| Part 4: Kyoto, Nara
Hotel Kyoto Dai-Ni Tower, two minutes
walk from the train station. 8925 yen for a room with everything: LCD
TV, fridge, telephone, DSL Internet line through powerline modem, table
with chair, even a small cupboard despite the small size, hairdryer,
radio, alarm clock, torchlight, A/C. No breakfast. The room is small,
but bigger than the previous places where I stayed.
Weather: sunny, spotless
blue sky in Tokyo. Not cold. In Kyoto, sunny, blue sky with partly thin
clouds layer. After 2pm the sky essentially closes and becomes
overcast, then opens up again towards 4pm. No rain. Fresh, I have to
wear a long sleeves shirt.
I wake up shortly before 8am and get ready. At 9am I have a breakfast,
then at 9:30am I take a taxi for the short trip to the train station
(1000 yen). I'm at the Shinkansen track at 9:45am. The train
has just arrived and is being cleaned.
At 10:13am the Shinkansen leaves on time and arrives in Kyoto on time
around 12:30pm. Before 1pm I'm checked in in the hotel. I briefly
unpack some things, check the Internet connection and at 1:20pm leave
I have a brief look at the area, then go to the tourist information
counter inside the train station and ask for information about how to
get to the major places, which bus to take, which tickets there are
Then I go to the bus ticketing centre in the square in front of the
train station. I could take a Kansai Thru pass (5000 yen for three
days, 3800 yen for two), but I end up only taking a day pass for the
Kyoto buses for 500 yen. A single ticket would have cost 220 yen and
would actually have been cheaper, since today I will ride the bus only
Then I queue up at the bus stop. Huge queue of people waiting for the
bus Nr. 100. The first bus is too full, so we have to wait for the next
one. Finally at 2:05pm we leave by bus towards the Kiyomizu temple.
At 2:25pm the bus stops at the Gojozaka station. From there it's a 10
minutes walk up the hill to the Kiyomizu temple. Impressive temple. Not
a single building, but a series of buildings, arches, pavilions etc.
spread over the hill. Japanese worshippers of all ages doing the holy
things, praying for the gods, taking pictures, donating money etc. Some
western tourists, but relatively few.
I stay in the temple complex until after sunset, because I finish
visiting the temple at 4pm and there is no time to get to another
temple. At 5:30pm I finally leave the Kiyomizu temple and walk down the
hill. On the way back to the hotel I briefly stop in a place for dinner
(a Teppanyaki style restaurant, but the food is so-so; Teppanyaki
restaurants in Malaysia are much better). I'm back in the hotel at 8pm.
Hotel Kyoto Dai-Ni Tower. I still
haven't found out how to heat this quite cold room, as there is no
heater, only an A/C unit.
Weather: sunny and blue sky
in the morning, which becomes overcast starting from 11am. Rain in the
late afternoon after 4pm. It's getting fresh - too cold to walk around
in a T-shirt.
I get up at 8:30am, then
get ready, check my emails and leave the hotel around 10am. The plan
would be to go to Nara today, but when I ask at the JR counter in the
railway station it seems that the next train is only at 10:50am,
arriving in Nara at 11:34am, too late in my opinion to see all temples
I'm planning to see. So I change my plans, get a 500 yen day pass for
the Kyoto buses and start sightseeing Kyoto instead.
The first stop is at the Sanjiusangendo temple (ticket: 600 yen) where
I spend half an hour between 10:53am and 11:23am. This is a nice temple
with a big inner court with a garden, red pillar row along the outer
walls, couple of pavilions and the long main central hall.
Then I take the bus to the Heian shrine. Today I don't have to wait
long for the bus, and at 11:50am I'm already there, after some walking
and searching. The Heian shrine is a large, beautiful temple with some
great architecture, impressive gate, buildings with elaborate roofs,
very photogenic. There are several Japanese (couple, groups) who go
there dressed in kimono for photo shoots. The garden (entry ticket
expesive at 600 yen) is very nice. The entrance to the temple itself is
free of charge.
After one hour at the Heian shrine, at 12:53pm, I leave for the next
place, the Nijo castle. Including walking, waiting and bus transfer
time it takes 40 minutes to get there. If I took a taxi I would have
saved perhaps half an hour, but taxis are
expensive in Japan.
The Nijo castle is again very nice, with some interesting architecture
and decorations. Today it is full of classes of schoolchildren doing
guided tours. I spend 20 minutes at the castle, from 1:33pm to
Then I get to the next place, the Kinkakuji temple, also known as
"Golden Pavilion". The bus connection is good, as there is a bus
station opposite the Nijo castle with two bus lines going straight to
the Kinkakuji temple. Still it takes 50 minutes to get there.
The Kinkakuji temple is a beautiful temple, with a pavilion covered in
gold surrounded by a lake. Looks good under an overcast sky, would
likely look even better with a sunny blue sky. I spend half an hour at
the Kinkakuji temple, from 2:43pm to 3:15pm.
