The day began with a dilema....where to eat breakfast. We went through the nearest entrance doors to Kyoto station and
discovered the small shop that was to become our new favorite breakfast spot. It offered 1 free refill of the strong coffee which was served
in a tiny cup, but that was better than nothing.
Breakfast Japanese style takes a bit of getting used to. Bacon is scary. It arrives on your plate after a much too brief interlude in the
frying pan. Toast is popular, as are sandwiches with a bit of luncheon meat and a lot of the Japanese version of mayonnaise.
A small salad often accompanies the main entree.
Over the course of several days, we tried the various menu choices. Lisa
settled on a version of French toast sprinkled with soy milk powder while I came to prefer more Japanese style offerings with
rice and miso soup. Walt kept experimenting. The staff at first seemed reluctant to deliver that free coffee refill, but
eventually they got used to us.
After breakfast, we met our friend Taeko who had graciously offered to spend the next couple of days showing us
around. On this day her sister Izumi also joined us.
Our first stop was Nishiki Market. Lisa and I had already sampled the huge apples and purple grapes that you see in the
grocery stores. Here we found many other fruits and vegetables of gigantic proportions. The strange and enormous root
vegetables were particularly impressive. Conversely, other vegetables appeared in miniature form. We
saw tomatoes so tiny they could have been mistaken for berries. I'm always amazed by the variety of foods available in Japan.
There's an endless assortment of rice crackers, pickles, and fancy sweets, and a high level of excitement always surrounds whatever
foods are in season.
I could have spent all day wandering through the market with its numerous food stalls and small novelty shops, but
after a stop for more coffee, we headed for the hills of Higashiyama. On the way we walked across the Kamo River which
flows through the city.
Our next destination was the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, but getting there was half the fun. We climbed through narrow streets lined with stores
solidly packed with people. Students studying English were out in force. We were approached by quite a few groups who asked
the usual questions and took the requisite photograph. In return, they presented us with origami they had made. We enjoyed these brief
Before reaching Kiyomizu-dera Temple, we stopped for lunch at a small traditional ramen shop. We left our shoes at the door and
climbed to the second floor via a long set of steps so steep it almost seemed like a ladder. The room at the top was tiny, but 3 low tables had
been set up, and we were soon joined by 2 other groups of people. We gamely sat on the tatami mats trying to look comfortable and
marveled at the waiter who went up and down those treacherous steps carrying huge platters of food with the greatest of ease.
After slurping up our delicious noodles, we cautiously descended the steps and soon arrived at the temple. Here is the view of Kyoto
from the top of the street and some pictures we took of each other at the bell tower.
Kiyomizu-dera is a popular temple so the crowds were pretty intense. It's hard to tell from the pictures below, but the veranda
of the main hall is supported by huge wooden pillars. I scanned in my ticket to give a better idea of how the building is supported.
The complex includes the Otowa waterfall which is divided into 3 streams - one for health, one for wisdom, and one for longevity.
The traditional wisdom is that if you drink from all 3 you are being greedy and are asking for trouble.
In the last picture of this group, you can see another temple in the distance.
By the time we finished walking through Kiyomizu-dera and part of the way back down the crowded shopping street, the sky was growing
dark. Our next destination was the night walk at Kodai-ji Temple. As the sun set, we sat by a large bell tower and watched a man strike a temple
bell. There were two piles of pebbles on a railing behind him. After striking the bell a prescribed number of times, he would move a pebble from
one pile to another. By the time all the pebbles had been moved, darkness had fallen.
The night walk was a very special experience. Lights had been placed among the trees to illuminate them. At one point we sat and watched
beams of light travel across a field of raked gravel while gongs sounded. My favorite spot was a large, still pool where the tall trees were reflected
in the water. It would have been a wonderful place to just sit and meditate, but that would have been difficult considering the press of people. I also
enjoyed the experience of being in the illuminated bamboo grove.
It had been a long day. As we headed in the direction of the subway, we looked for a place to eat, but, inexplicably, we seemed to have
stumbled upon the only street in Kyoto without 10 restaurants in every block. We trudged on until, finally, we came upon the main street that
transverses Gion and selected a donburi shop. Another delicious ending to another wonderful day.