Thursday, December 20, 2007
Kyoto Vacation: Day 1 Part 1
Day one of my vacation started during my 8 hour overnight bus trip to Kyoto. The bus itself was actually quite nice. A double decker with chairs that you could lay out at about a 45 degree angle. There were even slippers you could use! I did get a few leg cramps cause I couldn't stretch my legs out completely, so that caused a few problems for me. Lets just say it wasn't the best sleep I'd ever had, but considering I was in a bus, it wasn't too bad.

Once we arrived, there was a bit of panic as we had no idea where the bus had dropped us off at! We tried asking some people where the Kyoto station was, but no one seemed to know. The one person who thought they knew said it was probably a 15min walk away. Not something you want to have to do at 6am with suitcases. However, we eventually realized that the station was actually directly across the street from us. Quite perceptive, aren't we? Anyway, we couldn't check into our hotel until later in the day so we went over to the station to put our bags in lockers, pick up some city guides, and get an all day bus pass. The bus pass was great! Only 500yen and it goes to all the major hot spots in the city. Runs on a regular basis too, rather than only 4 times a day like the bus in my town! Also, on the way to the station, we pass a little coffee shop called Colorado Cafe, which greatly amused me. Also took some pictures of the Christmas decorations in the station and of Kyoto tower while waiting for the bus.

Because it was so early when we arrived, it wasn't hard to pick where to go next as the only temple open that early in the morning is Otowasan Kiyomizudera. Because we got to the temple so early, we were pretty much the only ones there which was great for taking pictures. By the time we left though, there were a ton of people arriving, including 3 or so school groups! The temple itself is quite nice and there was a beautiful view of both the city and of the autumn trees. The temple takes it's name from a waterfall that runs off the nearby mountian. Kiyo mizu literally means pure water. It's notable for it's veranda, which is supported by hundreds of pillars, and juts out over the hillside.

If you walk a bit further down the hill you get to the base of the waterfall where 3 channels of water drop into a pond. At the pond, I drank the water from one of the 3 channels out of these sterilized metal cups. The water is believed to have therapeutic properties which help improve health, longevity, and success in studies. Here's hoping it helps me learn Japanese faster!

Another famous feature of the temple is the shrine Jishujinja which is dedicated to Okuninushino Mikoto, a god of love. The shrine has a pair of 'love stones' that are place 18 meters apart and if you can walk from one to another with your eyes closed, it's said that you will find love. Awwwwww! I sadly did not do this because Janet and myself, at the time, thought that you had to be with the person you loved and both start at a rock and meet in the middle and it would be considered true love. We got it wrong, but at least I got a picture of the rocks.

After Kiyomizudera, we got a bit lost wondering around the shopping area in front of the temple, but eventually found ourselves in Gion, a district famous for its Geisha and Maiko. We ran across a pair of Maiko and asked to take a picture with them. However, neither of us are 100% sure that they were actually Maiko because there are several stores in the area that offer a 'dress up' service. We ran across two more women dress as Maiko having a photo shoot and three older women dress as Maiko in front of one of the dress up stores all of whom were definitely not real Maiko. We touring around Gion and check out some tea ceremony stuff for Janet as she is taking tea ceremony back in Yamanashi and needed a few things.

Next, we hopped back on the bus and went to the Sanjusangen-do temple which is famous for it's 1,00o Kannon statues and 1 giant seated statue. There are also 28 deity specific statues that stand in front of the Kannon, the most famous being the statues of the Thunder and Wind Gods. This temple was amazing and one of my favorites. However, you're not allowed to take pictures while inside, which is where all the statues are. I did manage to snap a picture of some of the statues through an open panel, but it's really amazing to see the inside. The statues just go on, and on, and on. And each one of the Kannon was done by a separate artist, so although they all look similar, each one is slightly different.

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