Day 7: A Trip to Kyoto

Every time I come to Japan I have to visit Kyoto.  A city that was the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years is so rich with culture and history is a must see for any person traveling through Japan.  The numerous temples and shrines combined with a more modern shopping experience make the experience truly memorable.  Even with all the times I have come to Japan I STILL have not fully visited Kyoto.

Today’s goal was to visit the Imperial Palace and then to see the Geisha in the Gion district.  We started our trip at Kyoto station.  One of the things I love about traveling through Kyoto is the fashion.  Kyoto, being very traditional, is full of young women dressed in kimono’s or yukata’s (depending on the weather).  I absolutely love these outfits, the colors and style are just amazing.  Thankfully, most of the girls are nice enough to pose with foreigners Smile

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So our first stop on the tour was the Kyoto Imperial Palace.  It is used, today, as a second home for the Emperor when he visits Kyoto.  However, a long time ago it was the center of Japanese government, before the rise of the Feudal Lords.

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Me and Mari were able to take a full tour of the southern portion of the palace grounds, though it was quite a challenge because it was over 100 degrees in Kyoto.  But we got to see some very beautiful architecture from the Heian period of Japanese history.  I have a thing for the gates that play a very vital role in ceremony.  Depending on your status, you will enter through a certain gate, in fact there are even different rooms depending on your status.  Often these are the Tiger, Crane, and Sakura rooms (Sakura being for the lower class, and Tiger being for the higher class).

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Another interesting fact is, Japan being an island nation, views of the sea are quite common and are often seen through Japanese art and design.  Kyoto being without a view of the ocean uses gardens to symbolize Japan.  Consider the picture below:

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Notice how the tree’s in the back are arranged, this is not random.  This done to symbolize the mountains of Japan.  As the tree’s become shorter they are complimented by rocks which symbolize the cities of Japan.  Finally the space between these rocks and where I am standing is the ocean.  This is known as a Japanese Landscape garden and is done to display a landscape through design, really neat!!

Another interesting thing is how the palace grounds are arranged.  For example, the Palace itself is open air and faces East.

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The reason for this is Kyoto is surrounded on most sides by mountains and thus it is usually very hot and humid (like today).  The wind is Kyoto usually tends to blow from the East, thus by having the Palace and the Emperor’s residence face east, they will usually catch the breeze.

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Unfortunately, we ran into a problem during the tour; I had forgotten to charge the battery for my good camera.  I remembered there being a large shopping district near Shijo-dori from when I studied abroad.  But it took us a lot of walking around.  The plan was the buy a new battery and head to Gion.  Thankfully, a shop owner was nice enough to charge the battery for one hour for 200yen, beats paying 6,000yen for a new battery.

During this 1hr me and Mari went and had lunch.  I had tonkatsu (pork), which is easily my favorite Japanese food.  I really do try to embrace the Japanese culture, but for some reason, Mami and Mari think I do like Japanese and are surprised when I want to stay local or speak only Japanese.

We still had some time to kill after lunch so we found a book store and I continued my search for Full Metal Panic manga in English.  The store we found did have some translated Manga, but not what I was looking for.  We returned to the camera place and got the battery.

By now it was getting very late and were both VERY tired.  We head to Yakasaka shrine with the intent on turning south to Gion.  But, in the end, we were too tired to see Gion.  Very unfortunate, but I have to start worrying about having energy for Fuji.  But I did get some good shots of Yakasaka shrine Smile.

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The bottom picture really shows how the Japanese blend new with old.  Here you have one of the busiest and most modern shopping areas in Kyoto through the entrance of a ~500yr old shrine.  It simply is amazing the history of Kyoto.

So we headed back to Osaka using the Keihan railroad.  This is not the main rail line that is run by JR, but is much faster and closer given where we were getting on.  It also took us directly to Umeda which is the non-JR train/subway stop for Osaka station, the central hub.

Me and Mari said our goodbyes until tomorrow when we both head to Tokyo before the Fuji climb.  I took the Midosuji like back to Nakatsu and grabbed dinner.  Kobe beef.  This is something that I really love about Japan.  Rather then me telling to waiter/waitress how I would like my meat cooked (and getting it wrong in most cases), in Japan they have you cook it yourself.

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By cooking it yourself, you cant really complain about it not being done correctly.  And its actually a lot of fun.  I love the sauce though, it really is super tasty.

It has been a lot of fun visiting the Kansai area, I have lots of pictures and memories from old and new places for me.  I have really enjoyed my time in the area.  So now that I have completed the Hiroshima and Osaka legs of the trip, only one leg remains: Tokyo, with the Fuji climb starting on Friday.  Wish me luck.

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