I liked Kyoto – the karaoke was cheap, the food great, the sights impressive. We did have to use buses, rather than trains, to get around, and I always find that more difficult, but I handed that responsibility to Xav whom I christened ‘Mr Transport’. However, I still don’t know if I would want to spend much more time in Kyoto. I wouldn’t mind going back for a day, and a night, but not much longer. As Geoff said, it is a lot less accessible than Tokyo, or even Hiroshima, in terms of language. Also, it seemed that the night life was kind of limited to a smallish area (small in comparison to the size of the city, and its population).
We arrived, found our hostel to unload our luggage and then headed back to the train station. It’s the first train station I have seen listed in a guide book as worth seeing as a ‘sight’. It was definitely worth it, we probably spent a couple of hours riding the crazy escalators, hanging out in the sky garden, and wandering along the sky walk, before finding dinner in one of the food courts.
The next day we did the self guided walking tour, outlined in the Lonely Planet. We started the walk a few blocks before the LP start point, which resulted in us climbing 536 steps up to a Mausoleum. The old man at the entrance charged us 50 yen each, and because it was April 1st when we did this we later joked it was his April Fool’s joke on us!
Anyway, after that slight detour we followed the LP’s instructions, and hit the major sites of SE Kyoto – the temples were packed, and the gardens even more full of people enjoying ‘Ohanami’ – watching the sakura and eating and drinking, sitting on tarps underneath the trees! That night we went out for dinner and karaoke.
The following day we took on the bus system – and got excellent value out of our day pass. We went out to the Golden Temple, which was busy even at 9.15am, and to a textile centre to watch a kimono show, before doing some more cherry blossom spotting!
For our last night in Kyoto we slept in a temple, but of course went out for karaoke in downtown Kyoto before returning to the temple for bed. We took a tour of the temple the next morning, and it was filled with symbols of hidden Christianity, as it was built in the period when Christianity was banned in Japan. The tour guide – the vice-abbot – used to live in America, and had decent English. They have some seriously valuable artwork in the temple – and so in an attempt to conserve it the tours are only run in English.