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Kyoto, Here We Come!

Kyoto Travel Blog

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We felt badly after crashing so early the night before as we felt we had missed a lot our first night there.  That was no problem as we were both ready to make up that time by getting up by 4:30AM yet again.  That was fine as we had a long list of things we wanted to see that day and starting this early, it was pretty much a done deal we would get to them.


After collapsing in our beds the night before, we both realized that neither of us had even gotten under the covers or cleaned up, I don’t even think either of us moved at all the whole night.  So while Noah read the map, I took a shower and got ready.


We thought about grabbing breakfast downstairs, but we didn’t feel like dropping 1000-1300 Yen for breakfast so we headed to the 7-11 around the corner and stocked up on ramen and snacks for a lot less.

Before the Kinkaku-ji Madness
  Ramen became our go to friend while in Japan.  I pity my poor sodium level for the nine days I was there.


After breakfast, we marked our map and headed out for our first full day in Kyoto.  Actually, our first full day without traveling!  Score!  We had heard from many reviews online that we had to see the Golden Pavilion or Kinkaku-ji as it was amazing.  We were warned that it was best to get there early in the morning as it gets really crowded, so with that information we took the subway and began the long walk to Kinkaku-ji, and I do mean long.  I don’t know how long it took us, but it is quite a hike so be prepared unless there is a faster route we didn’t know of.  Either way, the morning was sunny and crisp, so we had no complaints either way and ended up taking some nice photos.


When we got to Kinkaku-ji we were a little confused as there were a few places that we could go but it wasn’t marked clearly as to where tourists should head.

Got Change?
  It was kind of amusing because each time we would go to an area we thought was an entrance the guards would bow to us and smile, but the problem was we went to each area trying to find the entrance three times apiece making everyone including us bow every time.  Looking back it was funny, but you know they thought we were idiots.  Finally, one of the fine gentlemen pointed us in the right direction.


We had gotten there about 15 minutes before opening and there were already a good 50 people there which surprised us, but not as much as how many people were there 5 minutes after opening.  After buying tickets, it was a mad dash to get to the wooden fence to get a decent picture of Kinkaku-ji without any heads in it.  It was like being at a rock concert!  We stayed back thinking it would clear but when we turned around, there were about 100 people standing around.  We knew we had to make our move or never get a picture and after 500 Yen we figured we should get a few photos, which we did.  My advice?  Get a few photos like we did and move on.  There are ample opportunities to get unobstructed views of Kinkaku-ji further down the walkway and the photos will be just as good, trust me.  When we did walk further down the path we turned around to see the crowds just kept getting larger, it was madness!


Besides Kinkaku-ji the rest of the property is okay.

Kinkaku-ji
  There really aren’t any gardens are anything, though there are a few places where you can throw coins and make wishes.  Also, there was a place where you could buy souvenirs and such.  After there souvenir shop, there is a trail that leads you down steps to yet another place selling goods to tourists.


I have to be honest with you, Kinkaku-ji is beautiful, but with all the crowds and the souvenir pushing, looking back, I think I would have passed on this little trip.  Noah was disappointed we couldn’t go in the building, but I knew there was no way they could accommodate the crazed crowds, it was better that way as someone might get trampled to death.  I guarantee you will get a good photo, but there are so many great places to see in Kyoto, you could miss this one unless you really have your heart set on it.  It was too constrictive for me.


After Kinkaku-ji, we decided to try our luck at Fushimi Inari Shrine as this was top on my list of things to dos.

Heading Towards the Second Set of People Selling Goods
  Fushimi Inari sits at the base of the mountain with the same name.  Inari is the Shinto god of rice who has many messengers in the form of foxes.  These foxes are throughout Inari and are dressed with red capes.  There are also hundreds of small shrines on the way up and down on the climb of Inari.  Fushimi Inari is most known for its many Torii Gates painted bright orange.


As soon as we got to Fushimi Inari, I knew it was special.  First off, there are not as many tourists here.  There are at the base but the higher you climb the less people there are as it is quite a trek for some.  I could see how some people may not get it as it appears to be one orange Torii gate after another, but there is more to it than that.  Along the way you will see beautiful shrines and many people praying in front of the shires.  For me, it was probably the most peaceful place I would encounter while in Kyoto or Tokyo


I found it interesting to see people bow to the major shrines when they first came upon them and also when they left them.

