Friday, September 16, 2016


We left Tokyo station this morning a bit after 9.00am for Kyoto (an almost 3 hour trip on the Shinkansen). We were impressed with the small army of cleaners who lined up to prepare our train for us!  Needless to say it was a very smooth (and very clean), immaculate service to Kyoto.
We dropped our bags off at our cool little hotel about 2-300 metres south of Kyoto railway station  and had plenty of time to pick up our walking tour group at the Central Post Office at 2.00pm. 

We caught a JR train to our first tour stop - the Tofukuji temple in SE Kyoto. The original temple (rebuilt a few times) was founded in 1236 and is one of the principal Zen Buddhism temples in Kyoto.
This view from the Tsutenkyo Bridge would be amazing in Autumn when the maples are in full colour!

The pic below is of the Hojo - the head priest's former living quarters - with its beautiful Zen gardens. 

The 22 metre tall Sanmon Gate to this temple is the oldest Zen gate of its kind, dating back to 1425.

From this beautiful Zen Buddhist temple complex we walked along some pretty Kyoto suburban streets........

.....until we eventually came to the entrance of Kyoto's very famous Shinto shrine - the brilliantly coloured (vermillion) Fushimi Inari Shrine.

This is what millions of origami paper cranes look like when you arrange them in garlands!

Fushimi Inari is famous for its thousands of vermillion coloured torii gates which straddle a pathway leading to the top of Mount Inari.  The shrine is dedicated to Inari the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari's messengers!

The torii gates  are donated by individuals and companies (for a price). The taller the gate the higher the cost of donation required!

Then our group caught the train back to Gion, Kyoto's most famous geisha district. The area is filled with shops, restaurants and teahouses where geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) and maiko (geisha apprentices) entertain.

 We spotted these two Maiko girls on their way to a teahouse (ochaya) in Hanami - koji Street
 The girls walk swiftly and with purpose - but they create quite a stir!
We also spotted a geiko - and were surprised to learn that once they have learnt their craft their dress, makeup and general appearance become much more "quiet, classy and elegant" (and almost unrecognisable on this street).
We also got a great view of this geiko "master" - a mature woman who trains geikos in their entertaining crafts. This "master" followed the Maikos into the teahouse - carrying the musical instruments they would use in performances.
 It was around 6.00pm by the time we'd got to the end of this fascinating walking tour. We all felt pretty whacked by now after our huge day. We walked through the magnificent Kyoto railway station to our cool little Sakura Gallery Hotel and enjoyed our (daily) free drink in the open air bar space before collapsing for the night.

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