First, I have to mention something. I always, in my mind, pictured Tokyo as the huge modern city and Kyoto as a more traditional, smaller city. I don’t know why I had this image in my mind, maybe because of pictures I’ve seen, who knows?
The fact is, Kyoto is enormous! Yes, it is more traditional in the sense that it is filled with temples, shrines and other beautiful places. But it is not the small traditional town I was expecting. I really wanted to like Kyoto but it didn’t click. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really a nice city but you know how you get a feeling or not for a city from the vibe it projects. Well I didn’t get that vibe with Kyoto.
That being said, I still really enjoyed visiting it and was particularly moved by the Ryoan-ji rock garden. I didn’t expect to. It is, after all, just a few rocks arranged in a nice way. Boy was I wrong. The moment I sat down and contemplated those rocks I was like under a spell. I can’t explain it but it was mesmerizing.
Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Temple, was also quite nice to visit. It was a bit crowded, as most tourist places are, but beautiful. Being there with so many tourists taking the same photo as everyone else, I tried to photograph it in a different way and went for the reversed reflection.
In Kyoto, we used the city's extensive bus system and it's a great way to get around. It's also a great place to watch people. From the older gentleman reading the paper to the woman wearing a traditional kimono, you see all kinds of people in the bus and you can tell it has some genuineness to it.
The other must-see in Kyoto is the Fushimi Inari-taisha. It is a shrine at the base of a "mountain" in Kyoto. But what's interesting there is the hundreds and hundreds of torii (gates) going up the mountain.
Another interesting fact is that Inari is known to be the patron of business. So every torii is donated by a Japanese business. Going up the mountain you don't see much, just the vermillion gates packed together. But on the way down, or if you just turn around on the way up, the torii are engraved with the name of the donating businesses.
Once again, although it didn't click for me, Kyoto is an awesome city, filled with tradition and history. Just not in the sense I imagined it before seeing it. There is always something going on in Kyoto and it's a very photogenic city.
Last but not least, in Kyoto we had an incredible dinner experience at Hitomi. Hitomi is a small place and the specialty is yakitori. The owner greets you and does most of the cooking. They cook mainly chicken and it's out of this world good! Some of my favorites were the chicken skin, chicken neck and chicken meat balls.
Kyoto could have been a post itself but let's keep going.
We unfortunately did not stay long in Osaka but we might go back. It seems like a great city and the food there is incredible. As soon as we arrived at Shin-Osaka station, we went straight to Dōtonbori and queued for a half our at Mizuno. They claim to have the best Okonomiyaki in Osaka. I don't know if the claim is legit but it was delicious!
Osaka is also the place I fell in love with takoyaki. We had them before, in Kanazawa, but these were just too yummy! Takoyaki are small flour balls filled with water, egg and octopus. They are then covered in mayo and a special sauce. There are no words to describe the pleasure of biting into takoyaki.
We also walked around in the evening and Osaka is a really safe place, guarded by UFO Robot Grendizer and his friends.
The main reason to go to Hiroshima is either to go to Miyajima island (that will be its own post) and/or to see the A-Bomb dome and Peace Memorial.
The A-Bomb dome was part of a building that collapsed on August 6, 1945 when the US dropped the first atomic bomb ever on the city. They have maintained the building in the state it has been since that day as a reminder of the war and destruction of the bomb.
When you see the building with your own eyes, you can't really get a sense of what happened but you can't help but imagine what it must have been like. You can get a glimpse of it in the Peace Museum and you leave the place with quite an uneasy feeling.
To finish this long post on a positive and cute note, I'll show you the Children's Peace Monument. There were so many classes that came to this monument and recited texts and sang songs. It gives me hope for the future as all these kids want and hope for peace.
That's it for today. Be sure to stay tuned for a description of our ryokan experience in Miyajima and for a post about the next leg of our trip: Matuse - Izumo - Ibusuki.
Sayōnara for now!