Japan in Pictures: KYOTO

(PART 2)

From Tokyo, Kelly and I caught an early train out, the first of seven that day. Since we booked a student discount ticket called “Kippu Under 18 pass”. Anyone can get it, and it’s about $100 for up to five days of train travel. The catch is, you can only take the slow local trains. So from Tokyo to Kyoto ended up taking us about 9 hours, compared to the 2.5 hours by high-speed train.

We were excited to get to Kyoto to see a few of their temples  and shrines (there are over 30 in Kyoto!) and maybe even spot a few Geisha!

Here’s some photos from around Kyoto:

Starting with the covered market. It had everything from vintage stores and a 300Y (3 dollar) store with really kitschy home stuff and a kimono and yukata store that sold traditional Japanese clothing, to fresh fish and handmade candies.

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an $80 sundae

an $180 sundae!

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obviously, the fish were the most interesting photo subjects

obviously, the fish were the most interesting photo subjects

Scenes from our walk from the train station to Shoji’s place. (we did this 15-20 minute trek two to four times a day fro a whole week)

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one of the many gaming shops

one of the many gaming shops

At the train station after school

At the train station after school

Buddhist cemetery on our street

Buddhist cemetery on our street

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One of our favorites out of all the shrines and temples we saw in Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Shrine

It has thousands of these huge orange tori (gates) that you can walk through. A really cool experience.

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Foxes are guarding every entrance to the tori "tunnels"

Foxes are guarding every entrance to the tori "tunnels"

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In the evening, we checked out the quaint but ritzy Gion and the Kamo riverside along Pontocho Alley. It’s what we expected old Japan to look like. There are tons of traditional buildings housing fancy restaurants and boutique hotels.

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Ponto-cho

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Friday night street fair

Friday night street fair

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Gion is also known for Geisha spotting. Geisha are traditional, female Japanese entertainers whose skills include performing various Japanese arts such as classical music and dance. Most people like you and me will never see a Geisha perform. It is very expensive and you must be pesonally invited by some very important Japanese man or something. Geisha houses tend to be around this area, and in the evening you can see Geisha shuffling off to private appointments.

Typical Geisha House

Typical Geisha House

Our first Geisha spotting!

Our first Geisha spotting!

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We also did tons of walking all over  the city, seeing as many of Kyotos treasured temples as we could.

Sanjyusangen-do Temple: temple of 1000 Buddhas

Sanjyusangen-do Temple: temple of 1000 Buddhas

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Pretty shrine

Temple of 1000 Buddhas

Temple of 1000 Buddhas

Dude in a Yukata

Dude in a Yukata

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more shrines...

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Pagoda

another pagoda

another pagoda

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And another Geisha spotting! This was a really weird, because we were doing our own little walking tour when we saw these two geishas. We didn’t think they were real geisha at first because often in Kyoto, you can pay a lot of money and dress up like a geisha and these two were taking photos of themselves on their camera phones. Then we followed them subtly down a lane and they walked into their geisha house. It was pretty funny to see the geishas doing normal things like cell phone picture taking.

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We also saved some money by couchsurfing in Kyoto. We were lucky enough to get to stay with our first choice, Shoji’s House. This wasn’t your average host/surfer experience. Shoji is a middle aged Japanese man who has a wife and two daughters. He owns an “extra” house near the edge of town in Kyoto which he pays all the bills for, but doesn’t live in. He calls it “Shoji’s Couchsurfing Castle.” It’s a little bit of a walk and a subway journey from the city center, but a godsend for couchsurfers in expensive Kyoto. Shoji is truely a Japanese saint.

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Ellie, Shoji, and Kelly

Shoji stops by on the day you get there to meet you, show you around the house, and give you maps and tons of information about the city. You can tell he really enjoys meeting travelers and hearing their stories. I don’t think he ever stopped smiling the whole time we were there. We found out that he actually had his honeymoon in KEY WEST over 15 years ago! He told us he has plans of coming back to Florida when he retires, maybe on a roadtrip from Maine and all the way back down US1 to Key West on a motorcycle!

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His place is a traditional Japanese-style house with Tatami mats for floors and sliding paper doors through out. There are 3 large rooms. Everyone sleeps on rolled out futon mattresses. He has had hundreds and hundreds of CSer’s stay there from literally all over the world.. He basically says yes to as many people as he can and we all share the house together. It’s kind of like a cool hostel for like-minded travelers. And he lets everyone sign the walls when you leave as a little momento of your stay. We had a great time and ended up meeting some really great people.

Our little thank you notes...

Our little thank you notes...

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1 Response to “Japan in Pictures: KYOTO”


  1. 1 Lukas July 29, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Can you tell me how you found shoji’s couchsurfing house?
    I’ve been looking for it on couchsurfing.org, but i didn’t find it…


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