The weather is gorgeous, at a clear and slightly humid 22°C. Setting out at 10:30 from the Khaosan Hostel (because it’s a holiday and early mornings are forbidden), I head straight to 7/11 to pick up an assortment of pastries and cold coffees for the day ahead.
About 15 minutes North of the hostel by foot was the Kyoto Imperial Palace.
Much like it’s counterpart in Tokyo, it had a 25m wide white gravel paths, laid out in a rectangular fashion. Again, as it’s a current imperial residence it had restricted access- nevertheless, well worth a visit.
Using my paper map and my index finger as a guide, I navigated the Kyoto backstreets to Nijo Castle.
At first I was almost put off by the fact extensive maintenance work was ensuing at the castle’s main gate, which almost put off…
I’m pleased to say that my ¥600 bet off on this occasion- I found myself paying out random amounts of money time and time again to gain access something. Sort of like a strange, cultural lottery. And like the actual lottery, it can be quite addictive.
Not only did my bet pay off, I had hit the jackpot. Two hours later I left enthralled by what I had seen.
Founded by Shogun Ieyasu in 1601, it became his main retreat in Kyoto. Not only is it a beautiful palace and a UNESCO world heritage site- but the access your granted to the castle’s main keep is truly spectacular.
Taking off my shoes, I spent about 30 minutes walking around Ninomaru Palace with it’s numerous tatami laden rooms. At it’s heart is an exquisitely well pruned Japanese garden. I got a real sense of wonder from this place.
Adjacent to the palace was a beautiful garden.
Next on my stop was Saga-Arashiyama- the Eastern most point of the Kyoto sprawl.
Sitting in the Eastern green, rolling hills of Kyoto, Arashiyama is home to an icon to the front of every Japanese travel book ever made: the Bamboo Forest.
Just to left of the Bamboo Forest trail is a quaint UNESCO heritage temple called, Tenryuji Temple- it wasn’t the best bang for a buck but the gardens were pleasant enough and allowed me to find a quiet bench to refuel on my 7/11 bento.
Frodo Baggins would not be unfamiliar with the ethereal, elven majesty of the forest- surely it’s only a matter of time before they open an elven maid cafe?