Tuesday, June 22, 2010


About 45 minutes from Osaka is the "town" of Kyoto. The small-feeling city of 1.5 million people is probably best known for the climate treaty that was originally ratified here...but, once you've been to Kyoto, you'll only think of the huge number of amazing temples and shrines. This UNESCO World Heritage Site and former capital of Japan is just chock-full of well-preserved, pre-World War II buildings due to the relatively light bombing of the area during the war.

I went to Kyoto in the spring of last year but only saw part of the city. I jumped at the chance this time to go back and see some more. For this post, I'm using pictures from both trips.

During my trip last year, I visited the famous golden temple Kinkakuji. The top two floors of the temple are covered with gold leaf, which is very impressive in person. It was originally built in 1397 as a retirement villa but has been rebuilt several times due to fire damage. The grounds of the temple are made up of several very scenic ponds and Japanese strolling gardens, which are probably worth the visit on their own.

My next stop was the Kiyomizu-dera temple that is built on the side of a hill overlooking Kyoto. Due to its being surrounded by tall trees, the entire complex has a feel of a series of tree houses. The buildings are spectacular to look at and are even more impressive when you find out that not one nail was used in their construction.

When you look down from one of the many "patios" built along the sides of the buildings, you realize just how high up you are. The substructure is, at least from an engineering point of view, just as beautiful as the buildings built on it.

Something I just recently learned is that there is a saying in Japanese akin to the English saying "take the plunge" (as in making a commitment). It says something like "to jump off the platform at Kiyomizu". Apparently, if you survive the jump, your wish would be granted. About 85% of the people who have done this have survived...

As I mentioned, the temple is above the city on a hillside. You can see a lot of Kyoto from the various buildings and platforms. I didn't get the chance to see the view at night as I'd imagine seeing all the lights below would be impressive but the day-time view was nice.

The Kiyomizu-dera temple gets its name from the waterfalls that run through the complex. Kiyomizu means roughly "pure (as in clean) water". One of the falls that goes under the main part of the temple is divided into three channels and during your visit you get the opportunity to drink some of the water with a cup on a long stick. Each channel's water signifies either wisdom, health, or longevity. It is considered selfish if you drink from all three but two is okay. I didn't realize the significance of the three channels while I was there and only drank from one. It's obvious that I didn't drink from the wisdom one... I wonder which one it was...

In another area of Kyoto, there's a neat bamboo forest that you can walk through. I liked the white bamboo most:

Inside the bamboo forest is a tea house that's included in the price of admission. I'd love to live in a house like this:

Here are some photos that show other random cool/amazing/beautiful buildings that I came across in Kyoto:

When I left Kyoto and headed to Nagasaki last year, I took the Shinkansen (the Japanese high-speed train). You don't realize how fast you're going while on the train because it's so smooth and quiet. It isn't until you notice how blurry everything that is close to the train looks. Here's a picture as it approaches the station:

And, because of my addiction to Japanese food (and as some have requested), here's a food-porn photo...a shot of my bento that I had on the train:

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