We thought that we were short of time in Nara and Osaka, but it was nothing compared to Kyoto.
Out of the 3, Kyoto has by far the largest concentration of ‘must-see’ sights, and is probably the most tourist laden city in Japan. With good reason.
So one day was a ridiculously short amount of time, and we had to pick and choose a few things to see and just accept we weren’t going to see a lot of it.
It doesn’t help that Kyoto is a time stretched sightseers nightmare. Everything is spread around, meaning you’re looking at using trains, subway, buses and your legs…a lot.
It wasn’t a great start to the day when I managed to get us on the slowest possible train from Osaka. But we had a plan and as soon as we arrived, we hopped straight on another train to Arashiyama.
After we arrived at Arashiyama, we headed for the Togetsukyo bridge. This is a popular sight, especially with domestic tourists but we wern’t hugely impressed. It was nice, but not amazing.
Next we walked to Tenryū-ji temple, one of Kyoto’s World Heritage Sites. This was worth the visit, if for nothing else than the beautiful gardens – well worth the 600 yen admission fee.
Walking out of the back of the gardens you reach Bamboo Grove, which is one of the things we were most looking forward to. Why? Because it looks cool! Beautiful bamboo surrounds you on both sides, makes for some great photos and is a serene walk…if it wasnt for all the other tourists anyway.
Next we got on the subway and went to Keage station to visit Nanzen-ji Temple and walk the Philosopher’s Path. The temple was really nice with, as usual in Autumn, some beautiful gardens, but the most interesting thing was an aqueduct which really didn’t look like it belonged in Japan.
The Philosopher’s Path is so named because a Japanese philosopher,Kitaro Nishida, used to walk it. Probably because it’s a very scenic and pleasent walk – the path follows a small stream/canal lined with trees and with temples all along the route. Being short of time, we walked from Nanzen-Ji which is the end of the path, to Ginkakuji, at the start. It’s a 2km walk so it takes some time.
Especially when you come across 20 or so cats. I don’t know what they were doing there or who looked after them but it was awesome.
Eventually Katy dragged me away from my feline friends and we did reach Ginkakuji. This Buddhist temple featured a rock garden with raked gravel and a mound of gravel supposed to resemble Mt Fuji.
Walking past this, you enter the moss garden, with a pond, lots of trees and a walk up to a high level for a great view. We’d seen a lot of Japanese gardens by this point but this was one of the best, unfortunately though like most places in Kyoto it was extremely crowded, so much so it was almost impossible to get any decent photos.
We didn’t have much time to admire it as we had to move on to our final sight before it got dark. Exiting Ginkakuji we got on the slowest bus in history back to Kyoto station. It was so packed with tourists it couldn’t even pick anymore up, but still it managed to take FOREVER. We were getting a bit frustrated as light was fading fast.
Once at the station we hopped on yet another train (luckily a short ride) to Fushimi-Inari-taisha, an Inari shrine famous for its vast paths of torii (shrine gates).
We walked through the main temple grounds until we reached the torii path. It stretches quite a way to the inner shrine but it takes time to walk and we didn’t have enough light left so we had to settle for about 500 metres. The path is incredible, there are literally thousands of torii.
There are also lots of fox statues around, with keys for a rice granary in their mouths. They are a common feature of Inari shrines.
As we got back to the main temple a fantastic sunset awaited us. The perfect end to a long and tiring day.
We had only seen a tiny fraction of Kyoto’s beauty, and rushing around like this is not how we usually like to travel, but sometimes you just have to make the most of the time you have.