Monday, August 6, 2012

First day in Kyoto (part 2)

After our afternoon rest we tried to get in another temple visit or two before they all closed for the day.  The only one we were able to make it to was Higashi Hongan-ji, a Buddhist temple near Kyoto Station.  The structure was huge and very impressive.  Photos were not allowed inside, but there were some very large, gorgeous chandeliers and art work.  They also asked that all visitors remove their shoes as they enter and it was really neat to walk around this whole huge temple in our socks and bare feet.

Next up was a visit to Nishiki market, which has been serving as Kyoto's main market for centuries.  On the way I spotted a very creative way that the Japanese save space when they park their cars:
Finally we got to the market, which was far larger than I imagined it would be.  It seemed to stretch for blocks in almost any direction.  All sorts of goods were sold, from food and clothing to souvenirs and there were even a few restaurants.  You could probably find anything in there if you had enough time.

On our way to dinner we crossed over the main river in the city.  The area around the bridge on Shinjo street is very crowded and even more so when there is some sort of a vendor market set up as well.

Next it was time for dinner.  Before we had left the hotel I asked for a recommendation on a place to try okonomiyaki, or Japanese pizza.  The recommended a place called Tanto and set up reservations for us.  She also printed out a map of the area and the name in English and Kanji characters (useful if we had to ask for help finding the place).  The place was in the Gion district right on the channel that runs through it.  The whole place is very picturesque.  We entered and were told to take off our shoes and place them in a locker.  Pulling out a wood block locked the locker - very cool (but I suppose not very secure).  We were led into a room and given seats at a bar like area that was sunken into the floor.  Our orders were taken and a little while later our okonomiyaki arrived.  I ordered a Kim Chee pork one and M ordered a cheese and rice one.  Osaka style okonomiyaki consists of a very flat pancake base covered in napa cabbage and a number of other ingredients including a savory sauce and pickled ginger.  Both of ours were delicious.  As we left the owner gave us handkerchiefs with a cardboard cutout of a geiko.  I'm not sure if everyone gets this or if it was because we are foreigners or because the Hyatt called in the reservation for us, but the gesture was appreciated.

After dinner we decided to head to Nijo castle because I had heard that a special light festival was going on during our stay here.  The defining feature of Nijo castle is the nightingale floors - floors designed to squeak when they are walked on so that there is warning of an intruder (more on Nijo-jo later).  The lights were very pretty and there was even a light show being projected on to the palace complex (Ninomaro Palace).  There was also a small market on the castle grounds, but we didn't really see much there.

Finally we decided to end our night because we were both exhausted (there were times that I could barely keep my eyes open).  We took a cab home ($15) because we weren't about to walk around 3 miles and weren't very familiar with the bus yet.

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