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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

We're back from Kyoto

We're back in Saitama now, after having an awesome couple of days in Kyoto!!!! We got back to Tokyo around 7am this morning, then went back to our apartement and slept for a couple of hours before going straight back to work.

It wasn't what we were expecting at all... it was so much better!!! Kyoto is a huge place... I think what we were expecting was a big village in the 1900s. How wrong we were!!  
I wanted to write a quick post about Kyoto as our holiday, then I am going to write smaller posts about each place we visited... that way it doesn't seem such a big task for me, and maybe I can write 1 per day! There are sooo many photos, I think it's going to take me a week to sort through :-)!   
We travelled to Kyoto on an over-night bus from Tokyo Station, stayed in a hostel for 1 night, then back on the night bus last night.

I had brought our Lonely Planet's guide to Kyoto with us, which to be honest is the first time I have taken it anywhere with us, but it was really great and I'll be carrying it around in my bag next time we do some sightseeing!!! The buildings weren't really high, like in Tokyo, but it was clearly a city! "A city of two tales" said Fran - haha!

I will start writing each post tomorrow... right now... I must sleep !!!! zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Monday, 29 November 2010

A beautiful walk from Kiyomizu-dera to Gion Town

Ok here goes for a big last Kyoto post!!!!!

After we had been to Kiyomizu-Dera, we realised we didn't have enough daylight left for us to see the next place on our list, so we decided to take a walk to Gion through the backstreets of Higashiyama - as suggested to us by the receptionist at our hostel... and as promised here is a map of where we went... (I know Dad is going to be grinning from ear to ear and chuckling to himself just because I used to laugh at him for his crazy map obsession... I really want to stay away from maps, just to be stubborn, but it was so cool making this map of where we went... and since I have been in Japan, I like to know where I am going and where places are... so what can i say ... I love maps)

View Kiyomizu-Dera to Gion Town, Kyoto in a larger map

The map should be click-able if I have done it right, and it will come up with some information and pictures which I added.

The street we walked down was lined with small shops, cafes and restaurants. There were some amazing little handmade shops there... It made me realise how much I miss my lampworking though :-( I need to find someone soon - I can't wait to melt glass again!!!! I actually spoke to the owner of one of the shops, but the conversation was limited to my Japanese ability, as she really couldn't speak much English. She actually told me that she owned the shop but didn't make the glass, her little company based in Saitama (where we live!!!) makes them and ships them to her shop in Kyoto... only problem... they are so small they don't have a website or anything, so I couldn't get any contact details... though this has made me hopeful that I will be able to find somewhere here to start making beads again!!!

Anyway! We carried on walking down this street, we saw a couple of Geisha, but I didn't want to be obvious taking their photos as they walked by me, but it was enough for me that we saw them! We found a nice little spot to take photos, and we were feeling very tired again, so we had a quick stop, but we had been there for about 5mins before either of us noticed the GIANT Budda Statue in the Mountain!!!! We were laughing so hard, because we both saw it out the corner of our eyes at about the same time, and we were both so SHOCKED to see it!!!!

We paid ¥200 entry each and both got an incense stick too. Then make a wish (or pray) as you put the incense stick in the sand, in the cauldron in front of Temple.

We actually went inside the Budda, there were bronze statues of different gods I think... not sure, but I thought it was a bit eary (sorry, sorry) and had to leave... behind the budda is a Tomb, and when that person dies, this place was made for him.

We went out and stood and watch an AWESOME sunset over Kyoto... neither of us have seen the bright sun rays beaming across the whole sky like this!!! It is hard getting photos to show actually what we saw, because when the colour of the sky is right, the earth is too dark, but when the scenery is right, the sky is too bright... very confusing... I guess that's something I've really gotta put my mind to and LEARN so .... the HDR photos (the ones that look computerised) and more realistic than the normals ones.... with out the computerised quality of course, but glad we have theses to show you.

After the sunset, we continued on our walk, it was quite quiet when we got to Maruyama Park, and because it was so dark we couldn't see much, so we didn't stop. I wish we had got there in daylight because I have heard it is beautiful!

We kept walking, and finally found Shinbashi-dori (street) which according to the Lonley Planet guide could possibly be the most beautiful street in all of Asia! Centered in the Geisha District this street is famous for seeing Geisha going to and from appointments and the area is full of tea rooms and restaurants and a couple theatres, where the Geisha Ladys entertain! We were lucky enough to see 3 Geisha (and Maiko - trainee Geishas) through a window over the canal... I felt like the paparazzi taken their photos - though I think I was too shy and didn't want to be obvious, so I didn't get any good photos, there were a couple of other people taking their photos too... I guess it is all part of their life, as they really didn't seem fazed by it at all! Infact, the waitresses/hostess' in the tea room looked extremely happy that we were looking into their place! Maybe it's good advertising :-)

We got on the train and headed back to Kyoto station... only we got on the wrong train.  We ended up changing a couple of times, but we were just going further and further out of Kyoto, haha! Luckily a man asked us if we were ok, so we explained and he got off the train with us and walked us to the train station we had to take, to get to go back to Kyoto Station. He was so nice and so genuine - he had got off his train... just to help us! We were so grateful!!! The people are so lovely here!

Then we went for a lovely Italian, before catching the most comfortable night bus ever back to Tokyo! We had an amazing time in Kyoto... now we just have to save up to go back!!!! :-D

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple

This was the place I was most interested in seeing and was by FAR my favourite thing to see in Kyoto!
I really had no idea to expect this kind of view from up there! I knew the temple was on the side of a mountain, but when looking at photos of it before we went the same photo taken by lots of different people came up and NONE of them were like this!!! I was amazed and told Fran I thought we had come to the wrong place but we were amazed by it so kept walking up the mountain!

