Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mainland Japan Trip Part 2 - Kyoto

The second leg of our mainland Japan trip was the old capital city of Kyoto. While Tokyo was definitely one of the coolest cities I've ever been to, Kyoto was probably my favorite part of this trip. Not only was it further south than Tokyo (warmer!), it was also the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the bustling city scene that is Tokyo. Kyoto is exactly what you envision when you picture traditional Japan - tiny side streets, small villages, girls in kimono, umbrellas, cranes, old temples, and cherry blossoms - TONS of them! 

There are a couple times of the year that Kyoto is known to be at its most beautiful, and that one week in April where the cherry blossom trees are at their fullest is definitely one of them! I am SO glad we picked this time of year to go, and we picked the perfect week to go as well - Easter weekend as it happened to be. We do have cherry blossoms down here in Okinawa, as you've probably seen on the blog in the past, however, they are so much different up in mainland Japan. Not only are the flowers a much lighter pink than those in Okinawa, the trees are also so FULL of them that they look like clouds, and the trees are on every street you turn down! The best part was our mode of transportation around the old city - Matt and I rented bikes (Matt, a mountain bike, and me, a beach cruiser with a basket:) which allowed us to really see SO much more than we ever would have riding public transportation. It was also SO much more fun, and really made our experience in Kyoto amazing!
Here are some of the highlights of our time in Kyoto:

Check out this video clip of the Shinkansen - or the Japanese Bullet Train - that runs down the entire mainland Japan.  It is one of the fastest in the world, and it is such a smooth ride.  The Shinkansen wasn't cheap - we took it from Tokyo down to Kyoto (a 2 1/2 hour ride) and it was just as much as if we had flown there!  But, as with everything on a vacation, it's the experience that counts:)

Our view of Mt. Fuji while on our way to Kyoto

Kyoto Tower

The architecturally impressive Kyoto Station - it had a huge outdoor escalator that went up to each of the 10 floors, and each floor had different types of food.

We ended up eating at the 9th floor (all different types of Ramen) two times during the trip - it was that good!

Our first day riding through Kyoto

There were beautiful cherry blossom trees on every street it seemed

Japanese in traditional clothes and parasols in Gion district

Huge torii gate at an intersection

Heian Shrine

Bamboo canopies of cherry blossoms in the Heian Shrine gardens

Stepping stones

Caught in action (yes, he just swooped down and caught that big fish right out of the pond!)

A Japanese bride

Old aquaduct at Nanzen-ji Temple

Philosopher's Path - a very long and curvy path of thousands of cherry blossom trees along a tiny river.  This was so beautiful:)

Kinkaku-ji Temple (The Golden Temple) is one of the most popular sites in Kyoto because of the real gold leaf that adorns the outside of the pagoda.  Matt and I raced there on our bikes, and we made it just in time as it was closing... we may have been rained on and sweating, but we got to see the Golden Temple!

Sitting riverside in Pontocho at night

I loved this beautiful river walk right in the middle of a street filled with restaurants.

The cherry blossoms literally looked like clouds in the sky

Our second day of biking around Kyoto, we went all the way to a small mountain-side town called Arashiyama.

Gio-ji Temple (The Moss Temple)

Bamboo Groves - this was huge, and I don't think we even rode through all of the different paths!

Beautiful lake and mountains of Arashiyama

Artist's painting

Me with girls in kimono on the Arashiyama bridge

Enterance to the Fushimi Inari Shrine

The Fushimi Inari Shrine is more of a hike than a shrine.  It is composed of thousands and thousands of bright orange torii gates in rows that create winding tunnels up the side of the mountain.  It starts off with two different tunnels and quickly becomes one. 

I wonder what all of these say...

Fushimi Inari is my favorite place in Kyoto - it was amazing!

Can't stop taking photos of these!!

So, that was the ending to our amazing trip up to mainland Japan!  It's easy to think that we know what Japan is like since we live here, but now, I can say that I finally feel like I know TRUE Japan... not just our little island of Okinawa. 

Thanks for following along on our adventures!


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