After a great start to our Japan trip, it was time to get our dose of Japanese culture and heritage in our next stop, Kyoto.
The amazingly convenient Japanese railway system made it a breeze to get from Tokyo to Kyoto. Plus, it was our first time riding the Shinkansen “Bullet Train” and we made the 228 mile journey in less than 3 hours. It was definitely a good idea to get the 7-day Japan Rail Pass.
We were also lucky to get a great deal on the APA Horikawa Dori Hotel (~$47/night) next to the Kyoto station so we could get around the Kyoto and Nara area easily.
For our day around Kyoto, we decided to do the Philosopher’s Stroll walking tour starting off at the Ginkakuji Silver Pavilion Temple and ending at the Ginza district to see the geishas. We bought two 1-day bus passes at the Kyoto station for 500 yen (~$6.4) and took the bus to our first stop at Ginkakuji.
The Silver Pavilion temple was a great way to start off the day. With a path leading through the peaceful and amazingly beautiful gardens, we ended up at the temple. Not sure why it is called the Silver Pavilion temple, but it is an impressive sight.
Throughout the trip, we had been amazed by how meticulous and dedicated the Japanese people are about their work. No matter what they were doing, it seemed like they wanted to do it in the best possible way.
Like every tourist attraction, the street leading to the temple was lined with shops selling souvenirs. I loved the masks and the Ninja hood
After leaving the Silver Pavilion temple, we followed the canal down the Philosopher’s Pathway and to the Eikando and Nanzenji temples. Although there are quite a few temples along the way, we were tired and decided to only go to the Nanzenji Temple complex.
The Nanzenji Temple is a massive wooden temple built in 1293 and was quite the sight.
Our next stop was the Heian Shrine. We had no idea what to expect here but we were in for a nice surprise. The bright orange and green buildings in the shrine compound are very beautiful and made me feel like I had stepped into ancient Japan for a second.
I always like a culture that celebrates its alcohol and the Heian shrine had a tribute with old sake barrels.
After the beautiful Heian shrine, we headed down to the old Ginza district. This is where tourists go to get a glimpse of the geishas but it is also a great place to see the old Japanese houses and shops.
We were also lucky to see the geishas taking a stroll through Ginza.
Ginza district was the last stop on our walking tour and we headed back to Kyoto station to hop on a bus to see the Kinkakuji Golden Temple. The temple is about a 45 minute bus ride through Kyoto traffic and it is said to be one of the must see attractions in Kyoto. So we were hoping we would get to it before it closed.
The Kinkakuji Golden Temple is definitely a sight to behold but extremely crowded. While the temple was very beautiful, there was not much else to see and after having seen the majestic gardens of the Silver Pavilion temple and the massive Nanzenji temple earlier in the day, I think we were a little let down by the Golden Temple. Maybe it was just the heat getting to us.
That was the last stop of our day though, so we got back on the bus and headed back to our hotel. Having seen most of what we wanted to see around Kyoto, we decided to go visit Nara the next day but I’ll save that for another post.