Look how cute!!! This little dog with a bright red maple leaf on it's head - so cute! And the beautiful red leaves in the background!!!

If you didn't want to pay to go into the temple to can walk as far as the picture above but the entrance only cost ¥400 which was one of the cheapest entrance fees!

And now for the typical, cliché (but gorgeous) shots...

At the front of temples there are ladles with a fountain of water were you wash your hands (and mouth sometimes) before you enter the temple, but this one I think was just for fun (though I'm sure very serious before I upset anyone - hehe) There were people queuing up to have a go, they had to catch the falling water in their ladle, looked like alot of fun to me!

After seeing the temple we came down the mountain pretty fast and went on a wander through the back streets up towards Gion, I am going to mark up a map to show you the route we took, it was a lovely walk and would definitely recommend it and we saw an amazing sunset!!!!

Fushimi-inari-taisha Shrine

Fushimi-inari-taisha Shrine - phew !!! What a mouthful!!!! Well this was Fran's favourite place of the trip, and we were very pleased we hadn't tried to go here on the Sunday, it would have been just too busy to appreciate the beauty and serenity of the place!

We had to walk up a little hill to get to this Shrine, it is situated on Mt. Inari (hence the name! ow and a quick fact - Inari means the god of rice) and you can walk all the way to the top and there are beautiful shrines and things to see! We only walked up part way of the mountain as we had planned to do and see other things, but You could spend a lovely day walking up and down this mountain, if we had had longer this is definitely what we would have planned to do! When we got to the shrine there were 2 ladies singing and someone playing a piano or some sort we wern't aloud to take photos or video but it was very interesting to see! Again, extremely relaxing.

Now here's what we came to see...!!!!! A walk way of Torii (Gates). Toriis are usually found at the Entrance of a Shinto shrine but these torii cover the mountain outlining the hiking route through the forest! Really quite an amazing site!


When we got to the next shrine we had a play around with my camera and I taught Fran a few things about how to use it! He is really getting the hang of it! I'm really impressed!!!! So here is a Fran Photo!

Great huh!!!!!!

Because we had planned to do other things in the day we had to turn back and catch a train to the next place. We would definitely like to go back through!

Chillaxing with the birds of Kama-Gawa River

We were literally exhausted after walking over 11 miles and being up for about 17 hours and only managing a few hours the night before! We decided (as our return night bus wasn't picking us up til 11:45pm) that we would have a lay in tl 10:30am and go and have the all you can eat breakfast buffet and oh my god did we sleep well!!!!!!! And it was definitely the right plan because we both felt really energetic for our day ahead!

We had to cross over the Kama-gawa river to get the to train station and we saw a grey heron and a white long legged bird standing on some rocks. I took some photos and and the white bird flew off we realised that down the river only 100meters there were LOADS of the white birds! We had never seen this type of bird before but I searched the web when I got home and I think they are Great Egrets (I used this site to identify them - but if I'm wrong please let me know - Arthur! haha)

We were just about to leave when Fran (and the Great Egrets!!!) spotted a HUGE hawk!!!! Flying above us!!! I have HONESTLY never seen a bird that big in the wild! Absolutely amazing (and a little scary!)!

Again, I'm not 100% sure but I think it might have been an eagle based on the size of it... It was awesome to see anyway!!! After a few mins he flew away and the Egrets settled again, though they all were fighting with each other over their food!!!!!!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Nijo Castle

This was another place we hadn't planned to go to, but it work out very convenient to stop here before heading to our hostel for the night. The castle had the same style fort as the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, same walls and same look out towers! We were surprised that we couldn't see the castle from outside the grounds. You know... you think castle and you expect to be able to see it!!!

Also, you have to bare in mind that we had only had a couple of hours sleep on the bus the night before and we had been up since 6am and now it was about 4pm, we were getting vvvvvvery tired by this point!

This is Karamon main gate to the Ninomaru Palace. The detail is incredible!

And here is the main castle... no wonder we couldn't see it from outside... Apparently there are very big/tall castles in Japan, this however is not one of them!!!
We were allowed  to go inside... so we went in and took off our shoes, we followed a queue of people walking very slowly around the building. There were Japanese tatami rooms, they were huge and they had intricate gold paintings across the sliding doors. Some of the rooms had models of people who would have been allowed in each room, it was extremely obvious that there was a diffinate class system in old Japan, within the men and women! The best thing we took from our experience of Nijo Castle was that when we were walking through the corridors of the castle there was a high pitched bird noise, the builders constructed the floor so that when people were walking in the corridors, the floor boards would squeak like birds as you walked on them. The floor is called "nightingale floors". This was so that if any ninjas or assassins managed to get into the castle the noise would alert the occupants of the castle! Phew - there's a short history lesson for ya!

We walked up to the look out point, the view was AWESOME!!!! we could see all over the Nijo Castle's ground with the beautiful autumn leaves colours and then the mountains in the background! It was so calm and relaxing!

After Nijo Castle, we got on a train thinking we could manage one more thing in the hour of daylight we had left... but still we had no idea how big Kyoto was, it was very hard to judge how far away something was on the map because everything looked quite close...!!! We ended up walking a LONG way!!! And we finished our nice day in Gion Town which is where the Kyoto night life is and also where you can maybe see some geisha!