I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much from this city, but in the end I ended up regretting not having booked more days there. This is a list of what I did on my (few) days in Kyoto:
– Walk in Gion (Geisha District). Before arriving to the city, I had already downloaded the Tripadvisor app for Kyoto. It’s free, it’s available for many other big cities in the world and, what I find very practical, it comes with many itinerary suggestions that you can also check offline. So I just followed the indications of the app for this itinerary and started walking. One of the first points was the entrance to Yasaka Shrine:
I didn’t spot any geishas, but there were many groups of women dressed with kimonos walking around Maruyama Park:
I also went to have a look at Kenninji Temple:
And then I decided to get lost in the small streets of the area. What I love about Japan is that you can just get lost in any street and then find something like this (it would look nicer with a better camera…):
By the end of the tour, it started raining (rain seems to be my travel partner in the last weeks), so I had to finish it earlier than expected and I probably missed other nice spots.
– Aoi Matsuri. When I heard about this I thought “I’m so lucky! I’m in Kyoto on the 15th May, the day of the Aoi Matsuri!” This is a parade where everyone is wearing clothes in the style of the Heian period and which goes from the Imperial Palace to the Kamo Shrines. Coming from Spain, if I hear the word parade, I automatically think of people dancing happily in the streets and loud music being played. This is actually what the parade in Kyoto looked like:
It was raining the whole time, so the clothes didn’t look as impressive as they certainly are, and everyone had a sad face. My location was also not the best one, because I didn’t make it to the Imperial Palace on time, which would have been the perfect spot. Of course, there were no music or dances, the participants were just walking by. If it had been at night, I wouldn’t have been able to tell if it was a parade or the Santa Compaña. So I would say, the Aoi Matsuri is not something that should make you change your travelling dates for Japan.
– Nara. While I was planning this trip with some other people from the hostel, they were making sensible suggestions of what we could do: “I want to see Todaiji Temple”, ” I want to stop in Uji on the way back”.
“I want to hug a deer”, I said. And I almost made it:
Nara is famous for its park, where many deers live free and happy. They are always looking for someone to give them deer cookies and will let you scratch their cute head if you do so. Wikipedia tells me that the deers used to be considered sacred but nowadays they are just national treasures.
When I told my father about Nara, his reaction was: “What? The deers are free in a park and anyone can get close to them? If it was in Spain, people would go hunting to that park!”
Hahaha. True story. 😦
In the park, you can also see Todaiji Temple, which, to be honest, was the only temple that managed to get a wow out of my mouth in my whole visit to Japan.
It’s one of the largest wooden buildings of the world and has one of the largest bronze sculptures of the world inside:
By the way, Nara Park was full of school children looking for foreigners to talk to in English. Some of them came to us with a list of printed questions and were incredibly happy interviewing us. When they heard “I’m from Spain/I’m from America/I’m from Mexico” they were so thrilled that they looked as we were telling them “I’m from Venus/I’m from Mars/I’m from Saturn”. Here you can see a group of Japanese children who already found their prey:
I love the deer passing by and kind of saying: “Hey, stop talking, look at me, I’m cute, give me cookies, cooookies!!!”
I think it’s a great idea that this children try to find foreigners to talk to. In Spain we always complain that we don’t get enough oral practice of English at school while many of our cities are packed with tourists who, I guess, wouldn’t mind hearing little Spaniards asking them “Güer ar yu from? Du yu laik espein?”.
As I don’t know when I’ll be able to continue posting, I’ll stop my Kyoto post here and will try to find some time to write the second part… from Hanoi 🙂