Sunday, January 13, 2008

Winter Holiday--Kyoto

Ok, I apologize for the delay in posting more! This week was a busy one, with getting back into the groove of things. So...without further ado...I present the Kyoto section of my winter holiday!

Kyoto ended up being the 2nd city that we visited. I will tell you just a brief story of how it ended up being 2nd instead of 3rd. We bought our tickets for all of the Shinkansen trains before we left Mito. We were originally planning on going to Fukuoka, on Kyushu island, directly after Hiroshima. We bought our tickets this way, and when we asked the gentlemen at the counter if this is all we needed, he assured us that it was. So...what happened you ask? Well, after spending an hour and a half in the Hiroshima station, trying to get on our train to head south to Fukuoka, we were told that we only bought PART of the tickets that we needed. So, it was going to cost us another 15,000 yen to get to Fukuoka. Don't freak out...that is only about $150. Still, we decided to not spend that extra money and we traded our tickets and headed up to Kyoto instead. Thanks to Leah and a very nice man at the Hiroshima ticket office, we were able to get this accomplished!

On to Kyoto we headed, and arrived the afternoon of December 29. We had to scurry to find a place to stay in Kyoto. We decided to get a Youth Hostel there as well, after the fun time at Hiroshima Youth Hostel.

Just for a bit of history, Kyoto is one of the oldest cities in Japan. This is the original capital of Japan, before it was moved to Tokyo. I don't know if it has significance, but it was pointed out to me that Kyoto and Tokyo are spelled just backwards of each other, in Japanese spelling that is. Anyway, if you want to see a lot of history, temples, shrines, gardens, this is a good place for you.

So, we arrived to Kyoto and found our Youth Hostel, but unfortunately it didn't open up until 3:30 for check-in. So, luckily there was a nice little patisserie (yes, it was called that on the sign) just down the street from the hostel. This place was called Vance's. This quickly became a top point on my list. It was a fantastic little shop and the owner was really a great guy to talk to! This coffee and pastry break killed enough time so that we were able to go and check in at the Youth Hostel. This hostel had a different feel to it than Hiroshima, but it was still very nice. We met more people here as well. Two girls, Ling Ling (Linda) and Ding were both from China and are here studying. They did not know each other before this either so it was nice for them to be able to speak Chinese to each other. Their English was fantastic as was their Japanese. Yikes! One of my other friends that I made at this Youth Hostel was an inu (dog) named June. This little older lady that worked at the YH in the mornings was her owner and she had her sitting up at the desk with her. She was quickly my buddy and really made me miss Inu-chan. She too, was a maltese and cuddled in just like Inu-chan does. I will post a picture.

So for the sites of Kyoto. We were in Kyoto, two different times. With the plan change it kind of made it interesting, but it worked out just fine. We had originally planned to be in Kyoto for New Years Day. We had been told by many Japanese people that this was the place to be for New Years Day, due to the history and such. On New Years Day here, they go to the temples and shrines to worship or present their sacrifices. I had two favorite places in Kyoto. The Golden Temple (Rokuon-ji Temple) and the Fushimi Inari area. The Golden Temple, was just that, a golden temple. It is absolutely gorgeous! I will of course post pictures of all of these places. It is one of the most famous, if not the most famous, place in Kyoto. The Fushimi Inami, is a 4km long path of o-torii's. O-torii, is the same type of arch that you saw in the pictures from Miyajima. It makes a path up the side of Mt. Inariyama and is breathtaking. There is so much to see before you even get to the path, but then once on the path it is just stunning. While in Kyoto, we also went to a bamboo forest, and the Ryoanji Temple (a famous rock garden). I think we chose some really good sites to see while there in Kyoto, but of the places that we went Kyoto was probably my least favorite. Not that I didn't enjoy it, but I was not as drawn to it as I thought I would have been with the history aspect of it all. While in Kyoto we also got to catch up with some friends Katie (who lives here in Mito) and her sister Sara (who was visiting from the States. I had met Sara before, but she now lives in Wyoming so we have not talked in a while. It was nice to get to see her and hang out with both of them for the evening.

I will post all the pictures of Kyoto on the photo page. My next post will be on Osaka and will have pictures to follow. I know this probably doesn't have a lot of detail, but if I put all of the detail it would be crazy long!! I did enjoy getting to go to Kyoto and I am glad that I went there. I hope that you are all having a wonderful week and getting settled in to the New Year!

Sayonara for now!
Elaina

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