Friday, May 06, 2016

Japan 2016: Kyoto

The Shinkansen was a great experience, but to my surprise despite it being a mid-day trip we had a hard time getting seats in the non-reserved section. I made a note to make sure we got reserved seats on the trip back to Tokyo. Arriving in Kyoto at 2:45pm, we opted for a taxi to take us to our AirBnB home for the next 3 nights instead of the bus. The place turned out to be hard to find even for the taxi driver to find, but Yumiko, our AirBnB host was kind enough to get on a Skype call with the driver and even meet us outside the bridge in front of her house to guide the driver in the last 50 meters. Given how tricky it was I wasn't unhappy about spending the money.

By the time we were all settled in, it was 4pm, and we opted for a neighborhood stroll:

From Japan 2016
Kyoto is a gorgeous city, with lots of beautiful streets and neighborhoods. In fact, i"d say that my biggest regret about Tokyo was not walking enough. Note that according to my Garmin Vivoactive, during our 2 full days in Kyoto, we walked 9.5 miles and 9 miles respectively, most of that with Boen in the backpack on my shoulders, but I wanted to walk even more and just simply ran out of time (and also didn't want to push Bowen that hard, since the poor kid had to keep up with adults!).
That first night we walked around, explored the neighborhood, and ate dinner out, then bought breakfast for the next day. I had some ambitions about being able to eat out, but as the days progressed realized that with 2 kids, eating out was way more stressful than buying ready-to-eat packages at the supermarket that was literally 150m from the house, and much cheaper to boot!
Our first official visit the next day was at the Kiyomizu Dera, which many many people had recommended to us. The grounds were pretty, but it was crowded despite our early arrival.
From Japan 2016
From Japan 2016
From Japan 2016
There was also a Studio Ghibli museum nearby, so Bowen got to hug a large number of Totoros. After lunch, I looked in the guidebook and discovered that nearby was a street that was said to be the prettiest street in all of Asia. Going there took us through the Gion district and another temple, but it was indeed pretty.
From Japan 2016
After that, we took a bus to a Ramen shop, and then made it home for dinner after visiting the Imperial Palace and discovering that it required reservations. Our last full day in Kyoto started at Fushima Inari, which would have been a nice climb but with kids, would have taken quite a bit longer than the projected 50 minutes. We got as high as the first place with which to get a nice view of Kyoto and turned around.
From Japan 2016
From Japan 2016
It was indeed pretty, but once again had people, people, and more people everywhere. I think after too many decades of living in North America, I'm just no longer used to such crowded areas. After the shrine, we headed to the Nishiki food market for snacking, and then headed over to Ginkakuji, which was yet another nice looking temple. But that wasn't what was exciting about Ginkakuji: it was the Philosopher's Path that started near that temple and led through the back alleys. That's a nice city walk that surpassed all our expectations, and if I'd known it was that nice I would probably have started the day with it instead of ending our visit to Kyoto with that walk. I would prioritize it over all the temples in the city.
From Japan 2016
From Japan 2016
From Japan 2016
The walk took us right to the supermarket near our AirBnB, so there we left the path unfinished, to grab dinner and breakfast, and prepare for our trip to Nara the next day.
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