Heading to Fushimi Inari
  It also was interesting to watch the Japanese people pray or make an offering at the shrines.  We watched how it was done a few times and even tried it ourselves.  This is the way that it was done, but please correct me if I am wrong.  First you make a monetary offering at the box, ring the bell once, bow twice, clap twice in prayer and make a wish and then bow once more.  Maybe I am little greedy, but I made a wish at at least four different shrines on my trip to Japan.  I hope I am not let down!


What I found amazing about Japan was that the elderly would walk all the way to the top of the shrines even if it was a long trek or completely uphill; places that most people who were older would usually avoid.

Fushimi Inari
  But nothing was going to stop these 80+ people from climbing  to shrines to pray and I found that so amazing.  I only hope I am still rockin’ it when I am in my 80’s. 


After walking to the top of Inari, we decided to head back down a different way which most people bypassed and I am glad we did.  We found so many small shrines there, it was amazing.  Among the shrines were offerings and gifts, lit candles and incense and we even stumbles upon a few frogs and a pregnant kitty drinking from a bucket.


Hands down, this was one of my favorite places in Japan.  I cannot stress enough how great this place is.

Pregnant Kitty
  My only regret was not spending more time here.  Seriously, it was that peaceful and made me so happy and calm.  I loved it!

I knew whatever we saw after Inari would have to be good because that would be a hard act to follow.  We had decided earlier on that the Philosopher’s Path or Tetsugaku no michi would be a good idea as the Cherry Blossoms were in full bloom and we both needed to become enlightened and thought this might be a start.


Before we found the Philosopher’s Path, we stumbled upon Nanzen-ji Temple.  This temple and the surrounding ones were very beautiful with the cherry blossoms blowing in the wind adding to the atmosphere.  There were many people here and we noticed a few older Japanese gentlemen waiting for people to leave a certain area so they could take some photographs of the blossoms against the shrines.  We knew and they knew they would be there awhile, but they both looked patient and would be there for the long haul as we passed them both a few times during the hour we were there.

  I hope they got the photos they wanted, I personally didn’t have the patience, snapped a few photos, and headed to the Philosopher’s Path.

The Philosopher’s Path in the Higashiyama district starts at the Silver Pavilion and ends in the Nanzenji neighborhood.  We ended up going the opposite way as we were already in Nanzenji, not that it really mattered to us as we were young budding philosophers and didn’t think anyone would mind.


Let me start by saying the canal along the path is lined with hundreds of cherry trees which means prime area for cherry blossom viewing.  It did not disappoint!  The trees were fully in bloom and people were everywhere walking slowly to take in the beauty before them.  Getting a photo without anyone in it was a feat, but is can be done at least once.  It is very crowded with tourists and locals a like.  I soon began to realize that the Japanese people never grow tired of beauty and appear to cherish cherry blossom season annually.  I can’t blame them, in the nine days I was there, seeing them never got old.  I wonder how exciting the walk would be though without cherry blossoms blooms or fall foliage.  I think it might lose a little during the rest of the year, but the seasons definitely take it to another level.


Along the way we saw many friends talking on benches or admiring the blossoms and we even came upon an artist or two trying to capture the moment in watercolor on one of the numerous bridges.  It really was a nice walk.  That is until the end of the path or rather, the beginning.  As we approached the Silver Pavilion area, things began to get more chaotic.  Someone kicked my ankle and tore off my shoe before pushing her way through the crowds to get where she needed to go.  I was shocked at first as there is no way someone raised in Japan would do this without a polite bow.  No, it turned out to be a fellow American who couldn’t be bothered with apologies and continued shoving people instead.  Way to keep the stereotype alive, dude!


At that point, Noah turned to me and asked if I wanted to see the Silver Pavilion.  I stared at the crazy crowd before me and thought about the slight disappointment I felt at the craziness at the Golden Pavilion that seemed like days ago as it was almost 5PM at that time.

Philosopher's Path Artist
  I told him I would live without seeing it to which he replied, “Right on!”  We were ready to jet!


We decided to go back to the Sanjo Street area as there are a lot of restaurants there and we had only eaten once since the ramen.  Because our time clocks were so messed up we ended up at McDonald’s earlier as it was the only thing open for “lunch” at 10:30AM.  I hate fast food, but I was desperate!  So fish burger it was!  Yeah, that sucks, but we were hungry.  We had stopped at 7-11 again too as I couldn’t get enough of the red bean paste pastries, but I knew we had to eat a real meal for dinner.  


