My next stay in Japan was at Kyoto, the previous capital before the Edo period, Kyoto. This city is famous for all of its cultural heritage and temples but when I walked out of the enormous train station I was shocked at how built up and industrialised the area around the station was. With Kyoto tower and the infamous modern train station the area ressembled one of the more industrial areas of Tokyo and not how I had imagined it.
When I began properly exploring Kyoto however I was pleasantly surprised especailly walking around the Eastern suburbs where an edo-esque feel still exists in some of the narrow streets. With several amazing temples and market stalls that were really crowded but outshown any shrines or temples I had seen in Tokyo by a long way. It was a lot easier to feel what the atmosphere would`ve been like in ancient Kyoto with frequent Japanese women tourists dressing up in kimono`s.
The first temple I went in had 1,000 wooden Buddha statues as well as a giant bronze Buddha in the centre and several of his guardians, which represented how Hinduism and Buddism merged slightly. These were incredible to see as each Buddha was handcrafted and painted in gold and the sheer number of them was staggering.
Japan had a lot of Chinese and Korean culture come over from missionaries in the time when Kyoto was capital before its isolationist period, which heavily influenced the culture and brought Buddhism to the country. Another recurring theme was that nearly all of the temples and shrines were reconstructions made at different times because of the nature of most things being ruined and the amount of civil wars and earthquakes Japan underwent in this time. Hardly any buildings were the original as nearly all had been burnt down or damaged and had not had to be reconstructed.
Less appealing things I saw in Kyoto included the old imperial palace that was much the same as the one in Tokyo and I could only see the less than impressive building from outside of its walls and a rather ordinary five story pagoda. The Nijo castle was a bit of a better attraction with oil paintings on screens and it gave an insight into a Shogonate`s lifestyle. However it didn`t have the watchtower I associated with Japanese castles and the gardens weren`t very inspiring.
The Ginkaku-ji and Kinkaku-ji with their respective Silver and Gold pavilions were absolutley stunning when I saw them. The philospher`s path that led to Ginkaku-ji was pleasant and the temple itself set against a hill the paths and gardens were quite nice but the pavilion itself wasn`t silver as suggewsted by the name or very notable. I felt the golden pavilion in contrast was beautiful itself and had really nice ponds and gardens to boot.
My favourite thing I did in Kyoto ended up being something I hadn`t even heard about until I had arrived, the Fushimi Inari shrine. The shrine itself was nothing special at least for Kyoto but behind it was a stone path that led up to the top of the mountain behind it. Enclosing this path is 10,000 `torii` the gates used in a lot of old japan`s holy places. It was really amazing to see all of these torii following me around the whole path of the mountain with occasioanl breaks in them for a Shinto shrine up the mountain or a vending machine. When I finally found the top the view of Kyoto was amazing and I felt a good sense of accomplishment.