Photo Post: Kyoto River Cruise

This sort of unintentionally turned into Kansai week, so I’m going to run with it! Today’s post is one from my JSP era: as part of the program, we went on a five-day trip to Kansai, where one of the group activities in Kyoto was a river cruise. Four years later, with nothing but pictures to help me, I have absolutely no idea where exactly this was, what it cost, or really anything of value, but I’m blogging about it anyway. That’s why it’s a photo post, not a travel piece.

Even though I have no useful information, I hope you enjoy some pictures from the Kyoto area!

Kyoto River Cruise

行きましょう!

Japanese Houses

Some houses along the river.

Kyoto Forest

It was really beautiful countryside.

Kyoto Forest Hills

The forested hills just kept going.

River Conbini

A floating conbini! The signs, from left to right, offer amazake (a sweet sake drink), oden (a dish composed of things like eggs, daikon, and fish cakes in broth, all of which just taste like boiled fish), and ikayaki (grilled squid).

Just a short post for this Saturday evening! But you can’t really go wrong with a few photos, right? Of course right.

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Gion At Dusk

Gion

Gion at dusk.

Gion is the famous geisha district of Kyoto. As you may know, geisha (芸者), called geiko (芸子) in Kyoto dialect, are female entertainers known for their mastery of classical dance and music, as well as their distinctive white make-up and elaborate kimono. The number of geisha began to decline just before WWII, but Gion remains a bastion of traditional architecture and arts, where the streets are still lined with machiya (町家/old-style wooden townhouses). Part of the district is covered by national preservation and a few years ago the city finished burying the overhead wires to restore the original look and feel.

My friend Lauren and I went to Kyoto during our Kansai trip in March 2011 and wandered through Gion as the sun was setting. We didn’t see any geisha, but even so it really felt like stepping into a time before concrete and exposed wires began to crowd the city skyline. If you find yourself in Kyoto, it’s well worth it to set aside a half-hour to take a walk through this hold-out of old Japan.

Access: Take the number 100 bus from Kyoto Station and get off at the Gion bus stop. The nearest train station is Gion-Shijo, on the Keihan Line.

Kansai in March: Part 01

As you may or may not know, Saturday (March 5) was my birthday. I turned 23 and, rather than spend it in Matsuyama, I took Monday the 7th as vacation and spent the weekend in Osaka/Nara/Kyoto with my foreign student friend Lauren. It was an amazing weekend, the timing worked out brilliantly for everything, and I don’t think I’ve taken that many pictures in one weekend (over 200) in a long time. If ever. So let’s get started with the recap, shall we? First I will be covering Saturday, when we went to Nara and Kyoto.

Todai-ji on a gorgeous day.

We went to Nara solely to go to Todai-ji (東大寺, or Eastern Great Temple). Pictured is the hall of the great Buddha. It’s the largest wooden structure in the world, dates from the 8th century, and, as you might suspect, houses the world’s biggest bronze Buddha statue. It’s a World Heritage Site and famous for a reason: it’s awesome. The building was much bigger in the past, but it’s still massive and amazing, and the park it’s in (which is technically the 東大寺 temple complex, but is often referred to casually as the Nara deer park) was surprisingly not full that day. So we got to see a lot of the little temples and shrines and, of course, feed the deer.

Sacred deer like cookies (featuring Lauren).

The deer at Nara (also on Miyajima Island in Hiroshima) are considered sacred messengers to the gods, so there are tons of them just wandering around. You can buy cookies from little stands to feed them. It’s very cute and fun, but, as you can see in the photo, once you start feeding one, more will come. The deer eating cookies in the photo was so tiny. Just a baby and absolutely adorable.

We managed to get rid of all the cookies without getting completely mobbed before heading into the Buddha hall, because I had never seen the Buddha before and you can’t go to 東大寺 without seeing him. He’s just that impressive.

See? Big Buddha.

Apparently a person can fit inside one nostril. The whole hall is cool, though, with guardian statues and other awesomeness. I wholeheartedly recommend going to Nara, if you’re in that part of Japan. You won’t be disappointed.

But we didn’t stop with just Nara! After wandering around the park a bit more, taking some more photos, we hopped on the train to Kyoto to go to Fushimi Inari-Taisha (伏見稲荷大社), which is a massive Inari shrine (fox gods, mostly) in Kyoto. It’s really famous because it’s the shrine with all the torii gates that everyone has seen at least one picture of sometime in their life.

There are a lot of torii.

We were both super psyched to get to go because we’d both wanted to see it for ages and never had. It’s actually not just one shrine, though – as you go through the paths (there are several) you find a ton of smaller, similar shrines all over the mountain. And, of course, there are a lot of fox god statues, including the scariest one ever:

We called him the ZOMG Fox.

It was so great, I can’t even tell you. We just walked around for over an hour, taking pictures and being flaily over how cool it was.

Pictures like this!

I have nothing but good things to say about 伏見稲荷, to be honest. It’s free, it’s massive, there are loads of paths so you can actually manage to avoid having strangers in every single picture (a rarity in Japan), and it’s just one of those places that you should see in person if you ever get the chance.

How can you go wrong visiting a place like this?

And then, just to finish the day, we went to Gion, which is the geisha district in Kyoto. We didn’t see any maiko, sadly, but we did get to see the district itself. Almost got hit by taxis while I took photos, got annoyed with the people around us, it was one of those times. But fortunately Lauren and I never got mad at each other. Just at taxi drivers and crowds. So, to close up part one, which was more photos than proper review, I’ll leave you with a shot of Gion in the evening. It was a lovely, lovely day.

Gion

Gion in the early evening.