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Shrine City

Cherry Blossom Adventures - Kyoto

semi-overcast 23 °C
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Travelling via Himeji, by mid afternoon we had arrived in Kyoto. After being helped out of the right exit in Kyoto's huge station by some locals, we stopped by the supermarket before heading to our hotel.

Our Ryokan

Our Ryokan

After staying in a hotel with an onsen in Hiroshima, Kyoto was providing us with our most traditional hotel setting - a ryokan, a traditional Japanese style inn. Part of the reason for this wasn't just to add something traditional to our trip, but also because it was much much cheaper.

The trip itself was planned for over a year, and back in June I had had a quick look to see the status of hotels during the peak season. By then, still 9 months in advance, 80% of hotels were already booked. Although sharing a toilet and sleeping on mats on the floor for three nights wasn't ideal, it was £150 more for a Love Hotel in the suburbs, or £50 on top of that for the next cheapest hotel. Therefore we decided to rough it. It would be traditional, the location was good, and it wasn't for too long.

Arriving at the hotel, we were greeted warmly by the owner, who despite not having the best English was very chatty. After grabbing dinner we settled in for the night on our straw mats.

Inside our room

Inside our room

The following morning, after an uncomfortable sleep, we headed out for the first of our two days in the city. After sorting out our two day transport passes, we then headed out of the city to the Daigo-ji shrine, to the south east of the city.

Daigo-ji

Daigo-ji

Kyoto was coming towards the end of the cherry blossom season, and in a few days it would all be gone, but whilst we were here at least we got to see the city of Shrines covered in cherry blossom.

After arriving at the nearby train station, it was just a ten minute walk up the hill to the shrine, with the grounds covered in cherry trees. We started by heading to the Buddhist temple at the end of the complex, which is reflected below into a large pool of water. It was at this beautiful spot that I proposed to Chris.

Engaged

Engaged

After he accepted, we enjoyed the special moment before continuing with our sightseeing. We walked around the shrine itself, before heading to the hall at the entrance, where there was a beautifully landscaped and zen garden.

Zen Garden

Zen Garden

Sitting in the already warm morning heat, we enjoyed the surroundings before heading off to our next sight in the city, the Philosopher's Walk. This old canal is lined with cherry blossom, and thus was a real visual treat during this week.

Philosopher's Walk

Philosopher's Walk

It was full of people, including newlyweds taking photos, but we still managed to enjoy the views and stopped for an ice-cream pudding. Annoyingly for a city this size, there is a very limited metro and train network, with a reliance on buses. With many many people in the city at this time it made the journeys generally quite uncomfortable, but nevertheless we still managed. With it already being early afternoon, we headed to our last area of the day - Gion. We started at the Yasaka shrine in Maruyama park, which was teaming with street food and visitors.

Gion

Gion

We then headed off through the Geisha areas in the heart of Gion, before reaching the Kiyomizu-dera wooden hilltop shrine. Unfortunately it was undergoing renovation, so we weren't able to see it in it's full glory, but there were still grand views over the valley below.

Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera

After a busy day in the heat, we headed back in the afternoon to our hotel for a well earned rest. After sitting down for a while I went into my suitcase to grab some holiday notes. Putting them back ten minutes or so later I noticed a bug inside my suitcase. Flinching I realised it was a massive centipede! How on earth did it get there, when it was locked all day, and how was I going to get it out?

Chris passed me a bag, and we attempted to tip it from my raincoat on which it was laying, into the bag - but as soon as we moved the coat it quickly crawled deeper inside my suitcase. Panicking that it may get lost inside and crawl to lay eggs, I grabbed the coat, wrapped it up and put it in the bag as soon as I could, hoping it was inside!

Running past the hotel owner, I opened to front door and tipped the raincoat out, luckily seeing the centipede drop to the floor, but then crawling quickly towards me. After shaking the coat to remove any eggs from the coat, I quickly headed back inside making sure the door was closed. It later turned out that this bug was the Mukade - a venomous centipede that can eat mice... lovely.

Somehow managing to sleep that night, the following morning we headed out to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for it's torii walk. Unsurprisingly, it was full of tourists, but we still got to enjoy walking beneath the arches.

Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari


Kinaku-ji

Kinaku-ji

We then headed across the city to the Golden Shrine of Kinkaku-ji, which if I'm honest paled in comparison to the similar Golden Temple of Amritsar. Nevertheless it was an interesting sight, and after stopping for frozen cola, we headed towards our next sights in Arashiyama.

Bamboo Forest

Bamboo Forest

Arashiyama is a suburb on the edge of the city, and contains several exciting places. The first was the Bamboo walk, which although pretty was pretty spoiled by so many tourists, which prevent the serenity from being taken in. We then continued our walk by heading through a park, and heading down to the riverside, where the river was full of boats, including one taking tourists for lunch with a couple of geishas.

Geisha Lunch Boat

Geisha Lunch Boat

After grabbing a bit of food we crossed the wooden bridge and headed up a hill to the Monkey Reserve. A long walk, but fun to see monkeys giving death stares and demanding food.

