30 April 2009

Kyoto Day 2

Today was a grand improvement from yesterday. We purposely got a slow start and didn't leave the hostel until 10ish. Gave us time to try out our new Sham-Wow like towels and play around on the internet and plan our day before setting out.

We decided to hit the Toji temple first. It is the location of the tallest pagoda in Japan (5 whopping stories) We didn't spring for the whole admission, but got to enter the temple, the main hall and the lecture hall. Each had tons of golden buddhas, that almost tried to outdo each other. The grounds of the temple were really pretty as well, there was a large pond and tons of flowers. We had a nice relaxing late breakfast there people watching of green tea ice cream and rice cakes.

We then hiked back to Kyoto station with the hope of finding the sushi resturant that was recommended on Wikitravel and by our hostel. It was somewhere in Kyoto station's 12 floors, and we had a picture and name...should be easy right?! Well the hostel gave us somewhat backward directions so we were wandering all over the lower mall and then back through the JR terminal before we found someone who knew where we were trying to go. We had been on the verge of throwing in the towel, and were so glad we didn't! The place was so much fun as we sat at the counter and just picked out what we wanted as it cruised by on the conveyor belt. They charge you by what color plate you pick up and just total your plates at the end. We got to try some new things and left with only a $8 and some tab, hard to beat! Guess sushi is growing on me.

Then it was off to the bamboo forest of Arashimaya. They aren't kidding that Kyoto's landmarks are all spread out, we had to take the JR almost 30 minutes to get to the Arashimaya area. From there we had a decent walk to the bamboo forest. Each side had tons of bamboo growing and it was dark, quiet, and cool there. Really glad we went.

From there we took the JR to Enmachi area. We thought we would be sneaky and avoid getting the city bus pass (after we found out we couldn't get the all day passes in Enmachi) and just take the JR buses through town. The downside to our plan...JR buses are not very frequent and do not run to every bus stop. Ended up missing our bus, and had to wait out about 30 more mins for the next one to take us just a little farther from where we wanted to go, but it really saved out feet. Kinkaku-ji was well worth the effort! The pavilion is covered in gold leaf and sits on a beautiful pond. The gardens surrounding it were very pretty as well. There were a ton of people there though all clamouring for pictures of the pavilion. We went at high sun, so was hard to get pictures that were up to Charlton's standards (oh well!) Then it was back to the station, this time catching the JR bus quickly (we didn't have to wait) and off we went back to Kyoto.

Kiyomizu-dera was our last temple on our to-do list. However, our plan of taking the JR buses everywhere today was foiled when there were no lines out to the temple. We knew there was no way we were going to walk it, and the subway was not a reliable option as we had seen from yesterday so we bit the bullet and bought an all day bus pass. We took it straight to where we needed to go, with only a small uphill hike past more shops (more goodies for us to sample). When we got to the temple, it was absolutely gorgeous! It is nestled in the trees and almost looks like it is suspended. Totally Swiss Family Robinson like...had they built a multi level temple, with two pagodas in Japan (ha!) After hustling some more samples we headed to the geisha district of Gion.

We didn't have a set walk planned for Gion, but just hoped to wander through the old buildings and see us a geisha. We weren't there for more than 10 minutes when we turn a corner and it looks like the paparazzi are there for Britney Spears. We hung around for a little with all the other gawkers and were treated to a couple geisha sightings. We then walked the rest of the neighborhood and then caught the bus back through the major designer shopping district before coming back to the hostel.

After a quick break we headed out for Yakitori for dinner at a restaurant recommended by the hostel. It fit all of our criteria - good and cheap! It was the tiniest little place just around the corner from our hostel and we shared the counter with only one other person. Gave us the chance to watch our chef at work as he grilled out chicken livers, stomach and mushroom skewers. Everything was really good, and Charlton was happy I tried some new things. We then hit the Circle K on the way home for dessert before watching our slingboxed American Idol and Dhani tackles the Globe. We both have gotten cleaned up for tomorrow as we have a tour of the Imperial Palace at 10, and have to check out here and drop our bags at the station before then. After that we make our way on to Osaka with a stop in Nara for the afternoon.

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