>Finetuning Kyoto

>Now that the main skeleton of the itinerary is done, all that is left is to fill in the spaces and fatten it up a bit with details.

In Kyoto, we only have one and a half days. It is certainly not enough to cover everything. In fact, I think even if we had stayed in Kyoto for months, it would not be enough to cover everything! Wise ones who visit and stay in Kyoto have said that the city offers so many tiny fascinating little nooks and crannies that it would be hard to discover them all even if you stay for a lifetime.

Well, I don’t have a lifetime to spend in Kyoto (unfortunately!) and since we have been there before, and I want to cover more ground in the rest of Japan, we’ll just have to make do with one and a half days. I console myself that this means I just have to keep coming back!

My options are:

1) half day in Kibune and Kurama. As Janice suggested, take the Eizan rail line from Demachiyanagi (only 30min ride) to Kurama. Kurama is known for its onsen and Kuramadera while Kibune’s shrine is known for its waters with healing powers. Apparently its known as the ‘Lourdes of Japan’! Well, having been to the original Lourdes, it is certainly tempting to head for this one. The deity there is also known for granting wishes pertaining to marriage. It sounds so very interesting to me – especially since KH works in the water industry! I think Kibune and Kurama is off the beaten track but will still have lovely autumn foliage to show off. Janice recommends an evening visit where the maples are lit up. Lovely!

2) Exploring the Northwest sector of Kyoto. We have not been here and covered the main sights of Ryoanji and Kinkakuji. Now how could any traveller worth his salt, come to Kyoto and not see these iconic sights? Yet I feel that coming here would be to jostle with crowds and just ticking off the sights as if on some checklist – which is not the way I like to travel. Still, seeing Kinkakuji with the phoenix all aglow on top against fiery autumn leaves would be a treat. My beef also is that the transport connections to the northwest are not fantastic and I would hate to have a long commute by bus! Recently though, I ‘discovered’ the highly under-rated Koto-in and Obai-ji, all part of the Daitokuji complex. Literally a warren of lanes in a ‘temple village’ where so many sub-temples congregate, Daitokuji sounds like an interesting place to visit. I could probably combine this with Ryoanji and Kinkakuji – making it a full day trip.

3) Sticking to the tried but true eastern hills of Kyoto – Higashiyama. We covered it in bits and pieces the last time and I think we did not do justice to the place. Last trip, we barely made inroads into Nanzen-ji, we skipped Eikando and barely made it 10min into the Philosopher’s Walk before we gave up, headed downhill for ramen and bussed down to Chawanzaka and up to Kiyomizudera. Boy was that a long walk uphill! Even at Kiyomizudera, we missed a lot of stuff since it was near dark and closing time, wet and drizzly. We saw the beautiful stage, but missed the Jishu jinja the ‘love shrine’. Because it as cold/wet, we went quickly downhill after that and did not walk around the older lanes of Ninnenzaka etc. We also missed Gion, Yasaka Jinja etc. So this time, I am thinking of revisiting Kiyomizudera and covering more ground in the area.

4) Visit the Toji flea market (which we also missed the last time) for nice 2nd hand kimono buys, and then heading to Nara for half a day. We don’t intend to go to Horyuji, but just to Todaiji, Kasuga shrine and the general area of Nara park. The kids would enjoy feeding the heavenly messangers of the gods I’m sure! But KH said, we get the heavenly messangers at Miyajima too! A deer is a deer is a deer right?

So I’m really in a fixed. Over the past few days, I have narrowed down my options to these 4 combinations. I’d really love to do them all but its just not possible. The only thing to do is to get in from Kanazawa as early as possible so that we’d have as much daylight time in Kyoto on the first day, leaving us more time to cover more ground in the second day.

Decisions, decisions – such fun to ponder these dilemma.

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