part 7) Around Tokyo
Japan (Part 8) Conrad Tokyo
Japan (Part 9) Fujigoko Sakura viewing (Beautiful full bloom cherry blossoms)
Japan (Part 10) Westin Tokyo
Japan (Part 11) Japan Airlines First Class Lounge
Japan (Part 12) Japan Airlines First Class Tokyo Narita to Chicago O’Hare
Our first full day in Japan we decided to visit Kyoto. We took the Shinkansen from Osaka to Kyoto station. We were armed with a map of the city and many of the attractions and highlights were circled. We initially bought a daily bus pass outside Kyoto station and waited at the bus station to grab a ride to Nijo Castle. The bus ride was so uncomfortably crowded that once we finally got to our destination I told my wife we aren’t going to be doing that anymore today and thus took cabs the rest of the day. The weather forecast called for rain….. all day! So we grabbed an umbrella from the St. Regis before heading out. They offered us two but we declined and figured we could share-MAJOR MISTAKE! The umbrella was big enough for two people but just barely and my wife was very demanding that she didn’t get a drop of rain on her LOL! You can imagine us all day visiting the sights throughout Kyoto with my wife constantly adjusting the umbrella depending on the direction of the rain and whatnot. 🙂
(Please note I am not adding captions to the photos in this post, I am letting the photos do the talking)
We got to Nijo Castle perhaps around 10am and it was fairly busy. There is a small admission fee and a small fee if you want a recorded guided session on headphones which my wife did want. We walked around the grounds which were interesting. You could also go inside the property but you had to remove your shoes prior to entering. We also were not allowed to take pictures while inside which is always a bummer. One theme that we saw throughout the day not just here but at many of the touristy areas of Kyoto were quite a bit of school field trips. Lots of Japanese children in there school uniforms visiting the attractions.
The grounds were quite expansive and had a lovely garden area full of ponds and cherry blossoms of varying degrees of bloom. Meanwhile the palace was large and ornate and extremely old and ancient. The palace is also surrounded by a moat which I thought was interesting.
We spent about 1-1.5 hours at Nijo castle which is plenty of time to see it all and we enjoyed our time there.
Kinkaku-ji Buddhist Temple
After visiting Nijo Castle we took a cab over to Kinkaku-ji Temple. Kankaku-ji is one of the iconic images when one thinks of ancient Japan. A glimmering gold temple surrounded by water which is an awesome sight. The scene upon entering the grounds was hectic! Long but fast moving lines of people buying tickets. Lots of people visiting as we arrived around mid day. Lots of people with not a lot of space to walk and move around.
You can see many people walking together as the crowd creates sort of an umbrella canopy.
We spent about 30-40 minutes here. My wife joked that after we took our first couple photos we could leave right away as it was so crowded.
Walking Around Kyoto
We walked around Kyoto for just a bit and decided to do some shopping and grab some lunch.
I think the photo above maybe part of philosophers walk?? Not sure but notice the cherry blossoms almost gone from the rain and being about 10 days past peak.
My wife found a store that specialized in “bunny’s”! The whole store had a Japanese bunny theme to it. We ended up buying a gift for baby to be while here.
Just down the road from the “bunny store” we saw a decent looking restaurant and decided to take a load off and grab some food. We had a really good meal actually and we had the fried chicken entree with rice and miso soup. My wife had the best tasting apple juice ever! )WOW it was good) I had my first and last beer while in Japan unfortunately as I didn’t feel good enough to “drink” most of the trip. Service was good and so was the food-two thumbs up here.
We then took a cab over to Ginkakuji (a zen temple). This was an ancient shoguns retirement villa which was built in 1482. Ginkakuji’s main draw is the silver pavilion which was modeled after the Kinkaku-ji temple we visited earlier but the grounds are very nice as well and allow for some nice views if you walk around to the overlook spot. We fought through the rain once again to walk around and see the grounds from various vantage points. We thought the grounds were peaceful and full of beauty. It wasn’t as crowded here so it was a bit more enjoyable.
We spend about 1.5 hours at Ginkakuji and found it enjoyable overall even in the rain!
From Ginkakuji we had to wait a bit for a cab but one finally showed up at the taxi stand. We told them to take us to the Gion district of Kyoto. At this time it was mid afternoon and the rain and tug of war with the umbrella was starting to wear us down. I decided to only pack two pairs of shoes, one pair of gym shoes incase I wanted to use the gym and a nicer pair of Allen Edmonds which got totally trashed walking in the rain all day. By the time we got to Gion we weren’t sure where we wanted to go or exactly what we wanted to do. I was wondering if we would bump into any giesha’s while in Gion since that is there “headquarters” so to speak. So we simply walked around aimlessly. We saw what I believed to be Yasaka Shrine so we decided to check it out for a bit. We didn’t see any giesha’s but some maiko which are giesha apprentices.
After walking around for a bit we decided on this rainy Tuesday that we had seen enough for the day and took a cab back to Kyoto station and the Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka station and the subway back to our hotel in Osaka. But a very memorable and enjoyable time taking in some of the ancient cultural sights of Japan!