Today is the third installment of Travel Tuesday Takeover: Japan Edition. For a little background info, my friend Rebekah recently went on an exciting trip to Japan, and for the next few weeks she will be acting as guest blogger on Travel Tuesdays. Today’s post is Part 2, but if you need to catch up, check out her Prelude post, Part One, and Part Two. If you have any questions or comments for Rebekah, leave a comment (as always). Enjoy!
Adventures in the Land of the Rising Sun: Kyoto
After saying sayonara to Tokyo, we boarded the Shinkansen—pride of Japan. I absolutely love high-speed trains so this was as much a highlight of the trip as any of the temples or shrines. If I knew how to post video to the blog, I no doubt would post footage out the window of the bullet train with Air’s Alone in Kyoto dubbed over it à la Michel Gondry’s music video for The Chemical Brothers’ Star Guitar. But I digress…
After this absolutely glorious and not-nearly-long-enough ride (around 2 1/2 hours), we arrived at Kyoto Station—an emporium to say the least. These are not your American train stations. They’re more like small cities…small 12+ story cities; 1 part train station, 1 part full size mall, 1 part 2-level grocery store, 1 part massive food court. Things we would make many visits to.
Something about Kyoto was comforting and this was immediately recognizable to both Matt and myself. Slower than Tokyo, yes obviously, but there was a particular air about the city that lent itself to life at an easier pace. Luckily, at this point we were also finally feeling calmer and more settled in to tourist life in Japan. The day we arrived, we explored with more enthusiasm and less anxiety, got an excellent sushi lunch (though we realized half way through the meal that we had made the faux pas of moving our plates off the ledge of the sushi bar and down onto the counter—I read about this nowhere), and at night we went out thanks to the slow but steady dissolution of Jet Lag (albeit to an Irish bar—but whatever, be damned Travel Guilt!).
Things were getting easier. We were certainly feeling more poised and our new-found confidence allowed us to tackle some lingering travel issues that, if dealt with properly, we knew would sincerely augment the trip. We were still feeling awfully groggy and under the weather when we woke up in the morning. We determined that we hadn’t been eating enough during the day (I don’t think we ate one proper dinner in Tokyo, thank you Jet Lag) and our blood sugar felt gravely low leaving us queasy and sluggish. Eating had been a point of contention for us on the trip so far, where language barriers were highest as was the primal need to successfully get it done. (Put these two things together, anxiety levels went up.) And though things were looking up in Kyoto, Tokyo had put us at a deficit. We had some business to take care of.
As most of our comforting American snacks were eaten either on the plane or at 4am in Tokyo, we made our way to a market in Kyoto Station. What did we want? Cheese. We longed for, craved, the delectable, damn right medicinal properties of endorphin-releasing cheese. We immediately purchased multiple kinds of cheese and crackers and proceeded to decimate them across the course of the next two mornings. Yes a granola bar works in the morning if you have one, but let me tell you: coca cola and cheese and crackers works a heck of a lot better. It cured many ailments and let us get on with our days and make it through the early mornings. Travel Tip and Lesson Learned: Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. Even if it’s eating cheddar in the morning.
Kyoto quickly became one of my favorite places, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. High on my list of beautiful favorite places in fact, right up there with Zurich, Amsterdam, Rome, the Caribbean, and many great American cities…I fell in love. We visited Higashi-hongan-ji Buddhist temple which was right down the street from our hotel and provided me with one of my favorite photos from the trip.
We went to Nijo Castle, the Kyoto home of the Tokugawa Shoguns, and toured the traditional gardens that surrounds it, which were beautiful in their starkness.
Next up was the Zen Buddhist temple Kinkaku-ji (or the Golden Pavilion), an impressive, equally beautiful location—a lavish opposite of Nijo Castle. Home to Buddha’s ashes, it is covered entirely in pure gold leaf.
The next day we did a good deal of walking on what turned into perhaps my favorite day in Japan. We walked to the Toji Temple Markets and sampled local food while I perused for kimono. We came, we saw, and we conquered.
And then…Fushimi Inari. Perhaps one of the most enchanting places on earth. Vigorously splashing Mt. Inari with thousands upon thousands of bright orange Shinto tori, it nearly glows. It was a magical experience to walk through the vermilion gates as the sun was setting and the gloaming fell on Kyoto. Something I will never, ever forget. Something I must do again some day. These pictures are by far the most impressive from the trip, so I’ll leave you with these.
Next week: Sin City Osaka.