This is a detailed post of my 2 weeks long solo backpacking trip to Japan. Please see preview and itinerary/index of my complete trip on this post.
Day 2 – Kyoto
Welcome to the 21st century
Night was cold and my bed was amazingly cosy. I did not have proper sleep last night so I wanted to take it easy this morning. I got up around 9AM and made myself a hot coffee. Most hostels in Japan provide free tea/coffee all day long. Balcony of my floor did have some chair to sit in open air. Though it did not have any great view. And cold wind made the weather nippy.
Quickly arranging my stuff, I headed to shared bathroom of the floor. All function of the toilet pot, hot shower, bath tub were controlled by electric panels. And most of the options were written in Japanese. Fortunately all important options were marked with figures to make them Non Japanese friendly by the hostel staff. Toilet pot was preheated. Isn’t it amazing? Sitting on a preheating pot on a pretty cold day, Once I dumped my stuff, a single button push on electric panel sprayed my bottom with warm water. I could see option to adjust water temperature. I had to decode a similar panel in shower as well. This is not all, once I was done taking shower, I realized the mirror on wall was also temperature controlled. Only non-useful section of the mirror had fog on it. Rest all was fog free. I never knew our bathrooms had so much room for improvement. Welcome to Japan! Country of automation! Welcome to 21st century
I waited for a while for a bot to come and dress me but that did not happen 😉 I see a room for improvement already.
As my journey will unfold, I will share how Japanese people have automated small recurring daily tasks, fixed basic inconveniences in houses and how everyone in Japan takes their job very seriously
Daily breakfast quandary
I have been following this lady named Sandy Robson for a while now. She is a sea kayaker and is kayaking from Germany to Australia right now, all alone. I dropped a message to her asking how she manages food while on the go. Though at times she sleeps on inhabited islands but that may not be always possible and what about lunch? She gracefully responded with details of snacks she carries for maintaining a balanced diet. Though my journey was not away from civilization but still I wanted to be prepared for worst case if I do not find vegetarian food everywhere. I stocked up enough Granola and dehydrated fruits (Apples and plums) to last for a few days. I decided to have a breakfast of Granola and dehydrated fruits on all days and it went quite well throughout my trip. Besides being healthy and filling, this was really a nice way of some saving money on breakfast cost. Granola goes well with almost anything. Plain water, milk or as dried snacks.
Most hostels in Japan do not have BB options, but have kitchenettes instead, so you can help yourself if you want to.
Local travel like a local
Taxis in Japan are expensive. So unless you have a family, it doesn’t really make sense to hire a taxi. Kyoto has a dense network of buses and I found it more convenient than trains. All places of tourist attraction are better connected by buses and buses can take you through lanes of eastern hills, where all temple/shrines are located. A single bus ride over minimum distance costs 230Y while a one day city bus pass costs 500Y. City bus pass allows infinite travels on city bus for one day. So it can be rather used as hop on and hop off service. So on all of my days in Kyoto I bought a bus pass which provided me enough flexibility to move around anywhere without think much about ticket charges. City bus pass can be bought from the bus captain or any convenience stores also.
Full Bloom welcome in Kyoto
You know you have nailed it in terms of timing, when you are welcomed by views like this.
My day one in Kyoto was started by a visit to eastern hills of Kyoto. I had no specific itinerary for next 3-4 days, but I had a list of shrines to see. I got down at the bus stop Heian Shrine. Most of other shrines can be walked from here or a local bus can also be used to traverse.
Heian Shrine (平安神宮, Heian Jingū) is not really too old. It was only constructed in 1895. Heian is the former name of Kyoto. Shrine is characterized by a huge lawn which is used for cultural festivals and has few weeping cherry trees.
While I was setting up my tripod these two beautiful ladies asked me to click their photograph from their instant (?) camera. I felt puzzled and clicked without touching any controls. Hope the shot was okay! I asked them to pose for my camera as well, to which they gracefully obliged.
Ladies wearing kimono dress is not uncommon in Kyoto. But this is really rare in Tokyo and anywhere else. Its surprising to see such variation in dressing sense across two biggest cities of Japan. Probably that’s why Kyoto is also known as cultural capital of Japan.
Entry to the shrine is free but a garden on its side has a paid entry. Entry to the garden is charged at 600Y per person. Garden itself is not very huge but has a good display of weeping cherry trees. Weeping cherry trees bear flower which are pink to magenta in color. Unlike other tress which have white, cream or off-white colored flowers. They have dangling branches that’s why they have to be externally supported. Garden itself was good but it appeared that these trees have not yet reached full bloom (or was it over?)
Walking on The Philosopher’s path
Philosopher’s Path is a pedestrian street in northern Higashiyama district. It is one of the top notch place to visit in cherry blossom season as it has hundreds of cherry trees lined up along a canal. Path itself is over a Kilometer long. Philosopher’s Path gets its name due to Nishida Kitaro, one of Japan’s most famous 20th century philosophers, was said to practice meditation while walking this route on his daily commute to Kyoto University. I too tried walking on same route but only felt hungry. Thankfully cafes and restaurants are also lined up along the route. After having a quick coffee and cake I resumed my walk along the canal. Needless to say road was quite crowded.
Silver Pavilion – Where is the Silver?
At the Northern end of the path lies Ginkakuji Temple (銀閣寺, or Silver Pavilion). Ginkakuji, dating back to 1490, is a zen temple famous of its beautiful moss garden and a unique dry sand garden known as the “Sea of Silver Sand”. Although the name suggests a temple with some silver finishing, there is nothing made of up silver. Temple charges a entry fees of 500Y.
Dear clouds, You have spoiled my entire day again. I will see you after sunset 😀
Dejected by continuous bad weather, I was gearing up for night illumination of cherry tress and Yasaka shrine. Hoping it do not rain!