Day 2: Kyoto

Today we took a train to Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. It was spared from bombardment in WWII due to it’s cultural significance, so there are many great examples of ancient Japan. Believe it or not the military claims to have tried to preserve ancient sites in Iraq, but ended up building military bases out of them instead. Well there was no such evidence of American tampering after we got off the bus at our first shrine, to find a ready tourist stop. Just inside the grounds were several street vendors, which I found odd considering it was supposed to be a religious place.

While we were at Yasaka (the big orange one from the pics) people spotted smoke coming from the mountain behind Chion-in. We rushed up the hill and watched as fire trucks navigated the narrow back roads, and firemen linked together hoses to extinguish the fire very quickly. Once the commotion died down we moved to the front gate of Chion-in. The front gate is probably the most massive thing made out of wood I’ve ever seen save a roller-coaster. Of course, the roller coaster had nothing on sheer grandeur of the gate.

This website claims this temple was used for filming some scenes from “The Last Samurai”. I did not see anything that jumped out as a location but it seemed familiar the whole time. The temple is the headquarters of the “Pure Land Sect” and if I had not been so tired I would have stayed longer. It was a very interesting place, from now on I would like to get some reading in before we go somewhere so the locations hold some context.

After exploring a bit of Chion-in we headed back down the hills and walked around Kyoto for a bit, eventually running into an art gallery with an exhibition of photographer Elliot Erwitt’s works. We decided to stop in and take a nice break from the busy street. We soon found our way to a train station and headed back to Osaka.

We were both very tired on the train ride back to Osaka. I think the last three days we have been going full blast and it’s starting to get to us. Of course, I’m still very happy to be here, but I think slowing it down for a day is in order.

So back to last night…. After we got back to Osaka we stopped by our new favorite tower of shopping, Yodobashi Camera, and hit a collected 2nd wind. We purchased some lens covers with straps and a wide-angle lens to better photograph the buildings and other large objects. I would like to imagine we got a good deal, as the clerk (who was also a English translator for the store – they have translators for several languages) gave us 8% off and it was duty free.

On one of the top floors of Yodobashi Camera building there are several restaurants, with entrances made to look like street level storefronts and menus displayed with realistic plastic examples.

Hosts & hostesses for mall restaurants in Japan will wait outside, greeting people as they walk by and inviting them inside. While browsing the restaurant floor, one of the hostesses waved and greeted us cheerfully in English. Robyn asked her male counterpart what type of restaurant it was… it was a yakiniku restaurant.

Yakiniku is a cook-it-yourself place, where you can select from a wide assortment of meats and vegetables to grill at your table to your liking.  Previous to this I had considered yakiniku a simple crappy Japanese cuisine inspired beef and rice dish served at a restaurant near work. It was a great meal, and the service there is off the chart. There was a little woodgrain plastic bubble with what looked to be a light on it, curious I pressed it and it turned out to be a magical summoning device for our waitress. The words “what does this do?” had not even finished coming out of my mouth before she arrived, and on her knees beside our table.

In all I would have to say the most impressive sights today were the Kyoto train station and the Chion-in gate.  Check out the pics here.