Thursday, January 7, 2010

Last Day in Kyoto

We woke up on the sixth feeling no worse for wear from the previous day’s rigors. We were scheduled to catch the Shinkansen at 2:00 back to Tokyo, but we had the whole morning to wrap up our Kyoto experience, so we packed up our backpacks and set out on foot to our first stop,

Higashi-Hongan-Ji, a temple with a large central building and a secondary shrine whose exterior was under construction. One of the central attractions of this shrine was supposed to be a large length of rope made entirely of human hair, which I suppose sounds sort of gross now that I think of it. Anyway, we didn’t get to see it, as that section of the temple was under construction. We did get to see some really nice golden friezes depicting Bodhisatvas. There was quite a few golden artifacts in this temple.

The next temple on our trek was Nishi-Hongan-ji, which sported a bigger complex, but to be perfectly frank, by this point in our Kyoto journey, we were all a little jaded on big temple complexes. I mean, we’d seen “the biggest bell”, “the biggest gate”, “the most golden”. What else could they throw at us that would be that impressive?

Well the last temple we visited was To-ji, which has – wait for it – “Japan’s largest Pagoda.” It is five levels, and very impressive. It’s not particularly flashy, but it is big. After the pagoda we went into some of the auxillary buildings, which held some priceless statues which were cooler than the actual pagoda, I think. Sadly we weren’t allowed to take photos of them. Afterwards we walked back to the train station, which actually turned out to be more impressive than we had initially thought. We ate lunch at a ramen shop on the 10th floor of the station complex then boarded the Shinkansen, which arrived precisely at the time on our tickets, and left 1 minute later.

On the return trip to Tokyo we passed through several towns and at least three climates. At one point, we entered a tunnel, which lasted all of about 10 seconds, and when we exited into a snow storm. We entered another tunnel 5 minutes later, and boom, no more snow. The highlight of the return trip, and something we didn’t manage to catch on the first Shinkansen trip, was seeing Mt. Fuji in all its snow-capped glory. Phil and Dustin snapped some pictures of it, so I’ll get those from him when we get back to the states.

When we got back to Tokyo, we took the subway back to the hotel and met back up with the rest of the group. Everyone was pretty tired, so we decided to stick around Shinjuku for the evening. We went out to the Lumine mall to a restaurant there that served mystery food on sticks. We all ate our fill, including grilled cherry tomatoes, chicken, heart, and liver (which was especially good). I also had a cucumber and ume plum salad that was really good. All of us had lots and lots of sake here. Dustin was completely plastered and the rest of us weren’t too far behind. We managed to walk most of it off on the trip back to the hotel though, where we promptly drank some more sake. Then we slept. Dustin promises I didn’t snore this time.

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