Elegant, tidy, clean. Extremely clean. Polished, I'd say.
A little? gray, very sober, with a sometimes impenetrable soul.
It doesn't have the skyline of a modern metropolis, but the look of a refined, quiet, ancient capital.
With its low buildings, mostly? monochromatic, in shades from gray to black, interspersed with very long lustrous avenues and without a blade of grass out of place n? a leaf that fell by chance (let alone butts, litter or stains of anything?).
And in the midst of gray roofs, square trees and perfectly shaped bushes stand out the 2000 temples and 17 Unesco sites of which the city? boasts.
Full of things to see then: many, too many! Six days, if you also include the excursions in the surrounding area, are just enough to embrace all the beauties. In s? not ? a city? that hits the heart right away. Rather, it conquers slowly. Discovering himself calmly, revealing himself little by little. And therefore it must be lived, it happens, rethought afterwards in order to be able to love it fully.
A little? icy, detached. Sar? that I had imagined it different: more? green, more? colored, more? exciting. Sar? that before her I saw Beijing and fell madly in love with it: for the majestic and colorful temples, the music coming from many radios in the streets and the immense city parks where people go to do gymnastics, practice martial arts or simply practice beautiful calligraphy tracing ideograms on the asphalt with a brush dipped in water.
The fact is that I found Kyoto beautiful, wonderful, but ... cold, with a soul that is too hidden.
What now do I miss so much, and which I think back with nostalgia but what? for l? ? remained on the surface, it did not thrill me.
What? dense and complicated, however, that even to write about it, rearranging the ideas of everything we have seen, it took a very long time.
I wait more? beautiful and interesting, given its vastness? the fact of being able / having to turn it around a bit? with trains, a lot on foot, but especially with buses. The subway network is not? cos? capillary, while buses reach practically every site of interest.
Take the bus to Kyoto
Once you have identified the office that sells the daily pass (at a very convenient cost of 500 yen), at the central station, and which also provides an indispensable map of all the lines, getting on and off the bus will be? a health walk and an extremely formative sociological study. If you are thinking of old and shabby caravans (or even new but already tried?) Filled to the improbable, roaring and spitting toxic fumes using biblical times between stops you are completely off track. On punctuality? of buses in Kyoto you can put your watches back. If on stop c ?? written that a bus passes at 9:04 am you can be sure that at 9:03 you will already see it? the incoming silhouette.
How do they do it, walking on the road and not on the tracks? a mystery that some explain with the extreme discipline of its users (no time is wasted trying to get on anyway if the bus is full: simply, another one is expected and things go smoothly and calmly ...). Anyhow ? always a reason for immense amazement and admiration. After that, even here, there are some small rules to respect: buses are waiting in single file. You go up from the central door and go down from the front one, next to the driver, not before showing him the day pass, or having deposited 230 yen with him (150 if yes? Children). A sign invites you to get some coins, but in any case next to the driver (who will thank and greet his passengers one by one before dismissing them) c ?? a money machine.
We have seen with our own eyes people get out from the central door because of the too crowded bus and make a run, from the outside, towards the front, to show the driver their season ticket anyway.
For them a normal gesture, for us a kind of miracle.
The driver, in addition to: driving; open and close the doors; view tickets and season tickets; helping prevented tourists to select the right coins; greet and thank ad nauseam,? also equipped with a microphone with which it announces the stops (even if already listed on an automatic disk and shown on a display ... but the accuracy is never too much!) and warns that we are restarting when the doors are closed.
Get on the bus ? like entering a house or a temple, with the only difference that here you don't have to take off your shoes. One feels like guests, welcome, but one feels, very clearly, the feeling of having to behave in a way, for example speaking in a low voice, if you really can't? do without.
So here, familiarized with the buses and their wonders, we set off to discover the city.
Where to start?
First of all, staying in a hotel 50 meters from the station (and therefore also from the bus terminus) yes? proved very convenient (Apa Hotel Kyoto Ekimae).
