• 17 . 11 . 05
  • Last year’s and this summer’s visits to Kyoto are still some of the highlights of my time here, so I was happy to have the chance to go again this weekend with Brenna, a friend from work. We travelled up on Wednesday after work and planning to stay in a cheap hostel to make an […]

  • StumbleUpon

3rd Time Unlucky

Last year’s and this summer’s visits to Kyoto are still some of the highlights of my time here, so I was happy to have the chance to go again this weekend with Brenna, a friend from work. We travelled up on Wednesday after work and planning to stay in a cheap hostel to make an early start on Thursday. With Gifu being close to Kyoto, I’d never actually stayed there before, but everyone had told me that it’d be easy to find somewhere to stay, and that the tourist information center would arrange everything for us. They hadn’t counted on the appearance of one Mr. El Presidente Bush, apparently here on some sort of trade mission, that is, forcing the Japanese to begin American beef imports again under the threat of raising tariffs for Japanese electronic imports. Although nobody really likes Bush here either, nevertheless, every hostel and hotel we found or phoned was fully booked.

We spent a really long time walking around trying to ensure that we didn’t end up sleeping in the park. On the plus side, we did explore lots of Kyoto that you’d never normally see. On the other hand, there’s a reason why you’d never bother going to those places. Just as it looked like we would have to sleep in a 24 hour karaoke room, (which by the way is a genuine option here if you ever miss the last bus or train), we finally found a room available in the first hotel we walked past three hours earlier, the Kyoto Tower Hotel right outside the station. It was a bit more than we wanted to pay, but after 4 hours of walking around we didn’t care any more. The irony was complete when we drew the curtains and gazed on the neon majesty of a giant NOVA sign right outside the window. But at least I got to sleep in a bed again.

And the next day was totally worth it. We started at Toufukuji which was beautiful and maybe even more so than last year. We moved from there onto Nanzenji, another great place that I hadn’t been to before. Both of these places were packed with sightseers, but at least we didn’t go on a Saturday or Sunday, where people reportedly queue for 30 minutes to get in. The view from the gate at Nanzenji was great and we were lucky enough to go on a clear day too. We hiked a small way up to a holy waterfall described in the Lonely Planet, where pilgrims meditate, but honestly it looked kind of like a homeless person’s digs.

After Nanzenji was Heian Jingu, which is one of the more interesting temples in the city. This summer, I kind of overdosed on temples, and many of them do all kind of look the same, but I hadn’t seen any for a while and this one had a very unique look to it, with a cool roof structure. The stress of finding somewhere to stay the night before had clearly tired us out though, so we didn’t bother going up to Kiyomizu or Arashiyama – the crowds, even on a weekday, would have been too big. Instead we went back to Gion, where I always seem to end up going, for a bite to eat, before making our way back to Gifu. Having been to Kyoto 3 times now, I’ve still only seen a small percentage of what it has to offer. If you were going to see everything, you could easily spend two weeks here. Just find somewhere to stay before you arrive!