After a disappointing ride in the Thunderbird train (it was fast but with that name, we expected more), we arrived mid-day at Kyoto, to another rainy afternoon. Tokyo is all the new, the bright lights, skyscrapers, cute food and colorful fashion. Kyoto is the old Japan, lots of temples and shrines, peaceful gardens, picturesque old districts. There are more than 1000 Buddhist temples and over 400 Shinto shrines. A lot of the local tourists dress up in kimonos for sightseeing, which looks extra nice in front of the dark wooden houses.
As we had a few days to visit Kyoto, we didn’t do much on the rainy day beside going to Nishiki Market, a narrow, five block long shopping marketplace, to try the different street food. The most eccentric one was Tako Tamago, a small glazed, grilled octopus on a skewer with a quail egg stuffed into the head. It was surprisingly tasty.
The good weather was back the next morning when we arrived for opening hour at Kinkaku-ji, one of our main highlights in Kyoto, a three-story pavilion with the top two floors covered in bright gold leaf. With the sun shining on it and the reflection in the pond, it’s an awesome sight! Next was Nijo Castle, built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa shogun (military leader). It‘s an impressive palace, with a beautiful gate and a sprawling setup with multiple separate buildings that are connected with each other by corridors with so called nightingale floors, as they squeak when stepped upon as a security measure against intruders. The walls are painted with an artistic rendition of tigers and leopards with funny looking hyena faces. Our day ended with the Miyako Odori, a music and dance spring performanceby the maiko and geiko of the Gion quarter (geishas and their apprentices). The motifs draw from classical Japanese culture and incorporate everyday life as well as folkloristic elements.