After our brief stay in Hiroshima, we travelled to Kyoto on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train). Kyoto is the ancient imperial capital of Japan and is apparently known as The City of Ten Thousand Shrines, so I was expecting everything there to appear very old and traditional…
…I was wrong to an extent, as a lot of my naïve assumptions of Japan turned out to be! Kyoto train station is actually really modern looking, huge, and surrounded by modern looking buildings. Where are these ten thousand shrines?
Around Kyoto & Gion
Our first afternoon in Kyoto was just spent getting our bearings in the city. The main streets of Kyoto are pretty modern looking – lined with loads of shops, and with a constant stream of traffic and people.
The Kamo River runs through Kyoto, which you have to cross to get to Gion, a geisha district. Sadly I didn’t see any real geisha, just people who had hired kimono and were wandering around in them.
Wandering around the older parts of Kyoto away from the main streets, shrines did exist! Lots of them. A common sight around them were these Omikuji, which are ‘fortune telling paper strips’ tied to things.
This is apparently the Enkiri/Enmusubi Stone at the Yasui-kompira-gu Shrine (I had to took this up after the fact, as had no idea what was going on at the time!). It apparently helps you bind existing relationships you have tighter together, or can help you break them if they are bad.
If you want to strengthen a relationship, you write your name and wish on a piece of paper and hold onto it whilst you go through the hole front to back then stick it on the stone. If you want to break a relationship, you do the same thing but go through the hole from the back to the front. The person in the photo apparently wants to strengthen a relationship, so that’s nice 🙂
Paper lanterns tied up in plastic, presumably to stop them getting soggy in the rain?
A man in the street absolutely insisted he take my photo in front of the five-story pagoda (Hokan-ji Temple), so that’s how this photo came about! Note the aggressive looking mosquito bites acquired from Hiroshima; they weren’t very fun.
Hello Kitty Café
We stumbled upon a Hello Kitty themed café around the Gion area and had to go in.
The place was pretty empty with just one other couple in there. We chose a table with a giant Hello Kitty plush toy sitting at it. Obviously.
Of course, everything on the menu was Hello Kitty themed.
I saw a Hello Kitty parfait on the menu and had to have it.
There was also a cute Hello Kitty themed Japanese garden out the back.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Our second day in Kyoto was spent visiting the Fushimi Inari Shrine, a Shinto shrine composed of thousands of red Torii gates forming tunnels up into a hill behind its main buildings. To get there, we got a train from central Kyoto, and took a short walk from there to the shrine.
It is amazing to think how many gates there are – they just seem to go on and on forever up this hill, which is amazing.
Eventually we reached a viewpoint before finding a path back down the hill again. I think we may have headed down prematurely as I swear the map showed the hill going up loads further. Ah well, we had already seen thousands of gates at this point!
This is the main entrance and Romon gate which we didn’t see on our way in, but walked out through instead.
We stayed in the Khaosan Kyoto Theater hostel whilst we were in Kyoto. On the first night, a man was cooking ‘takoyaki’ (‘octopus balls’, as they were sold to me) down in the bar. They’re not an octopus’s actual balls, they are made with batter with bits of octopus in. I went down to investigate; they were very tasty!
There will be a second Kyoto blog post, as there were way too many photos for only one!