During the Golden Week, I was visited by my family. It was their first time in Japan and I’ve decided to show them as much as possible in Kansai area. The idea was to do one-day trips in and around Kyoto. Most of the time we were able to be back home by evening, in some cases the trips would take us bit longer and we would come back at night. Still, I was amazed how many sightseeing locations in Kansai are easily accessible from Kyoto without the need of a hotel at the desired destination. My family also managed to make a trip to Hakone and come back to my house before midnight. I didn’t join them for this particular feat, because it seemed too far and on a tight schedule. However, Hakone was on their wish-list of Japanese locations and they went ahead without me. Left at 5.30 a.m. and arrived back at 11.30 p.m. full of excitement. They’ve even managed to spend two relaxing hours in famous Hakone hot springs. Wow!
Before the Golden Week I’ve asked our students at Smiths School of English Kyobashi (スミス 英会話 京橋) for tips and suggestions for the trips. They were all very helpful and full of useful information. Thanks to one student we’ve saved ourselves one day by not going to Himeji Castle. The castle is under renovation right now, and tourist can see very little at the moment. So instead we’ve decide to pass Himeji and go straight to Hiroshima and spectacular Miyajima. I’ll write about this great location some other time, because it deserves special attention.
As I’m situated in Kyoto and it’s one of the most beautiful and historical cities in Japan, I’ve dedicated three days just to this place. Today I’d like to share with you how one of these day-trips in Kyoto looked like.
My house is 10 minutes walk away from Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺) -The Temple of Golden Pavilion, so naturally it was the first historical place we’ve visited. I’m sure that all of you are familiar with this place and it doesn’t need any further introductions. The site is constantly full of foreign and Japanese tourists, so the best thing to do is to go there during a week in early morning hours. There are very few people around and the free space and tranquility gives the beautiful temple the right atmosphere and feeling. The only downside to it is that, to come at that early time is usually privileged only to locals.
After Kinkaku-ji, we’ve slowly started to move to the next major location, Kyoto Gosho (京都御所) -Kyoto Imperial Palace. As it was our first day of sightseeing in the city, I’ve decided against the idea of using a bus and instead we took a walk through the city. I wanted my family to feel the vibe and get a feeling of the city. Take peeks into the local shops and smell different flavours from ramen shops and izakayas. It took us less than two hours to get there. Compare to Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto Gosho is huge location. The site tour takes two hours itself. But, an English speaking (英会話) guide is provided and you can ask about anything you’d like to know. Our guide was very helpful and had many interesting facts on hand to keep us interested in the tour for the whole time. One fact that springs to mind is about the buildings in the complex. Many roofs are made from thin layers of cypress-wood. The roofing has to be changed every 25 years due to natural decay. To change them all in the complex takes 20 years. So once all roofs are changed, there’s only a five-year break before the next cycle starts. That’s enormously time and money consuming, of course. Considering this, it was quite a surprise that the tour with guide is completely free. I must admit, that I had no idea about the free entry and was pleasantly surprised.
Once, we’ve finished our tour, we’ve moved to the last location for the day.
Daimonji(大文字) is a mountain on the east side of Kyoto with big Kanji character 大, which stands for ‘large’. The sign is basically a huge bonfire which is lit at the end of O-Bon festival. The reason, why I took us there is the magnificent view of Kyoto from the top of the mountain. If you click on the Daimonji(大文字) link in the text you can see a great video of the view and the bonfire. To get to the top takes about 1,5 hours of trekking up the mountain. It was a nice change after spending most of the day around historical sites. Although the walk up the hill through the woods can be quite tiring, the view at the end is really rewarding and gives you a nice perspective on the size and colourfulness of Kyoto. There is an area with little shed where tourists can sit down, relax, take a fresh breath and enjoy a peaceful view. It’s one of my favourite places in Kyoto and anytime family or friends come to visit us, I take them there.
So that was one of our day-trips in Kyoto. We left home before 9 a.m. and came back after 7 p.m. We took numerous breaks for food tasting, big lunch and souvenir shopping. It couldn’t be a better start of holiday.