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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Japan Day 11: Kyoto, City of Ten Thousand Shrines

After an arduous previous day, we couldn't bring ourselves to get up early to take the first ferry, so we decided to take the later trip from Miyajima back to Miyajimaguchi. We could at least sleep a bit longer. Even then, we nearly missed the ferry shortly before 8 a.m., because we were still so tired. Thankfully the staff at the Miyajima Hotel Makoto asked us, if we wanted to go to the ferry terminal when we checked out and offered us a free ride with their van! So we did not have to walk and also just made it in time. It was really nice and rounded out our fine impression of the hotel.


After the ferry ride we walked to the nearby Miyajimaguchi Train Station and just took the next train to Hiroshima. It seemed like every train from there going eastward goes to Hiroshima, so it wasn't a problem. We had seen the train connections online and knew that you can go with a Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka and change there for a JR Special Rapid Train to Kyoto. While the train ride was fine and included in our JR Rail Pass and it also took less than two hours from Hiroshima to Shin-Osaka and about 20 minutes from Shin-Osaka to Kyoto, we had a lot of waiting time at the stations. We finally arrived at the huge and modern train station in Kyoto. I was still feeling groggy and my blistered feet which developed into wounds were almost unbearable. Thanks to the ever reliable plaster that I've already brought from Germany. It surely made my life a lot easier. We did not have to walk long until we got to our hotel, the APA Hotel Kyoto-eki Horikawa-Dori. Guess what, we couldn't check in yet even if we asked for early check-in a few times (in all hotels in Japan) prior to this journey. I've already resigned to my fate of not being able to shower before 16:00 p.m. 


We had booked a room for four nights and hoped it would be enough time for Kyoto. That turned out to be not enough. Kyoto was the former capital of imperial Japan. It definitely has so many attractions that you need much more time to explore. Our first priority was the Arashiyama Area. We walked back to the train station and first bought a 2-day-ticket for local transportation (bus and subway) at the shop just in front of the train station, which we would need the next day. We still had the 7-day-Rail Pass and used it to take a train to Saga Arashiyama Station, which took about 15 minutes. From the station we walked to the Togetsukyo Bridge and soon realized that it was quite busy. The bridge across the river was beautiful and we were in the mood for the Monkey Park Iwatayama and therefore crossed the bridge and walked to the right, along the river, where you can already see the sign to the entrance.


We were hoping to see wild monkeys in Miyajima, the day before on Mount Misen, but there weren't any in sight. So this time we were sure to see some but first we had to walk up a mountain, because the Monkey Park is pretty much on top of it. Actually you have to go up some stairs, come to a shrine, where also the entrance is, then some more stairs leading up to the hiking trail onto the platform on top where most of the apes are because they are fed there. I was getting a cold and felt a bit weak, so I wasn't that amused when I realized how much walking is involved. Still, the view was great and we finally saw monkeys!



After we had walked back to the bridge, we made a short stop at the river, before going to another big attraction in Arashiyama, the Tenryuji Temple, a World Heritage Site. It is a beautiful temple with an exquisite garden. I just love Japanese gardens.


From the beautiful garden of the temple we could continue to the attraction we were most excited for, the Bamboo Grove. It was pretty spectacular with the huge bamboo trees all around us.



At the end of the Bamboo Grove was the way to Okochi Sanso Villa and to the right would have been the trail to a string of interesting looking temples like the Gioji Temple, the Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple and more. Unfortunately, it was already late. Most temples close at 5 p.m. and the last entrance is often 30 minutes before. So we walked back through the Bamboo Grove and came along the Nonomya Shrine and then continued to the Saga Arashiyama Train Station to return to Kyoto Station.



Inside the Kyoto Station is this huge shopping mall which is basically connected to the train station, and found the supermarket in the basement, after we went through a floor above that seemed to be totally dedicated to cakes and cookies that looked delicious and strange at the same time. My friend was happy to find dried salami and I was happy that behind the supermarket was some kind of a food court with a multitude of foods to choose from. There I bought some takeaway and then we walked to the APA Hotel Kyoto-eki Horikawa-Dori, to finally check in.



Our room was quite nice and the Onsen on the top floor was even nicer, with an inside and an outside Onsen as well as a little dry sauna. After dinner and some rest we relaxed there a bit before going to sleep.

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