One Imperial Palace, one Nijo Castle, and one Golden Pavilion? Check.
Howdy folks back home. Hope you are all well. We are still in Kyoto and have spent another day trekking around seeing more marvels. Today’s adventure took us north of the city to see 3 of the more famous sights Kyoto has to offer:
- The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji)
- The Imperial Palace
- Nijo Castle (Nijo-jo)
We started bright and early with a bus trip to Kinkaku-ji to see this gold-plated wonder. Originally built in the late 1300’s as the retirement home of one very wealthy shogun (translation = war lord), the pavilion was converted into a Buddhist temple after his death in 1408. The top 2 floors of the temple are covered in gold plate, which makes for a pretty impressive sight. Even the crowds of people we had to share the experience with couldn’t diminish the impact of seeing Kinkaku-ji for the first time. And man were there some CROWDS!
Kyoto is by far the most touristy town we have been to yet (as expected, you’d be mad to come to Japan and NOT come to Kyoto!). I know we will have to get used to sharing sights with lots of other people, especially travelling through Europe in peak holiday season. It’s been great having picturesque places like Koya-san and Miyajima Island virtually to ourselves, not only because you can actually see things at a calmer pace, but also because it allows you to experience the place. Crowds of people, all herded through like cattle, may not impede your ability to see the sights, but it certainly kills any opportunity to feel a place; to stop and experience the moment. Unfortunately every site we visited today was so packed with keen tourists (just like us) that I really don’t feel I got to experience much. Did we see the sights? Yes. Did we take our obligatory photos? Yes. Was it awesome? Couldn’t really tell you, I think you need a little space and quiet to experience awe. Not that I resent all the other tourists – they were there, just like we were, to see something unique and spectacular. It’s just interesting to note that for us, perhaps travelling outside of peak suits us better, so we can take our time
After being herded through the designated “sightseeing route” for Kinkaju-ji,we jumped back on the bus (still early on a Sunday, no Human Sardine Experience yet) and headed to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. From when it was built in 1331, up until 1869, when the emperor moved the capital to Tokyo, Kyoto’s Imperial Palace was the nation’s physical and spiritual centre. Today it remains an expansive and impressive building, surrounded by acres of beautiful gardens, as you can see below.
Last, but certainly not least for the day, was Nijo-jo. This castle, about 1 km from the Imperial Palace, was the 17th century home of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, and is highly fortified, containing within its grounds numerous gardens and buildings – including the huge (3,330 square meter) Ninomaru Palace, which we were able to tour through (no photos allowed inside though). We were struck by the number of gold painted screens and elaborate wood carvings on display everywhere, and by the “nightingale floors”. These floors make a chirping sound when you walk on them; they were specially designed to do this so intruders (especially NINJA ASSASSINS) couldn’t sneak in. Very cool.
One of the coolest moments of the day came as we were leaving Nijo-jo. Just as we were about to cross the street, a group of older Japanese ladies dressed in Kimonos walked past. The fabrics used for this traditional attire are just gorgeous! The ladies all walked into this cute little shop that smelt so strongly of freshly ground coffee that we just had to follow. And what a find! We had stumbled upon boutique little imported goods store that sold things like traditional Dutch liquorice, Italian biscuits (Mulino Bianco – mmmmm….), and, all the way from the land of Aus, Tim Tams! We had the best coffee there and Shane found himself a whole jar off fruit-flavoured jelly joobs,, which he is VERY excited about. According to the label, the joobs are “SO DELICIOUS YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT”!
All pretty impressive right? We thought so. Though we’re a little bit templed and palaced out right now, so for tomorrow we’re going to take a different angle and are taking a day trip up into the mountains to the west of Kyoto – up into Arashi-yama. See you all tomorrow for another update….