Jan 22, 2015

Kyoto - Bamboo, Shrines and Palaces

Our original plan was to stay in Kyoto for two nights during our trip to Japan last spring. I quickly realized that would be entirely too little time and added a day trip from Osaka into our itinerary. We were able to fit in quite a lot over this beautiful spring day. Our day was filled with some of Kyoto's most famous attractions.

From Osaka Station, it was a short 30 minute train-ride to Kyoto. We started our day in the Arashiyama section of town.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is one of Kyoto's oft-photographed sights, and it is not hard to figure out why. The bamboo grove is an atmospheric and serene location for a daytime walk, even with the crunch of the cherry blossom season crowd.

On the approach to the bamboo grove are many souvenir and snack shops. We picked up these delicious rice balls to enjoy on our stroll.

We returned towards Arashiyama Station and walked along the riverside. 

The mass of cherry blossom trees were in full bloom all along the river. The view of Togetsukyo Bridge next to the trees reminded me of why we decided to come to Japan during this season.

We crossed over Togetsukyo Bridge to venture over to Arashiyama's main drag. As we were making our way across, we came across these three young ladies in full maiko gear. I am not sure whether they were real maiko or just tourists dressed up to look like them. I suspect they were tourists.

Our last stop before lunch was Monkey Park Iwatayama, which I wrote about last year soon after our trip. Then it was off to lunch on the main drag. We stumbled upon this restaurant and were able to grab a table before the lunch crush.

I ordered a delicious meal of cold soba and rice balls. Yum! So simple but tasty.

Following lunch, we hoped a bus to Kinkaku-Ji (the Golden Pavilion). Originally, the site served as the retirement villa of a shogun, but following his death, it became a Zen temple. 

Kinkaku-Ji was one of the most impressive sights we visited on our entire trip. Not only was the building itself stunning, but it is in the middle of a large pond with lush green gardens surrounding it. I could just imagine what a peaceful respite this place would make. 

We continued on our whirlwind tour of Northern Kyoto and visited Nijo-jo, a feudal castle dating to 1603.

Entrance gate to Nijo-jo

The castle is surrounded by stone walls as well as a moat and consists of several buildings and gardens.  

After walking through the large entrance gate, we came upon the ornate Karamon Gate that leads visitors to Ninomaru Palace, the main building open to the public. Unfortunately, photos were not permitted within the palace.

Karamon Gate, leading to Ninomaru Palace
Ninomaru Palace

The Palace served as the residence and office of the shogun, with tatami-matted rooms and painted sliding doors. Most interesting were the corridors with "nightingale floors," which squeak when walked on. This was used as a security measure!

Outside the Palace was a traditional Japanese garden, with, of course, more cherry blossom trees. 

The day was winding down with the temperature dropping and the sunlight getting dimmer, but we decided to push on and visit one last spot. 

Fushimi Inari Shrine is a Shinto shrine that is famous for its thousands of red torii gates. It is a sight to behold! Plus, as you can see, the rows of torii make for great photographs. 

The shrine is dedicated to Inari, the god of rice, and foxes symbolize the messengers of Inari. 

It was a long day in Kyoto, and we were happy to be on our way back to our hotel in Osaka! 

No comments:

Post a Comment