Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cycling through Kyoto on the hunt for UNESCO sights!

So woke up 8.30 ish a.m. and got up to take a shower. The room had become a bit humid since the window had been open and it had rained during the night.

I had washed my clothes at the hostel yesterday and went to get them as well as to check out. Today I am changing to the J-Hoppers Kyoto. Yesterday had been a last resort since they didn't have any rooms for me for then but I am very, very happy to have been in that particular hostel yesterday because of the convenient location and the helpful staff!

I walked with my heavy suitcase down the stairs to the subway exit to take the subway to a JR train station to take the train to the central railway station of Kyoto. From there I walked to the J-Hoppers hostel in about 10 minutes or so. But man was it HOT! I don't really mind the heat since you can't help it but I miss sometimes the Finish summer with its milder sun and temperatures.

So I arrived around 11 to the hostel and checked-in but had to put my luggage to the store room since the official check-in had not yet started. It was absolutely fine with me so that's what I did.

The J-hoppers have a point system basing on how many nights you have slept in a J-hoppers hostel.
Nishi-Honganji
So I got to choose between a 300 yen discount in my bill or a free coupon.
It took the coupon since with it I could rent the bike from them for one whole day (which normally costs 500 yen).

I hopped on the bike and started paddling towards the center of the city to see some of the UNESCO Sights.  Kyoto has so many temples, gardens and cool things to see and experience! I love it and this is one of my main reasons why I personally love Kyoto the most of all the Japanese cities! (Sorry to all the other amazing cities!)

First I arrived at the old Nishi-Honganji Temple. It was a big temple and it's roots take back many years. It has two marvelous worship halls in two different buildings bound together by a small corridor in between.
I had visited here before but it was under restoration because of its old age, but you could still see the face of the temple and the inside of the temple back then.

I walked around for and caught a glimpse of the religious service going on inside.
Shortly after finishing my tour of the premises, I returned to my bike and  paddled on to the next location which was going to be the famous Nijo-castle.
Entrance to Nijo castle
Before entering I had to get something to eat as to replenish my energy! I had some Udon noodles together with a small Gyu-don, beef bowl. It filled me right up and I was ok to go again!

The Nijo castle is not like the ones in Kanazawa, Osaka or Nagoya.
The villa like castle complex 
It was a wooden castle that looked more like a huge villa with many side buildings and a stone wall around it.

I left my bike outside to a parking lot for bicycles and went inside. It costs 600 yen inside but in the end I believe it might be a tad to much but still it was worth every penny! It was beautiful and old and had almost finished it's restorations so there were no hinders blocking the view of the castle area.

It has a neat garden around it and oh boy do I love the Japanese gardens. My recommendation is though to come here during spring or fall when the flowers and trees are in blossom. It will surely make it more beautiful. But be warned, it might get crowded then!
Paddling on!
Cute store mascots near Ginkakuji 
I arrived at Ginkakuji, the silver pavilion [Belonged once to a important samurai] after a good while.
I had to take a small pause during my cycling since the sun was getting to me a bit. I had gotten a slight headache.

I soon entered and though the place is much smaller than I originally thought, it still packed a punch.
At Ginkakuji 
Ginkakuji is also a UNESCO sight. The gardens were amazing. At the entrance there are two beautiful rock gardens. The rocks were raked to different patterns and looked stunning.

Rock Garden
I walked around for a good while since I had a slow pace and could not take my eyes of any one thing before at least 10 seconds had passed.

The aqueduct 
From there I went back and got my bike from the bicycle park and cycled along the famous Philosophers path. It lead me soon to my next destination which was the Nansenji temple. I walked around there for a while and saw the famous large gate and found even a structure that I assume to be a aqueduct.

Great gate of Nansenji 
I am very glad that I chose to take the bicycle since this way I don't get too exhausted and still get from place to place rather quick without missing the epic scenery around! So I highly suggest you give it a go when in Kyoto or any other city in Japan. Tokyo I don't really know, since it is pretty easy to get around there with subways, trains and buses so maybe there you don't need to try :)
Still it is just amazing how these extempore decisions usually are the best ones!

Main building of Kyomizudera
I then continued on for Kyomizudera or pure water temple which is in my and many others minds the pillar for the Kyoto sightseeing and the absolute number one treasure of Kyoto. It is said to be at its best during spring and fall when the trees either blossom or change colors and get illuminated.
Summer is a good time also in my opinion.

The temple is surrounded by smaller temples and streets with stores selling various traditional goods and local sweets and products. Specially matcha or powdered green tea. It is in everything, sweets, cakes, ice-creams, snacks etc. and why should it not be, it is high quality and tastes so good!
Outside of Kyomizudera
For those who have never had it before I might warn you. It is a taste that you have to require, not something you might love immediately, even though I am sure there are lot of people who do so as well.
So give it a shot and taste it in its various forms. Sweet or salty, soft or hard, hot or cold!

I spent a good time there and the sun was already starting to fall so I started to return to my bike again.

I cycled back to my hostel and asked them for the location of the nearest super market so that I could go and buy myself some groceries.
I bought a lot since I am staying here (in J-hoppers) for 5 nights all together, one night in between I will be in Kinosaki onsen hot spring, so I am not counting that to the 5 nights.

I made myself some salad and boiled potatoes and corn with a hamburger steak and a fried egg. It filled me right up and I still have tomorrows portion as well. Tomorrow is also the night for the Korean BBQ so I am really looking forward to that!

So as this is where my day ends I thank you for your support by reading my blog. Special thanks to all the Japanese and Americans and Finish people who have been reading my blog. It makes me so happy to know that there are people who are interested in Japan or in just regularly in traveling who are reading this blog (of course there might be some who read it only to see how I am doing so thanks for those people as well!)

Sincerely
Robert

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