DAY 5 IN JAPAN
At first, going to Kyoto was just an option in my itinerary. But after some convincing from people who’ve been there, I decided to go ahead and book a one-day tour of Kyoto via JapanICan. I went alone (yet again) for this day; but I did not regret it. Kyoto is an absolutely beautiful city. And considering that we just went to six out of the many, many temples and castles there, I wouldn’t mind going back to explore more of the city in the future.
I will share highlights about the places we went to. Below them is a gallery, which will show you just how pretty and well-preserved the historical sites are. I love how Japan values its heritage. Seeing such a rich history up close at this day and age is rare. I really loved the escape this short trip gave me. It’s definitely a stop you should make if given the opportunity to go to Osaka, since Kyoto is just a 30-minute train ride away.
Our first stop was Nijo Castle. This is a castle that served as lodging for the Tokugawa Shogun in the 1600s. Here, we were able to walk by the many chambers that go deeper and deeper depending on your ranking. Each room has intricate wood carvings and paintings on the walls. Most of what I saw are already reproductions because the originals are being preserved. However, we got to see some original wall paintings as well.
What I remember most about Nijo Castle is its “nightingale floors.” The floors of the corridors squeak like birds whenever anyone steps on them. This protects the occupants from sneak attacks or unwanted visitors. It was so cool hearing such a sound as we were walking through the castle.
KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (THE GOLDEN PAVILION)
Our second stop was Kinkakuji Temple. It’s a huge garden complex with The Golden Pavilion as its main attraction. It’s a Zen Buddhist Temple that has been built and rebuilt in the past century. It has an amazing landscape design, with an almost flawless view from all angles. It was pretty surreal seeing it in person, like I was transported into a painting.
KYOTO IMPERIAL PALACE
Our last stop in the morning was Kyoto Imperial Palace. It is the former ruling palace of the Emperor of Japan. It is a massive area with a number of structures that we only had glimpses of from the outside. It has the Emperor’s Habitual Residence, the Imperial Library, the Court Room, among others. Entrance here is pretty strict. We had to fill up forms with our information. We also had to walk in pairs and were escorted by guards while going around the grounds.
HEIAN JINGU SHRINE
After lunch, we proceeded to Heian Shrine. It’s a Shinto (belief that everything has a kami or spiritual essence) shrine with a huge garden within its grounds. Here, we saw hanging ema. Ema are small wooden plaques where wishes or desires are written upon and left in the shrine in the hopes that they may be fulfilled. They also sell protective amulets and talismans at the shrine. It offered us a glimpse into the beliefs of this ancient Japanese practice.
Next, we went to the Sanjusangen-do Temple. It is a Buddhist temple whose main deity is a huge Thousand Armed Kannon in the middle. On its left and right side, there are 1,000 life-size statues of the Thousand Armed Kannon. On top of that, there are also 28 statues in front of the Kannon that serve as guardian deities. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the temple; but it was pretty mind-blowing to see all those intricately made statues in one room.
Our final stop was the Kiyomizu Temple. It is a Buddhist temple which is atop the hill. What’s most interesting about this structure is that there is not a single nail used constructing it.
On the way up to the temple, there are a number of shops and stalls where tourists could get their fill of Kyoto souvenirs. We were allowed to go around on our own before going back to the bus. And with that, we made our way back to Osaka.
Here’s just some of the sights I could share from this brief Kyoto trip.
After a long day of sightseeing, I had breakfast for dinner at Brothers Cafe. Yum!
And with that, I packed my bags that evening and left Osaka bright and early on DAY 6. This, after all, had to end some time.
All in all, Osaka was a truly epic, unforgettable trip. I do not regret plopping down some savings to finally travel to Japan. The sights, the culture, the food… everything summed up to a unique and exciting experience.
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