Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Kyoto, Hiroshima & Miyajima

So after only a couple of days in Tokyo, we carried on to Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan. With our Japan Rail Passes that we bought in San Diego, we're able to travel on any JR train in Japan. The high speed train from Tokyo to Kyoto took about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Not too shabby! They sure are nice trains, and they sure go quick! Enough to make Nicole feel ill by looking out the window! :)

It was a rainy day in Kyoto, so we just settled into the bAKpAK Hostel and did laundry. Not that great of a hostel but it had an awesome location. We were in an 8-bed mixed dorm room, which got packed to 12 people on our last night...

On our first full day in Kyoto, we ventured out on a little circuit walk. First we went to the Kiyomizu Temple and Jishu Shrine. A university student named Shiho approached us and offered a free guided tour so that she could practice her English! We gratefully accepted, and she was great! The temple was quite scenic, with a view over the city and the shrine was to the God of love and good matches! So that was kinda fun. Thanks Shiho!
We carried on through small, scenic, crowded steets (it was the weekend afterall), up to Maruyana Park and then back to the hostel. We spent the late afternoon in the shopping district, up the street from the hostel. Quite an amazing experience. It was outdoor, but with a roof over our heads. Streets that had been converted into a mall. Amazing and crowded. No cars could drive through but that didn't stop scooters, motorcycles and bikes. The lights in the evening were similar to Times Square.

The next day, we did a longer walk, a much longer walk. We started off at the Heian Shrine which had a beautiful garden and lake surrounding it. We made a stop at a small Vegetarian Festival that was going on next to it, then carried on up the pretty Philosophers Path to the Ginkakuji Temple (Silver Pavilion). Not quite as cool as the previous day's Temple. Then we walked through the grounds of the old Imperial Palace (from before the capital was moved to Tokyo), but you couldn't see much of the palace so we carried on to the Nijo Castle. This had two moats. After the first moat, we were able to tour through the Shogun's residence buildings. We weren't able to go into the castle of the inner moat, but we were able to go up the stairs on top of the dungeon that provided a decent view. All in a good day's walk.

Our last day in Kyoto, we used the train to visit Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion). It sure was golden! Quite bright. It also had nice gardens and ponds to walk amongst. Next we visited the Ryoanji Temple which is famous for its Zen Rock Garden. We weren't quite able to find zen... but it was interesting. A nice temple anyway with a nice large pond to walk around. We were back at the hostel mid afternoon and we headed to the train station.

One transfer at Osaka and we were on to Hiroshima. The super-express from Osaka to Hiroshima was only about an hour and 45 minutes. Amazing. We hopped on the tram for 20 minutes, followed by a short 5 minute walk and we were at the J-Hoppers Traditional Hostel! A VERY cool hostel. Was once a traditional Japanese style hotel. Take your shoes off at the door! Our private room consisted of Japanese style doors, traditional floor, and folding cots to sleep on. Pretty cool actually. The staff were really nice and the common areas were pretty good. We probably should have planned to stay longer.

We toured Hiroshima, starting with the Peace Memorial Park and Museum. The museum consisted of information regarding the lead-up to World War II, the reasons for and the droppings of the atomic bombs, and the reconstruction efforts thereafter. Very well done and quite interesting. Unbelievable, that's for sure. Hard to imagine that the park where we were, and a couple of kilometers around it, were just utterly and completely destroyed in a matter of about one second, some 62 years ago. Incredible and heartbreaking. They certainly have done a fabulous job of rebuilding the city, and making it a symbol of peace. It's great to see.

After walking through the park, we went to Hiroshima Castle. Unfortunately, the original was destroyed by the bomb, but they reconstructed it to look like the original (VERY cool) and made a museum of the inside. The museum was a little bland, but somewhat interesting. The view from the top of the castle was worth the trip.

Today, we visited Miyajima, one of many small islands in the Seto Inland Sea off the south coast of Japana. It took us half an hour to travel on the JR train and Ferry for no extra fees, from Hiroshima! It was a pretty awesome day. Right off the bat, we were welcomed by deer! Deer that are actually indigenous to the island for the past 6000 years! Now they are very tame and used to people. We went to see the Itsukushima Shrine and its O-torii Gate (the main attraction of the island).At high tide, the shrine and gate appear to be floating. Unfortunately, we were there at low tide, but it meant we could walk right out to the gate. Then we walked up to the picturesque Five-storied Pagoda before walking through the small shopping arcade. From there, we walked through Momijidani Park to a tram (ropeway as they call it), which took us 430m above sea level. We hiked the extra kilometer up to the top of Mount Misen at 535m above sea level. There were pretty temples along the way, including one that housed an Eternal Flame that had been burning for hundreds of years! At the top, we were greeting by large boulders and a viewing platform. Unfortunately it was a little hazy/smoggy for a distant view, but it was nice nonetheless. By the time we were back down, the sun was getting low in the sky. We took the ferry and train back to Hiroshima and have now arrived at a hostel in Fukuoka. We are here for seven days to tour Kyushu, the southern island of Japan. We've settled in and are looking forward to a great week!

Kyoto Pics | Hiroshima Pics | Miyajima Pics

1 Comments:

At November 29, 2007 at 10:07 AM , Blogger Tim and Daneille said...

I've only just started reading your blogs Jason, but already I am in awe! An amazing amount of detail! I'm wondering if Nicole is busy writing her stuff in her journal? It works the same way with me and Tim - he blogs, I write on paper :) Anyway, what an amazing journey! Hopefully we can join up with you sometime this spring :D

 

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