This is the third of five posts in my little Japan-memoirs-series.
Part three of this series isn’t really so much about Tokyo as it is about its anagram city Kyoto. For day three we had an arranged trip to the city of Kyoto. And after ending part two/day two at the hotel bar, let me tell you that this was indeed the early train out!!
I got up so late that I didn’t make breakfast at the hotel, so I had to get a Starbucks sandwich at the Shinagawa station. But here’s the thing. In typical Japanese fashion, even the bloody Starbucks pastrami and avocado sandwich was delicious! Wrapped nicely, and almost food-styled in appearance…. mind=blown….again!
Anyway. We were going to ride the Shinkansen to Kyoto where we would have an English speaking guide waiting for us. The tracks from Tokyo to Kyoto was bound to take us right past Mount Fuji…. but as luck would have it, it was completely covered in clouds. Oh well. Next time I guess!
We arrived at Kyoto on time…. as in ON. TIME. – Did I tell you that the Japanese are better at keeping time than the swiss? Yeah, they are. Punctuality was redefined for me during this trip.
At Kyoto station we were met by our lovely guide Hiroku. She was a former teacher, and whenever when had transfer time on our bus she pulled out practice cards, and taught us some Japanese. She made the day.
First stop was the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine (伏見稲荷大社). Let me tell you this. We were not alone at that place. It was as if the sky had opened and poured a horde of tourists, the likes of which I have rarely seen. The shrine is very famous for its pathway with thousands of torii gates, so of course I had to walk that. I tried to do a different take on it by placing my camera on a micro-tripod near the ground, and shooting at 4 min. with an ND filter to blur out the millions of tourists. I guess it worked out ok. I didn’t get a google-image shot that’s for sure!
Unlike in Tokyo, there were actually a lot of local women dressed in traditional clothes. So it wasn’t just the tourists playing charades.
For lunch we went to a local restaurant where we were served a very delicious Kyoto meal complete with all-you-can-drink-buffet!
The table setting was simply gorgeous, with many small dishes and courses through the meal. We had many servings and a lot of tofu, since Kyoto is famous for it. A little tipsy and with a satisfied stomache, we left the restaurant to take the bus the one of the most scenic locations I’ve ever visited.
The Kinkakuji (金閣寺) aka the golden pavilion is a magnificent place, and is probably one of the most iconic places in Japan. The surrounding park is fantastic, and even though there are a lot of tourists there, it’s not nearly as bad as it is around the Fushimi Inari Temple. The park is laid out so that you’re guided into just the right angles for photography, and carrying my GFX 50R meant that it was easy breezy to get a good Google shot of the Pavillion, even though it was during midday contrast conditions from hell.
Wandering around that site was really an incredible experience, and I didn’t shoot many images there, simply because I was taking in all the atmosphere I possibly could.
After the visit to Kinkakuji we drove to the Nijo Castle (二条城). That place is quite special. It’s an old samurai castle that now houses a samurai museum. While the main buildings with all of its many rooms were quite amazing, I found the garden to be even more so. A place so silent and peaceful that it was pure de-stressor-coolaid for the soul.
Before going to dinner, we got a chance to witness traditional Japanese theatre. While quite entertaining, it was obviously in native tongue, which made it quite hard to understand in nuances what it was all about. But the costumes, traditional clothing, traditional music and singing was quite exiting to watch.
We had another very traditional Kyoto meal for dinner before taking the Shinkansen back to Shinagawa…..and the hotel bar 😀