Saturday, May 3, 2008

Kyoto:The Old Capital of Japan Part 1

Well on our 6th day in Japan we boarded a Hikari Shinkansen for our trip to Kyoto. We were very excited to be heading there as we knew we would see lots of old buildings and temples. On our approach to Kyoto station we were a little surprised as it was a lot more modern than we were actually expecting.
So we worked out how to get the train to our Ryokan, Aoi So Inn. This was a very handy spot to stay. 3 minutes walk from the closest subway stop and about 10 minutes travel time from central Kyoto. So our first day we hopped on the subway to find our pick up point for our 1/2 day Kyoto tour and then went exploring. Staying on Karasuma-dori we soon found a huge Shinto shrine called Higashi Hongan-ji, undergoing a massive restoration project. This meant we were unable to go into the main building but we were able to look around the grounds, where I found this beautiful purification area.

And here is the main gate:

Cherry blossoms were every where. Along the banks of the Kamo-gawa they were beautiful. This is the street outside Higashi Hongan-ji:

The banks of the Kamo-gawa.

So our first full day in Kyoto saw us join a tour which was part of our package. We were headed for two palaces and one temple/shrine followed by lunch at the Kyoto Handicrafts centre.

Our first stop on the tour was Nijo-jo, which was the family seat of the Tokugawa Shoguns. Unfortunately this is a very delicate building and photos of the interior are not able to be taken. This palace has the Nightingale floors as part of the original security. This was amazing to hear and then to see the costruction underneath. This floor was designed so that no one could sneak up and eavesdrop on conversations. In the more private areas of the palace the nightingale floor was not used. Here are a couple of shots of the outside and the gardens.

Entrance gate to Nijo-jo:

The pond in the garden:

Then it was on to Kinkaku-ji also known as the Golden Pavilion. Another stunning piece of architecture and landscaping. The top two floors of the building are covered in gold leaf. When the building was rebuilt after being set alight by an arsonist, the gold leaf cost US$7 million.

The bell in the garden:

The Pavillion viewed from across the reflecting pond:

Close up of the Pavillion

600 year old bonsai:

This bonsai was planted at the death of Yoshimitsu, the builder of the pavillion, as part of his instructions in his will.

Here is the small, elegant tea house built in honor of a visit by Emperor Go-Mizuno-o in the 17th century:

Third stop was the Imperial Palace. Absolutely beautiful!! We were not able to go inside the buildings but some had open doors that we coould peek in.

Main Public entry:

One of the birch roofs over another entry:

Closeup of the roof:

These roofs are made in the same manner as they always have been. 70 layers of birch bark and bamboo nails.

Looking in to the throne room across the courtyard. This is where the Emperors have previously been crowned, now they have started to do the enthronement ceremonies in the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

Interior shots of the waiting rooms for dignitaries, noblemen and courtiers:

After the Palace we went to the Kyoto Handicraft Centre where we had lunch, took a woodblock printing class and bought a kimono/dressing gown for me and Rene bought a Yukata with the Tokugawa family Hollyhock crest on it.

I think that is enough for part one. Stay tuned for more of beautiful Kyoto in part 2.
Thanks for having a look and catch you soon!!

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