Saturday, September 20, 2008

Japan: Day 3: Kyoto

Today, we got up early and caught the 9:30 A.M. train to Kyoto. It was a 3 hr. ride in the bullet train, I slept almost all the way. :)

After reaching Kyoto, we checked into our hotel, which is above the Kyoto station, (The train stations in Japan are amazing, they are a marketplace in themselves, having high end hotels, eating joints, department stores and fresh food stores). Since we were early, (the check-in time in the hotels in Japan is 3.00 P.M.), the hotel staff kept our luggage and asked us to return after the check-in time. We headed to have some lunch. We went to the 11th floor of the station and ate in a chinese restaurant, which we initially thought was Japanese! :) Everything was written in Japanese, so we couldn't really make out what it said. I only knew it was chinese when I saw the pictures in the menu. We both had shrimp wonton noodle soup, which was very nice and filling (We had been hungry, since we skipped the b'fast to catch the train).

After lunch, we decided to checkout some famous shrines and zen gardens in the area. We took bus 5 from the Tokyo station to Nanzen-ji Eikan-do-michi stop. It took us 45 minutes to get there. After getting down at the bus stop, we asked some school kids where the shrine was and they were nice enough to lead us to it.

We started off with Eikan-Do. This is a large temple which was founded in 855 and was renamed to Eikan-Do in the 11th century. The temple is beautiful, the work of art is quite ornamental here and the architecture quite varied. It has some beautiful gardens too. The top of the temple gives a nice view of the city.

After spending about 1.5 hours in the temple, we headed to Nanzen-ji, about 15 mins. walks from Eikan-do. Nanzen-ji is again a temple, it has various sub temples too and some beautiful zen gardens. Since, we were running short of time (the temples here close at 5.00 P.M. and it was already 4.00), we concentrated on the zen gardens. The zen gardens are a work of art, it's unbelievable, how well manicured they are!

Prompt at 5.00, the staff came to close the gates of the temple/gardens. I spent some time taking pictures from outside after it was closed and then we took the bus back to our hotel.

Tarun had really been wanting to eat Udon, since we have reached Japan, so today, I looked for a restaurant that serves Udon and after a lot of looking around, I finally found one. Tarun had an Unagi combo with udon and I had udon with shrimp tempura. We took a nice walk after our dinner and enjoyed a nice pudding cake in the hotel lounge before coming back to our room.

Earlier, the plan was to go to Osaka tomorrow, but we both like Kyoto so much, that we have decided to skip Osaka and do some more site seeing here, tomorrow as well!

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