It started after a jog. I got a call from a lady who needed my help with some English business at a nearby middle school. I agreed to help her out, and she casually invited me to take a trip somewhere sometime. The next day, I get a call from her inviting me to Kyoto the next day. Of course, I was going to go because I hadn’t been and she said that the treat was her’s. So the next morning we were to catch a train on the way to Kyoto together. After missing our original train and some confusion, Jessika and I were with her on our way to the city. Because we missed our express train and we were on the long route, we had some time to discuss plans/desires for the day. We came up with a really interesting itinerary that was very untraditional for a first time visitor. Because Jessika had already seen the really famous parts and I planned to go back, we decided on some other places to visit.
As soon as we arrive in Kyoto, we left the city going slightly west. We got off of the train and walked a while, and eventually made it to our first attraction of the day. We were going to take a river tour of Hozugawa River. It was fantastic. The water was cool from the mountaintops, and because the day was hot and sunny, the cool breeze from the water was perfect. We spent an hour and a half cruising down the river, with some parts calm and some small rapids in which we managed to get wet. The guide explained some of the history and culture of the area, and pointed out some rocks that looked like monkeys or Mickey Mouse. About two-thirds the way through the trip, a “floating shop” began drifting beside our boat and provided us a ridiculously unnecessary yet surprisingly awesome service. You could buy anything from chocolate to beer to fried squid….and they were cooking it on the boat. Check out my Flickr photos for a not-so-good shot of this boat I write of. At the base of the river where we ended our trip, there was a quaint little town that was overlooked by other mountains and Kyoto. We snapped a few photos while waiting for our spots to open up in the famous Soba restaurant of the town. I wish I had captured the meal with my camera because it was a very fancy, traditional Japanese setup. There were also a few special setups that you can only find in Kyoto such as Soba Soup.
Afterwards, we went down the main street of town. It was very busy because it’s summer, and there are just a lot of people in Japan. We just walked, snapped picture, and browsed a few small shops. Next we visited one of the more famous Japanese gardens, at Tenryū-ji Temple. Very cool place with a very Japanese atmosphere. The garden has 7 stones, but they are arranged in a fashion in which one rock is hiding another from any angle you look. Spending a few hours here and discussing history and religion with a few others left us tired and ready to move on to something else, so we hopped on a bus and went to the center of Kyoto.
We arrived and I came to two conclusions about Kyoto right away. 1)It’s ridiculously crowded, and 2)I love it. It is the most interesting mix of history, culture, and modern things. The amazing temple in the middle of the city, in the header picture, was right across the street from expensive designer fashion stores. The temples and ancient parts of the area are not far from everything either. Let me just say that Kyoto just may have knocked Berlin off of the top of my favorite cities list. Walking around and just soaking in the amazing atmosphere had us a little hungry so we went to yet another fancy restaurant from which we overlooked the city’s main river from a wooden balcony/porch as we ate. The summer atmosphere is there in Kyoto for sure. We took our time eating and I even had a few beers, as you can see from my Flickr photos. After dinner, we went back to Kyoto Station. I wanted to use the subway, because I think it’s more fun, and you feel like a sardine, but we went by bus. Even Kyoto’s main train station is amazing. It was designed by a famous architect, and is fairly new. Even though it is a huge building, very little of the whole of it is roofed. You can tell from my picture of the escalator, maybe. I just observed how the unique atmosphere was effecting people, and relaxed as we waited to board our train for home.