Japan Diaries – Kyoto, Day 1

After a 15-hour flight from Houston to Beijing, 4-hour layover in Beijing, 3-hour flight from Beijing to Tokyo, 3-hour Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Kyoto Station, 3 metro stops ( including two train changes) and a 10-minute walk all along dragging our suitcases, we finally made it to our Kyoto “VRBO” apartment!!! So of course we did what anyone would do once we arrived at our destination. We crashed!

Shinkansen (Bullet Train) Station

Shinkansen (Bullet Train) Station

Photo Apr 18, 1 15 50 AM

Here comes the Bullet!

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Amazingly clean, comfortable and smooth (on the tracks)…you can’t even tell when the train is moving…

Photo Apr 18, 1 16 00 AM

This train is punctual and departs in a matter of minutes. You better be ready to hop on otherwise you’ll pull an Amazing Race moment!

The next day started early around 7 a.m. We weren’t kidding! After our morning chai (can’t take the desi out of me), browsed through travel guides, setup a full itinerary for the day, made a quick stop at a local mart to pick up snacks for the long walk and off we went!

Stop 1 – Sanjusangendo Hall

Known for its 1001 life-sized statues of the Goddess of Mercy. Also happens to be the longest wooden structure in the world. No one is allowed to take pictures inside the temple so all pictures were taken from outside the temple

Photo Apr 17, 7 40 06 PM Photo Apr 17, 7 41 00 PM Photo Apr 17, 7 41 33 PM Photo Apr 17, 7 41 55 PM Photo Apr 18, 8 45 49 PM

On our way to Kiyomizu-dera Temple, streets lined up with souvenir shops…

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Stop 2 – Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Most visited Kyoto attraction. Almost made one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Not a single nail was used in its construction.

Photo Apr 18, 10 44 43 PM

Photo Apr 17, 9 42 41 PM

People used to jump off this 42-feet high temple. Those who survived the fall were supposedly granted their wish. The jumping is strictly prohibited now since 34 have died in that jump.

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tying the "knot" prayer

Tying the “knot” prayer

Photo Apr 18, 11 01 04 PM

You can dress up as a “Geisha” for $50

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Me…shamelessly interrupting a locals’ dinner. But they seem to be happy!!!

Photo Apr 18, 10 13 26 PM

The water from this fountain is said to be lucky & grants wishes

The water from this fountain is said to be lucky & grants wishes

Stop 3 – Maruyama-Koen Park

One of the best spots to enjoy hanami (blossom-viewing) during late March/early April. Also a good place to indulge in the local culture.

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Got sucked into a local festival aka tourist trap but ended up experiencing a local tea tradition followed by an entertaining taiko drum performance. Not bad!

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being brave...gulping down real Matcha!

Being brave…gulping down real Matcha!

Stop 4 – Path of Philosophy

A 2-kilometer sakura (cherry blossom) lined walk by the canal full of lovely restaurants, cafes and shops. Supposed to be the best walk in Kyoto during hanami (blossom-viewing) season.

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Stop 5 – Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple

Entirely covered in pure gold leaf. It’s one of the most photogenic temples in the world.

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Stop 6 – Conveyor-belt sushi dining in the heart of Kyoto

7 plates of sushi = $8 per person!!! No kidding!!! Expect basic sushi. Nothing too fancy unless you put a special order to the chef.

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Stop 7 – ending the night in Pontocho/Gion districts

Entering Pontocho, one of Kyoto’s five Geisha districts. It’s a narrow 600-meter alleyway serving up entertainment since 712. And if you’re lucky, you can spot a real Geisha strolling the streets. Plan on having dinner here for sure if you’re in the area. This is the place to be at night!

Photo Apr 18, 3 55 34 AM

Can you tell how narrow the streets are?!

Can you tell how narrow these streets are?! It’s remarkable!!!

Photo Apr 18, 3 59 23 AM

Photo Apr 18, 3 55 07 AM Photo Apr 18, 3 53 19 AM Photo Apr 18, 3 53 08 AM

Ending the night in Gion, Kyoto’s central part of town & the most famous and entertaining Geisha districts. It’s where it all happens!

Photo Apr 18, 3 46 55 AM Photo Apr 18, 3 49 53 AM Photo Apr 18, 3 52 20 AM Photo Apr 18, 4 11 02 AM

Can you tell we walked 24k steps this day???!!!!

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