Today we were able to spend the whole day in one city for a change, no trains at all today just buses.
We started the day with a traditional Japanese breakfast. This included cold tofu with topping, some miso soup and an egg with some Salmon and of course a bowl of rice. I thought it was quite nice, but I think we are rapidly approaching Joel’s seafood tolerance levels.
After breakfast we began our bus adventure. After walking several blocks we arrived where we thought the interchange was on the map, but it was along the street of a major shopping road. We had planned to purchase a 500¥ all day bus pass at the bus interchange, that gives unlimited bus travel within the ‘zone’, but after wondering around for a while were unable to find where to purchase one. In the end we had to move a block and catch a bus to Kyoto station, where we were finally able to purchase the ticket.
After a short ride we got off at Kyoto castle. This castle was a more natural arrangement were you take off your shoes off and wander inside and see rooms closer to their original design. There were some beautiful screen paintings inside, some were undergoing refurbishments and some had obviously already been repaired. As per usual no photography or sketching was allowed.
Unfortunately the main building, which was actually moved in 1890 from the imperial palace at Katsura after the previous one burnt down, was closed to the public. It is only open to the public on certain celebration days. The surrounding garden and ponds were open and were well maintained in the inner keep. The trees were all sculpted and had nice thick moss growing in circles underneath them, with grass between the trees. In the pond we saw our first heron (?) of the day, although it was so still we originally thought it was a statue.
After exploring the castle for a while we caught another bus to Arashiyama to see the Tenryuu-ji temple and the Bamboo forest behind it. On the bus after starting with a fairly empty bus it rapidly filled with elderly citizens. At one stage we commented we were easily the youngest people on the bus, with it appearing the average age was 70 – 80. Although a few got off along the way, most got off the stop before us (which we probably should have got off as well) at Arashiyama Tenryuuji-mae.
Getting off at the terminus we tried to cut through a coach parking lot that had only one exit, so ended up having to return to entrance. Joel then saw the Tōgetsu-kyō Bridge that he had previously seen in an Anime and grabbed some pics. I walked onto the bridge and noticed a dragonfly had landed on the handrail so I got some good pictures of it.
Wandering down the main street we grabbed some lunch at a Soba noodle restaurant. I had egg and chicken (Oyako Udon) and Joel had Beef (Niku Udon) soba noodles.
We walked up the street to Tenryuu-ji temple, on the way I saw a group all dressed up in Yukatas, and asked them to pose for a picture. At the temple we paid 600¥ to get admission to both the temple and the garden (garden is 500¥ on its own). This temple didn’t have any warnings about taking photos so we were able to grab some, although it didn’t have many elaborate screens like the castle did. The path through the temple gave a higher view of the garden pond and also followed a stream between buildings.
The one downside is we had to take off our shows and wear slippers. This itself not so much a problem, although Joel finds it funny that he can take off his slip-on shoes really quickly while I always need to sit down to untie and then later retie my laces. The problem is the slippers provided are always too small for our feet, and we seem to be stepping on the back edge, while at the same time they are falling off. I worry way too much about tripping over them when going up stairs, or accidently kicking one into the bushes surrounding the path. It is much easier to just walk in socks, but then they get dirty and you stand out as everyone else is wearing the slippers.
At the end of the path is a nice temple with some screens and statues that I created a panorama of. After leaving the temple we wondered through the garden. There is a beautiful pond at the start and lovely garden beds with ancient trees and moss growing everywhere. We actually saw some gardeners apparently hand trimming the moss in one of the gardens.
At the North end of the garden we exited into the Bamboo forest. This was a road passing through towering grey bamboo stalks; it is very peaceful and quite interesting in appearance. The only problem was that it was much shorter than expected; we followed the road out, went around one bend and were at the end.
Leaving out the side we walked down the road a fair way to reach our next bus stop to take us to Kinkakuji Temple. This temple is known for its brilliant golden temple that sits on a lake, it is supposed to practically glow in any weather. We put this to the test as it was very overcast when we arrived at entrance and it started raining when we reached the first viewing area. The temple did still seem amazingly bright, even though the sky was covered in dark clouds, and rain was splashing the lake. The golden building is the main draw card but the grounds were quite nice, even if we did leap frog between dry areas.
When we left the temple the rain had cleared, but left us with even higher humidity to walk through on our way to Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine. By the time we arrived all the stores and temples were closed, but we could wander the grounds to take some pictures and rub the noses of the cow statues. I also found an interesting sight that someone had tied a Winnie the Pooh bib to one of the cows.
When we finished, rather than head directly back to Ryokan we dropped by the station to purchase an All-Day bus ticket for tomorrow. We even found a vending machine selling them, so did not need to go to the ticket office this time.
For dinner tonight we had another Japanese banquet, very similar to the one on the first night with just a few minor changes. We had some seaweed type dish in a bowl, which looked like the hair ball you pull from the shower drain, but it looked quite nice. The main was again sashimi of seafood and tempura prawns, although the meat in the sashimi looked a bit different. The soup was the same mushroom and mysterious roll as yesterday, which Joel still refuses to try because he dislikes its smell. The seafood and mushroom custard was also identical with its same odd taste and texture.
Overall we had a good day, we saw 4 different major attractions and managed to avoid getting very wet when it rained. Tomorrow we leave early to store our luggage at Kyoto station before catching the bus to South-East Kyoto for some more shrines and temples.