Tuesday, May 04, 2010
We took the high speed rail from Tokyo to Kyoto (~2.5 hours). Since we booked everything last minute, all the hotels in Kyoto were fully reserved during the high season. Luckily, the Citadines Kyoto just opened and we were able to reserve our rooms. The hotel was really modern, zen and spacious. It is also within walking distance to many historic sights.
Kyoto is the old capital of Japan, from 794–1869. It is also the city of a thousand temples where 17 properties are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The weather warmed up during our stay and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. We managed to visit a handful of attractions.
Kiyomizu-dera (built over a thousand years ago and is one of the most famous temples in Japan):
Kennin-ji (Oldest zen temple in Kyoto):
Ginkakuji ("Silver Pavilion" - made of wood, originally intended to be covered in silver):
Kinkakuji ("Golden Pavilion" - covered in pure gold leaf):
Sanjusangen-do (Literally means "Hall with thirty three spaces between columns"):
Sanjusangen-do housed 1001 golden life-sized Buddhist statues (we think it'd be a great task for Amazing Race contestants to count the statues). In addition, this temple is the site of archery tournaments where contestants shoot arrows from one end of the temple to the other.
Philosopher's Walk (beautiful 2km stroll along a cherry blossom lined canal):
During one of our last days in Kyoto, we took a side trip to visit the Himeji Castle. The castle will be undergoing major renovations starting April 2010 through March 2014. We were very lucky to have visited before the closure. The castle is set up high on the hills and is a spectacular sight. We waited over two hours to go inside the castle.
In each city we visit, we try to bring home a small souvenir. We passed a tiny shop in Kyoto selling woodblock prints and purchased a beautiful piece from this friendly owner.
Kyoto is truly a beautiful city full of national treasures. It is hard to believe that it was once on the list of potential targets for the atomic weapons in WWII.
Our trip to Tokyo and Kyoto was both a step into the future and the past. This excursion enriched our world tour and we're thrilled to have captured so many beautiful memories.