Day 5 – Kyoto

May 27, 2007 at 3:17 pm | Posted in Anime & Manga, Japan, Kyoto, Manga, Travel | 1 Comment
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In all honesty I was feeling just a tad delicate the morning (oh all right, the mid morning) I set out for Kyoto. I wasn’t entirely looking forward to doing anything but a long day in Kyoto turned out to be an excellent cure.

From Osaka station I took the rapid to Kyoto, although with memories of Sakai still fresh, constantly worrying whether this was indeed the correct train. Fortunately it was. At Kyoto station I made my way through the throngs of tourists (both local and foreign) to the main concourse where a pop group marathon of some sort was taking place where different bands played all day (and were still playing upon my return at the end of the day). I have no idea if they are big names or not but the photos are already online and will be posted again here eventually.

At the tourist office (as I came sans map) I was confronted with a queue of foreigners before I got my map I also picked up a leaflet on walking tours which looked quite interesting. I went down to the food court to read their suggestions and fill up on okonomiyaki – a word despite repeated prodding from Miki and Justin I still can’t say properly. I thought that the Philosopher’s walk looked fun and would provide an opportunity to check out a different side of Kyoto, this would be particularly useful as I was already down to half a day. Basically the walk is along a canal linking a variety of sites, notably Ginkaku-ji (or the Silver Pavilion). The down side is, according to the guide, you take a bus to the Pavilion but due to traffic congestion it took about an hour. An easier approach would have been taking the subway (it’s non JR for those with the pass) and connecting with a bus further out of the city and thus beating the snarls. At any rate that’s my tip for future travels.

Now I had arrived at the street to the pavilion a very idyllic cobble path lined with shops selling various wares to the tourists. Of course it would have been a lot more charming without so many people but that’s what happens when you go on the weekend to a top destination. I had assumed being a UNESCO listed site and all that it would take a considerable amount of time walking around but in fact this was not the case. Granted I did power-walk through it but even so the path you are on leads you around the side of the pavilion and into the extremely well manicured garden (they sweep the moss) and back out again. 

Well with that checked off I began to walk and philosophise along the canal. While there were some tourists it was considerably less than at the pavilion. It is a pleasant experience and presumably during cherry blossom season it is packed with people. On the route you can duck into a number of the local shops, shrines or temples. I probably should have gone into some of these but I wanted to head back into the city and check out other aspects of Kyoto.

Unfortunately, it appeared the only way back was the way I’d come and being impatient and a little over busses I chose to walk back. It didn’t look so far. Well of course it was but on the way I saw some sort of children’s sporting day which had 80s music playing, notably “Girl’s just want to have fun” and more importantly a sign saying “Bushido“. Thinking that this may related to kendo and a chance to see kendo being played in its native Japan I followed.

I did not find kendo but I did find one huge shinto shrine – the Heian Jingu Shrine. An impressive complex of red buildings on white pebbles. While standing and pondering whether to go in I was approached by a girl sporting an ID badge and confident English asking if I wanted a free tour. Apparently the city has numerous free volunteer guides at various locations throughout the city (and not just in English). Wanting to get back to town as quickly as possible before the museums closed I asked and received a very trimmed down version as we went up to the shrine to the former Emperors and I heard how families used to come for blessings. If you’re in Kyoto try and track a volunteer down as they’re very useful for local content.

Now back to walking. Past a large canal with people hanging out and relaxing on the banks and into the centre of Kyoto. I walked along city hall where they were having some sort of launch. I have no idea what it was other than it involved marching bands and cheerleaders.

My next stop was the city museum and I finally found it down one of the side streets. Once again there was an exhibit of European art but the main display floors were available. Apparently there is the option to have an English guide but with the clock ticking closer and closer to 5PM when the museum closed I decided to ignore this offer. A good call as I paced quickly through the exhibits I heard a volunteer talking to a group of foreigners. He was definitely passionate about the city but his English lacked the confidence of my earlier guide and if you want to look at the city in a relaxed environment then that’s fine. As for the museum itself, it lacks a great deal of English (hence the guide I suppose) but does attempt some multimedia by having various TV sets around the floor that with the press of a button you can enjoy a brief clip.

If you can’t tell I was getting a tad fatigued but I wasn’t done yet. On the bundle of maps I picked up at the tourist office I had a standard tourist map and a transport map. On the latter it pointed to the Kyoto International Manga Museumbut the former did not. Somewhat odd. At any rate this is a gem. The museum is built inside an old school building complete with an astro turf lawn. Inside there a walls lined with bookshelves filled (and ever increasing) with manga you are free to take and read anywhere in the museum – including on the lawn. There are also exhibits on manga, occasionally special events, artists drawing live and a brief history of the project and school that existed beforehand.

Once you’re done with manga you can visit their small gift shop and head right next door (within the same complex but outside of the museum) to a coffee shop to rest your feet. Kyoto definitely has a coffee culture with coffee shops dotting the landscape and not all are Starbucks. This particular coffee shop – despite average coffee – is worth a stop because it (at time of writing) relatively blank walls are a canvas for visiting manga artists to sign and perhaps draw a bit.

I sat for a time and generally chilled out before walking back to the nearest subway station and returning to Kyoto station and finally Osaka.

Kyoto is a nice city – even with my brief interaction – I can tell you that. My only real complaint is that the transportation system really isn’t built for a day/ half-day trip experience. I will have to come back and get a fuller picture of this ancient city. Possibly by bicycle.

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  1. Where are you? I keep checking for blog updates, but nothing but silence! I hope you are ok…….
    Miss you – especially in the afternoons around “Lindt Time”

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