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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Japan Day 12: Kyoto, Nishi Honganji, Costume Museum, Nijo Castle

I needed time to get up the next day in Kyoto as I was not really feeling well. After having a little breakfast from the previous night's take-away and popping some anti-flu meds, I've slowly prepared myself, took a long leisurely shower before finally heading out.

Our hotel, the APA Hotel Kyoto-eki Horikawa-Dori was conveniently located at the intersection near the bus stop and even a walking distance to our first destination, Nishi Honganji Temple (西本願寺) which is a world heritage site. It is a big complex. Inside and, outside there are rich ornaments, like a dragon fountain. There is no entrance fee here!


From the Nishi Honganji Temple we crossed the street and walked a few steps to the Costume Museum, which was just five minutes away. After entering the building we had to take the lift as the museum is on the 5th floor. Inside was a very elaborate miniature presentation of scenes from the novel "The Tale of Genji and his life in the Rokujyo-in Mansion", to "provide understanding for the costumes and culture of the nobility in the Heian period (794-1185)". It was indeed quite interesting and there was a multitude of little costumes and scenes. One small room was provided for visitors to try on some costumes and be photographed in such traditional garbs. There were school children who tried on some costumes.


After the Costume Museum we needed breakfast and went into a nearby coffee shop/grocery store. I spilled my coffee on the table, but at least we had something to eat. My friend had bought more of the bread where you always have the surprise of what's inside (if you don´t speak Japanese). Usually it was something like beans or pudding.

From the coffee shop we crossed the street back to the Nishi Honganji Temple, where also a bus stop is located. We didn't have to wait long, until the Bus 9 arrived, which took us in about five stations to the Nijo Castle, one of seventeen assets of Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto World Heritage Site. The bus stop was just in front of it and we finally could use the day ticket for local transportation we bought the day before. It was still early, but there were quite some people already, but it is a huge complex. Especially interesting next to the huge walls and the gardens were the nightingale floor inside, which makes a creaking sound when you walk over it and it was designed that way to hear possible intruders and protect the occupants.


From Nijo Castle we walked back to the bus station where we came from and took the next Bus 9 (you can also take bus 12) further northwards to the Nishijin Textile Center. They have about seven Kimono Fashion Shows a day, where especially impressive Kimonos are presented on a catwalk. Of course, we stayed for one show and also did some (window) shopping in their store area. But my friend actually bought something for his sister. He couldn't resist when he saw candied cherry blossoms at their sweets shop. We found out later that the cherry blossoms weren't candied, but actually salted! That's what you get from not learning Japanese before going to Japan.


Back at the bus station, we took Bus 12 to the Kinkakuji Temple, the Golden Pavilion, which is one of the most famous attractions in Kyoto and of course, a World Heritage Site. There were lots of people, but I managed to squeeze myself to get a good view of the temple and shot some decent pictures of it.



From Kinkakuji Temple we walked back to the Bus Stop and continued with Bus 12, which was wrong, because it ended a station further. We should have taken Bus 59, which continues to Ryoanji Temple. So we just walked the rest to the Ryoanji Temple, another World Heritage Site. It was less crowded and more peaceful there and we sat for some time at the zen rock garden and walked around the complex with a beautiful lake. Later I had udon soup there since I needed some energy.



Time was unfortunately short, but there was still a chance to see at least one more temple, the Ninnaji Temple, also a World Heritage Site. To save time we took a cab, although it is in walking distance. It has an impressive, huge gate and looked very promising. We were able to see the inside of one building for about 15 minutes but then it was about time to go since they are closing the complex for the day.




We walked just southwards to the little train/tram station Omuroninnaji and went for four stations until Katabiranotsuji Station, which cost just 200 Yen (about 1.40€). From the tram station it was a short walk to the train line and the JR Uzumasa Station. We nearly got lost, but then followed the people who looked like they would go to a train station. From Uzumasa Station we could use our still active Japan Rail Pass and went straight back to Kyoto Station. It was unfortunate during the rush hour where people were going home from work so we were like cattle inside. I was already exhausted and really feeling (throat) sore.


Back at Kyoto Station we went again to the supermarket in the basement of the huge shopping center next to the train station and bought dinner. I immediately climbed onto the bed to rest and my companion woke me up an hour later or so to go to the Onsen. I obliged thinking I could relax there. Afterwards, I fell asleep in no time.

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