Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Rkidz's Japan Travel Blog - Day 9: Travelling to Kyoto (day 1)

Day 9.
Kyoto, the historical city.

After a really amazing 3 days at the Comiket, it's time to continue my travel all around Japan. My next destination is Kyoto. To get there, I have to use the Shinkansen (bullet train), which is a new experience for me. These modern marvels can travel up to 320 km/h. Talk about fast. The train itself was very comfortable and once inside you won't even notice the speed. The regular one way fare from Tokyo to Kyoto is 13,080 yen by non-reserved seat on any train, around 13,500 yen ($131) by reserved seat on Hikari or Kodama trains and around 14,000 ($136) yen by reserved seat on a Nozomi train. Thankfully I have the JR Pass which is a really, really convenient pass if you are a tourist wanting to travel all around Japan and only cost $276 for a 7-days Japan Rail Pass. With this pass, you can ride on almost all trains operated on the nationwide network of JR (Japan Railways), including shinkansen, limited express, express, rapid and local trains. For a long term trip, this is a must have. More details regarding the JR Pass can be found here and here. From Tokyo, I reached Kyoto in less than 3 hours.

If I had to describe Kyoto in one word, it had to be Kyoto = Temples. This city has numerous temples and shrine scattered all over the places, and each one of them has their own unique look and feels. I don't really have the time and energy to visit each and every one of them, so I've decided to visit a select few. The first temple I went to is the Toji Temple. It is a rather large temple with tall pagoda in its beautiful garden. Toji's five storied pagoda stands 57 meters tall, making it the tallest pagoda in Japan, and has become a symbol of both the temple and Kyoto as it can be seen from many places across the city. Toji Temple is one of Kyoto's many UNESCO world heritage sites. To enter, there is a fee of 500 yen, but the view around the area is worth it. I also noticed that they are preparing for a festival and decided to come back again later in the night.

The next temple I went to were the Nishi Honganji and Higashi Honganji temples. These two large temples in the center of Kyoto act as a headquarters of the two factions of the Jodo-Shin Sect (True Pure Land Sect), one of Japan's largest Buddhist sects. Both of these temples were located near to each others, and looks fairly identical. They are free to enter, and is a good place to experience the unique atmosphere of Japanese religious site. Nishi Honganji is also designated an UNESCO world heritage site.

Later in the evening, I went up to the third tall tower of the trip; the Kyoto Tower. Standing 131 meters tall just across Kyoto Station, Kyoto Tower is Kyoto's tallest building and a rare modern iconic landmark in the city famous for its ancient temples and shrines. A viewing platform is located 100 meters above ground and affords a 360-degree view of Kyoto and as far as Osaka on clear days. Kyoto Tower stands on top of a typical commercial building and to enter there is an entrance fee of 770 yen. While not as tall as Tokyo Skytree or Tokyo Tower, the surrouding view is still a sight to behold. Looking at the city basking on the golden evening sunlight is one heck of an experience.

The third place I went to before the sun sets out is the Fushimi Inari Shrine, an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. There is no entrance fee which is always great. The shrine itself have a really attractive look, with bright red colour and beautiful architecture. Behind it the entrance to the torii gate trails. The torii gates along the entire trail are donations by individuals and companies with donator's name and the date of the donation inscribed on the back of each gate. It is such a mysterious and amazing feeling walking under the gates.

Later on in the night, I managed to experience Japan own Bon Odori festival back at the Toji Temple. It is a must go event during the summer. There were lots of people coming, dancing together and enjoying the lively festive on the temple ground. I didn't hesitate to taste the food sold by the stands there, including shaved ice and candy apple. I had watched lots of anime featuring the summer festival again and again, but experiencing it itself is a whole different story. It was indeed a very memorable experience.

It was a very amazing day, visiting this ancient, historic city. Next up, Kyoto day 2.

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