Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cultural Interest City Weekend: Kyoto

I began the “weekend” calling it this because almost exactly two years previous, I’d taken the train from Rome to Florence for the weekend (free museum weekend!). That blog entry (sadly, without photos) is here. Part 2 of it is here. And the photos are on facebook, but I don’t know that you can see them if we are not “friends.”

Anyway, I’m going to give a brief overview of the places I went so I can come back later with photos and “moments.” I don’t want to do one massive entry, but rather, shorter little windows into what was a simply magical weekend.

What you should know beforehand is: Kyoto is the ‘old capital’ – Tokyo, of course, is the current capital, so it’s the biggest and has the administrative center.. Kyoto is smaller and is often thought of as the cultural capital. It’s so full of shrines and temples, they just don’t put all of them on the maps. I requested to be placed in Kyoto as JET, and am glad to be fairly close (two hour bus ride, not so bad).

When I was at Vandy, I lived in McTyeire Hall, the language learning dorm (in the Japanese hall, a’course). My first year there, our hall coordinator was Nami-san, our favorite among them. She now lives in Kyoto, which is actually where she grew up.

She set me up a reservation at a “guest house,” although I had no idea what a guest house was, and arranged to meet my bus when it arrived at Kyoto station. There are four buses a day from my town to Kyoto, one at 8am, one at 9:30, one at 11:00, and one at like 4 in the afternoon.

We had an extra long weekend, because three holidays in a row (21st - Respect for the Aged Day, 23rd - Autumnal Equinox Day... the 22nd in between is listed as simply "National Holiday") fell right after a weekend. “Silver Week,” as it’s called, turned out almost like “Golden Week,” which happens in May. Basically, I was off work Monday – Wednesday. I was to spend Sunday – Tuesday in Kyoto.

When I do “moments” entries from this Kyoto trip, I’ll tag them as “Kyoto 1.”

Day 1:

  • Bus to Kyoto, arrives around 12:30 (almost an hour late, because of traffic)
  • Lunch at 536 year old soba shop
  • Tiny temple to King of Heaven (judgement!)
  • Ryoanji Temple
  • Sweets shop for Kyoto omiyage
  • Yasaka Shrine
  • Specialty dinner at restaurant somewhere outside of park behind Yasaka

Day 2:

  • Kinkakuji Temple
  • Small driving tour of Nami-san’s home area
  • Lunch at Saint Marc, bakery kind of place
  • Toji Temple
  • Fushimi Inari Shrine
  • Ramen, gyoza, and donburi dinner

Day 3:

  • Kiyomizudera Temple
  • Gion area
  • Chinese buffet lunch with Nami-san’s mom
  • Walk along Kamo river
  • Kyoto station for maps, coffee at Cafe Veloce
  • Bus back home

All told, the magic was partly Kyoto, partly the company (most of the time, Nami-san and her friend Hiroshi-san, who has a car and was willing to drive us all over town those first two days). Probably largely the company. The pace was perfect, without that desperate tone of those who think they’ll not be back (…the fact that I want to label this “Kyoto 1” should suggest my future plans).. we meandered through our tourist locales, pausing to take photos, or just gaze at whatever happened to be before us. Hiroshi-san was full of knowledge about the sites and Japanese cultural tips in general, and Nami-san was a wonderful translator (she really is bilingual.. I mean, fluent in both English and Japanese!). She is so generous of spirit, and both my guide-companions are good-natured and kind. When you get three laid-back and easygoing, happy people together on a gorgeous, temperate day in a gorgeous, historic city, I don’t know what else one would expect than magic.


  1. How wonderful! What a great way to be introduced to a new city and culture!

  2. The pictures are absolutely beautiful. I want to go someday!