Monday, November 21, 2005

Kyoto, Kyoto Desu

For the past several weeks I have been pondering/ planning on taking a trip to Kyoto to admire the fine fall foliage. While I did end up downsizing from a weekend to a day trip, I still managed to get my completely lazy and not too healthy rear down to Nagoya Station. I aimed for this weekend as I heard it was maple season, and I heard right. While there were still plenty of green trees, the maples looked like land bound fireworks! The Shinkansen runs about every 10- 15 minutes, and takes only 40 minutes or so to reach Kyoto. The Shinkansen is the ONLY way to travel. Fast, comfortable, and a really smooth ride, what more could you ask of a train?

Once in Kyoto I headed to Kiyomizu-dera. This is one of the cities main landmarks, and one of the few major sights I didn't manage to see on my last trip. It really did live up to its billing, with beautiful views of the city. Unfortunately it also lived up to the reputation for crowds. Even on a Monday Morning it was jammed with people, locals and tourists alike. You could even say that there were throngs of people, luckily I'm taller than most Japanese, so I could still see the nice views. ;-)

From there I hopped on another bus (the right one, finally figured out the Kyoto bus system) to Ginkaku-ji. While I had seen it before, I heard that the garden there really came alive in the fall, and indeed it did. The brilliance of the colors there were quite astounding, and I did what I could to capture them on film. Leading back toward the center of the city from Ginkaku-ji is the Philosopher's Way, a path that is more famous for its Cherry Blossoms than its fall leaves. It was still very nice, and led me all the way to Eikando Temple.

Now a student had told me that I had to go to Eikando, so I went. I didn't think I had been there, but it turns out I had, I took refuge there during a rain storm last time. The weather was much nicer this time around. The colors and the temple were also amazing. Unfortunatly half of Kyoto was there to enjoy it with me! Eikando was jam packed with people. There was even a special exhibition of temple treasures, just in case there wasn't enough to draw people there. It was totally worth it though, amazingly beautiful. In one little area, tucked between the cliff and the temple buildings was only lit by light reflected from the trees further up the hillside. The air there glowed with orange, red, and brilliant yellow, like the inside of natures own neon sign. It was an amazing sight, and one that a camera can simply not capture. At least not mine!

Last on my list was heading back to Fushimi-Inari. This is hands down one of my favorite places in Japan. It is also certainly close to the top in my list of 'great places of the world, 'along with Notre Dame de Paris and the Cliffs of Mohr in County Galway. Those who saw my pictures will undoubtedly remember the photos of row upon row of the red painted Shinto Torii. They stretch for kilometers up and down a mountain south of Kyoto. The bright red torii and the dark green of the forest makes for a potent visual combo, especially at dusk. I made it to the top of the mountain just in time to watch the last vestiges of the sun disappear over the horizon. Then I headed back down, towards the train station. I was back in Nagoya by 6:30, poorer in cash but richer in memories and photos. And I still had time for a couple of beers, some bowling, and a burger. (89 and 94 if you must know, yes I know I'm not very good, I just need some more practice)

Ahh the good old Shinkansen.

The Pagoda at Kiyomizu-dera.

Kiyomizu-dera in all its glory.

A glorious spray of leaves near Ginkaku-ji.

The entrance to Eikando.

Maples dot the hillside above Eikando.


Torii are are good. More Torii are better.

The Sun sets over Kyoto.

At night Fushimi Inari can get a little spooky, but retains its unique beauty.

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