Monkey Park

Monkey Park


Kyoto Castle

Kyoto Castle

After a long day, we headed back to our hotel via Kyoto Castle, but with it having already been a long day we decided not to head in and instead went back to our hotel for a rest before packing our bits, as tomorrow we would be headed to the Japanese capital of Tokyo.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 10:49 Archived in Japan Tagged monkey hostel sightseeing shrine eastasia cherryblossom Comments (0)

Southern Honshu

Cherry Blossom Adventures - Hiroshima & Himeji

sunny 21 °C
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With yet another early morning flight, we checked out of our hotel early and began heading to Seoul's Incheon airport. This was our only flight not with Air China, being with Asiana Airways, and after a short pleasant flight we arrived in the city of Fukuoka, Japan.

We flew via Fukuoka, as it had the best connections to get to Hiroshima, and after getting through immigration, we boarded the short bus transfer to the station, and got hold of our Japan Rail Passes which we would be using for the next week. With everywhere being so busy, it was several hours after we had landed that we finally boarded our bullet train to Hiroshima, but nevertheless we made the train we wanted and got to enjoy the journey on this legendary train.

Bullet Train

Bullet Train

Bullet trains look so futuristic, and felt also very strange, as although travelling exceptionally fast they pivot and thus don't feel particularly faster than regular fast train travel, except the noticeable sensation of ears popping. After just over an hour, we arrived at Hiroshima station, and after buying a few snacks, we headed to our hotel to leave our bags.

Hypocentre

Hypocentre

Our time in Hiroshima was limited to just one night, and this afternoon was our opportunity to explore the city. We began by heading to Hiroshima castle, before making our way to see the sights that are connected to what the city of Hiroshima is most famous for - the atomic bombing in 1945. Starting at the plaque marking the hypocentre of the bomb, we walked around the corner to see the A-bomb Dome, the closest building to survive the bomb, and symbol of the event, surrounded by cherry blossom.

A-bomb Dome

A-bomb Dome

The trip had been scheduled to coincide with the Cherry Blossom Season. However as time was limited, and the cherry blossom takes place in just a few weeks, it was unsure where we would actually get to see it. If it came late, we would catch it in Tokyo just before we left, whilst if it came early we would catch it in Hiroshima as we arrived. This year it came over a week early, and Hiroshima was already at the peak of the blooming.

Eternal Flame within the gardens

Eternal Flame within the gardens

The immediate surrounding area of the A-bomb dome is now a peace park, with monuments and landscaped gardens alongside a couple of museums, which contain artefacts from the bombing as well as other items, such a clock counting the days since the bomb, as well as the last nuclear test.

Peace Watch

Peace Watch

Having taken a brief look around the city, we headed back towards the station to grab food, from a food court on the 11th floor of a department store overlooking the surrounding area, before checking into our room at the hotel.

View from the Food Court

View from the Food Court

The hotel itself had its own Onsen, and after having a bit of a rest, I headed up there to enjoy the heated baths. Although as it was traditionally Japanese, this did mean having to go in naked!

After a soothing bath, it was finally time to sleep before the next day's adventure. However in the morning Chris had not slept well and was exhausted from the week's travel so far. Therefore I left him to get some rest, whilst I headed outside the city towards Miyajima Island.

Taking the train south for half an hour, upon arrival almost everyone got off - evidently full of tourists doing the same, and after a quick walk across the small village I boarded the ferry that would cross the small channel to the island. Upon arrival it was clear the traditional fishing village had now become a tourist magnet, being full of little shops and cafés.

Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima Shrine

A five minute walk later and I arrived at the magnet of the island, the Itsukushima Shrine and it's torii gate. I had deliberately timed the visit this morning to coincide with high tide, when the gate appears to float in the water.

Floating Torii

Floating Torii

And with the local area also in full Cherry Blossom bloom, it made this one of the most pretty on the trip so far. After popping in the shops, and observing the local pagoda, I headed back to the ferry port and eventually the hotel to collect our bits.

Toyokuni Shrine Pagoda

Toyokuni Shrine Pagoda

Having rested this morning Chris now felt a bit better, and we headed back to the station to continue our journey, now headed for the city of Himeji. Himeji is not exciting enough to warrant a stay here overnight, but it does have one of the most important and beautiful castles in the country. And being just ten minutes from the station we decided to take a look.

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle

Arriving at the palace, surrounded in cherry blossom, it was packed full of tourists, but not feeling completely better, Chris stayed outside with the bags, whilst I took a look inside. However the queues inside were long, and it took ages to get around the complex. Queuing to enter the palace took an hour, and I ended up skipping some of the sections altogether. Nevertheless it was an interesting place to visit and did look beautiful.

Inside Himeji Castle

Inside Himeji Castle

Relying on the trains, if we headed back to the station quickly we could make the next train, or otherwise we would have quite a long wait. We therefore decided to hurry and not long later we were back on the bullet train headed for the next city of destination - Kyoto.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 06:37 Archived in Japan Tagged palace train museum castle spa shrine nuclear gate bomb macabre eastasia cherryblossom Comments (0)

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