Day 13: Kyoto

Before I go into too much detail, it was a miracle we managed to fit everything in today. Considering yesterday was completely wiped out due to rain, we were on a tight schedule to see the main attractions in Kyoto. 

Accommodation > walk to Nijo Castle > Nijo Castle > walk to Nijo Station > train to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest > walk to Forrest and through Forest > train to Emmanchi Station > Bus to Kinkaku > walk to Rokuon-Ji Golden Pavilion > bus back to Emmanchi Station > train to Kyoto Station > train to Gojo Station > walk to accommodation 

When we left for our adventure, it was only lightly drizzling, nothing too serious but Jacinta took her umbrella just in case.
We walked passed the market we visited yesterday and continued for a further 15-20 minutes before we came to Nijo-jo Castle. The castle was completed in 1603 and served as the Kyoto residence for the Shogun (head of Kamakura Samurai Government) when he visited the Imperial Capital. 

The Kara-mon Gate stands at the entrance to Ninomaru-goten Palace. Gate architecture represents status and the Kara-mon Gate represents the highest status and opulence. The gate has carved cranes, butterflies, peonies, plum blossoms and bamboo symbolising longevity and good fortune. 

To enter the Palace, all shoes had to be removed, no cameras and no food or drink allowed. The palace consists of six interconnected buildings with over 3600 paintings on walls and ceilings. The use of pine trees with hawks perched on branches as well as cheery blossom trees and tigers was used to make the guests feel intimidated and create tension between their interactions with the Shogun. The palace is set on ‘Nightingale Floorboards’ as it sounds like a nightingale bird singing. This is caused by the clamps moving against nails into the wooden beams supporting the floor thus, causing it to squeak. It was rumoured to be used to announce intruders. Whilst leaving, it started to rain (not just drizzle!!) and I was umbrella-less.

We then walked to the Nijo Train Station to get to Arashiyama at the base of Kyoto's Western Mountains. The Bamboo forest is like entering another world far from the hustle and bustle of Kyoto. It's dense, tall bamboo makes it peaceful and very dark (and very muggy!). The air is fresh and doesn't seem as polluted, it feels cooler within the grove and bamboo seems to be growing for miles which a photograph simply can't capture. Many women were wearing kimonos and appeared to be glowing when contrasted to the dark green of the bamboo.

We stopped for lunch at the entrance to the Bamboo forest and I ordered (what I thought was) tofu with miso glaze and two steamed pork buns. The pork buns were great but the miso glazed square things (that were not tofu) were terrible! 

We hopped back onto a train and a bus when led us to the Kinkaku Golden Pavillion. 

The original building was built in 1397 as a retirement villa for a Shogun and after his death, his son converted it into a temple. In 1950, a monk obsessed with the temple burnt it down. In 1955 it was rebuilt to the original design including the gold foil. It was the most stunning thing I have never seen. Multiple gardens surround the temple with leafy green Japanese Maples just starting to turn orange and koi in the surrounding ponds. Rocks donated by various lords from the period are placed throughout the garden. It is absolutely beautiful and it is understandable that it is now a National Special Historic Site. 

We caught a bus and train back to Kyoto Station. I still can't believe the size of Kyoto Station. It is approximately 16 floors with each floor dedicated to something specifically. For example, 10th floor has Bridal gowns to one side and to the other, a multitude of ramen restaurants. All of the restaurants required you to purchase your food via a vending machine and getting a receipt with the order and then the waiter taking it to the kitchen. We both ordered ramen with corn, pork, spring onions and a huge slab of butter. It was pretty delicious but not as scrumptious as Sapporo ramen! I washed it down with an alcohol free beer. Would never order one again. 

After dinner, people were further down on the 4th floor with their phones out, we were intrigued so we stayed. 45 minutes later, there was a brief 3 minute illumination on the steps and that was it. So disappointing! To cheer ourselves up, we got donuts to take away and ate them back in our room. 

On our walk back to our room, I realised that we are next to a temple dating back to the 7th century!