Monday, November 17, 2014

EARLY AUTUMN IN KYOTO


Winter in Xian City, China
Spring in Beijing China
Summer in Shanghai, China
Fall in Japan.

Sans the snow and the white Christmas dreamed of, the four seasons were completed in my journey abroad as a traveler.  I celebrated my birthday in the Kansai Region of Japan in a too early autumn season.  Though not in full colors, the chilly nights began to be felt and the autumn foliage surreptitiously transforming manifested.


Kyoto is one of the most visited cities of Japan’s Kansai Region.  And there I was lurking in the middle of the JR Kyoto Station following disembarkation from the platform, now trying to figure the way out.

Japan Bullet Train - Shinkansen
With our unlimited 7-day JR Pass, from Tokyo Station we rode the Shinkansen (Japan Bullet Train) en route to Kyoto Station.  There were bento boxes available, thus, we placed our orders and ate while on transit, which travel time took an approximate of four (4) hours.  The bullet train is indeed cozy and it felt like a flight on air – complete with service attendants and a clean toilet.


my bento box

bottling in Japan

the interiors of the bullet train

THE KYOTO STATION


The Kyoto Station was our point of reference on all intended destinations.  The station itself is a huge commercial place with a mall adjacent to the platforms of the varied railway systems of Japan.

Great food finds and souvenir shops surround the station as well not to mention the futuristic interiors and architectural design it has.  With an organized and efficient railway system, the probability of being lost is nil.

cake overload at one of the shops at Kyoto Station
Not far from the station – a walking distance – is our transient abode.

PIECE HOSTEL KYOTO

the signage lights up at night when a visitor passes by
It was a relatively narrow and clean alley that we have passed by with luggage in tow as we locate Piece Hostel Kyoto.  The dark alley lights up at night through a sensor once a visitor passes.  It is that safe and convenient living at the said hostel.

entrance door
We were joined by a group of tourists from Taiwan and Australia as we checked-in.  At that moment, I knew we had the right choice of accommodation, being popular for travelers of varied nationals.  (click to check rates)


the receiving area

bar area
With a staff who can speak English fluently and a part-timer who is a Filipino, all our worries and queries are remedied hassle-free.  And if less-researched on what to do in Kyoto with all the directions, a map of tourist attractions is posted at the main dining area next to the reception area.

A spacious shower room awaits guests at the ground floor while the toilets are situated at each floor of the building, a common one as well.  Despite being communal, no predicaments can be raised as it is so well-maintained and clean.  A common kitchen is likewise provided where the main dining hall is the best place to mingle with co-travelers.  A free breakfast is included in the stay as well.


shower area

time to shower...

kitchen for all

mini-garden
Walking for miles in discovering the city is truly tiresome albeit rewarding.  Thus, recharging our energy for the next days’ adventure is attainable with a very comfortable bed and thick sheets, not to mention the effective air-conditioning system. I can even sleep the whole day but wait – I’m in Japan! I have to keep moving (I remind myself.)


Living up to its slogan, Piece Hostel indeed provides a minimum space for a comfortable sleep. 


simple facade- BOOK NOW!
PIECE HOSTEL KYOTO – BOOK ONLINE!
21-1, Higashikujo Higashisanno-cho,
Minmi-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto, 601-8004, Japan

KYOTO’S LANDMARKS

Kyoto has the distinction as Rank 1 Best City in the World bestowed by Travel + Leisure magazine readers for the year 2014.  With such recognition, it becomes even more fortunate for me that I would be able to discover why.

With a relatively laidback lifestyle and more horticultural landscape, the picturesque autumn in Japan is best experienced in Kyoto.

The UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji, Otsu Cities) includes 17 locations in Kyoto.  Since it would definitely be impossible to visit all, (excuses to visit again), then, only those nearest our vantage were paid a visit.

A temple, geisha district and a sacred mountain shrine completed my introduction of what the city has to offer.

Tō-ji Temple (東寺 Tō-ji?)  

