|Autumn in Kyoto|
|Kinkaku-Ji or Golden Pavilion|
Kyoto is best to be visited undoubtedly in spring or autumn for the cherry blossom bloom or the colourful autumn leaves. Summer is extremely hot and humid and winter is freezing. And I can assure you that even beginning of winter is freezing cold.
I got to Kyoto by bus which is 5 times cheaper than the train (and probably 5 times slower, with breaks at every hour!). My couchsurfing host Masa was waiting for me at the bus station and took me to a real nice sushi go round restaurant with a conveyor belt and endless variety of dishes! It was so good, much better than the same kind of restaurants in Europe!
|This was the first thing I did in Kyoto, straight from the bus to a sushi restaurant|
|Such a big variety of food|
|Masa and his surf board # 5|
As everyone else Masa has hosted. I had to put a pin in the map
I started off with Fushimi Inari or also known as The Red Road.
This vast shrine complex is a world unto its own. It is, quite simply, one of the most impressive and memorable sights in all of Kyoto. A pathway wanders 4km up the mountain and is lined with hundreds of red torii (shrine gates). There are also dozens of stone foxes which are considered the messenger of Inari.
|If you wear a kimono, all temples are free for you. Not sure if that applies to foreigners|
|Lots of restaurants and street food on the way to the shrine|
|Write your wish!|
|Fushimi Inari. The beginning.|
|Fushimi Inari is also free of admission fee|
Meanwhile, the Imperial Palace grounds, smack in the center of Kyoto, are a sprawling park full of romantic pathways, century’s old pine trees and landscaped gardens. It’s a perfect place to stroll and escape modern Kyoto’s traffic and cement facade.
|Imperial Palace park - it is so huge that no matter the tourists, it never feels crowded|
|Kinkaku-Ji or Golden Pavilion|
|It´s beautiful but so crowded! Thousands of people. My advice - go early (very early) in the morning!|
|Couldn't take a close up photo of their faces but 90% of the young girls wear artificial eyelashes|
|They love their pickles here|
|Some pretty colourful fish here|
|Ready for Okonomi-yaki|
|Okonomi-yaki - Japanese pizza|
Shimbashi is a beautiful little street in the heart of Gion. I think it's a must see. It's a beautifully quaint cobblestone road lined with trees and a beautiful stream. Ryokans and tea houses straddle the stream and its stunning during all times of the year. Of course I was told that is most beautiful when the cherry blossoms are in bloom (as everything else in the country it seems). You can spot a geiko o maiko if you are lucky (and fast enough).
|They say it´s the most beautiful street in Asia|
|"Geisha in the house" sign|
|Geisha signs everywhere in Gion|
|Getting used to drinking sake|
|Masa and his friend|
|Lots of shops for hand fans in Gion|
© Q.Sawami/© JNTO
Maiko are the apprentices of Geisha. Generally girls who are aspiring to become Maiko enter an Okiya (Geisha houses) at the age of 15-20 in Kyoto, and are trained for some years, then they are recognized as Geisha. If you spend enough time on the streets of Gion, you might be lucky to spot one of them...but you have to be quick because despite of their uncomfortable platform flip-flops, they move so fast (like ninjas :)) that before you realise it, they will duck out of sight and slip into one of the wooden houses around.
|The entrance to Nishimi market|
|Cute but so uncomfortable..|
|Kyoto theatre at Gion corner|
I have to admit that I got completely lost the first night when I got back to Masa´s house. As i left the house in the morning together with him, i didn´t pay attention to the neighbourhood. And in the evening when I got off the metro and made my way towards the street where his house was, it was already dark and I found myself surrounded by 100 identical houses. I had a key for one of them and the address in Japanese, which I couldn´t decipher of course. I knew Masa was at a wedding party and would come back pretty late and also I didn´t have a cell phone to call him. Felt so useless!
Started asking people on the street (not many around!), showing them the note Masa wrote me with his address and phone number and in 10 minutes I had 4 people with me, all trying to call Masa, checking google maps for the address and looking for the house! They all were so nice and helpful. It was around 10 pm already but they spend a fair amount of time trying to help me. At the end we found it! And when I tried the key and the door opened, everyone applauded and was very relieved! Silly me and my not existing sense of directions!
|Despite of being late, a homemade dinner Masa´s mum made for me was there as always :))|
|She always made sure I´m fed and not cold! Even gave me a jacket when I left because I was getting a cold!|