Then the alarm must necessarily be aimed at dawn: first why? each temple not? a simple building to walk in, have a look at and leave, but? consisting of a complex, pi? or less extensive, of minor temples, gardens, walkways and sometimes ponds, all over rather extensive areas that sometimes even climb up gentle hills; then why? the closing time? at 17:30, which in the economy of a day means very early! Another tip: since in spite of the idea that I don't know why? I had done Kyoto, this is not? a small center, but a large town with enormous distances to cover,? It is essential to have a rough program before leaving the hotel and to study the maps well to reach the various sites. This is also not to waste time consulting maps (however distributed in large numbers throughout the city?) Which are not always easy to read, considering the usual discourse that the writings in English are reduced to the essential and sometimes even arrived in front of a temple will you find? to wonder if? just what he was looking for since his name will appear? in large letters in ideograms and in mini format in the Latin alphabet ... In short, the difficulties? will not miss but with a little? cunning and preventive organization will easily get around.
Get lost a little
Having arrived at lunchtime by train from Osaka airport, once we left our luggage at the hotel (since check-in takes place at 15 pm and not a minute earlier) we limited ourselves to a patrol tour of the Central station, what? also the building pi? modern city: a very beautiful steel and glass complex, including several shopping centers within it. We immediately discover that? also the place pi? convenient to eat, considering the huge range of restaurants it offers (including 10 Ramen only!).
Late in the afternoon a walk through secondary streets, to watch life go by, what people do, how houses and shops are made, getting lost in alleys and alleys,
Pu? it happens, especially in some areas of the center, to walk for a long time without encountering even a patch of green. Not a tree, not a flower bed, only very colorful flower pots in front of the doors of the houses, sometimes directly on the street. Beautiful and well cared for.
Every house, even the most? baby, has a garage, even if the car? too long and has nothing to do with it: but there are no doors and that appendix of the house flows freely into the surrounding landscape.
We arrive up to Ponto-Cho, a neighborhood with traditional houses illuminated by many lanterns
and this Kyoto, cos? relaxing and quiet, it seems already? a great friend, who even on the other side of the world, makes you feel at home.
The alarm goes off at 5 and with the JR Nara line (on which the Japan Rail Pass is valid) we reach one of the most? known (and popular) of Kyoto, the Fushimi-Inari-Taisha, dedicated to the gods protectors of rice and sak ?.
Endless galleries of orange torii (entrance doors to Shinto shrines) climb through the woods on Mount Inari-san for about 4 km passing through countless smaller temples, tombs, votive statues, altars and prayer stations. Unmissable and suggestive place that requires a certain effort, as well as to visit it at the first light of dawn, thus avoiding? crowds of visitors, even to make the entire uphill journey. We have reached about half? path, after which? we preferred to start the descent to be able to visit other things.
Released from l? we take the train back to the central station, with bus 206 we dedicate ourselves to the visit of Higashiyama Sud (area of the eastern mountains), which Lonely Planet urges you to put as an absolute priority in the itinerary for visiting the city, while personally I loved a lot more? North Higashiyama. A little? why ?, the first was full of people, a little? also why? unfortunately some temples were under renovation, but? It is also true that there are places not even mentioned in the guide, discovered by pure chance, in front of which we were left speechless. For example, an alternative way to get to the Kyomizu-Dera Buddhist temple (instead of the classic one, made up of food and souvenir stalls), which runs along a suggestive cemetery perched on a hill. Tombstones as far as the eye can see in a rarefied atmosphere where the crowd? just a very distant buzz.
The main temple (together with all the others? That even here the question is not simple!) Is located on top of this hill from which you can enjoy a wide view of the city (provided you can make your way through the crowd).
At its base there is a waterfall in front of which visitors queue to drink its sacred waters that seem to give health and longevity.
