Monday, January 05, 2015

Kyoto's Natural Beauty

Back to Japan!  Flying back from the Bay Area, we took a weeklong layover in Japan.  It was a long journey to get into a bed - from San Jose, CA to Narita, then a train ride from Narita to Tokyo, dropped off our bigger luggages at our hotel in Tokyo, and then another bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka.  Close to 24 hours.  Whew.  It's a sweaty adventure hauling all our 2 months worth of luggages around.  Which reminds me, advice for packing in Japan: pack efficiently so you can travel from point to point within the country with ease.

After a couple of nights in Osaka, we hired a hotel van to take us from Osaka to Kyoto.  Prior trips to Kyoto we took bullet trains and local trains, about 20-30 minutes each way.  This time around, and with our heavy luggages, we decided to take a little roadtrip to see the sights along the way.

In the 2 hour drive, there really wasn't much to see (unlike roadtrips around Europe where the scene changes frequently).  However, the clean, efficient highways are quite admirable.  Once you enter the Kyoto area, the city is pretty spread out.  Driving around the city, I realized it's actually pretty necessary to get around the city via a vehicle or by the various train lines combined with a lot of walking.

The in-town drive revealed so many hidden enclaves humbly showing off Kyoto's natural beauty.  This city personifies nature.  Clean, orderly, green, lush, mountains, water.. it has it all.  There are endless temples, gardens, and paths.  It's overwhelming if you're in the city for a short stay, in our case for one night.

One of the main landmarks we visited was the city's famous Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion.  Crowds and crowds huddled on designated sides for their best photo opportunity.  And then serene, clean, shimmering beauty of the golden temple on the water.

Another highlight of the trip was a walk along the Kamagawa River, located right next to our hotel, the Ritz Carlton (more on the hotel in my next post).  The wide river has huge step stones to cross the calm water, bridges for cards and pedestrians, and restaurants lining the water for patrons to enjoy the quiet setting.  The small city has so many restaurants along the river, in side streets, along the main roads, and in covered street alleys.  Eating is non-stop and endless.

Kyoto is a beautiful break from the bigger cities like Tokyo and Osaka.  Many parts of Kyoto have modernized over the years, with name brand department stores and shopping brands.  And despite that, the city has managed to preserve its history and natural beauty.

Golden Pavilion

The most famous of Kyoto's temples

With the contained crowds capturing its beauty

Driving within the city

Walking around the city against the sunset

So clean!

Safe, clean paths of pedestrians, bicyclists, and cars

Restaurant entrances along the river

Big, busy streets lined with trees

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