Personally I had never heard much about Kyoto, apart from that at some point some years ago a bunch of important people got together there and said some things about climate change. I guess I was vaguely aware it was a city in Japan; from my eurocentric point of view it always seemed like such a strange move to go all the way to frigging Japan to talk about the climate. You may just as well do that in a place closer to home and thus less polluting to travel to, folks. Yeah. My perception of the world has changed a bit since then.
Anyways, I’m getting sidetracked. Kyoto! Anagram of Tokyo, this place was the capital of Japan once upon a time. Nowadays it is a big, modern city, with so much history left all over the place, I hardly knew where to start. So I just followed my feet and ended up in old Higashiyama. Gion. Where the geishas live. Lo and behold! I came round a corner and saw three getting in a taxi. Wuuuut. Lucky me.
Here’s a quaint street in Higashiyama for ya.
Kyoto, being so old and formerly so important and all, naturally has a lot of old (reconstructed) buildings and temples to showcase. Here’s one of them.
An area that has streets as charming as Gion but more known for its nightlife is Pontocho.
One temple that Kyoto is, like, REALLY famous for is Kinkaku-ji, aka the Golden Temple. Gorgeous. And check out the phoenix on top.
But there’s more temples!
And if all of those temples aren’t enough yet, there’s a castle, too. The castle was home to, believe it or not, the very last samurai. Samurai ruled Japan for a good 700 years I read, but then in the 19th century the political climate changed (what is up with Kyoto and climates changing, eh…) and the imperial family decided they would take back the power to rule, thank you very much. The last samurai realized his days would be very numbered indeed if he did not cooperate, and so he called his mates and decided to hand back power to the emperors. That all happened in Nijo Castle.
Obviously the emperors couldn’t let the samurais have a castle and not have one of their own… so there’s the Imperial Palace as well.
Right next to that there’s a fancy building where important international guests are received. It was built only after the Kyoto agreement, I read, so none of those important people would have spent the night there. However, some of them were very likely in the building just south of that, which used to be a palace with extensive gardens for retired emperors and/or dowager empresses. Now I think I read recently that in all the history of Japan there was only ever one emperor who stepped down before dying, so I suppose not many men ever lived there. Before the fancy new house was built, it was this palace that was often used to receive important international visitors. I also read that the furniture was redone in the early 20th century to boast a Western style, so as to please the Prince of Wales. We weren’t allowed to look inside, so I have no idea what the interior looks like now and if I would be pleased if I were Prince of Wales.
To change things up, the last thing I did in Kyoto was visit the International Manga Museum. It’s not very international, and there’s a lot of manga. On my way back from there to the hostel it started raining like crazy, and my feet got wet, and now my shoes stink like I’m single- well, footedly – raising a new kind of blue cheese in them. Seriously. This has gone beyond simple stinky feet and has turned into fermentation. I would like to point out that my feet smell just fine, it’s the shoes that have developed this… quality. If anyone knows how to get rid of this evil, please comment. And yes, I have tried washing them.