Following my adventures in Kyoto (for Part 1, see here), here’s the second part of my stay in the popular Japanese city!
After going to bed early the previous night (for me, before 21h30), we woke up bright and early the next morning around 5h15 to visit the Kiyomizu Temple, an UNESCO World Heritage site east of the city. As many tourists tend to visit this eighth-century Buddhist temple when in Kyoto, we decided to get there super early to beat the crowds (and the summer heat, too!).
The sun rises especially early in Japan (before 5h00!), so we had no trouble getting ourselves awake and going. Took a short taxi ride over to the temple, and spent about an hour taking a tour of the place. Located on top of hills, the Kiyomizu-dera, as it’s called, is named after the waterfalls around it. What makes it incredible is that not a single nail was used to build, let hold up the structure of, the building; instead, part of the wood are sort of semi-cut/hollowed out and fit in with other hollowed-out wood pieces- like Lincoln logs, if you know what I mean.
Another incredible thing is that, back in the Edo period, it was a tradition to jump off the temple’s 13-meter platform (the temple itself is built elevated above the ground) and if people survived the fall, their wish would come true. Interestingly, the recorded number of jumps in history shows that many of the attempts were successful (like, 85%!), but of course, one is prohibited from doing so today, for safety reasons. Good thing that it is, because I wouldn’t even dare try! 😛
I would have to say that the Kiyomizu temple was well-worth getting up early to see. True, it was rather plain in decoration, but then again, temples aren’t meant to be flashy like churches and cathedrals; the ordinary exterior shows the humbleness of the religion, Buddhism, and the fact that it’s surrounded by so many trees (almost covering it) demonstrates the Japanese’s desire in balancing practice with nature. That said, getting up at the crack of dawn (really!) was worth it: fewer people equals more peace and solitude for admiring the beauty of the temple. ❤
We returned to the hotel at 7h00, had breakfast, and headed out again for a stroll in the nature-y district of Kyoto, along the Takasegawa (a picturesque canal). Personally, I didn’t find the canal as lovely as it’s made out to be, perhaps due to the fact that it was overcast/rainy that day. But overall, it wasn’t bad.
Next, we went through Maruyama Park, which is famous for hosting cherry blossom viewings when the flowers are in bloom during the spring. Unfortunately, no cherry blossoms were in sight when we went, as the season was already over (fyi, cherry blossom season is extremely short, from February to May). We made a stop for some iced tea/coffee before heading over to the Higashiyama district, actually near the Kiyomizu temple. This historic district is not a flat, leveled place, but rather staggered with steps and narrow lanes leading to another level of souvenir stores, clothing shops, and eateries. It contains the Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka, two lanes which are the second and third-levels, respectively. That said, climb up the stairs and you’re in a different part of the district with a different name!
We wandered around the district, popping into some shops to look at and buy some edible treats for the road, aka more food. From dried plums to fragrant-flavored mochi, we tried and bought ’em all! As for non-food items, we purchased some vibrantly-colored coin purses (shaped like fishes, cats, people) and even dropped by a Totoro-themed store, since we are Hayao Miyazaki fans.
For lunch, we had a heavy, Western-influenced meal, a Japanese-Italian blend of spaghetti, bread rolls, and matcha chiffon cake for dessert. I was super full as heck afterwards! We returned to our hotel for some rest before heading out again later that day for a tour around the modern, shopping district of Kyoto.
At 15h00, we went out to the Teramachi and Shinkyogoku shopping areas to check out what it had to offer for tourists and locals alike. Mind you, though, I wasn’t feeling very well that afternoon, even though I wanted to check out as much as I could in the shopping districts. I ended up going, but the experience was not pleasant at all: my extreme discomfort was primarily due to *erm* my “time of the month,” as well as having that heavy lunch and the East-Asian humidity was definitely not helping! I tried putting on my game face while shopping around, but in the end, I just went back to the hotel to rest. Didn’t bother going out again later that evening, even for dinner- I just stayed in.
However, there was a plus: before making my way back to the hotel, I stopped by a Starbucks and got myself a baked cheesecake frappuccino! Now, I rarely go to Starbucks, but a friend who had studied abroad before in Japan recommended me beforehand to get the cheesecake frappuccino, as it was not only a flavor exclusively in Japan, but also for a limited time. I have to say, the drink tasted exactly like a plain cheesecake: creamy, smooth, and custard-like. Yummy! 😛
…and that’s about it for now! Although that day took a big toll on me– physically and mentally– getting rest helped me get better and get myself geared up for the following day (like brand-new!). Made me realize that traveling, while an enjoyable activity, can also be very draining and sometimes, you just need to know your limits- and that it’s totally fine to have a day’s rest to recover.
All right, next up: Osaka, Japan! 😀
— The Finicky Cynic
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