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Japan: Kyoto and Takayama

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British Airway

15 – 19 June 2002

Visiting the Temples of Kyoto

We checked out of the hostel on Saturday morning and took a bullet train to Kyoto. Our train left at 12:04pm and arrived in Kyoto at 1:55pm. Our hostel in Kyoto was located in the northwest part of town and took about 45 minutes to reach by bus from the train station. We had a very nice Japanese-style family room looking out in the back on the hostel grounds. We had dinner at the hostel and then the girls dressed in Japanese costumes and we all watched the England – Denmark World Cup game.

Sunday we woke up, ready for a day of sightseeing in Kyoto. We bought bus passes at the hostel desk to cover our travels around town. With so many temples to see, we decided to focus on the northwestern and eastern portions of Kyoto. We spent the morning seeing three temples in the northwestern part of town. The first place we visited was the Ninnaji Temple, built in 842. It is a lesser-known temple, so it was not very crowded. The grounds and buildings were very nice. Next stop was the Ryoanji Temple, a major Zen destination. It contains a major Zen garden, consisting of 15 rocks. The famous Golden Temple, the Kinkakuji, is one of Japan’s most photographed sites. We let out audible ‘oohs’ when we saw the building. There is real gold leaf on the building.

The afternoon was spent on the eastern part of town, starting at the Yasaka-jinja. It leads into a park that was full of vendors. We took a nice walk along some back streets and by some temples and shrines. Some streets were cobblestone and had shops and restaurants on either side. Soon we reached the Kiyomizu Temple. Some buildings were built as early as 798. It was a steep walk uphill and there was a nice view of the city below. In the late afternoon, we went to the train station and explored the building. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant adjacent to the train station.

Day Trip to Nara Temples and Shrines and the Japanese Alps City of Takayama

On Monday (17 June) we checked out of the hostel and took the bus into the center of town. We then checked into a Ryokan, or traditional Japanese Inn, for a one night stay. After we left our bags, we proceeded to the train station and took a 45 minute local train to Nara. This city was Japan’s first capital in 710, for 75 years, before moving to Kyoto until 1868. It contains eight World Heritage Sites. As we reached Nara, we left the train station for the 20 minute walk to the major sites, located in a park area full of 1200 deer that you can feed. Our first stop was Todaiji, whose main attraction is the Daibutsu-den hall of the Great Buddha. It is the largest wooden structure in the world. Inside is a 16m high Buddha figure. After we left the temple, we walked through the park and visited the Kasuga Taisha Shrine. It was founded in the 8th century and contains hundreds of lanterns with the grounds. After spending most of the day seeing the city, we returned to Kyoto for dinner at a food court on the 10th floor of the train station. We also enjoyed a relaxing night in our room.

It was raining a little on Tuesday when we got up and walked the short distance to the train station. We first took a bullet train to Nagoya and then changed to an express train that took us to Takayama. It is a small town located in the Japanese Alps. The hostel, located on the Tenshoji Temple grounds, was a 25 minute walk from the station. The monk there was very nice. For dinner, we had Japanese food at a small restaurant.

Wednesday (19 June) was slated as a day to relax. First, we visited a market that takes place every morning next to one of the rivers. We then bought some food at a grocery store and proceeded to a park in the hills above the city. We relaxed and ate lunch and the kids played on the equipment for a couple of hours. We then went back into town and walked to a government building to use the Internet. Dinner that night was a splurge at a Swiss restaurant, complete with fondue.


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