Downstream from the temple there is a beautiful neighborhood (well indicated), consisting of two main streets, Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka, overlooked by wooden houses, artisan shops, kiosks and restaurants. Very quaint, worth a visit, but are the prices mostly? unapproachable!
Continuing on foot we pass (giving only an overall and fairly quick look) the Buddhist temples Kodai-ji, Chion-in (seat of the Jodo Buddhist school, the most widespread in Japan) and Shoren-in.
Our aim ? in fact go back to the hotel to be able to make a short pit stop, not before for? to have visited the magnificent Buddhist temple nearby, Higashi Hongan-ji.
The main pavilion? the second wooden structure pi? large of Japan and in the corridor between the two main buildings? on display is a rope made with hair donated by volunteers at the end of the 800th century following a devastating fire, in order to weave ropes useful for the reconstruction work.
With the last strength left, we dedicate the evening to visit the district of Gion,
famous for the restaurants, the tea rooms? traditional and above all the possibility? to be able to spot a real geisha, arriving up to Shinbashi, considered one of the most? beautiful in Kyoto and, according to the LP, even in all of Asia?
Always with the alarm set at 5 we dedicate ourselves to the north-west area of the city, taking bus number 28 and getting off at the Arashiyama-Tenryuji-mae stop and heading straight to the Tenryuji Buddhist temple, characterized by a magnificent Zen garden. Small technical note: you pay two tickets, respectively for the temple and for the garden but in retrospect it is advisable to make only one, perhaps favoring the outside, considering that the temple can be seen perfectly from the outside, in all its parts (and vice versa).
Leaving here you will find yourself? directly in the Bosco di Bamb ?, an unmissable place for its particularity, but difficult to fully appreciate given the continuous passage, inside, of taxis that unload students and various visitors. In our case there was even a photo shoot in progress that hindered the passage, creating confusion! The very high bamboo canes are incredible and full of charm. that follow one another by barely filtering the sunlight and giving almost magical shades of color.
From? we continue with the bus n.59 to the Kinkaku-ji, one of the most? famous throughout Japan, the former residence of the Shogun, later transformed into a temple. ? known as the? Golden Pavilion ?, to be entirely covered with a gold foil.
Too bad there was no sun, but the glance? equally very fascinating, despite having to proceed in single file due to the huge crowd that visits it at any time of day.
On foot we reach Ryoan-ji, another Buddhist temple with an austere and mysterious appearance, characterized by a? Dry? Garden, consisting of an expanse of white sand on which 15 rocks are positioned. It seems that in reality? the latter are 16 but can only the enlightened be able to see them all?
Between one visit and another yes? done at lunchtime, so? we slip into a traditional restaurant, attracted by its calm and relaxed air and we also experience the thrill of a lunch sitting on the tatami while enjoying (a bit perplexed) two varieties? of ramen including Tsukemen (served? very cold, with broth on the side) and sak ?.
Not at all refreshed we go back on a direct bus, this time, to the Nijo-jo castle,
imposing palace (consisting of 5 buildings) surrounded by beautiful gardens full of cherry trees and azalea hedges. Fortunately, we get there around closing time and then a bit? of the flood of visitors? waned. Unfortunately not ? it is possible to photograph the interior, but the photos would not make the particularity anyway? of its painted rooms and above all the floor? a nightingale ?, which creaks at every step and which was built like this? for defensive purposes.
Does the LP not praise this place to us? enjoyed it immensely.
The unforgettable ones
We dedicate ourselves to the part for me more? fascinating and unmissable of Kyoto: Higashiyama Nord, full of sites, one more? beautiful of the other. Furthermore, we are lucky enough not to run into ocean crowds as in previous temples and this contributes greatly to making us appreciate every single thing.
We leave as always at dawn and as always from the central station. This time with bus no. 5, getting off at the Eikando-Michi stop to start our itinerary from the Nanzen-Ji temple complex. From the stop, find it not? just intuitive also why? the indications, apart from a couple at the beginning of the route, are all strictly in Japanese (however, to find out a bit once on the spot, is it in the street exactly parallel to that of the zoo?).
