I slept through my alarm and missed my bus.
It wasn’t really an easy bus to catch though. I mean, I got home at 3am and had to be at the bus stop by 6:45 to buy the tickets and go. So, I mean, what would you do?
It wasn’t even a problem though. We hadn’t bought the tickets yet (about 4000 yen round trip), there were more busses, and we left at 9 instead of 7. Overall, not the end of the world.
I’m currently on summer vacation. The Japanese are celebrating somethign called “Obon” this week, which is a holiday where the spirits of deceased relatives return home to be welcomed by their families. It’s usually a spiritual time for many people. For us though, it’s an opportunity to travel, so that’s what we did. I went with Zach, George, Zach’s girlfriend Mari, and Zach’s Mom. George and I took the bus while the others took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to give Zach’s Mom the experience.
We arrived in Kyoto at about noon. After being thoroughly amazed by Kyoto station we walked north to see the Nishi and Higashi Hongan-Ji Temples. They are MASSIVE. We walked there in about 15 minutes, so it didn’t cost anything. I was absolutely amazed at how beautiful these things are. George and I walked in and just sat in the cavernous, tatami-mat covered floor. It was absolutely amazing.
Apparently all of the large beams that held up the structure were brought down from the mountains on these huge sleds pulled by men and animals. Avalanches happened and lots of people died. The rope used to hoist the beams into place was made of real human hair, donated by the people who wished for the successful construction of the temple. The Higashi Hongan-Ji claims to be the largest wooden structure in the world and was built around 1895.
This was our first stop and I was already amazed.
After seeing the colossal temples we went to meet up with Zach’s group. We walked northeast again for about hour before we arrived at a large park that held the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple. The park was full of all kinds of cool shrines and temples, so some of these pictures aren’t of the actual Temple, but the route was really cool.
Finally, we arrived at the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple. It has existed for 1,000 years. That’s no typo… 1,000 years. If you were that old you’d be in sorry, sorry shape.
Not the case with this temple though. There’s a stage that is about 100 feet off the ground below, where people were putting on some kind of play involving dragons and whatnot. I guarantee half of the culture of Japan has been lost on me.
After walking down a big hill you arrive at a spring. drinking the water is said to give you good health. So we tried it. So far, I haven’t been sick. Knock on wood.
As the sun started to set, we booked it south of town to see the famous Torri gates at Fushimi Shrine. Apparently this place was used in a scene for Memoirs of a Geisha, but I never saw it. I still thought it was amazing though. The torri wrap all the way up into the mountains. It is a two hour walk to get through them all! The Torri are each donated by local businesses and organizations. Each one has writing on it showing who donated it and when.
As the sun set. The mosquitoes came out and started to eat us alive, so we booked it back to the train and headed back to the hostel.
We stayed at this awesome hostel just off the main street of Kyoto called Khaosan Kyoto (approx. 3000 yen/night). It was one of the best hostels I have ever stayed in. The showers were awesome, the rooms were air conditioned, and the upstairs living area was so cool!
For dinner, we got reservations at a restaurant in the Pontocho district on one of the Yuka platforms (basically an outdoor patio that can be taken down in the winter). The restaurant overlooked a river where LOTS of people were hanging out to see a light festival. We got to look out over the light festival and each some delicious food!
After that, we walked by the river and, yes, stopped at a Starbucks for some iced coffee. We sat on their patio and talked until they closed. Then we went home and went to bed for the next day.
Sidenote: the following day I started to take down prices, trains, and our exact itinerary more carefully. I’ll do my best to show you exactly what we did so you can repeat it yourself if you ever visit Kyoto!