Okay, so my big plans to write the blog as soon as I got back from Kyoto didn't quite eventuate... too many jobs had been left undone while Dad was here!
Anyway, for those who didn't know, last week Dad and I headed to Kyoto for a few days before he flew out of Osaka. Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan and has over 1600 Buddhist temples, more than 400 Shinto shrines and 17 Unesco Heritage sites (well that's what the lonely planet guide says anyway!). In other words there is plenty to see and do! This time we opted to take the overnight ferry from Beppu to Osaka rather than the fast bullet train. It isn't cruise ship quality, but you do get a plastic pillow, a thin sleeping mat and a blanket and of course it is only about a third of the price of the train..... We were converted by a man who was out to save the world, completed many sudoku puzzles and discovered a great icecream vending machine. Of course we were also woken at 4:30am by all the early birds in our room, but it was definately a Japanese experience which I wouldn't mind repeating.
Having finally made it to Kyoto we did the usual touristy things, but with a couple of extra bonuses. The first was our first night's accomodation ... we opted to stay in a temple and we ended up being the only guests there. They had amazing courtyard gardens and we were also able to participate in the reading of the sutra in the morning with the temple priest. It was definately worth getting up at 6:30am to watch him doing his thing - including beating the big drums etc. Total devotion. Of course we were also treated to a real Japanese experience in the evening too... a trip to the local bath house. Nothing like sitting on the floor to get under the shower head to wash your hair while the locals look on in wonder (sorry no photos of this great sight!)
My favorite three places from this trip were
1. Nijo Castle. For anyone who has read the trilogy by Lian Hearn (if you haven't you really should! Check out her homepage) then this castle is a must. It is not a traditional Japanese castle, but it is incredible in terms of its size etc. It has wonderful floor boards which are called "the nightingale floor" which squeak whenever anyone walks on them. The construction of them is reasonably complicated and they were made as a way to detect any intruders.
Of course it also has amazing gardens to wander and wander and wander in too!
2. Kinkakuji (the golden pavilion). This is a really beautiful building in yet another beautiful garden. It is completely covered in gold leaf and on a nice day the reflection in the pond is incredible. Unfortunately May seems to be the peak for students to visit Kyoto so we had to share the paths with zillions of school children in their uniforms. We made it into a game though and Dad managed to get in many photos with the students. I think he was a little shocked by the level of English though. He asked one boy on a bus "Where are you going?" and the boy had no idea what he was talking about.... he had been studying English for over 2 years!
This is a buddhist temple that has been built basically on a cliff. From the top you get a fantastic view over Kyoto city and of course the construction of the temple is pretty impressive too. Because we were staying close to this temple we decided to get up early again and went to see it at about 6:30am in an attempt to avoid the crowds of school children again. The plan worked and we had a really nice time wandering around the gardens etc. with only a few other early birds.
So - there you have it, a brief summary of another trip to Kyoto. I am getting more and more used to showing people around there so if you ever need a tour guide, just let me know!