Friday, 3 October 2008

First Morning in Kyoto

For our first day in Kyoto we had signed up for a bus tour of the city, so we had to get up and find our way back to the train station. We were quite surprised when the way back only took us 20 minutes (since it had taken us more than an hour the night before when we wandered around lost in the dark.)

Our neighborhood was a lovely traditional one just south of the famous medieval entertainment district of Gion. This is the building across the street from our hotel room.

We crossed the river and saw birds having their breakfast

and also this interesting garden being.

We stopped in a Starbucks and met some nice American women who worked for Microsoft (notice the Seattle connection) and then met our tour group at the hotel. Our first stop was Nijo castle. This was a moated castle built by the Shogun essentially to demonstrate his power over the feudal lords and emperor.

(This image courtesy of

Here you can see the moat that protected the castle from casual invaders.

These walls are of huge stones all joined without any mortar.

The castle is a double walled affair. First one enters through this gate.

and eventually makes one's way to the actual castles.

Unfortunately many of the buildings have been destroyed by fire and the vagaries of time, but what is left is still quite lovely and impressive.

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the castle, but I found this shot of one of the ceilings at

The castle is famous for its security measures including non-hidden rooms for Ninja body guards so that they could be called immediately and the famous Nightingale floors, or uguisubari (鴬張り). These were floors with nails that hit metal jackets below the floor whenever weight was applied. They sang to warn of an intruder.

Outside there is a lovely garden in the Japanese style with 7 islands or rocks each with symbolic significance.

Our next stop was Kitano Ten-Mangu shrine. Here are some images from our stop there:

Here is Chris appreciating the beauty of the shrine.

The carvings were absolutely wonderful!

The weather had begun to clear and it was becoming a beautiful day (which was nice because our next stop would be enhanced by the addition of sunlight.

Our next stop was the incomparable Kinkaku-ji - the golden temple of Kyoto.

My last visit to Kyoto had been on an overcast day and it was of course still lovely, but there is no comparison to seeing the Temple lit up by the beauty of the sun.

Here is our guide - who had a marvelous sense of humor and kept us well entertained and informed.

And here is one last glimpse of the temple.

Okay, maybe two...

...and then we headed to the Kytoto Crafts center for lunch.

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