After 16 hours of flights and bus rides Chicago-Tokyo-Osaka-Kyoto, we arrived to ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto. The Emperor of Japan, believed to be the ancestor of Amaterasu, the goddess of the Sun, lived in Kyoto for centuries until mid 1800s, when he moved to Tokyo. Overall, Kyoto looks like what you would expect to see in Japan as far as history and architecture. Buddhist and Shinto temples are on every step, with monks walking on the street in their robes and wooden flip flops (and white socks, of course). Even though downtown area is modern and it has a great city vibe, you can still run into a smaller temple that is hidden between two brand new buildings. Kyoto is the only ancient city that survived WW2, which is why it is one of the biggest tourist attractions not only in Japan, but in the whole world.
Very first day we decided to explore to temples and went to Kiyomizu-dera temple, just a nice 20 minutes walk south of our hotel. Temple itself is on the hill and behind it is a dense forest of bamboo. Entire hill looks like 10th century town with stores and restaurants on the sides and very narrow passage all the way up. Just in front of the entrance to the temple, there are tourists from all over the world staring at the city of Kyoto that you can see as if it was sitting on the palm of your hand.
After walking through the temple that was absolutely stunning, “the Geo kids” wanted to check out the soil in the woods behind Kiyomizu, so we went for a little hike in the woods. We may or may not have been lost for about two hours until we found a hidden villa in the middle of the hill, where there was a traditional Japanese wedding that we (un)fortunately crashed. Unlike anything that I would expect a week ago, not many people in Japan speak English. However, universal non-verbal language of Where-Are-We-On-The-Map got us through, and we were on our way to get some local deep fried squid.
We are leaving Kyoto on Sunday, when we go to Hiroshima on a bullet train.