Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kyoto - Would the Weather Please Make Up Its Mind!

With the previous day resulting in Jenni and I being rather cold, wet and miserable, the first thing we decided to do in the morning was to each acquire a warm scarf and beanie, better umbrellas (the ones we purchased the previous day were too flimsy and didn't do a particularly good job of keeping us dry) and a pair of gloves for Jenni. After about 2 hours worth of looking through just about every damn clothes store and market stall in our neighbourhood, we finally came across a supermarket that sold the items we were looking for and set off for Arashiyama.

The weather was a bit hit and miss all day. One minute it is raining; the next minute it stops raining, but then you are blasted with freezing cold winds; then the wind calms down and the sun comes out so you need to open your jacket so you don’t get too warm.

Arashiyama is well known in Kyoto for its bamboo forest walk and 'romantic train'. After two weeks in Japan, we have deduced that a 'romantic' train or 'romantic' bus etc is actually a sight-seeing or scenic route. We took the 'romantic train' from Arashiyama station, which took us along the cherry blossom lined river (it is a shame they are not quite in bloom yet, in another week or two when they are, it will look absolutely spectacular), past the bamboo forest and past a whole stack of bridges to a town just outside Kyoto. There we had to walk in the freezing cold, rain and wind to the return train line to get back to Arashiyama.

Once back we decided to brave the cold, drizzle and wind once more to do the bamboo forest walk. We were glad that we decided to do this as the tall bamboo trees shielded us quite well from the wind and the rain, so our jackets, scarfs, beanies and gloves managed to keep us relatively warm.

We finished off the night by grabbing some dinner, checking out one of the video game / pachinko arcades and catching a movie at the local cinema complex. We saw 'Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Lightning Thief' in English with Japanese subtitles. The price for the movie was about 1800 yen (about $21 AUS - a little bit more expensive than Australia), but the drinks and food at the candy bar is much cheaper - about 600 yen for a popcorn and coke combo (about $7 AUD). The combo was given to us on a little moulded plastic tray. Being in Japan, Jenni and I were expecting the cinema to be equipped with clever little things like... I don’t know, reclining chairs with fold out foot rests, or clever drink and popcorn holders. So when we got in there, we started looking for the 'funky Japanesey' things were we expecting. To our disappointment we couldn't find anything except an umbrella holder. That is when we started trying to jam the little tray for the popcorn and drink into various sections of the seats around us. To our disappointment, the tray didn't seem to click in anywhere, so it is obviously for us to hold... we must have looked like a real pair of idiots. Luckily the cinema was pretty much empty except for us and a couple of other people.

The following day would be our last in Kyoto. Fortunately, the weather had finally made up its mind and we had a dry, but cold day. Jenni had checked the internet to find out what where some of the must sees in Kyoto and circled a Shinto shrine and a Buddhist temple on our map which seemed fairly accessible for a day trip. We started the day at the Fushimi Inari-Tasisha Shrine. We did not really know what to expect, so when we got there, saw the first few buildings and took a couple of snap shots, we thought we would put the camera away because we assumed that was all there was to see. We soon discovered that there was much more to this shrine than the front few building as when we decided to walk down one of the paths, we discovered that the shrine actually expands about 2 kilometres worth of steps covered in wooden archways and hundreds (I would even go as far to say that there are probably thousands!) of small shrines along the way. The theme of this shrine seemed to be the colour orange, teamed with statues of dogs, although I couldn't tell you their significance as there were no plaques or English guides.

Up and up we kept on walking. At each stairway we got to we looked at each other and claimed 'surely the top must be at the top of this staircase', but the place just kept on going! Along the way we passed a couple of local kitty cats that were obviously local residents of the shrine and were very friendly.

After about an hour’s worth of climbing stairs, we finally reached the summit where we were able to take a few more snap shots, grab a drink and sit down and enjoy the view of Kyoto. If you ever go to Kyoto, you MUST come to see this place. 

After we made our way back down, we set off to see the Sanjusangen-do Buddhist Temple. This template boasts being the longest wooden structure in Japan and was built 850 years ago. The gardens in the temple are very pretty (but probably not as extravagant as the gardens in Nijo Castle), but the main attraction lies in the main building. This houses the 1001 Armed Kannon statues and the 28 guardian deity statues. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside the building, so the ones I have provided below have been pinched off the internet. 

The statues are simply amazing. Each of the 1001 statues behind the 28 guardian statues are all slightly different (different facial expressions, clothes, things in their hands, etc). The poor people who made them didn't have the luxury of copy and paste! The 28 guardian statues all represented various Buddhist deities, each with a plaque (conveniently written in English) that explained the origin of each deity and its purpose. The statues are all made of wood and were originally painted with gold foil on them, but unfortunately nowadays, the paint and gold has mostly faded. You can still see the slightly faded colours in the crystal eyes of each statue.

In the middle of the hall is a statue of the main deity - the 1000 Armed Kannon. This statue is enormous and covered in gold foil. It is surrounded by another 4 statues representing other Buddhist deities. The plaque only named a single man as the artist who created the statue so it must have taken him near a lifetime to construct so many years ago.

After the temple we returned back to our room for a bento dinner and an early night so we could catch the train to Osaka.

That is where I am now, writing up this article. We managed to catch a local train to Osaka from Kyoto which only took about 30 minutes. After a short detour on the wrong train line, we managed to get to the correct station and thanks to the GOOD directions given to us by the hotel's website and additional hints on finding it from the reviews of our hotel on Google maps, we were able to find our hotel very easily and are now ready to chill out for the rest of the afternoon.


  1. Goodday Michael,
    Bridges to Bridges this weekend.
    Matt Tuffin, Tim Rattigan and myself had a crack at it.
    Matt and Tim did near the hour and I did just over 55 min. All happy with the times though.
    I also fell over at the 9km mark, made it look speccy and did a commando roll, bounced back up and continued jogging like nothing happened. Cried when I had a shower though with the bark I took off.
    Bit warmer here than over there by the looks. Not envying you both in that department. You didnt tell us if it was a good movie or not.Looked a cracker. Have a good week. Spike

  2. Perhaps you should have kept the leather gloves i stole from your wardrobe in before you left Jen!
    I'm finally getting over my cold, have the next two weeks off uni for study break :)
    Mum and Stuart are away on a 'business trip' next week so im puppy sitting.
    Claire xox