We spent eight nights in Kyoto, but have surprisingly few pictures to show for it. I think this has a lot to do with a little bit of travel fatigue on our parts. Once we got there, we sort of crashed for a few days. We did a little bit of sightseeing, but also a lot of catching up on sleep/quiet time. One really nice thing about staying still for so long was having some consistency; a local grocery store, a restaurant we went back to a few times (okay, FOUR times. Miso ramen is obviously the best comfort food ever). The downside to all this loafing around was that I’m not entirely sure we took full advantage of our time in Kyoto. It’s kind of like that thing where the busier you are, the more you can get accomplished. That’s been pretty true for us so far — when we only have two or three days in a city, we sightsee from morning until night and usually get a lot of stuff done. In Kyoto, however, there was sort of this feeling of, “Well, we have [insert number of days] left here, so we’ll just do it tomorrow.” This can cause a bit of Traveller’s Guilt™ (also commonly known as a First World Problem), but one of the things we keep reminding ourselves is that the key to long-term travel, for us, at least, is taking it slow and not trying to see everything. Because we are approximately 90 years old.
Our first full day in Kyoto was Valentine’s Day! Unfortunately, I had put on my grumpy pants that morning by accident. It’s the weirdest thing; they look just like all my other pants but once they’re on they are extremely hard to get off. Consequently, I did a little bit of hiding (reading and listening to David Sedaris audiobooks to try and cheer myself up) while Mark took the bullet train back to Osaka and dropped off my broken computer. I am not kidding when I say that this was the most romantic thing he could have done for me. It’s back in my care now, and I should have at least a three or four year grace period before I next spill something on my computer.
The next day, we took a ridiculously crowded bus to a local temple and checked out a monthly craft fair. There were some beautiful things there, but unfortunately we’re pretty limited space-wise. Luckily there was this adorable distraction as well:
His owner called him “Peter Rabbit”. So great.
One of the best things we did while in Kyoto was to take a day trip out to a nearby town called Nara. There’s a huge park there with a couple of very famous Buddhist and Shinto shrines and monuments, and it was a beautiful place to walk around.
The very best thing about it, though, was the hundreds of deer that roam the park, which are considered sacred and believed to have been brought to the park by a god. Because they’re designated National Treasures, they’re protected and they even sell “deer crackers” visitors can buy and feed to them by hand. We made the mistake of buying the crackers within eyesight of a crazed gang (I think that is the scientific term) of deer. As soon as they saw Mark pull money out of his wallet, they attacked him.
They look very sweet and friendly in this picture, but there ended up being probably 10 or 12 of them, headbutting and biting at his bag. We kind of just threw the crackers at them and ran for our lives.
After that, we only fed deer who were by themselves or in a group of two at the most. Unfortunately, this didn’t prevent one stupid deer from eating both the cracker I offered him and the admission ticket to a famous temple we were about to enter. We ended up getting in without having to pay again, mostly because the ticket guy took pity on how stupid we were.
The temple complex is called Tōdai-ji and features a building known as “Great Buddha Hall”, containing a 50-foot-tall bronze statue of Buddha that weighs 500 tonnes. This picture can’t even begin to give you an idea of how massive it is, but it’s all we have.
We spent most of the afternoon wandering around the park, feeding deer and just enjoying being in the sun.
The best thing about feeding the deer was the fact that they would bow to you before accepting crackers. In fact, the way it went was that you would bow to them to show submission/good intent, they would bow back, and then they would eat out of your hand. Here’s a short video, though it’s not the best example of how the transaction went. Please ignore my terrible laugh and even more terrible camerawork.
On another of our days in Kyoto, Mark went to check out a shrine which is notable for the thousands of red torii gates lining paths surrounding the main temple.
One last picture, caught when we visited Pontocho street, a street that was the historical center for teahouses and geisha. There are apparently fewer than 60 geisha left these days, so we didn’t have high hopes of seeing any, but we got really lucky. Check out this picture of geisha checking out other geisha on a poster.
I posted this on flickr and someone commented that two of the geisha we caught are actually on the poster, so the whole thing is super meta and awesome.
All in all, Kyoto was a really nice place to set down some brief roots for a few days. Mark will catch you up on Tokyo and Kit Kats in the next post. Wish us luck as we head to Vietnam!