Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Kyoto: Walking tour day 2

Nijo Castle - Kyoto by girl from finito
Nijo Castle - Kyoto, a photo by girl from finito on Flickr.
Our second day starts with a bit of hiccup. I was supposed to meet Jane and Greg Hunt (one of the Aussie couples from the previous day) in morning but was so worried that I was late - I just hopped in a cab to Nijo castle by myself leaving them behind. I don't know if I'll ever get used to Japanese cabs - the door is closed by the diver with a button - I made the mistake more than once on my trip. Anyways, The Hunts were more than gracious about my flub and we continued on.

Entrance gate to Ninomaru palace photo by Greg Koch

At Nijo-jo we wandered through beautifully preserved audience halls built for the Tokugawa shoguns, the rulers of Japan in the Edo Period. There was no photography allowed inside so you'll just have to go there yourself.

After wandering though the expansive grounds we made our way to Kitayama (North Mountain) and the magnificent Kinkaku-ji, Golden Pavilion.

The Pavilion, coated in gold leaf and reflected in the still lake surrounding it, is probably Japan’s most recognizable icon. Ginkaku-ji (the Silver Pavilion), that we had see the previous day, in Higashiyama (the East Mountain) was built as a counter balance to this temple. We were so fortunate to arrive when there weren't too many tourists and so our shots all look relatively serene.

From here we made our way to nearby Ryoan-ji temple and its world famous garden, considered to be the epitome of a Zen garden.
Scale model of the Ryoan-ji garden photo by Greg Koch

Ryoan-ji Rock garden photo by Greg Koch
Outside the temple was a lovely lake surrounded by persimmon trees. (which I totally though were mikan trees until I looked a little closer)

Randen Train photo by Greg Koch
I'm so glad Greg got shots of the super adorable train/tram that we took up to Arashiyama in the west of Kyoto.  Here we had a fantastic lunch of soba (buckwheat noodles) at Yoshimura overlooking the Katsura River. We also went on a little hunt for coffee. Coffee was priority that our tour guide just did not understand ☺. Here is classic shot of me and Greg Hunt in the little shop Jane spotted pre-coffee.

Coffee = Life photo by Greg Koch
Ha ha ha ha. I look so unimpressed. Also of note is the fact that I'm not wearing a jacket - so warm! Moving on!

Tenryuji by girl from finito
Tenryuji, a photo by girl from finito on Flickr.
After we recovered ourselves and caffeine-d up we wandered over to Tenryu-ji, the temple of the Heavenly Dragon.  It has one of the oldest gardens in Kyoto and at it's edge is the famous bamboo forest.
Bamboo forest by girl from finito
Bamboo forest, a photo by girl from finito on Flickr.

The scenery is more reminiscent of rural Japan than a city and I think this afternoon was my favorite part of the tour (well that and karaoke session that we had in the evening).  It was after a short walk that we came upon the gorgeous, almost delicate, temple that is associated with Gio, a concubine of Taira-no-Kiyomori. Taira was a central figure in The Tale of Heike, the epic story of the power struggle between the Taira and Minamoto Clans that engulfed Japan in the 12th Century.

Moss Garden by girl from finito
Moss Garden, a photo by girl from finito on Flickr.
Moss Garden by girl from finito
Moss Garden, a photo by girl from finito on Flickr.
On our way back to the city we walked past Rakushisha, which is associated with Japan’s greatest poet, Basho.
We ended our tour by taking another train back to Shijo-Omiya in west-central Kyoto. Well... really we ended by going out for karaoke which was so (so, so) much fun. I really missed having the Hunt's around as I explored the rest of Kyoto and Japan mostly by myself. They were so much fun and adventurous! They continued on and walked the Nakesendo way, a tour that I desperately wanted to do but time and other plans interfered. Next time I guess.

Note: all the photos appearing to be unlabelled on this post and the last are by Greg Koch.. I think it has something to do with my style sheet - my apologies 

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