Saturday, 24 September 2011

Kyoto - Kiyomizudera and Teapot Lane.

Our second day in Japan and we set off on the short 30 minute train ride between Osaka and the old capital Kyoto. The train cost around 7,000 return per person and was a nice journey.
We headed straight to the tourist info at the train station where we were faced with a bustle of people busily chatting about the many sites to see. We were beckoned by an adorable old man who spoke perfect English. He began to show us a well rehearsed loot of parafinalia which included maps and bus routes and nature trails and temples galore. We had the awful task of curbing his sincere enthusiasm as we told him we only had one day in Kyoto. He was clearly very exasperated and felt we could not possibly manage to do everything he wanted us to. He advised we focus on one area and we expressed an interest in the Gion district. This area has a few gorgeous temples, great quaint shopping lanes and a famous nightlife where if you are lucky you may bump into a Geisha.

We hopped on a bus for a 10 minute ride and then set off on the Gion walking tour. The first thing I saw was a group of women wearing beautiful kimonos. I'm not really sure if this was their normal attire or if it was a special occassion but there were a surprising number of women wearing them over the short time we visited.

We stopped at a deceivingly spacious restaurant which we found walking up towards the Kiyomizudera Temple within the Higashiyama District. The restaurant looked like a wooden house from the street with no real signage but there were entrance drapes hanging down and a small menu next to it. We would have missed it, had it not been for the woman standing on the street directing us inside.
We ordered the lunch specials. There was a menu filled with lunch sets. I went for tempura and conga eel which Tom seemed to think was very adventurous of me. I didn't realise at the time that conga eels can grow to huge lengths but to me it was just like a strong tasting fish. Tom had a chicken and rice dish. They came with a burnt tasting noodle soup and a huge protion of rice. Although the food is a little pricey, you certainly get your fill! We were also served cold water infused with rice tea. Very refreshing on a hot day.

We headed up to the temple walking down the quaintly named 'Teapot Lane', which sold pottery and various other souvenirs. 

Finally we arrived at the foot of the temple set into the mountains. We were approached by two very shy students who said they were volunteering as tour guides, free of charge, in order to practice their English. I was naturally a little suspicious (India has jaded me), but they were the sweetest kids and they were great at giving us the inside info even though most of it was read from the pamphlet. There were a few miscommunications. You can see in the picture, there is a large drop off the side of the balcony which the boy told me people used to jump from in order to test their bravery. It was a life lesson; risks must be taken in order to suceed. I understood that the people jumped into the trees and survived, but he said many people died!! Still not too sure about that one. Why would people do that? As soon as one died, no one else would have a go!

Our trusty guides.

There was also a water fountain sprouting three different streams, Otowa Waterfall. The water is divided into three separate streams and visitors drink from one of the three (after waiting in a long line). Each stream's water is said to have a different benefit, one is health, one career and the last beauty. But drinking from all three streams is greedy. We watched but didn't want to subject our guides to waiting in line. I would have chosen health.....or beauty... no maybe I didn't do it because I couldn't choose!

We were very fortunate to have their assistance and it was far more interesting visiting the temple with them. Their opinions on Korea were even more interesting as Koreans certainly have opinions about the Japanese. We continued back down the hill as guided by the walking tour info and luckily walked past a whole host of shops offering free snack samples. Mainly thin rice pancakes  filled with bean paste, chocolate and other more exotic (undecipherable) fillings. We were also handed rather a lot of green tea samples!

We continued along the walk taking in the atmosphere and free samples, while enjoying the sunshine! 

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