So we walked all the way from the Silver Pavilion back to Sanjo Street.  I don’t recommend it as it is far away!  We ended up stopping a few times as we had been on our feet since 6:30AM.

Philosopher's Path
  Funny thing to note.  We ended up resting on a bench facing a store with a bunch of young guys checking out magazines.  Porn is in every 7-11 and is accessible to everyone as it is not hidden like the US.  As we sat there we were amused to see four guys lined up “reading” magazines for the 10 minutes we were there.  It was a different experience, but hey, be loud and proud!


At Sanjo Street we ended up finding a noodle shop that catered more to the locals, and I know why, it was very good.  When you go into a restaurant in Japan, you get greeted immediately, the service is always wonderful.  Every time the bell would ring the servers would call out from the kitchen and greet and bow to the guests.  Customer service is a must in Japan.


We both had one of the best meals in Japan at this place.

Fushimi Inari
  I ordered a soba soup with fish cakes or Kamaboko.  I had heard about Kamaboko before and had learned that it was made from various white fish that have been chopped and pureed before being flavored with MSG goodness before being put into a “loaf,” I thought it would be a good idea.  The rest of the soup rocked, the “fish?”  Nuh uh…  At least I can say I tried it once, but the taste and texture stayed with me a long time after the meal was done!


After dinner, it was about 8:00PM and being that our clocks were still messed up and we had been up since 4:30AM, we knew we weren’t going to make it much longer and headed back to the hotel.  Even though it was early and we are both night owls, we were happy with all we had accomplished today and turned on the Japanese harp music and headed to sleep.



binky says:
What no way?!? Who could pass on drinking at 10AM?!? I was out there for my birthday too and it was a blast. I hope you sleep on the plane, because the time difference messed with me hardcore! Or you could just party like mad and sleep all day long until you get onto their cycle. Come to think of it maybe I should have done that...note to self.
Posted on: Feb 09, 2011
binky says:
Yeah, no avoiding it, but totally worth the madeness! Especially Kyoto and Ueno Park in Tokyo. The good thing is you can sit under a tarp there are start drinking first thing in the morning. After a few hours, you will forget about the crowds completely!
Posted on: Feb 08, 2011
binky says:
Ha ha! My friend kept doing that! He would bow at everyone on the street or keep entering a place for a bow. You two should hang in Japan sometime!
Posted on: Oct 05, 2010
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Heading to the Golden Pavilion
Heading to the Golden Pavilion
Before the Kinkaku-ji Madness
Before the Kinkaku-ji Madness
Got Change?
Got Change?
Kinkaku-ji
Kinkaku-ji
Heading Towards the Second Set of …
Heading Towards the Second Set of…
Heading to Fushimi Inari
Heading to Fushimi Inari
Fushimi Inari
Fushimi Inari
Pregnant Kitty
Pregnant Kitty
Philosophers Path Artist
Philosopher's Path Artist
Philosophers Path
Philosopher's Path
Fushimi Inari
Fushimi Inari
Fox of Fushimi Inari
Fox of Fushimi Inari
Spring on the Philosophers Path
Spring on the Philosopher's Path
Blooming Flowers
Blooming Flowers
Love the Architecture and the Girl
Love the Architecture and the Girl
Shrine
Shrine
The Path to Enlightenment
The Path to Enlightenment
Kyoto Sights & Attractions review
The Golden Pavilion - Dodge the Tourist for a Photo
Kinkaku-ji or Golden Pavilion is a must see on most travelers to do list in Kyoto, as it was on ours. Built originally in 1397 for a Shogun, it has… read entire review
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Fushimi Inari
Fushimi Inari was built on the base of the mountain Inari and is located in Fushimi Ku, Kyoto. Fushimi Inari is one of Kyoto’s most popular shri… read entire review
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Meditation Time at The Philosopher’s Walk
The Philosopher’s Walk is stretched out between Nanzen-ji Temple and the Silver Pavilion. The Silver Pavilion is where most people begin the path. … read entire review
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Nanzen-ji Temple
Nanzen-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple in Sakyo-ku Kyoto and was established in 1291. There are several buildings attached to the complex along with … read entire review
Kyoto
photo by: ys484