Saturday, April 26, 2008

Japan Trip Day 8: Kyoto's Castles & Temples!

On the eighth day of our Japan Trip, we participated in a 1-Day Tour to see some of the most famous landmarks around Kyoto. I'm not a fan of guided tours, but for 1 day we decided it was easier and less hassle to just have someone show us around the numerous Temples and Castles around Kyoto. (^_~)

We woke up bright and early and it was off to the races! Within the first 10 minutes I was reminded why I didn't like taking guided tours: It was definitely a bit of a rush and madhouse as we were hurriedly led from place to place with almost no breathing room. But it was still a good day. We started with Nijo Castle which was right across from our hotel:

It was definitely a nice foil and change of pace from the modern / futuristic setting of Tokyo. Here's some more gorgeous woodwork adorning one of the entrances:

Gorgeous metalwork along the buildings (here's a phoenix):

The secret to the awesome chirping steps of the outer chambers of Nijo Castle (ancient "burglar alarm"! (^_~))

A gorgeous garden inside Nijo Castle:

After Nijo, we were briskly carted away to Kinkaku-Ji, The Golden Pavilion, which was stunning:

It was truly a pavilion made out of gold (pure gold leaf!). Here's some pics of the beautiful lake surrounding Kinkaku-Ji:

Intricate artistry adorning the various buildings around The Golden Pavilion:

Next up, we were whisked away to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. According to our tour guide they had really strict time limits, only allowing groups in at specific times, etc.

The Imperial Palace was just huge (as can be imagined). There were lots of interesting areas (and limited photo opportunities):

Another section of the Palace with beautiful metal work combined with the wooden architecture:

Nice private pond area:

It was time to move onto the next location. But as we were leaving, a few more shots:

More beautiful Sakura:

We stopped by the Kyoto Handicraft Center for a buffet lunch and a switch to the afternoon tour bus. It was an interesting building with lots of local merchants specializing in various crafts like metalwork, woodwork, etc. Some touristy stuff as well, but overall a nice diversion.

After lunch came the Afternoon portion of the Tour, starting at the Heian Shrine, another beautiful location (Note: The weather played havoc with my camera's lighting / color balance, it really doesn't do the location justice).

Gorgeous Sakura Trees with a stunning color that was different from the other ones we saw:

The falling Sakura petals truly looked like snow:

We came upon a gorgeous lake and bridge area inside the shrine:

A real-life Miko (Shrine Maiden) (often seen in various movies and anime):

After this we were off to the last two places for our Afternoon Tour...

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