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North West KyotoGo to Slide Show

This was our first day in Kyoto after all day Shinkansen trip from Aizu.  The night before (shortly before the office closed) we dropped by the Kyoto Tourist Information Center and picked up some maps.  We also booked a Goodwill Guide for the next day to help us see the city.  The goodwill guide (a young Political Science student from the University) was a great guide and showed us a number of excellent sites

Nijo-jo Castle

Having seen Nikko and knowing knowing more temples were coming up, we were quite excited to see a castle.  Nijo-jo Castle was built in 1603 to hold Tokugawa Shogun Iemitsu (and they hand out English information sheets.)  The castle itself has two moats and two sets of walls.  Once you get inside the first walls (look for the colorful Koy as you walk over the moat) you see Ninomaru Palace - where court was held.

Koy in MoatCleaning Fountain

The palace is both practical and beautiful.  One of their claims to fame is the nightingale floors - floors that squeak when you walk on them.  The inner rooms are surrounding by the squeaky floors and any intruder would make noise (and hopefully awake a guard) when they crossed the floors.  The inner rooms are set up with mock court settings (including beautifully outfitted mannequins) and the screens are original paintings.

Nijo-jo CastleNightingale Floor

The temple grounds are beautiful.  We were lucky enough to be there during the cherry blossom season.

Nijo-jo Castle

Golden Pavilion: Rokuon-Ji Temple

I am so glad we visited the Golden Pavilion.  This must be the worlds first tourist enterprise.  The Pavilion is visible from most angles and almost any view is beautiful.  The place was swarming with tourists and school students, all trying to get the perfect shot of loved ones with the temple in the background.  We would up helping a few parties take there pictures.

Golden Pavilion

You start quite far from the temple and walk around closer and closer.  Each floor of the temple is done in a different style.  The first (not gold) is palace style, named Ho-sui-in.  The second floor is in the style of a samurai house and is called Cho-on-do.  The third story is in Zen Temple Style and is called Kukkyo-cho.

Golden PavilionGolden Pavilion

Zen Rock Garden: Ryoanji Temple

After the Golden Temple, I figured I'd seen the best of Kyoto.  The Zen Rock Garden was a pleasant surprise - while not so flashy, it's a deeper Japanese experience.  The rock garden is set up so you sit on the one side and try to see all the stones in the garden.  Some rocks will obscure others depending on where you sit.  The Zen aspect is to try and see all 15 stones - impossible until you reach a state of Zen enlightenment (or get 15 feet tall.)

Model of GardenZen Rock Garden

The temple itself has wonderful Japanese details.  Beyond having to take your shoes off before getting on the platform, and the smell of the wood beams, several adornments (including these bells) really stood out.

Bell HangingHanging Bell

After trying to wrap our brains around 15 stones, we went for walk in the traditional gardens.  The moss garden was beautiful (reminded me of home in some ways), and the pond accented the surrounding hills.

Moss GardenPond with Turtles

Drinks Under the Blossoms: Ninna-ji temple

At this point it's 3pm and we are tired of walking and site seeing.  Our guide came through for us again - a few minuet walk south is the Ninna-ji temple.  This temple doesn't offer tours or relics - it offers beer!  At this time of the year it's traditional to sit under the cherry (or apple) blossoms and drink.  Drink we did.

Temple in SakuraBuying a Drink

Drinking Under BlossomsApple Blossoms

After a full day of sight seeing and touring, we returned to our Japanese style inn (and evening bath) and slept well.

Our Hotel at night

Pond with Turtles
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Model of Garden
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Nijo-jo Castle
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Zen Rock Garden
Person: Jesse, Sean
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Cleaning Fountain
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Hanging Bell
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Bell Hanging
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Temple in Sakura
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Moss Garden
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Apple Blossoms
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Nijo-jo Castle
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Buying a Drink
Person: Jesse
Our Hotel at night
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Golden Pavilion
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Nightingale Floor
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Golden Pavilion
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Golden Pavilion
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Koy in Moat
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Drinking Under Blossoms
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Tags: Japan(15), temple(8), garden(7), architectural decoration(4), cherry blossoms(4), castle(2)
People: Jesse(2), Sean(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > A Trip to Japan > North West Kyoto

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