Sunday, March 4, 2012

Kyoto: The Traditional City of Japan

Chris and I love three day weekends!  About a week before a long weekend, we sit down and discuss if we want to sit around and relax or take a trip. Every once and awhile we go for the relaxing option, but this weekend we decide to take a trip... and are we glad we did!  We've heard Kyoto is a "must-see" city in Japan. It is known for being very traditional, complete with pagodas, temples, shrines, and geishas.

We also used this weekend to check something else off our list, and that was to ride the Shinkansen (or Japanese Bullet Train).  The bullet train goes throughout Japan and like it's name says it is extremely fast and the best part is that it is very roomy and comfortable!  We boarded the train early Saturday morning and we were off.

Our guide book that we used for the weekend had a section on walking tours, and we decided this was the best way to see Kyoto. Our first walking tour was what our guide book called the "Night Walk Through the Floating World." It was pretty incredible.  We were fortunate enough to come when snow was still in the city, I think it made everything look even better!  Our first stop was at Yasaka-jinja shrine.  It was huge and I loved seeing it at night.

Next, we headed to an area called Pontocho.  It looked like it was an area right of a movie.  It was a pedestrian-only area that is lined with restaurants and it is the best place to spot geishas!!  This was the highlight of the trip for me.  As Chris was busy trying to figure out the menus I was hunting for geishas!
During our walk through the town I did see three geishas, but I felt awkward taking pictures of them. This picture below isn't the geishas we saw, but they looked EXACTLY like this.  I loved it!

We finally settled for a place for dessert... they had tempura ice cream and it was incredible!

The next morning after we found a place for coffee, we set out for our second walk, "A Philosophical Meander."  This walk was long, but it was a beautiful sunny and chilly day.  Our first stop was at the Nanzen-ji temple.  It is one of the most favorite temples in the city.
That's us in the middle. Sorry we're tiny!

Love the snow covered city
After we left the city we walked along the Path of Philosophy and of course we found two snacks that we had to try:
Honey toast with fruit... yum!

Potornados!! Yes, that was their real name!

Then after we walked out a long road lined with fun shops we found the Ginkaku-ji Temple.  This was our favorite because the gardens were beautiful.

Because I was exhausted after the long walk, so Chris let me pick the place to eat.  I quickly found a Burger King. Now, I know you are disappointed, but we don't have one in Sasebo and right then the Whopper sounded pretty tasty (I haven't had one in a year)! Chris still had one more sight we needed to see before we headed back to the hotel... the Kyoto Tower.  Of course we had to go to the top, I must admit the views were pretty incredible. 
This is a picture of the tower being reflected on the train station... I thought it looked pretty neat.

Monday was our last day in Kyoto, but we still had two more sights we needed to check off our list.  I'm glad we saved them for the end, because they were definitely the best ones.  First we took the bus to the Golden Pavilion or Kinkaku-ji.  It is three stories and covered in gold leaf.  It was built to be retirement villa, but it was converted into a temple. 

I love the reflection in the water!

Before our train left we hurried to our last sight.  We went to the To-ji pagoda. It is the largest pagoda in Japan. We took a quick picture then headed off to catch our train!

We had an amazing three-day weekend in Kyoto.  It was so interesting to see these incredible sights in Japan.  But before I go, I have to mention our biggest disappointment of the trip... we were in the train station and what do you think I saw? A Cafe Du Monde!!! I ran to it and quickly ordered a beignet. And guess what?? They didn't have beignets! What was the purpose of having a Cafe Du Monde without beignets? I was speechless! (For my non-Louisiana friends, this is a famous cafe in New Orleans that serves these fried dough squares covered in powdered sugar called beignets and they are delicious!)
Other than that, we had an incredible time and saw some amazing sights!!