I’ve spent much of the past week in Kyoto yet I feel as if I hardly touched the iceberg of what it had to offer.
For a bit of background, Tokyo’s only been Japan’s capital for about the last hundred and fifty years or so. For most of the rest of recorded history, it’s been all about Kyoto. So, basically, if you want new – you go to Tokyo, old – make your way to Kyoto.
The (major) problem with Kyoto is that its sights are on its outskirts, so it’s hard to feel like you’ve ‘done it all’. On my first day, Paul and I caught the shinkansen up from Osaka for the main day of the Gion Matsuri, the biggest festival in Japan. About two dozen elaborate floats were paraded around the city, and most people were dekked out in traditional dress. To be perfectly honest, it was actually a little boring; the floats all tended to look the same. Paul and I politely admired all of them before deciding to start ticking off Kyoto’s sights, with the first stop being the Silver Temple.
Only problem was, once we got there, after a half an hour bus ride and paying our entrance fee, we were faced with… scaffolding. Again, we politely took a picture of said scaffolding, had a walk around the surrounding gardens and then got the hell out of there, grumbling about the cheek of them asking for an entrance fee when the thing we’d come to see wasn’t even there.
It got better though. Next we headed to the Fushimi Inari, and explored the four kilometres of red torii gates up in the mountains. It had gotten dark by then and we had the place to ourselves, yet I was too freaked out by the stone cats (they were actually foxes) and real cats wandering around. I got some lovely photos though, and didn’t embarass myself much with my total lack of athletic ability.
Just down the road from Kyoto is Nara, which was the capital of the country basically when Tokyo and Kyoto weren’t. It’s main claim to fame is the Daibutsu, the largest indoor Buddha in the world, which is housed in the largest wooden building in the world. Very impressive, we gave it our nod of approval, which had been hard to obtain.
I could go on and on about the dozens of temples and shrines that we have visited, but I’m pretty sure you’re already nodding off. We were a bit the same, so after getting a picture of the famed Golden Pavillion (Paul and an English guy we met in Beppu are having a competition – who can get the most photos that are exactly like the ones in Lonely Planet) we were tired. I was still a bit cranky with Beppu’s disappointing beach, so we headed a couple of hours down the coast to Shirahama, known for its lovely white sand which is of course from… Australia. So at least I knew it wouldn’t be crap this time. And it wasn’t – we had a great day, despite being both burnt to a crisp and wincing when getting up from bus seats for the next few days.
Paul’s also just as big of a sports nut as me so one night we decided to go up to Yokohama to see some soccer at the World Cup Stadium. That’s not like saying “let’s got to Kardinia Park tonight”. It’s more like “let’s go to Sydney for the evening”. But in Japan, it’s only a two hour train ride and there we were. The fans here (Yokohama versus Kashima) were just as nuts as those at the baseball in Osaka, not shutting up for the entire match despite the quality of the match being pretty poor. According to Paul, anyway. I really don’t know much about soccer, still. At least there was some scoring, though, so I was happy enough.
But perhaps best of all was what I got up to today, a cooking class I’d booked back home. It was at a lady’s house in the Kyoto suburbs, and it was just herself, me, and an American father and son. I’ve still got the menu of what we made but it’s upstairs, so from memory it was… actually, no, I won’t do it justice, and I’ll post it next time. But the best was definitely shittake mushrooms stuffed with prawns and battered as tempura. My mouth is still watering.
So, I’m really not done with Kyoto. I need to come back – my photo of a geisha turned out all fuzzy.