Mr. C and I are now in Kyoto. This is a city to the west of Tokyo. Kyoto is a really old city. This use to be the capitol of Japan for over a thousand years. With such a rich history there are many, many places to visit in the area. First, I will start with our travels here from Tokyo.
Japan is known for their very efficient trains. They also have trains known as the bullet trains (for English speakers) or Shinkansen in Japan. These are trains that really fast, the fastest one called the Nozomi is the fastest train in the world. It's speed is 261.8 kph or 162.68 mph! We didn't go on the Nozomi, but one called the Hikari. It was still pretty fast! The ride from Tokyo to Kyoto was about 2 hours. It did not feel like it was going too fast, but when you looked out the window some things were blurrier than usual. =D Below is a picture of the Nozomi.
We arrived at Kyoto Station around 1 in the afternoon. If you remember when Mr. C came to do the lesson, he showed a picture of the station. It is a very beautiful, big open area. Mr. C ended up taking over 60 photos of it (I had to wait very patiently to get my camera back!). Fortunately, we were staying in a hotel that is pretty close by (two blocks away). We walked to our new hotel and it is a traditional Japanese inn. For traditional Japanese inns we sleep in rooms that are made of tatami mats (straw mats) with futons as our beds. They are mattresses that are put on the floor. This is the traditional style of sleeping in Japan. Each day they will take it out at night to sleep and then put it away into a closet. Now doesn't making your bed seem a little easier then having fold up your bed everyday and putting it away in the closet?
Another traditional thing about the ryokan is that we need to take off our shoes before we go into the main part of the building. So when we get in, there is a little floor area to take off your shoes and change in slippers. Then you walk up the steps into the main part of the building. You even have special slippers that you wear into the bathrooms! This particular ryokan also has a very special hostess, a cat! It has greeted Mr. C and I several times when we come back in. Although one time it ignored us cause it's dinner had come.
The first day we just walked around the area around our hotel. The first thing we noticed that was different from Tokyo was the number of shrines in a small area. Since Kyoto is such an old city its has many, many historical buildings. Within two blocks there were two very famous shrines. Although by the time we got there they were closed, so we decided to come back another time.
We spent more time at Kyoto Station and had dinner there. Here is a picture of what a traditional type of Japanese dinner looks like.
That was just our first day in Kyoto. The following day we went to towards the eastern part of Kyoto called Higashiyama. Along just one street there were at least 10 different temples or shrines. The first one we visited was called Kiyomizu Temple. This a large temple perched on top of a large wooden platform. From here you can see over the city of Kyoto. There has also been temple in this area since 778. Most of the buildings now are from 1633. It's very beautiful and surrounded by mountains and forests. From one of the platforms, it overlooks to a pagoda (part of the temple) that seems to just rise out of the trees.
Afterwards, we walked along the streets which were lined with little shops. This was very nice because it is very hot outside and walking as much as we do it's nice to step into the shops for a little cool down. We stopped in front of another temple called Chion-in. This houses the largest Daisho-ro bell. It takes seventeen priests to ring 67 ton bell. Along the way we also came upon a monk and geisha.
Later that day we went to Gion. This is district known for their restaurants and entertainment. We had dinner here and wandered around the older part of the town. After dinner we went to the Yasaka-jinga, a temple that has many lanterns. At night it was very beautiful with all the lanterns lit up. It's probably one of my favorites places that we visited. That was our first full day in Kyoto. As you can tell, Mr. C and I try to pack in a lot each day. So much that we average about 10 miles of walking! Needless to say our feet hurt.
Today, we visited Nijo Castle. This was built in the 1600s for the shoguns. Shoguns were military leaders or similar to what our generals are. For a period of time in Japan, the Shoguns were the rulers. Later they relinquished the powers back to the Emperor Meiji. This castle is composed of two main buildings. The overall area is surrounded by one big moat and inside the shogun's home was surrounded by another moat. Originally, there was a tower of five floors that overlooked the city. Unfortunately, it was burned and today only the base of the tower exists. There are still other buildings that survived. One of them was the "business building" where the shogun met with different officials and had a place to stay (this building was called Honmaru Palace). Many of the old castles in old Japan had these special floors called "nightingale floors." These floors were constructed in such a way that they squeak like birds when anyone walks on them. This was to protect the people from sneak attacks. They were very squeaky!!!
After Nijo Castle, we walked to the Kyoto Museum. This museum was about the history of Kyoto and how the city grew. It showed many mini-replicas of different buildings throughout it's history. Unfortunately, some of these buildings were destroyed throughout the years. Some of them have been rebuilt and others are just documented in different paintings and writings.
From here we walked back to our hotel (12 very long blocks!). On the way we stopped at the Higashi Honganji Temple. This is one of the largest wooden structures in the world. It is currently under renovations right now. They are taking off the tiles from the roof, cleaning them and putting it all back on (that's over 2400 square feet of tiles).
So that's pretty much what we've been up to the past couple of days. We are planning on visiting many, many more sites. Tomorrow we will be going to see the Kyoto Imperial Palace. During the rest of the week, we will be taking many day trips out to visit some of the cities outside of Kyoto such as Nara, Himeji (some of you worked on this for your geometry project!) and Hiroshima.
Kyoto Tower at Night