We arrived the previous night through a train from Tokyo. We had to deal with the you can't take any Nozomi, the actual fast train that runs every 10mn, but have to wait 30mn for the next slow train that will get you in Kyoto a whole 1h+ later from the JR Rail Pass, I was mad enough after having paid $1200 for those passed that I took a Nozomi anyway and we eventually got to Kyoto not too late, so that we were able to get some sleep before the next morning (yes, the controllers in the train weren't super happy, but at this point, and after having paid so much for the pass, I just wanted to get to our hotel and sleep and wasn't willing to wait 1H extra when there were perfectly good artificially forbidden half empty trains going by after 10mn). It's my fault, I believed everyone who told me that the JR Pass was great, but we ended up paying a lot, we even paid for the upgraded first class, and the restriction on Nozomi trains made the pass pretty worthless to us.|
I sent a letter to JR, which I'm not sure got anywhere, because it really was not a good way to start our trip with people who otherwise were super nice and helpful during our whole trip.
Jennifer was quite happy with the Japanese breakfast at the Kyoto Hana hotel with seaweed salad, the best breakfast ever!
I had plans that day for visiting the east side of Kyoto, although we started with picking up electric bikes I had booked (best plan ever for Kyoto). Our bikes had a 5KWh Li-Ion pack which was good for about 20km of assisted riding. We almost emptied them on the first day :)
Kyoto is full of temples, knowing which ones to see is hard since you neither can nor want to see them all. Using the rating on japan-guide.com is a good start. Next, you'll want to avoid the temples that ask for a bit too much money to visit them. Not that there is anything wrong to charge a bit to handle visitors, but some charge more and have less to see. Some even charge more than once depending on rooms or sub-temples, some of which really aren't that special. Also, keep in mind that it's easy to get temple fatigue, so more is probably not better.
After getting the bikes, we started with visiting the Kyoto train station. Turns out the views from there weren't that fantastic, and the sky garden were so-so, but I suppose if you're already there (we weren't), why not? We should just have skipped it to have more time for the rest of the day.
We were supposed to go see the nearby To-ji and its pagoda, but I just forgot. So next, we biked to Fushimi Inari Taisha Temple, it's one of the best temples ever. It's a bit out of the way, but not a big deal with electric bikes (actually faster than taking the bus). It was great to visit, soo many gates. We took them all the way to the top, which maybe wasn't quite worth it since the top had no view whatsoever, but oh well. Either way, the temple was great.
Happy Terrace Indeed!
we got 'assaulted' by school children who wanted to practise their english with us :)
you can buy/sponsor your own gates
Next, we went to Tofuku-ji Temple, just a bit north from there. It wasn't bad, but they were a bit greedy on entrance fees (multiple fees for seeing multiple parts of it). To be honest, it wasn't bad, but it's skippable:
Next was Kiyomizu-dera, higher north, just before the beginning of Philosopher's path. It was quite popular (we had to abandon our bikes and finish on foot through a street full of things for sale :)
From there, we went up to the Philosopher's path starting at Nanzeji Temple.
big, this is
the rock garden rocks ran away?
Next was Honen-in, very nice and quiet. I think we got in right around the time it was supposed to be closed:
And Ginkakuji, Silver Pavillion, was last (by then we were running late and were pressed for time, everything closes between 16:00 and 17:00 or 17:30 if you're lucky):
if they had fish, they must have died from eating coins :)
Quite frankly, due to time lost in the morning with the train station, and hiking for over an hour at Fushimi Inari Taisha, we were running late, and we had to rush the last temples a bit, which defeats the purpose, but that's all we could do since the next day was going to be on the opposite side of Kyoto. The electric bikes thankfully allowed us to book it from temple to temple, but we didn't really get to enjoy the Philosopher's path, so we did so on the way back when everything was closed, although we managed to sneak in a few temples to have a peak (the grounds that is, not the inside of buidings of course):
that duck was fat and to lazy to move :)
After that, it was time to go for dinner, which we did around Gion, in streets totally packed with restaurants. It took quite a while to look at them and pick one:
ok, it was closed, but you could see :)
And that was it for our first long day, which isn't bad considering we had arrived just the previous night and were still jetlagged :)