Sunday, August 5, 2012

Busy and Worn Out

Sorry about no post yesterday, M and I walked almost 14 miles throughout the day and the heat got up to 92 degF with 60% humidity.  By night time we were both tired and our feet hurt.

So for our first day in Kyoto we walked around the area closest to the hotel.  That included the Kiyomizu-dera temple (pure water temple), Yasaka Pagoda (the oldest pagoda/temple in Kyoto), Yasaka Shrine, Gion district, and Higashiyama district.  The Kiyomizu-dera temple is a large temple complex that attracts many visitors.  There was a great view of the city from the upper part of the temple.  The other main attraction is a set of 3 "water fountains".  The water pours out from above you in 3 separate streams, each is said to give you different types of luck (one is success in school and I think the other is for success in love, I forget what the third is, maybe success in business?).  Taking from 2 streams is fine, but taking from all 3 is seen as greedy.  M and I each did 1 stream, but we have no idea which was which.  The water was cold and comes from 1000 m below the ground (according to a nearby sign).  Getting a small drink was very welcome on such a hot day.

Scattered throughout the temple were these little ceramic bells with pieces of paper (about the size of a bookmark) attached to the ringer part of the bell.  When the wind would blow the bells would produce a very nice chorus of sound.  Eventually we were able to find these bells in the market surrounding the Kiyomizu-dera temple.

The market near the temple is a part of the Higashiyama district which has the feel of old Kyoto.  The shops were selling all sorts of sweets, crafts, and souvenirs.  What was odd to us was that almost every one of them was open to the air and had the air conditioning on full blast.  It was nice to feel the cool air every time we passed a store front, but it was puzzling why the would waste so much money and energy.  The experience of shopping in an open air market was very enjoyable and I wish we had something like that back home.  We also stopped for some shaved ice during our shopping.  It was the perfect treat to cool down with.  I would describe it as similar to a sno cone, but they put on less syrup and use real fruit.  Finally, on the way down the hill, we spotted a couple of maiko!  These are apprentice geiko (geisha) and are a somewhat rare sight in modern times, but somewhat more common in Kyoto.
   We then walked around a little more and ended up at the Yasaka Pagoda, which is the oldest pagoda in Japan (it dates to 592).  When we arrived we were the only people in the complex which was cool.  You are allowed inside the pagoda and we climbed up to the second floor (the highest that was allowed).  It was cool to be in a structure that was so old.  There were some good views through some windows on the second floor, but the entire structure was closed off and it was very warm and muggy inside.

We then moved on to the Yasaka Shrine, which is a separate complex.  We explored the shrine and a nearby garden which is very popular during the sakura season, but at this time the heat was getting worse so we decided to take a break at the hotel.

This seems like a good stopping point for now and it is getting later here.  Eventually I will catch up our story, maybe tomorrow.  There is a 90% chance of rain and thunderstorms for the whole area :( .

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