Last day in Kyoto

Today was my last day in Kyoto, so it’s been pretty much a day of tying up loose ends. On the one hand, I felt pretty satisfied of having seen the most important landmarks, and on the other, I was a bit tired of temple-hopping (especially as I’m leaving tomorrow to stay at a temple), so I decided that any temples that I have left to see here will have to wait until my next visit.

I had a very slow morning, just catching up on some sleep, blogging about yesterday, and so on, and then left for Arashiyama to see the Bamboo Grove. I had been warned that it was a second-tier visit, and it’s true; it’s waaay too far from the centre to warrant the trip. The bamboos are beautiful, and it does get a bit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at points, but unlike the Philosopher’s Path, it doesn’t really have anything to spark your interest as you walk along.

Riding the train back, I noticed it stopped near Myoshinji, a big temple complex I had heard about, so I got off and took the chance to visit the garden of Taizo-in. It is a beautiful garden, with the sound of running water everywhere, not a single leaf out of position… It is rather smaller than the pictures would have you believe, though, and at 500 yen the ticket is a bit steep (especially in comparison to the going rate for temples in Japan).

By now it was the afternoon and I was heading towards the centre anyway, so I stopped by the hotel to rest a little bit.

For the rest of the afternoon, I had only one thing left in my schedule: go shopping! After having scouted Teramachi, Shijo and Kawaramachi in previous days, I knew which stores I couldn’t leave without hitting. So I stocked up on omiyage for the people I had left (sorry I can’t spoil the spoils, but interested parties may be reading these lines!). For myself I got a very elegant pair of black-on-black, checkered chopsticks, so there’s that.

Given that I was down there, I took the chance of visiting the renowned Nishiki Food Market, which is quite a bewildering spectacle. The little arcade is filled to the brim with shops selling all types of food, from fresh fish to mochi, from pickles to loose leaf tea. I was very entertained, but the gastronomical variety was a little wasted on me: half the things I didn’t know what they were, and the half I knew I couldn’t possibly eat!

All in all, I’ve really had a chance to see how different Kyoto is from Tokyo. Obviously it is smaller, but it’s very lively and active; it’s far from being just a collection of ancient temples. I did find it considerably harder to get around than Tokyo, partly because of the little English or even romaji support there is, and partly because you have to rely on buses to get to places, and bus systems everywhere generally take longer to get to know, and to plan around, than subways: different lines have different frequencies, you often can’t tell which routes go both ways, it’s difficult to place in a map, etc. But there are certainly amazing sights to reward us for the extra effort.

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