Well, if I had to describe Kyoto and Nara in one phrase that would be it: lots of temples and deer. Don’t get me wrong, it was great! I really liked both cities, but visiting them is not an undertaking that should be done in one or two days, Kyoto especially. But sadly, one or two day trips is the Japanese MO, it was what Melody and I did as well. So, needless to say, we saw a lot in our short trip. But I feel that we got a good overview of what Kyoto and Nara have to offer, and any return trips would result in revisiting some of my favorite spots and probably exploring some of the smaller temples and shrines that aren’t so popular for tourists.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have much knowledge of Japanese history and architecture before going to Kyoto and Nara, and I mean, I still don’t, but now, I want to learn more. But, I couldn’t really enjoy the trip to the fullest because I didn’t have a good understanding of the things that I was seeing, so I don’t think I appreciated them to their fullest. And being a classic civilizations major, I completely understand how you can totally miss history and just get caught up in the touristy, “I saw the biggest buddha in the world” thing and never understand why it’s so important to culture and the world. So, I’ve decided to learn more about Japanese history, and plan a return trip to Kyoto and Nara and really take my time with the temples and shrines. Maybe first I should figure out the differences between a temple and a shrine.
Kyoto was really beautiful and we spent the first day exploring the SE part of the city. The Fushimi Inari Shrine was really beautiful and I think Melody and I could’ve spent the whole day just exploring it and soaking it all up. It’s a series of gates that lead you on paths through a mountain. Occassionally, the paths lead to small shrines, or ponds and creeks, and lots of other great things. It was so quiet and serene and I could almost imagine myself in the time that it was constructed before the hustle and bustle of life.
During our second day, Melody and I split up and explored the NW corner of Kyoto on our own. There are so many things to see, and we had different things that we wanted to see. My favorite part of the day was going to Ninnaji Temple. It was a huge place with a palace and lots of buildings to see and places to walk around in the woods. Inside the palace was this pond garden with a waterfall, and it was seriously the most beautiful garden I’ve ever seen in my life. Again, I could’ve just stayed there all day. I felt a sense of peace and calm, and the beauty of the palace with its painted paper sliding doors, polished wooden walkways, and gorgeous pond garden just made it my absolute favorite place in Kyoto. It was well worth the 500 yen entrance fee.
That evening we hopped on a train and headed to Nara, but Melody and I were both pretty exhausted, so we just crashed at our hostel and left Nara sightseeing until the next day. After a fresh start, we went to Nara with a mission in mind. And I think I liked Nara even more than Kyoto, though it had much less to offer in way of sightseeing. And that’s maybe why I liked it more. Nara is famous for housing the world’s biggest buddha and for its deer park featuring tame deer that you can walk up to and pet. Nara Park itself was huge and you could spend a whole day just walking around the park to enjoy the natural beauty. I forgot that I was even in the city. And the buddha was seriously humongous! I had this image in my mind of the world’s biggest buddha, but this just blew me away! I had no concept that a buddha could be that big! I was seriously impressed. It was awesome to see.
And I know that this is only a brief commentary on an event-packed trip, but I’ll try to give separate blogs on some of the other experiences. I just realize that this blog is already running long. So, be on the lookout for more details in other blogs.