Hey everyone, it's been a few days since our last update. Needless to say, JJ and I have been rather busy all over Kyoto, and been a bit tired to write these blog entries every night......and lazy too. It's Wednesday evening here and tomorrow we head off west to Hiroshima. Commence catching you all up!
To start off Day 7, we had breakfast downstairs at the our ryokan. We ended up chatting with a man originally from Jersey who is currently teaching English in Korea. The breakfast itself was good enough; the tofu was the best. I was not overall impressed but hey, these are the type of experiences you want. Anyways, after breakfast, we got ready to head over to Nijojo Castle, just west of downtown Kyoto. We spent a good deal walking around and took plenty of photos. I'm only sharing a few for the time being. I personally didn't think Nijojo was that impressive. After we finished around that area, we walked back to our ryokan and made a brief stop back at the Hisashi-Honganji temple so JJ can get a few more photos she missed. We had dinner at a place called Donguri near the ryokan which served all sorts of grilled entrees. Since we are staying in that area of Kyoto the duration of our time in the city, we hope to go back to that place again. That's saying a lot on how we like their menu. Day 6 was rather lackluster relative to what we've done during our trip and looking back at it, I can't seem to want to write more. Take a gander at our photos, it's not much. haha.
Day 8 was a pretty long day. We had to check out of our ryokan which isn't all too bad except that we left around 8 and our check-in time was 3 at the Hotel Granvia in Kyoto station. We just left our bags with the concierge and made way to the station to head to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Reservations were made for 10am (reason why we checked out early) for an English tour which lasted about an hour. To reiterate, Kyoto was the ancient capital of Japan for about a thousand years and during the latter part of that time frame, the emperor and his family lived in the Imperial Palace. It was quite an impressive complex, both in its grandeur and scale. There was a fair amount of walking all around. Given how expansive the photos are, I'll let them do the rest of the explaining. After the trip to the Imperial Palace, we walked around the area and visited the Golden Pavilion or Kinkakuji. It was another very dynamic place to visit. Oh the memories of studying East Asian architecture history back in college. Finally, we headed back to Kyoto Station to have a late lunch and then checked in to our room. The Hotel Granvia is very posh and much much nicer than many of the four star hotels back home. Kudos to JJ for finding such a great hotel at such a bargain. It is also of note to make mention that it was the first western style place we've stayed during our trip. The past week, we've been in more traditional Japanese style places. It was rather nice to be able to sleep in a bed have a desk to work. However, we do have more time spent in Japanese style ryokans/hotels, and we do look forward to them. On a side note, at the moment, Japan is the host for the G8 Summit in Hokkaido this year, and given the amount of dignitaries and other public figures, the Japanese provided Japanese-style accommodations to them which ended up being a big no-no. Many of the public figures felt disrespected to have to sleep in a ryokan or just on the floor like the Japanese do. I personally don't find it a big deal, but then again, I'm no dignitary.......yet. After settling in, we hopped back on a bus to the Gion district again to do a bit more sightseeing and ended our day there. It was such a nice evening to be out and we took advantage of that. We really love it here in Kyoto.
We made the much anticipated trip to the Himeji Castle on Day 9, which of course is located in Himeji. It's about an hour or so by train (via the bullet train line aka Shinkansen). Himeji Castle is probably one of the most famous images of Japan. Since the day was pretty straight-forward in terms of what we did, I'll again let the images speak for themselves. After Himeji Castle, we walked to one of the museums near the castle, the Prefectural Museum of History. In this museum designed by Kenzo Tange, we saw exhibits to some of the really interesting festivals and a lengthy one devoted solely to Japanese baseball. It felt like we just walked into Japan's version of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Once we were done there, we went back towards the castle to check out the Kokoen Garden adjacent to the castle. It was interesting but more just an opportunity for some photo taking. The Kokoen garden was our final stop in Himeji before we headed back to Kyoto. We were in Himeji from about 9:30-2:30. We got to the station about an hour early for the train back to Kyoto so we just we waited. However, when we were on our way back to Kyoto, there came a significant delay which kept us idle at the stop before Kyoto station for about an hour. We're not sure what caused the delay, but the rumor was that someone either committed suicide and/or threatened to at one of the stations which caused a tremendous amount of frustration all over the train stations within 3-stops of Kyoto. We finally got back to our hotel closer to 6. By that time, we were just exhausted and decided to just have dinner back downstairs in Kyoto Station. Our days end typically around 10-11 and given how tired we are, just keep it simple back in the hotel. I work on thesis a little bit, JJ reads, or we just watch TV. I have been able to watch Naruto (anime show) live as well as watch the comedy variety show Gaki No Tsukai. Unfortunately, we have not stumbled upon any wild and crazy game shows but we are on the lookout for them. Anyways, to the last day of this entry!
Day 10 became laundry day. We had quite a bit to do and were able to find a laundromat within three blocks of Kyoto Station. Nothing exciting about doing laundry. To remedy the heat here, JJ and I bought some athletic shirts by Adidas and Nike that have climate control properties, much like Under Armour. They work wonders on those long days walking out in the sun. After laundry and lunch in Kyoto Station. Notice a trend? Within the station are hundreds of decently sized sit down restaurants. Funny enough, it takes JJ and I a good amount of time actually settling down on one. Though this speaks more about us than about the station. haha. Our afternoon consisted of more sightseeing. Since we only got about halfway through Hisashiyama the last time, we decided to make the day's objective to finish it up. We went all the way north to the Ginkakuji Temple or Silver Pavilion. Unfortunately, we paid full price to see something that was under construction and hence covered in scaffolding. It was a let down yes, but we just moved on and went south to finish up the Philosopher's Path. We ran into some interesting shops and shrines/temples along the way. The best sight would have to be the Heian Shrine, which was not under renovation and had a grand palace-like feel to it, similar to the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo, We went back to the hotel to clean up before we went out again for the evening. The night ended with some fun sights near downtown Kyoto. Right before dinner, we witnessed some sort of mini-parade-esque event where some locals dressed in traditional clothing and marched along one of the main avenues chanting, beating drums. We don't know exactly what it is and just assume it's in conjunction with the upcoming Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival) next week. Gion Matsuri is heralded as one of the the top three festivals in all of Japan during the year and JJ and I will be around in Kyoto for it. Can't wait!!!
Anyways, that is it for catching up. This in itself took a bit of time with writing as well as uploading to Photobucket. JJ and I hope to be able to maintain the blog every few days, but don't be surprised if we cut corners here and there. At the very least, we'll upload the photos and link them. Hope everyone is well back home.