We awoke on our first full day in Kyoto with some big plans. There were quite a few locations we wanted to tick off our boxes in Kyoto and we only had so many days to see them. We decided to head over to the Imperial Palace as it was supposed to be prime sakura (cherry blossom) viewing. There is a web site that lists the various locales within Kyoto and the status of the cherry blossoms in that location – ranging from peak viewing to not blossomed. The Imperial Palace was a short subway ride and walk from our AirBnB.
The Imperial Palace actually sits in the middle of a very large park. Upon first entering the park, you could see that others had the same idea of checking out the cherry blossoms. With it still being mid-morning, the lighting was actually quite good for picture-taking and so we did like the other tourists and posted in and around the trees. We didn’t actually go to the front of the Palace and elected to check out the Shirakumo Shrine, which is located towards the south-eastern portion of the park.
After the Imperial Palace, we took the subway and went to Nijo Castle, since it was relatively nearby. This castle was built in 1603 and is a current UNESCO world heritage site. There were quite a few large tour buses parked out front and so I figured it’d be crowded. This time we actually did pay the entry fee and walked through the castle grounds. They had a few buildings you could walk through and also some well cultivated gardens. What I noticed about the tourists is that a lot of them were from mainland China (they have a certain twang to their speech) as well as Japanese people who apparently were touring their own country.
Since it was getting to be lunch time (actually a little past), we hit up Nishiki Market. This is a labyrinth of small alleyways, some of which are lined with many different shops and food places. You could pick up some street food (think octopus legs on a stick, sake sampling, etc).
Since I’m a big fan of cooking, I had thought about getting a Japanese knife, since they are some of the most coveted. There was a shop that the wife had looked up where they will engrave the knife for you after you purchase.
I picked out a multi-purpose knife and had them engrave my last name in Chinese character.
I had done quite a bit of research on various eateries throughout Kyoto. There were a few that were located in the Nishiki Market area though we ended up not going to them. We found this Udon noodle joint that looked like maybe it was a chain.
Nevertheless, there was a line almost out the door and it appeared to be all Japanese people so I saw that as a good sign (like in the U.S. when you go to a Chinese restaurant and most of the patrons are Chinese or same with Mexican food, etc). I wasn’t sure how it was going to go ordering because you had to order a specific type of bowl and then noodle/soup. Luckily it worked out and we got some delicious, quick, and relatively cheap food.
Our afternoon was then filled with more travel (subway, foot, subway). The first stop was Fushimi Inari-taisha. This is the main shrine of Inari. The main thing about this place that stands out is that it is on a mountain and they have this walkway that is filled with hundreds (if not thousands) of Torii gates. The Torii gates are the bright orange structures that most people have probably seen if they’ve looked at pictures of Japan. This area also was packed with tourists and it felt like we were sardines at one point within the hillside of Torii gates.
I thought we could make it to the next area by walking so convinced my wife we should hoof it over. We made our way on foot over to Rengeoin Sanjusanjendo in eastern Kyoto. This temple is famous for its statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. In the center is an 11 foot tall seated Senju Kannon. Surrounding this statue are 1000 standing statues of the Senju Kannon. There are numerous other deities housed in the same building. Unfortunately picture-taking is not allowed in the main building.
It was getting to be closer to sundown but we hopped on a bus to get to one more temple, Kiyomizu-dera. This was up on a bit of a hill. Because of cherry blossom season, they were gearing up to do some sort of night event that you had to purchase tickets for. This temple was also undergoing construction.
We didn’t stay for whatever “special event” was going on that evening but headed back to our Air BnB and then found some dinner. I tried the Kyoto style sushi, which is different than traditional. They use more preserved fish since they’re not a coastal city. I wasn’t too impressed with the small joint we went to but I’m sure it can be much better.
I was still hungry after dinner so picked up some snacks for before bedtime.
Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up feeling hot and also with some tummy issues. I then proceeded to be up every hour or so to use the bathroom. My entire body was also very hot and I suspect I was having fevers. So the next day (Day 3 in Kyoto) I stayed in the AirBnB while my wife went out and explored on her own. She did bring me this fairly tasty box from the local convenient store.
Even though I was still hitting the bathroom every 20 minutes or less, I decided to try to venture out a little bit in the late afternoon with the wife. We elected to try taking a bus over to the Philosopher’s Path and also Higashiyama Tisho-ji. The weather was a bit overcast and it had been raining throughout the day. I am glad that I went to Higashiyama Tisho-ji because the views of the gardens were something else. It looks like a postcard. I had to find the bathroom a few times there so we didn’t stay too long and then it was back to the AirBnB for me.
The next day (Day 4 in Kyoto) was a complete wash for me as I was down and out. I have nothing to report from that day since I didn’t leave the AirBnB. I continued to have GI issues though the fever had abated finally. I don’t know what it was that I contracted. I thought at first it may just be a food poisoning type situation but the fact that this disease persisted for the remainder of the trip and even back in the States means I suspect it was something more infectious.
Up next, Miyagima Island and Hiroshima and the final day in Tokyo.