After a blitz in Tokyo, it was time to hop on a bullet train to our next destination… Kyoto!
Kyoto was once the Imperial capital of Japan and is now famous for its temples, gardens, shrines and the elusive geisha. We stayed in the historic Higashiyama district near Kiyomizu-dera Temple, which was busy with tourists during the day but at sundown it was a ghost town! We had so much fun exploring Kyoto but barely scratched the surface with a 3 night stay. Good thing we need to re-visit Tokyo because we can catch the train to Kyoto for more time as well!
We woke up early and took the train to Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. This is the most important spiritual dedication to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, and famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates. We learned that each gate has been donated and the inscription represents the name of the donor, alongside their wish of health, wealth or happiness.
It was another early morning for us but this time to visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. It was well worth the effort to go here first thing before the crowds arrived! Also just a short walk from the main bamboo strip, there is the beautiful Okochi Sanso. It was once the villa and garden of a 1920’s film star but now a quiet oasis in an otherwise very touristy area. One of my favorite places we visited in Kyoto.
The city of Nara is another easy train ride from Kyoto. Nara Park is famous for its free roaming deer. According to local folklore, Sika deer from this area were once considered sacred. Today, they seem to be more of a liability, 164 people were injured feeding crackers to the deer in the last two years. Still made for some fun photos and luckily we walked away with only a few nibbles on our clothes.
We planned a half day in Nara and visited the Tōdai-ji Buddhist Temple. Housed in its Great Hall is the biggest bronze Buddha in the world. The Great Hall is made entirely of wood and has been rebuilt twice after fires. The current structure is from 1709 and they chose to reduce the size by 30%. It’s difficult to imagine the original because the building is massive! We also stopped by Nigatsudo Hall, located on the grounds. About this time, it started to rain so we opted for some lunch and missed a few of the other temples.
Arigato Japan for a great family trip!