An Eventful 2nd Day in Kyoto

Ninjas!

We decided to take a morning bus tour around Kyoto to see the popular tourist attractions. We stopped by 3 places. The first stop was Nijo Castle – which Jeff was really excited to go to. It is the place where a shogun once lived, and is popular for its “nightingale” floors which squeak whenever someone walks on it to alert the residents of possible intruders! We looked for ninjas but couldn’t see any (they must be good!)

Castle

We couldn’t take photos inside the buildings, but mostly it was just big rooms with tatami mats, beautiful old paintings on the walls and rice paper screens to separate the rooms.

Crane

We saw a crane in the gardens of the shogun residence. Our tour lady was so funny because she said we could walk around the garden but be sure to not get lost because “it is endless”.

Don + Jerrie

Here are my parents!

School Kids

Next stop on the bus tour was the Golden Pavillion – probably the most popular site in Kyoto because it is quite stunning. The amount of tourists here are insane! While on our travels we saw several school groups on field trips and it was cute to see they ALWAYS have to wear matching hats! From pre-schoolers up until it looked like middle schoolers, had to wear these hats.

Golden Temple

Here is Jeff and i at the golden temple! It is pretty serene… yet… not with all the tourist there! (See below!)

Golden Temple

This is taken of the spot where i took the last photo from! Hehe!

Golden Temple

There was a nice little pathway through some gardens at this location as well, so we walked it (amongst the sea of people). There were a few spots where people tried to throw some yen into a little bowl from the fence. A good money making scheme for the pavillion, no?

Imperial Palace

The next stop on the tour was the Imperial Palace. Kyoto was the capitol of Japan for a hundred and about 700 to 1800 (so a really long time!) until it was moved to Tokyo. I didnt realize until this trip how similar those two names are! If you look at the sky in this photo – that is how it looked every single day of our trip! We didnt see the sun at all, but the weather was comfy in the 60s. My parents thought it was cold of course. =)

Imperial Palace

The tour of the Imperial Palace wasn’t too interesting, we walked around outside on gravel and could look inside to the large tatami rooms. But at least i can show you pictures! This one above is similar to what we saw at the Shogun castle except that that one was all indoors.

Imperial Palace

There was a nice garden setting on part the grounds. It was pretty expansive, lots of open “gravel” which i am not sure was quite so empty when it was actually used by the Imperial family… anyway, it reminded me of watching the move Aladdin where the daughter couldn’t wait to get out of her confinements of the palace grounds. Haha!

Imperial Palace

Some neat trees.

Imperial PalaceImperial Palace

Cool buildings, nice detail with the gold! It is a palace, after all.

Buffet Lunch

So our tour ended after Imperial Palace and the bus dropped us off at the “Japanese Handicraft Center” (which can be misheard and Handicapped center, LOL) … basically a big store with lots of touristy items to purchase. How convenient! We did end up buying a few gifts – samurai swords, Japanese dolls, etc. We also ended up eating a buffet lunch there – more cafeteria style but still pretty good considering it was geared toward “western” tastes. You got your typically curry, rice, croquette, salad, tofu (mm, loved this as a baby and still do!) and andagi (japanese donut).

Parade

After lunch and shopping the annual Jidai Matsuri (Festival of Ages) parade was going to start. Basically a parade showing customary clothing of various periods in Japan.

Parade

These ladies had a nice odori (Japanese dance) performance going.

Parade

I like this dude’s wig. There are lots more parade photos on my flickr photo set of Japan.

Chicken and Fries

After watching the parade for a few hours amongst the other onlookers and tourists, we took a taxi ride back to the hotel to rest for a bit. Jeff got hungry and decided to try the “hot meal” from the vending machine. It was fried chicken and fries. It was as good as it looks (so not so good).

Our next venture was to the Fire Festival in the small mountain town of Kurama. We just so happen to be in Kyoto the right time where they were having all of these fesitvals! Though it does seem the Japanese really like festivals (matsuri) because they have several every month it seems.

Train Fare

So after some debate and research, we decided on how we needed to get to the fire festival — by multiple train transfers. It was a little hard since sometimes we had to buy our tickets at automated machines that didnt have english instructions! But Jeff and I worked well as a team to figure it out. (Hey maybe we CAN do the Amazing Race!) It took maybe an hour to get there..coming back was a different story!

Kurama

Once we got to the town, at about 7 or 8pm i think, there was quite a crowd already. Jeff and i really liked the experience if seeing a small rural town and looking at the residences. Each house had a small little fire going in front of their house (along with buckets of water!).

Getting ready

At this point we separated from my parents and staked out a spot by the bridge – it was soothing to breathe the night air and hear the streaming water beneath is. The moon was also out shining and we could barely make out the woody hillside. The smell of burning wood reminded us of a campfire. About 10 minutes after we go there the excitement started – a barrage of Japanese men in loin clothes hoisting huge torches on their backs, chanting ““sai-rei, sai-ryo!” which means simply “festival, good festival!” (i tell you they love their festivals!)

Torches by Torii

They stopped for a while by the temple and held up their torches. I think the proceeded up the hill, to who knows where… we trailed behind in the action, then decided to head on out before it got to crowded…

Well that was the game plan but didn’t really pan out. I have no idea HOW many people where there but it took us probably 3 hours of standing in line to finally board the train to leave. Reminder – this is a very small town outside of Kyoto, in the mountains.. this is the “end of the line” for the train, and for this particular event i am sure they run 50x more trains than normal.

Anyway, i am surprised i didnt take a photo of the madness within those hours of waiting. Some people where soooo pushy! We stood in those switchback lines like you are going on an amusement ride. Once we boarded the train we were squished in there just as bad as the daily morning commuters.

Old Train Car

I did take this photo of one of the later trains we caught when we were away from the craziness of Kurama. It was a older train that was green and retro! So i used my new Canon color mode to snap a photo.

Kyoto

I totally don’t remember taking this photo, but i guess i caught the Kyoto Tower at night time. Very nice contrast to the other photo i posted. =)

Snacks

We were SO STARVING after arriving back home at past midnight. We went to 7-11 to get some food (there are 7-11s everywhere here and most aren’t attached to gas stations). The sandwiches hit the spot, and we founds some weird corn candy! I guess the Japanese really have taken a liking to corn after being introduced by the Americans during the war. There is always some random “side of corn” at meals.

What an eventful day for sure! It was tiring, lots of walking. But what a fun experience that will most likely never repeat itself again. =)

On this day..


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