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Kyoto

The Adventure

Kyoto Part II

My favourite day in Kyoto started like every other morning in Japan. A collective, family sleep in followed by a slow walk to the buffet breakfast. The children loved eating fruits, blueberry yoghurt, eggs and fresh croissants. Early in the afternoon, we took a cab to the southern part of the city to visit the most amazing shrine I have ever seen.

Fushimi Inari Shrine is an important shinto shrine, famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari Shrine has ancient origins, predating the capital’s move to Kyoto in 794.

We were not prepared for the absolute beauty of this place. We were spoiled too in that it was completely deserted for our entire visit, a rarity in Japan! We passed only a handful of tourists along the walk, but for the most part, the only sounds we heard were the animals in the bushland, a stream running through the track and the sounds of bodies, breathing heavily as we climbed the steps through the torii gates.

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Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion is a zen temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Formally known as Rokuonji, the temple was the retirement villa of a shogun. Kinkakuji is an impressive structure built overlooking a large pond. It has burned down numerous times throughout its history including twice during the Onin War, a civil war that destroyed much of Kyoto; and once again more recently in 1950 when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955.

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On our last night in Kyoto, we visited the Yasaka Shrine. Also known as Gion Shrine, this is one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto. Founded over 1350 years ago, the shrine is located between the popular Gion District and Higashiyama District and is often visited by tourists walking between the two districts.

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The shrine’s main hall combines the honden (inner sanctuary) and haiden (offering hall) into a single building. In front of it stands a dance stage with hundreds of lanterns that get lit in the evenings. Each lantern bears the name of a local business in return for a donation.

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6 days just seemed to fly past. Our visit was short but enjoyed immensely by the entire family. I will have to visit Kyoto again, I was so drawn to the senses of this city. Next time, I want to rent a house and ride bikes around the flat streets and get lost in the back alleys that zig zag this amazing little part of Japan.

The most important part of our time in Kyoto was that Harriet officially mastered walking. She finally had the courage to let go of the walls and just do it. We are all so proud of her and ever since, she is seeing the world from a much higher prospective on 2 legs instead of all fours.

More to come from our last day in Japan, spent at none other than Disneyland!

xo

 

The Adventure

Kyoto Part 1

I don’t think my heart was prepared for all the beauty of Kyoto. I really connected with the city, and felt at ease during our visit there.

After a quick trip on the bullet train from Hiroshima, we arrived at our hotel and unpacked in our suite. We were really spoiled with our accommodation at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto. I know sometimes a room is just a room, but when you are travelling with 3 small kids, it’s nice to have some of the extras included that a 5 star hotel offers.

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The children slept in a separate tatami room in the suite, and every night the staff would come in and prepare the futons and doonas on the beautiful straw room floor. The smell of the straw tatami was sublime. James and I had a double bed each which was a welcome change after we had tiny, single beds for over a week in Tokyo.

The city is famous for its impressive list of shrines and temples, over 2000 in total. On our 1st night, we decided to have an early dinner in the hotel and the kids enjoyed fresh wood fired pizza while I relished in a plain salad, something I had been craving for weeks after eating rice and noodles.

We decided to tackle the most famous temple first, Kiyomizu-dera, translation, the Pure Water Temple. It is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. It was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills east of Kyoto and derives its name from the fall’s pure waters. The temple was originally associated with the Hosso sect, one of the oldest schools within Buddhism but formed its own Kita Hosso sect in 1965. In 1994, the temple was added to the list of UNESCO Heritage Sites. 

We hiked 2kms from our hotel to the gates of the shrine which then involved an 800m hill climb up a narrow little street with cars and tourist buses whizzing past. Add the humidity and lack of breeze to the mix and by the top of the hill, we were all covered in sweat but were rewarded with beautiful views over the city.

The shrine was so unbelievable crowded with tourists and school children, it was hard to appreciate the surroundings.

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We were swarmed by local Japanese girls who wanted to look at the children and take photos. After 2 weeks in Japan, this didn’t phase the kids all too much.

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At the temple, James and I blessed each other and the children and asked for good health and safety for the duration of the trip. It was so beautiful, I really think I could adapt many of the buddhist traditions and beliefs into my life.

Later that afternoon, I ventured downtown to the shopping district and discovered my favourite shop in Japan. An amazing boutique store named ‘Loft’. I bought some really great stationary here and they have reasonably priced make-up, clothing and home wares too.

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One afternoon, I took Abi to the Geisha/Maiko photo studio to be dressed in traditional Japanese threads. She looked absolutely stunning and was so graceful and mature as 3 woman twirled her, draping her in layers of cloth then finally adorning a red kimono with wig and props. I shed tears as she posed quietly for her photos. Once the session was completed, she beamed during the taxi ride home

One night, we walked along Pontocho Alley, a gorgeous narrow street filled with private Geisha houses, bars, clubs and restaurants overlooking the canals. Most had no signage and we assume only the locals knew what was where. Red lanterns swayed in the breeze and lights lit up the darkened side alleys filled with cats and chefs on break.

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Imagine living here and being spoiled with such beauty and romance. More to come from Kyoto.

xo