Kiyomizu-dera – Dec. 31 07

The next day, instead of getting lost again, we decided to just take a taxi to wherever we wanted to go. Our first stop: Kiyomizu-dera temple. It’s one of the biggest and most famous temples in Kyoto. And probably one of the most beautiful places we visited in Japan. You can see the main gate in this picture.

The temple dates back to 778, but the present buildings were constructed in 1633. The temple takes its name from the waterfall within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills. Kiyomizu (清水) means pure water, or clear water.

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Lost & Found in Kyoto – Dec. 30 ’07

We started wondering around Kyoto after dropping off our stuff and ended up getting on the wrong bus line. Whoops. Needless to say for the hundredth time we ended up lost. I took a picture of this map (one of the few that had English on it in Kyoto) so we wouldn’t get even more lost. It didn’t work out too well. But this does give you a cool look at Kyoto.

See the “You are here” mark on the map? This is it! It’s the Kamo River which runs straight through Kyoto. The riverbanks are popular walks for residents and tourists. In summer, restaurants open balconies looking out to the river. Though the water level is usually relatively low (like the picture here), during the rainy season, these pathways sometimes flood in their lower stretches. We decided to follow the river to get unlost.
These trees were growing along the river…why are they wearing skirts?

Finally a major landmark! We found the Kyoto Gosho, the Kyoto Imperial Palace where the Emperor once lived. However the Emperor has been staying in Tokyo since 1869 during the Meiji Restoration. This is just one of the entrances to the huge Palace. The inside is only open to the public twice a year: on the holiday that celebrates the Emperor’s birthday (December 23) and on January 2nd for the New Years Holiday.

You can see here how huge the grounds of the Imperial Palace are. You can barely see the end of it in this picture. Some of the trees are ancient too and the old limbs are being held up by wooden poles cemented into the ground.
We oriented ourselves from the Imperial Palace and found Nijō Castle! It was a sweet place from the outside! But sadly we couldn’t go in because they were gearing up for New Years Celebrations.
The front of the castle. We assumed the sign said ‘Closed for New Years’ (because many other places were) but we weren’t sure.

This is a cool picture. It looks kind of creepy! It had gotten dark while we were exploring the castle grounds. The surface area of the castle is 275,000 square meters, of which 8000 square meters is occupied by buildings! It’s crazy big!

Check out some more new pictures I put on my previous Kyoto post!

Arriving in Kyoto – Dec. 30 ’07

This is what we rode to Kyoto. It’s the Shinkansen aka the Bullet Train aka the fastest train in the world! It can travel around 275 mph (though it was probably doing less). Even with that it took around 3 hours to get to Kyoto from Tokyo!s5000635.jpg
This is Kyoto Tower its one of the first landmarks you see when you exit the train station. Its a 131 meter observation tower that overlooks all of Kyoto. Sadly we didn’t get to go to the top because we were only spending one day in Kyoto and had other things to see.
Not sure the name of this one, but we passed this shrine on the way to our hostel. s5000648.jpg
There are literally hundreds of shrines of various sizes in Kyoto so seeing them all is an impossibility. This one is connected to a person’s house.
Another temple with the traditional style Japanese paper lanterns.
This is where we stayed in Kyoto. It was a cute little hostel called Costa Del Sol (not really the name of a place you’d imagine finding in Japan haha) This is a traditional style Japanese room called a washitsu. It had the old style tatami mats and sliding doors. Very fun! And yes this was our whole room. It was very comfy though!
The view from our room! Pretty cool huh? You can see the Japanese style tiled roofs of the neighboring buildings and Kyoto Tower in the background.