Kyoto

August 17th, 2010

Our next stop after Nara was Kyoto.

Kyoto made a big impression on me.

It’s a relatively small city – about 1.5 million or so people live in it, and it seems you can’t walk down a street without running into several temples.

Again, with the class, we visited several temples.

Kyoto station, the central rail station in Kyoto, is an impressive structure.  Large and open, with areas that seem to be both indoors and outdoors all the same time.  It stands tall in the city, offering an impressive view of the skyline from the top, with many restaurants at the top, even a hotel exists within the station.  Our hotel was just across the street from the station, and from my room’s window I could see the shinkansen (bullet train) platform and watch the trains come and go.

There was a little Irish pub, Man in the Moon, if I remember right, just at one end of the station.  very close to our hotel, so we visited it more than once during our stay.  It was a good place to meet both locals and travelers who were able to speak English and have a chance to mix with the culture.  We even watched a world cup game there and met some nice Japanese girls to join us in cheering for Japan.  One night, the entire class went to the bar, and one older gentleman, a man named Senji, gifted us with a drink the bar termed the “megapint”  It contained about 4 pints of very good beer – hoegardeen to be specific.  Everyone in the class took a few gulps, and before we knew it, the megapint was empty.  I was surely surprised – not that it was finished, but as to the speed in which it was finished.

During our stay in Kyoto, we took day trips to Osaka, Hiroshima and Uji City.  We went to the top of the large Umeda building in Osaka and ate some damn good ramen.  Hiroshima was a sobering experience.  It’s one thing to read and learn about the atomic bomb and it’s power, it’s another thing to visit the site of detonation and see for yourself.  Afterward, we went and ate okonomiyaki, which was amongst the best foods I had in Japan.  And finally Uji city was, to me, a real treat.  A city with a large river and a tradition for tea.  We partook in a traditional tea ceremony, and the area had several traditional boats upon which visitors could dine while touring a small portion of the river.  For me, I mostly enjoyed the scenery and the little bit of culture surrounding the river.  I some of my favorite photographs came from this region.

Kyoto is a very traditional city in some ways.  They call it “The cultural Capital” of Japan.  It is not uncommon to see men women walking around in traditional clothes such as the Yukata or Kimono.  If you venture into the Gion area of the city, you will sometimes see women in full Geisha garb, complete with painted faces.  There are many traditional shops – some with very specific selection of goods – for example selling nothing but different kinds of paper, usually for calligraphy or origami.

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