I’ve been so busy lately that I forgot to make a post about my trip to Kyoto and Osaka over Spring break! I had an amazing time with friends and I am looking forward to going again some day.

Day 1 –

The day started with a bike ride to the train station. From Maebashi my group and I took the train to Tokyo and caught a bullet train to Kyoto there. I’ve heard that you can see Mt. Fuji from the windows of the train on the way to Kyoto, but I fell asleep. When we arrived at the Kyoto train station (which is really cool by the way) we took a bus the area of hostel. The hostel was pretty nice and close to the river and shopping district.

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Kyoto is an extremely old city filled with lots of historical landmarks, famous temples, and it attracts many tourists year-round. This was only a short trip, so it was impossible to see every thing the area had to offer, but that’s just an excuse to go back over and over and over again.

My first Kyoto temple visit was the well known Kiyomizu Temple. The walk up to the temple was extremely fun. The road is lined with shops, souvenirs, restaurants, even kimono renting places. Many people were dressed in traditional clothes while they were walking around the streets.

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We found this on the way up:

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Then we made it to the temple! It was a beautiful Spring day, and lucky for us one of the cherry trees was blooming right out front.

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I was hoping to hit the beginning of cherry blossom season when I went, but most of the trees bloomed 2 weeks later than usual this year. This was a lucky catch.

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A beautiful pagoda, view from below:

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Even though part of Kiyomizu was under renovation, it was still a good experience. I toured the temple and temple grounds, and saw a beautiful view of the building.

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At the end of the tour, there is a famous waterfall (the temple’s name actually meansclear water) that has wish granting powers. I waited in line to take a drink and make a wish.

This picture can give you an idea of what it looked like:

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After seeing the temple, we explored the streets of Kyoto and came upon a cherry blossom festival (even though there were no cherry blossoms!). Kyoto really is a beautiful, old city.

A temple gate and a street in Gion:

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Usually the hostel/hotel on a trip isn’t worth mentioning in a blog post, but when we returned to our room that night we met our roommates. There were two sisters from the U.K that were in Japan for a few weeks, and a Romanian couple on vacation as well. Everyone was so nice that we talked about Kyoto and our lives for a while before bed. We got to talk some more the next night as well, and even ran into the sisters randomly in Gion the next day. It was a good group to be with in the same room.

Day 2 –

Unfortunately the second day was a bit rainy. We made the best of it by having breakfast at an amazing coffee shop, then heading over to Sanjusangendo. There are absolutely no pictures taken in the building, and it was raining, so I can’t offer much except this link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanj%C5%ABsangen-d%C5%8D

I liked visiting this historic site. Places like this in Japan make me realize how little I really know about the history/culture of this country and how much more I need to learn. Where are my old textbooks when I need them?

The rest of the day was spent shopping in a famous food shopping district called Nishiki. It had lots of fresh foods out, including things I had never seen before. I would totally shop there if I lived in Kyoto. Lucky for us most of it was covered so we didn’t get rained on.

After a hard day of shopping, we treated ourselves to the best fried chicken and ramen in the city. Maybe even in Japan. Seriously, it was that good. The place was even featured in a travel book about Japan. I’m lucky the store doesn’t have a branch in Maebashi.

Day 3 –

Day 3 was Osaka day! Osaka is only a 40 minute train ride away from Kyoto. Osaka was such a cool city, with a totally different feel to it from Kyoto or Tokyo. It was younger, hipper, just more urban feeling and fun. Osaka is famous for takoyaki and okonomiyaki, so of course, I ate both while I was there. 🙂 At the end of the day of sightseeing my group went to karaoke and had a ton of fun!

A busy street in Osaka:

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Day 4 –

Day 4 was the last day of our trip. We took the train back to Kyoto to see the Nijo Castle.

This is my first castle visit in Japan, and I can’t really imagine any other place topping it. It was beautiful inside and out, and full of great information in English. Since this was once the dwelling of an emperor, the floors are rigged with a mechanism that makes it impossible for intruders to enter unnoticed. The floorboards literally sang as you walked on them. I loved it!

The outside wall around the castle:

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The entrance:

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A close up:

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Unfortunately, pictures weren’t allowed indoors. Every room had beautiful woodwork and wall murals painted by famous artists.

After touring the indoors, there was a large garden outside to tour as well. I’m sure it would have been even prettier later in the spring.

Me:

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To finish up Day 4, we gave Kiyomizu Temple one last hurrah. On Day 1 we had just missed being able to take a walk into a tunnel in complete darkness, and wanted to go back and do it. I had to descend into pitch black darkness with only a hand rail to guide me through tunnel. As you walk through, you are supposed to discover “your own light” inside yourself to guide you. It was a little scary at first because it’s so dark your eyes don’t adjust to anything and you never see where you are walking. The tunnel wasn’t very long though, so not a bad experience.

A great picture of the temple on Day 4, courtesy of Clarissa:

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That finishes my Kyoto and Osaka trip of 2012. There is still much more that I haven’t seen yet, so I can’t wait to go back!

-Kristen

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