For almost every country visited, a temple + UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription is a must in my so-called itinerary.  The vast compound first visited harbors centuries-old wooden temples, a manicured garden, a pond and the tallest pagoda in Japan.

the symbol of Kyoto
Though a place of worship, this Buddhist Temple has received the attention of tourists, making it one of the most visited temples in Japan.  Recognizing the historical and spiritual significance of Toji Temple, UNESCO designated it as part of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto” World Heritage Site.

Under the clear blue skies and the chilly weather, it was a leisurely walk discovering the temple grounds and the temples itself.  As a refresher, the usual green tea flavored ice cream came handy as a shop offers such just beside the admission booth.





The benches and the pond nearby where turtles, ducks and koi swim provide a relaxing ambiance.  It is from this vantage where the most photographed five story pagoda is best captured on full autumn foliage.  But in our case, since the season has just begun, green leaves still dominate.

the tallest pagoda in Japan



The temple is situated at the intersection of Omiya Street and Kujo Street, a walking distance from the Kyoto Station (southwest).


mandatory solo picture at a UNESCO World Heritage Site 
Hanamikoji Geisha District


Period films of Japan have greatly been relayed through the presence of either a samurai or a geisha.  The award winning film adaptation of the novel Memoirs of a Geisha of the same title has featured how their life is and how it has come about.  With that, viewers have been eyeing to see a real one in their lifetime.

We were lead to Hanamikoji District through the information given by the staff of our hostel since all temples are already closed then when we arrived at Kyoto.



Hanamikoji is one district where sightings of a genuine geisha can be made.  En route to the district, young girls dressed in kimono appearing like geishas appear on our way but they too are tourists like us. 

The pavements of the district were filled by automobiles and traffic was about to pile up.  It would have been even more appealing as it is if the street is closed to automobiles.  I even began to compare our very own Calle Crisologo in Vigan City,Philippines with the said street as they both speak of streets with cultural significance.


I honestly don’t know how to distinguish a geisha with that of an apprentice.  But one thing is certain – they wear a full white face make-up characteristic of maiko during special performance as opposed to the tourists roaming around the vicinity appearing like one.  That being said, I haven’t met one genuine geisha.

a tea house




 Tea houses dot the said district and it is where the geishas make their special appearances, being the traditional Japanese female entertainers who act as hostesses and whose skills include performing various arts such as classical music, dance, games and even conversation.  The most expensive service fees for geishas are definitely at this District.  Thus, we can’t afford it.  I have to be contented with the strolling and travel photography part of my journey.





And back to the film, Memoirs of a Geisha, did you know that one of the scenes was taken at our next featured destination?

Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社?)

Inari is the GOD of rice.  A shrine situated at the base of a mountain is devoted to Inari.  The site is known for the thousands of torii gates.

It was an unexpected activity for me as recently I relatively abhorred trekking and climbing mountains.
  
From the JR Nara Line Inari Station (5 minute ride from Kyoto Station), the main gate of the shrine is visible.  In what I suppose was a simple picture taking at the gates, we moved further and further and reached a quite high elevation.  Perspiring as usual – it was an involuntary morning exercise in my exhausted case until we decided to discontinue the hike and have our brunch.  If not for the weather (early autumn) in Kyoto, I would have fainted due to exhaustion.  I need more exercise to get used I think.

Torii paths towards the mountain

and the hike continues

fox sculpture at the main gate
the main gate


Kyoto is indeed a great city to discover the rich culture of Japan and this is just an introduction as I promise myself to be back in Japan with the full autumn foliage as my backdrop.



6 comments :

  1. Wow, just wow. A very comprehensive guide to Kyoto. Will bookmark this as reference. Another place in my bucket list.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks atty! You'll definitely enjoy kyoto. I' ll be waiting for your stories when you get there soon. Hehe

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  2. Wah ang ganda! Sige na nga mag-Kyoto na ako sa next trip :D

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    Replies
    1. Yup maganda sya! Madami pang pwedng pntahan. Pagbalik nalang natin. Haha

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  3. Maganda po talaga ang Kyoto... :)

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  4. Bookmarking this - lalo na yung Torii gates. @Mica extend na para makapag Kyoto

    ReplyDelete

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