Finally we reach it, also why? first thing stands out in front of the stupendous and majestic main building to which if you want you can? access (for a fee) to go up to the first floor and enjoy a beautiful view of the city. We still find it closed but in any case we would have continued seeing that this? only a very small part of a whole multitude of minor temples, gardens and paths in the woods.
The pi? suggestive and usually neglected in fact? the Nanzen-ji Oku-no-in, a small sanctuary hidden on the mountain and reachable after a nice walk in the woods that first passes next to a cemetery and then climbs up a staircase that facilitates a bit? the things. The point of arrival? a suggestive waterfall under which the faithful pray while standing, even in the middle of winter. Despite the gray weather and the scarce flow d? water, the place, visited at dawn in complete solitude,? full of charm and even vaguely disturbing.
Back down from the woods and back on the main road outside the temple we look for the signs for the Tetsugaku-no-Michi, better known as The Path of Philosophy, a beautiful walk of about 40 minutes along a canal among flowering trees, plants of all kinds, wooden houses, even a little strange, and absolute peace.
About halfway? path is the sign for the Eikando: the temple, when we arrive, is not it? open to visits but the context and its gardens absolutely deserve the detour.
We continue on our way until we reach another famous and beautiful temple, the Ginkaku-ji, also known as the Silver Pavilion, (although the shogun's project to cover it entirely with a layer of silver was never realized), where the Path of Philosophy ends.
Here between school groups and various tourists, the crowd? immense. The temple in s? ? overshadowed by the sheer beauty of his garden, made up of? lakes? of meticulously raked white sand, cones built to reflect the moonlight, and then towering pine trees, grassy expanses like that. perfect to seem painted, panoramic views that open suddenly and even a path that climbs the mountain. To spend half a day quietly to see it all calmly and in all its parts. But we decide to give up the climb up the mountain and continue on our itinerary.
Just outside the temple, apart from a snack based on Dango (glutinous rice balls skewered and roasted, then covered with sweet soy sauce) we take the bus back to reach the area where the Imperial Palace (Gosho) stands. , which involves a bit of a bureaucratic path? complex to be visited, but we are content to see its majesty? from outside and to enjoy the pleasantness of its surrounding park.
Not ? pi? inhabited by the imperial family although coronations and other state ceremonies are still held there. Not ? certainly one of the main attractions of Kyoto but we wanted to see it and we did not regret it.
The fifth and sixth days we dedicate them to excursions around Kyoto (Nara and Hiroshima) which I will talk about? in the next posts.
We are aware that despite four very intense days we have neglected many other things that we would have liked to see. One above all the Nishiki market, not too far from our hotel, but we preferred to favor other destinations including the shopping streets, some shopping centers and a local supermarket, as we always do, in every new country we visit.
Did I read somewhere that Kyoto? a city? in which even spending a month there you never get bored and I found that? just so? why? pi? I checked the list of things that I had set out to see, more? the wishes increased.
Mi? enjoyed it so much with the buses, something we have never done with such ease? and such a pleasure in no other city? of the world, starting with ours, where I personally avoid them like the plague.
Did I appreciate a little? minus the kitchen but this in general throughout the trip, so I decided to talk about it, globally, in a separate post.
I found it for? comfortable and congenial, as the LP suggested, to eat in the innumerable rooms of the station and above all at Eat Paradise, of the Isetan department store, where an entire floor? dedicated to ready-to-go food, take away, with countless and surprising proposals of all kinds.
Not ? cheap, and you can easily get carried away among the variety? almost? endless proposals and tastings ranging from sweet to savory, from raw to cooked, from fish to meat, to fried, to finish with fruit and vegetable centrifuged.
Despite its huge beauties? a city? where to go (maybe a second time) without programs n? itineraries to follow. Simply to live it with its own calm and tranquility, mixing with its inhabitants, following their habits, savoring their customs and traditions.