Kyoto - Hisashiyama and Gion Districts
07.05.2008 0 °F
Greetings from Kyoto. JJ and I have been making good use of the daily bus pass in the city. We've spent all day walking around the Hisashiyama section of Kyoto (the Eastern most part) where there are plenty of sites to see and shops to look around. The majority of our time today was spent in the lower half of Hisashiyama since it was blazing hot and humid out and we just could not deal with an all day affair in the whole area. We plan on going back for the rest of the area in the subsequent days. Kyoto is rich in history and is much more a traditional Japanese city than Tokyo. Of course, this is not a bad thing at all, and JJ and I really enjoy it here. It can be very modern and trendy too, but it is second to none when it comes to that classic Japanese history and heritage. The walk up to the base of what is called the "Philosopher's Path" is flanked by the shops and restaurants. It's much a tourist trap for souvenirs and anything and everything Japanese. However, due to the heat, it is also a great way to cool down for most of the stores have air conditioning, so it's like walking into pockets of cold from time to time. Trust me, you'll need it during this time of the year. We've resorted to bringing a little towel with us just to keep ourselves from being completely drenched in sweat. JJ and I spent a decent amount of time shopping, buying things and just window shopping. If you know me and know how much I love the anime Rurouni Kenshin (which is based in the Meiji time period), they have all sorts of trinkets/shirts/plush dolls/scrolls devoted to the Shinsengumi, a sort of special police in Kyoto. Come to think of it, what drew me to Kenshin was my infatuation with the history of Japan during that particular timeframe. Anyways, Shinsengumi cool, bought stuff. haha...
Our walk up the Philosopher's Path was not all shopping; we went in and out of all sorts of temples/shrines. Much of the time was spent orientating to which one we just went into relative to our map. Unfortunately, there was very little English on the maps and we just kind of just assumed where we were. There were a lot of tourists out there, in particular tourists from China/Taiwan/South Korea. Insert whatever stereotype you have of asian tourists, they are all applicable, haha. We ran into some Americans but most of the non-Asian tourists were from Europe. Again, this part of Kyoto is a huge tourist attraction. I'd say with confidence that less the obvious size and scale difference, the amount of tourists here in Kyoto rivals that of tourists on the National Mall. I'm going to let the photos do the rest of the talking and move on to the next part of the day, lunch. haha. Yum.
We've been documenting our dining experiences small and large throughout our trip and I will have a blog entry devoted to that plus a rating system, maybe even throw in a few Iron Chef-esque remarks. As for today's lunch, we just stopped at a local restaurant in Kyoto. The food was very good and it had a hint of diner food quality to it, a little greasy but still very good. We try to keep a budget of about 1000 yen per person per lunch meal and for the most part, we do. Truth be told, we knew ahead of time that we'd spent a lot on food, but in moderation. No regrets at the moment.
After lunch, we did a little more walking along the Philosopher's Path. Although it didn't take too much longer before we decided to go back and rest up. The heat was just too much. We got back on the bus and headed for the ryokan, where I unintentionally took a two-hour nap. I guess I needed it more than I thought. We decided to go back out for dinner and did that in the Gion district which was just west of the Philosopher's Path and Northeast of our ryokan. We did a fair bit of touring Gion before we found a place to eat, which actually was a bit off the main strip. We actually went through their red-light district before we found a place to eat. This restaurant had more a Japanese feel to it, being that we actually took off our shoes and ate sitting down on tatami mats. We had food that was grilled and I enjoyed another beer with dinner. Overall, the dining experience was good and we hope to go to another place with similar hospitality.
After dinner, we stayed in Gion and enjoyed the nightlife a bit. It being Saturday night, we figure that it'll be interesting to see what Japanese do for fun in Kyoto. Not being the clubbing or bar/karoake type, JJ and I just wandered around. We stopped by the Yasaka Shrine, a shrine that is lit by literally thousands of lanterns throughout the complex. There are plenty of photos on that. Needless to say, it was pretty awesome to see shrines and pathways lit by the lanterns. Interesting enough, as it is a weekend night, we stumbled upon an area filled with young people (age group 18-30?). They were mostly dressed in traditional garb and plenty of drinking games were being played and everyone seemed to having a good time. You couldn't miss hearing them from afar. I would say that about 150-200 people were just hanging around in smaller groups of maybe 12-15, but there was plenty of mingling around. JJ and I just passed through and went back out when we felt some rain. We took the bus back, and by the time we got back, the rain stopped. But, we were too tired to go back out so we just stayed in and relaxed, and I took the opportunity to write this blog. Anyways, tomorrow is more site seeing in Kyoto. Enjoy the pictures.