What a difference between Tokyo and Kyoto—the change of pace is evident once one is out of the Kyoto Station and the small downtown Kyoto areas. It does not have the pace of Tokyo and shops close early, some starting at 6 pm.
Kyoto’s 1.5 million people must be overwhelmed by the masses of tourists at certain time of the year. We felt the difference in the number of tourists once the cherry blossom season is over. No matter—one can find a number of quiet attractions to explore since the tourists are only in a few major attractions.
We also slow down ourselves as Tim got sick with cold and cough; we change the itinerary for the rest of the trip. We decided to stay longer in Kyoto and then go back early to Tokyo. So it ends up two weeks in each city.
We didn’t get a chance to visit rural Japan or the smaller towns and villages. We didn’t get to experience onsen. We saw tea plantations and rice fields on the train journey between the two cities.
Even two weeks in Kyoto isn’t enough for me; there are so many spots to explore since Kyoto is surrounded by hills with streams, rivers, canals, century old trees, bridges, temples, shrines, narrow cobblestone alleys, traditional houses, small tuck away cafes and restaurants.
There are so much to discover; after all, Kyoto was the old Imperial capital for over a thousand years (before it was moved to Tokyo in 1869) and there are buildings in Kyoto dated back many centuries (the oldest in Kyoto is the five storey pagoda at Daigoji temple—built in 951).
Here are a few photos from Kyoto (too many to show in this post):
Shinkansen (bullet train), top speed close to 300 km/hr—2 hours to Kyoto from Tokyo (normally 6 hour driving)
Extremely comfortable seat in the bullet train (it is like in an aeroplane)—we went for the Green Car (first class with 2 seats on each side)
Kyoto station (2nd largest in Japan)—more than 60 acres of floor space—incorporating shopping malls, hotels, movie theatre, live theatre, restaurants, cafes, taxi and bus terminals, dozens of restaurants and cafes, and government facilities under one 15 storey roof—it is like an airport
Kyoto Tower next to Kyoto train station, the steel tower is the tallest structure in Kyoto at 131 metres
Many locals wore kimono in Kyoto (here in one of the side streets)
At an Ikebana (Japanese art of flower arrangement) Exhibition in one of the halls in Heian Shrine
Shin’en Garden at Heian Shrine —8 acre garden, well known for its cherry blossoms and irises (strolling style; two decades to create and finished in early 1900s)
Otenmon Gate, entrance to Heian Shrine
Rohm Music Festival—free weekend outdoor stage performances
At Nishiki Market (known as Kyoto’s Kitchen) a five-block narrow street filled with about 130 food stands and restaurants—specialized in all things food related like fresh seafood, produce, knives, cookware, seasonal specialties—first shop opening around 1310)
Senbon torii at Fushimi Inari-taisha—there are around 10,000 vermillion torii gates straddling a network of trails up the wooded forest of Mount Inari (233 metres); hikes to the summit and back take 2-3 hours
There are three Imperial properties that require advanced registration because of limited daily slots and passports are required for entry. We were fortunate to get availability on all three and what a treat since each was a guided tour. The first was Sento Imperial Palace and the Kyoto Omiya Imperial Palace. The garden with a vast courtyard was created in 1630. Here is the yatsuhashi (zigzag bridge) covered with wisteria trellis across the South Pond of the Sento Imperial Palace. Total area of both grounds is about 22 Acres.
The Katsura Imperial Villa was completed in 1615. More additions to the existing buildings and gardens were completed by 1662. It remains virtually in its original form today. Onrindo structure at the base of the hill where the Shokintei (tea house) is.
Inside the Kastura Imperial Villa grounds. The stone bridge connecting the islet representing Amanohashidate—known as one of the best three scenic spots in Japan. Total area is 17 acres.
The grounds of the Shugakuin Imperial Villa, located at the foothills of Higashiyama Mountains, is about 133 acres. Completed around 1659. Upper Villa section (looking at the Yokuryuchi Pond—island is said to resemble a swimming dragon—and the mountains to the right and the centre of Kyoto and Nishiyama mountains to the left). Taken from Rinuntei (tea house)
Inside the 120 acre garden of Ryoanji Temple; temple was rebuilt in 1499. Garden started in 12th century, completed around 1500.
Sogen Garden of Tenryu-ji Temple, the landscape garden is one of the oldest in Japan, retaining the same form as when it was designed in the fourteen century (around 1343). Wisteria in full bloom
Another section of Sogen Garden
Arashiyama Bamboo Groves—towering bamboo plants bordering a pedestrian path
Rengeji Temple—we found this one by accident when we peeped through its entrance on our way to Ninnaji Temple. Quiet and few visitors. We had the place to ourselves most of the time there. Different than other temple grounds; never know one may find in Kyoto
Soryu-zu (Twin Dragons), 197 square metre painting on the ceiling of Kennin-ji Temple’s Dharma Hall, completed in 2002 to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the temple
Peonies in full bloom surrounded the Dharma Hall
We were tired and looking for a snack. Managed to get into this non-descriptive cafe on Nene-no-michi Lane, a narrow cobblestone alley in South Higashiyama area. And we found a beautiful garden with koi ponds inside the enclosure. Cafe runs by several old ladies selling tea and Japanese sweets.
Night illumination at Entokuin Temple in 1605.
Bamboo groves at Kodai-ji Temple during night illumination; temple garden was designed in early 1600s.
Night illumination at Kodai-ji Temple—surreal trees reflected on the pond waters, looking like an underwater world and cavern
Panels in one of rooms of Kuro-Shoin—fusuma ink painting by Domoto Insho in 1937. Inside the grounds of Ninnaji-Temple.
Hokutei (North Garden), paved with Shirakawa-suna sands. Inside the grounds of Ninnaji Temple (also known as Omuro Imperial Palace)—originated in 888.
Yellow moss garden at Ohkouchi Sansou Garden, built by Japanese film star Ohkouchi Denjirou (1898-1962) on the south side of Mt. Ogura over a 30 year period
One finds interesting small shops and cafes in the narrow and winding residential streets. This one is in the Arashiyama area, once an excursion for Emperors of Heain Period (794-1192)
Kinkaku (The Golden Pavilion), a shariden—a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha—and part of Rikuon-ji Temple. Gold foil on lacquer on upper two levels. Different style on each level: 11th century imperial aristocracy (1st level), warrior aristocracy (2nd level), Chinese zenshu-butsuden (3rd level). Garden: strolling style of Muromachi period (here around 1397)