Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Visiting the Cultural Capital of Japan

I just got back from a wonderful long-weekend visit to Kyoto! Kyoto was the original capitol of Japan, and is rich in cultural history. This wealth is made even greater by the fact that most other major cities were severely damaged by bombings in WW2, while Kyoto escaped unscathed.

Last Saturday my sister and I headed down to see my fiance for Marine Day, a Japanese national holiday. We took an extra day to explore the beauty of Kyoto. 

Wandering the streets of Kyoto with my sister, Anneke.

The twisting streets were an intriguing mix of old and new buildings, traditional and contemporary Japanese culture.

Yasaka Jinja, a famous Shinto shrine in Kyoto.
Kyoto is also full of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.
Hot and sweaty from hiking in the shrine's gardens. 
 Exploring these was fascinating, but hot in the 37º celsius/ 99º fahrenheit weather--time for a break! 

Snack time at a Japanese tea shop. Yum!
Kyoto is famous for its matcha, or green tea, and traditional Japanese deserts. I enjoyed a green tea ice cream parfait and sweet red beans with pounded rice cakes.

Touring the grounds of the old Imperial Palace. 
After our break, we headed over to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The original capitol of Japan was Kyoto, not Tokyo, and the Emperor and his family still maintain a palace there. While the public is not allowed inside the palace itself, we spend a lovely time admiring the grounds and gardens.

At the end of the day, it was time to catch the night bus for our 8-hour drive back to Tokyo. Thankfully I was able to sleep most of the way!


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