The flip-side of not booking in advance, is that, you will never get to stay where you truly want. After Osaka (via Nara), we headed up north, to Kyoto. In the month of November, especially during autumn, everything’s packed or expensive. Our dreams of staying in a traditional Ryokan, in Kyoto, were crushed and we had to stay in the sleepy neighbouring suburb – Ishiyama.
From Osaka Station (the main station), we took the Tokaido Main Line (JR West) to Ishiyama Station. The journey is 45 minutes long and pretty comfortable. Word of advice – travel light. Japanese trains are high on efficiency, but low on space. After checking into our hotel, we headed back to the station and took the Biwako Line (JR West) to Kyoto.
Kyoto station is surprisingly modern and huge. There are many buses which will take you to popular tourist sights. But, we chose to walk and see whatever came along our way. Besides, we had little time in hand – it was lunch time already. Kyoto Tower is bang opposite Kyoto Station. We skipped it and walked on. In autumn, the view of the boulevard lined with light coloured trees is stunning!
The route from Kyoto Station to Higashi-Honganji Temple is pretty straightforward. There are direction boards and if you have a tourist map, it should sufficient. On the way, you will pass by many electronic shops. Higashi (East)-Honganji was one of the two temples formed, after Shin Buddhism split into two sects. The characteristic feature of the Temple would, undoubtedly, be its imposing founder’s hall. It boasts of being the largest wooden structure in the world.
Next on our list was Nishi-Honganji Temple. And to our luck – we were lost. We looked around and asked a Japanese cyclist for the route. His English was broken, but hospitality – spot on. He walked with us – all the way – until we reached our destination. Although we, repeatedly, asked him to simply explain the route. The Nishi (West) – Hinganji Temple is equally impressive and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There seemed to be a convention, with a large number of devotees descending the steps.
It was nearing evening. There was a garden, we were in search of, but we decided to skip it, and walk along the empty roads. And it’s not a bad idea. The best way to beat ‘touristy’ is to travel local. After walking for few minutes, we were lost again. We asked a traveller the directions to Kyoto Station. He said he was new too. So that was that. We walked little more and saw the garden on our way. Anyway, we head back to the station. Kyoto station looked stunning at night. Add to it – Christmas cheer. The sound and light show was worth the view, even through bobbing heads. A huge Christmas tree adorned the higher floor. Maybe, we’d see it the next day. We had to get back to Ishiyama.