Then I take a bus to the Gion district, hoping to spot a geisha and see
something of the old Kyoto. It takes 40 minutes (walking, waiting and
bus drive time) to get to the Shijo Kawaramachi bus stop - quite a long
Then I start walking towards the Gion district. The area is the
commercial and shopping centre of Kyoto, full of shops, restaurants,
buildings with neon lights. Quite an interesting place. Lots of people,
but no geishas. The Gion area is an area with old traditional style
houses, with many expensive, upmarket restaurants.
After the Gion area I have a dinner in one of those Japanese "fast
food" restaurants where you buy a coupon from a vending machine.
For 680 yen I get a meal consisting of a bowl of rice, fried beef, a
salad and a soup. That's approximately 4 Euro and dirt cheap for such a
meal. The taste is excellent, but you have to remove the fat from the
beef meat slices.
Then I stroll around the area, have a Japanese banana pancake, and
slowly walk back to the hotel. I pass through covered passages full of
shops, then through a fresh food market which (it's 6pm) is about to
close. They sell mostly fish, but also some vegetables.
At 7:15pm I'm finally at the train station which now has a big
illuminated Xmas tree. I spend 20 minutes exploring the train station.
Highly interesting building, integrated in an Isetan department store.
You can walk to the roof for some nice views of the skyline of Kyoto.
The entire train station complex is an interesting area.
After that I enquire about trains to Nara with the Kinketsu line. The
trip takes 45 minutes, the ticket costs 610 yen. Shortly before 8pm I'm
back in the hotel. There I spend three hours downloading the 320 photos
of today and sorting out the bad ones. I speak with Skype for 20
minutes with Shirley in Malaysia.
Finally, I book an AirAsia flight to Macao for the period 11-14
-> Nara -> Kyoto
Kyoto Dai-Ni Tower. I find out
that you can heat the room by switching on the A/C.
overcast the whole
day, no rain. Fresh, I have to wear a light jacket.
I get up at 9:30am, get
ready and take the 10:40am train to Nara.
It's the Kinketsu line, at 610 yen cheaper than JR. The wagons
are arranged inside like a subway, i.e. this is like a commuter train
with only some of the passengers sitting.
At 11:25am the train is in Nara. I get out of the station and see that
the Nara park with all the temples is nearby, perhaps only 500m away.
In less than 10 minutes I arrive at the park. Quite interesting, there
are many deer around not afraid of humans. In fact you
can touch them, play with them, and feed them. They even eat from your
The first stop is at the Kofuku-ji temple, where I spend half an hour
(11:45am - 12:15pm). There is actually not too much to see, but I have
a brief meal there (sandwiches I bought in Kyoto) and I have a look at
the deer. There is also a temple museum, but it does not look too
interesting and the ticket costs 1000 yen.
Then I continue walking eastwards in the Nara park, exploring the area.
There are more deer around, and lots of tourists are feeding them. I
walk past the Nara museum deciding to skip it for the moment (will
perhaps visit it later).
A bit further there is a pedestrian area where there are lots of deer.
Tourists are feeding them, so I try it too. Deer food costs 150 yen and
it consists of some kind of cookies. As soon I have the cookies in my
hand the deers notice that and surround me. Lots of hungry mouths
begging for some food. I feed them, trying to give each deer a cookie,
but there is a very pushy male deer who wants more and even hits me in
the legs with his head.
This must be the alpha male. Luckily this
fellow has no horns. Looks like the horns have been cut, perhaps to
protect the tourists. In any case, athis is a bit scary, as the
deers surround you and kick and push you. After feeding the
deers my trousers are dirty.
I then walk towards the Kasuga shrine. After several photo stops in
between I arrive there half an hour later at 1:30pm. Kasuga is an
interesting shrine on hill surrounded by the forest, consisting of a
main complex with several adjacent buildings and lots other buildings
This is supposed to be one of the major Shinto shrines
in Japan. It is very photogenic and female shrine servants are even
more photogenic, with their carefully styled hairstyle, white shirts
and long, orange skirts. The ticket for the
internal part of the shrine costs 500 yen.
Around 2:30pm I'm done with the Kasuga shrine and head towards the
Todai-ji temple, arriving there 20 minutes later. This is a different
type of temple, with a huge central building containing huge statues of
Buddha, while the Kasuga shrine was a more decentralised structure. The
shrine is overrun by groups of schoolchildren doing guided tours.
It's a pretty impressive sight.
After almost an hour at the Todai-ji temple, I leave the Nara park at
3:50pm. On the way back to the train station I visit the Nara museum.
It's not so interesting and at 1000 yen the ticket is way overpriced.
My impression is that most museums in Japan are not so interesting.
Also in terms of historic sights Japan does not have too much to offer,
compared for instance with the countries of the Mediterranean area.
Japan is a country with perhaps 1500 years or less of high level
It's almost 5pm when, after getting out of the museum, I reach the
train station and still have had no real lunch. So I get into a
restaurant near the train station and order some delicious food. Big
bowl of noodle soup and after that dish with fried fish fillet and
rice. All this for 1400 yen, very good value.
At 6:16pm I take the Kinketsu train back to Kyoto (610 yen), arriving
in Kyoto at 7:02pm. Then I briefly check what time there are Shinkansen
trains to Hideji and Hiroshima tomorrow. Tomorrow morning there are
apparently several Shinkansens each hour.