Since I was planning on going to Kyoto for a day or two and Katie was not going to have another chance to visit the famed city before leaving, we traveld down by Shinkansen (really, really fast train) to Kyoto.
Unfortuanatly, I was not feeling well and Katie had to drag my poor sick bootie all over town. We checked into the "Cheepest Inn in Kyoto" (actual name)... which was our hostel. We booked a bed in the six-person mixed room, but ended up in a room with about 2o plus beds. Thank goodness we didn't order the private room, because there was nothing private about it. You could hear everything everyone did. Every zipper, every cough (I felt bad for those around me) and some dude who decided to rustle a plastic bag for 45 minutes at 7am.
THe first night we headed down to the Gion district. Gion is famed for it's nightlife, shopping and geisha bars (which you can't get into unless you have a membership and a whole lot of money). However, we didn't discover anything remarkable and after eating an authentic Kyoto meal (minus the eel) we headed back home.
We woke up to a very cold morning. It was so cold it was snowing! I have not seen snow in years and it was tripping me out all day. I am from the OC... we don't have anything white fall from the sky, unless it's ash from a recent brush/forest fire.
Another girl at the hostel said she rode her bicycle all over town to see the sites. So we took her advice and after doing a couple practice laps around the block (Katie nor I could remember the last time we rode a bicycle) we were on our way to our first temple of the day. About 10 minutes later we imediatly regreted taking the bikes and wish we had opted for a cab ride like everyone else was doing that day. It was cold, it was windy and it was snowing. At least the sun was out!
Our first stop was the Ryoanji. This famous Zen rock garden is renouned for it's mystery. There are many interpretations of its forms, but for once I just tried to sit back, soak in the sun and enjoy the view. Unfortunatly, at this time, there was construction going on at the site and it interfears with your viewing. Therefore, I was not able to really get into the whole rock garden thing.
Our second stop (15 minutes on the bike later) was the famous Kinkakuji aka Golden Pavilion. This is the most well known tourist spot in the city and even though it was snowing, everyone seemed to be at this one spot. We were lucky to be there when the sun was still shining. It made the building glow (Sory, pictures don't do it justice! You will just have to get your butts over to Japan to see it for yourself).
Our last sceduled stop of the day was the (can't remember right now)... temple, but before we got there, we accidently stumbled across this smaller, crowded temple (well it was crowded for being 2 degrees outside). Everyone was out and about paying their respects for new year's . This temple was especially festive because its mascot is the dog and since 2006 is the year of the dog everything was decorated to the nines.
I have to say... I really enjoyed seeing everyone out in their kimonos and furs. Eventhough I felt bad because it was so cold, I know from personal experience, that they had on more layers of clothing than I did.
My favorite stop of the day was our last planned temple (still can't remember the name). The rock garden here is less famous, but I felt it was the more superior one. It was a small intamate temple, everyone was very friendly, we just couldn't take any pictures. There was this nice monk there signing some of his books and Katie and I eventually bought one of his posters... which he signed with his name as well as personalizing it with our own.
Here is Katie, enjoying the fat flakes of the late afternoon snow storm. Nothing was sticking to the ground, but there was a truley surreal feeling riding around Kyoto on a crappy rented bicycle with snow flakes slapping you in the face. There were japanese people out on their bikes, but as I remember, we were the only crazy foriegners riding bicycles all day.
It was about 5:30 when we reached our hostel. And after taking a little nap and having a snack, I still couln't feel my butt! We attempted to locate a restaurant we had seen in "Frommer's", but after searching for 1/2 an hour we gave up and fell into a ticket tonkatsu restaurant. Japanese fast food at its finest. If I had a ticket tonkatsu restaurant by my house... I would never cook again! YUMMY!!!
Final Analisys: Eventhough we were in Kyoto for less than 48 hours I think we saw plenty. I can't wait to return in the spring with Mom, Paula and Barzak. We can see more things, eat more vegitarian meals (special cusine of Kyoto) and hopefully view the beautiful cherry blossoms. I am looking forward to my return visit in less than three months.
I'm sorry these pictures are taking me so long to get out. I am back at school and have been very busy. Look for the rest of my photos and stories of my winter vacation during the remainder of the week.
All my love... your favorite blonde-haired, bad spelling, good smelling, crazy friend... JODY