Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kyoto - a brief summary

Kyoto is probably rivaled by only a handful of places in this world, maybe Rome, Paris or Athens in terms of cultural and historical treasures. As the former capital of Japan for more than 1100 years, it is the place to go to meet Japan. It was also our first destination on our round the world trip, an introduction but also a test. I think it was a good start. We had a little over a week scheduled here. We spend 2 days on side trips to Himeji and Nara. We were lucky to find a very nice little house in the center of the city. The owner, Kazuya - a perfect host - let us check out at 8 pm, one extra day - the children spend it all in the house, but we got out to see some more. We broke the city in regions and covered it diligently. Several sites are in the centre of the city, but most of them are on the periphery, North and South, East and West.

Kyoto's population is a little over 1.5 million. It is part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoyo metropolitan area of almost 19 million people. From what I read, there is a challenge to balance the yearning for modernity and development with the desire to preserve the old way of life and the duty to protect all those cultural values. It is a huge city that somehow manages to maintain some feeling of small town. From every point on the large boulevards, you turn a corner and come to a small narrow street with little traditional houses. Kyoto is the site of 17 World Heritage Sites, 1600 temples, 400 shrines, the imperial palace and multiple other interesting things. We focused on unique sites and only the most important. So we don't forget, we saw the following: 

  1. Himeji Castle
  2. Higashi Hongan-ji
  3. Nishi Hongan ji
  4. Tō-ji (highest pagoda)
  5. Tōfuku-ji
  6. Fushimi-Inari-Taisha
  7. Kiyomizu-dera
  8. Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pagoda)
  9. Hōnen-in
  10. Shōren-in
  11. Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pagoda)
  12. Ryōan-ji
  13. Tenryū-ji
  14. Nara, Tōdai-ji (biggest wooden structure in the world)
  15. Nara, Kōfuku-ji Pagoda (2nd highest)
  16. Daitoku-ji
  17. Kyoto Imperial Palace
Here is the proof:
Himeji Castle - the most beautiful Japanese Castle

Higashi Hongan-ji

Nishi Hongan ji

Tō-ji (highest pagoda)




Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pagoda)



Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pagoda)



Nara, Tōdai-ji (biggest wooden structure in the world)

Nara, Kōfuku-ji Pagoda (2nd highest)

Daitoku-ji (a little statue hidden in a corner)

Kyoto Imperial Palace (the interior garden)

With more time, we would have visited a few more places, maybe Nijō-jō Castle, Chion-in, the Manga Museum, but we all agree that we did a pretty good job. They are all unique, different styles, different histories. Many of them are more recently reconstructed, maintaining the initial design, sometimes at smaller scales. These temples come with amazing gardens. We did not spend much time in the religious buildings, sometimes poorly illuminated, always with too little information in English. We got outside and visited the gardens. What a joy. We had amazing weather and we were here at the best time of the year. Maybe a week later we would have got more of the fall colors, but even so, we got a glimpse of the yellow and red starting to show.

While in Kyoto, I got word from Amazon that the book "Steve Jobs" is ready for me to download. I started to read the book and got to this quote from him: "The most sublime thing I've ever seen are the gardens around Kyoto". I read this paragraph several times. We just saw these! Next morning we went to Daitoku-ji, a world in itself, 24 sub-temples with numerous Zen gardens and saw some more.

This is not all we did in Kyoto, we saw the Jidai Matsuri Festival, the Kyoto Station, we visited a monthly traditional market, we wandered on the streets and loved the city. We would have wanted to experience more of the traditional Japanese culture, more of the food and maybe meet more people. Being our first destination we were careful not to overspend and tried to save money where we could. We ate home too many times and skipped meals, we walked long distances to save on the bus fare. We spent $400 for train and bus tickets, $450 for food and $325 for fun (temple tickets!).
As we were getting to the station to catch the overnight bus to Tokyo, we all agreed, we have too much luggage! Besides that, we had a great first experience, we function quite well as a team and we are ready to move on:

Tokyo, here we come.

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