Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Tokyo to Kyoto

Today was the first day of my three day vacation. This morning my buddy Jacob and I travelled using the Nozomi Superexpress Shinkansen Service from Tokyo to Kyoto - 513 km trip made by train in around 2 hours (it was bloody fast - 250 km/h plus).

We arrived just prior to lunch and what was alarming when we arrived was the lack of people. Kyoto has a population of about 1.1 million but that is a small number compared to the 35 million which I am used to. Going to Kyoto was like a trip to Dannevirke in the Southern Hawke's Bay in New Zealand.

Once we'd checked into the Karasuma Kyoto Hotel we headed for the Golden Pavilion/Kinkaku-ji in the northwestern end of Kyoto. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can click on the hyperlink for more information but my opinion of it was pretty bland. It looks big in all the pictures you see but it was quite small and you couldn't get very close. The surrounding environs were quite nice though. I really like Japanese gardens.

Following Kinkaku-ji we went along the road to Ryoan-ji Temple which is a Zen Temple. Zen is quite a peaceful thing for me. When you first arrive and see the big Zen gardens you think what is this all about but after a while looking at it you kind of get a relaxed and peaceful feeling. We looked around quite a few other places in this district of Kyoto before heading back to the hotel.
I was wearing new sandals and my feet were blistered and near-on bleeding!

In the evening we headed further into the CBD from the hotel to the district of Gion. Gion is famous for Geisha which are "woman of art". You can pay over gazillions of yen to be entertained by these exclusive woman. They're pretty hard to see because they frequent areas which are hidden and reserved only for those who have money but we managed to spot a couple. They're done up in make-up and their faces a pearly white. I first thought they were the Japanese version of a prostitute but apparently they don't do that sort of entertaining - well it's not normal practice anyway.

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