Friday 26th December – Sunday 28th December 2008
I can't believe it's taken us so long to get around to visiting this ancient city. With Mum here for her third Christmas in Japan we feel we really ought to do something different. So, we've got a hotel in Kyoto and a trip on the Shinkansen (bullet train) to look forward to.
Tim visited Kyoto earlier in the year for the G8 Summit and managed to see a little of the city. Mum is really excited about the trip as am I. The Shinkansen wasn't as beautiful or as comfortable as one would expect; the front looked more like a duck than a bullet or plane and the seats were very hard. But it was fast and we arrived in Kyoto at lunchtime.
The signs on the seat backs made me smile. (Click on the picture to be able to read the information!)
We can't spend as long as I'd like in Kyoto as it's very expensive. Since the Lehman Brothers' crash the yen has strengthened to an incredible high. When we first arrived in Japan one UK pound would buy us about 245 yen. Now it's nearer 125 yen. We get paid in sterling and have to exchange it, so in effect we are trying to survive in one of the most expensive countries in the world on half our pay. This means we will try to fit in as much of the "must sees" as possible in a short time.
Luckily, Kyoto is small compared to Tokyo and everything seems to be within walking distance. Except we have Mum, who is feeling her age a little, and Rhiannon who doesn't 'do' walking. Also it is extremely cold here. Much colder than Tokyo, and we passed snow covered fields on the way.
Our / my list of "must sees" are as follows:
Nijo-jo Castle – famous for its "Nightingale" floor that "chirps" when you walk on it to warn of possible intruders.
Gion: Antique Row – potential shopping.
Kiyomizu Dera - Tim visited this when he was here for the Summit and recommended it.
Ginkaku-ji (The Silver Pavilion) – "Restraint, elegance, wabi sabi. Ginkaku-ji is perhaps the pinnacle of Japanese artistic expression. Best known for its stone gardens (built to reflect the moon) and simple buildings"
Kinkakuji Temple (The Gold Pavilion) – possibly the most well-known and most-photographed temple in the country.
Ryoanji Temple - the most famous Zen rock garden in Japan.
Kyoto Handicraft Centre – more shopping!
We will have our work cut out for us to visit all these.
As usual, I forgot to bring the visitors guide, so we have to rely on a tourist map from the hotel to work out our itinerary. Almost immediately we cross off the Silver Pavilion as it's on the opposite side of town to everything else.
So we head off, walking, to the Nijo-jo Castle. It was quite a distance, but an interesting, flat and easy walk.
It was closed! Damn me for forgetting the guidebook - it would have told us that it closes over Christmas and New Year.
We went for dinner instead, then wandered around the fascinating streets near our hotel for a while. Most of the shops there sold specialist local sweets and food.