Expat Life: Weekend Trip to Kyoto

Cherry blossoms in front of the Yasaka Shrine.

If you have come to this post hoping to read an informative travel blog about the highlights of the scenic city of Kyoto, Japan, you have come to the wrong place, and MsCaroline is very sorry.  Allow her to, instead, direct you to Emma's delicious Kyoto posts at her blog, Bavarian Sojurn, where you can read some actual useful information about Kyoto and also drool at some of the most lovely photos on the Internets.

Those of you who are still hanging around here in the second paragraph will not be surprised that MsCaroline has been back from Kyoto for almost a week and actually only has a very few really useful observations to make about Kyoto, but plenty of other sorts of observations, which her readers have come to expect or at least, have resigned themselves to.

MsCaroline should point out up front that she and MrL have both taken on extra responsibilities at work since January (a good thing, careerwise, for both of them, but time-sucking) and have, correspondingly, far less time to do anything.  On top of that, Son#2 has a completely different holiday schedule than MsC, which means that the AsiaVus are limited to taking long weekend trips to places that aren't too far away and only when the stars align.  As a result, MsC has been doing a lot of slapdash, last-minute bookings involving late-night arrivals and late-night returns, which is fine for Son#2, who has the vigor of youth to sustain him, but which requires at least a week if not more a slightly longer recovery time for his parents.

Needless to say, with this sort of poor planning, things are less likely to work out as perfectly as MsCaroline would like.

For example, had MsCaroline realized what she was doing, she would never have booked a weekend trip to Kyoto at the peak of Cherry Blossom Season.  But let us not speak of that:  instead, let us speak of Japan (generally) and of Kyoto (more specifically,) the wonders that were seen and the things that were learned.

  • Cherry Blossom Season in Kyoto is Very Crowded:  As is the case in most of Asia, if there is something worth seeing, there will probably be a Chinese or Korean tour group there, seeing it with you:  if you are in Japan during Cherry Blossom Season, this will be magnified to a power of ten thousand. You will also be seeing that thing with all the Japanese citizens who decided to pop over to Kyoto for a day trip.  Not to worry, though:  everything is very efficient and well-organized, so you'll get to see all the sights  - for example, Kinkaju-ji (the Golden Palace):
    The Golden Palace, looking serene and peaceful.

Which is quite lovely and remarkable, if you can mentally shut out the rest of the crowd around you:

Mass humanity, photographing the peace and serenity of the Golden Palace.  

Woe betide you if you ruin my perfect palace shot.

  • Foreigners do not pay taxes on Japanese electronics:  Needless to say, MrL and #2 were in their element in the enormous electronics market right near Kyoto station, where a rainy afternoon was spent stimulating the local economy:
MsC did not buy these, but thought they were fabulous.

#2, coveting the fur-lined headphones
MsC is sad to say that they decided against buying the super-duper electronic head massager (not sure it would work without a transformer back home) but each one enjoyed it in his or her own way:

#2's response:   Hmmm....very interesting sensation.

MrL:  scintillating!

MsC:  Uhhhhhhhhh
  • In Japan, the kimono is enjoying a resurgence in popularity.  This is different from Korea, where one tends only to see people in Hanbok during holidays or at weddings.  In Japan, they seem to be virtually everywhere - on the streets, in the malls, on the bus, etc.  Sometimes, it seems perfectly suitable to the occasion, such as a shrine or a temple:

In other cases - such as this bank of vending machines - it seems like something out of a time-travel novel.

  • Crowds or no, some of the shrines and temples were incredible:  A particular favorite was Kiyomizu-dera, an ancient Buddhist temple built into a mountainside, which provides a breathtaking view of Kyoto.  Due to MsC's slightly scatterbrained  lack of planning, the AsiaVus arrived at this temple at approximately 5:30 in the evening and discovered an enormous queue snaking down the temple stairs and into the street in front of the temple.  Having puffed and sweated their way up the stteeeeeeeep approach to the temple, they were loath to leave without having seen it, so they settled in for a wait with mixed emotionsmostly hostile ones.  As it turned out, the reason for the queue was a fortunate one; during the spring and fall (prime foliage seasons), the temple grounds are illuminated at dusk, turning an already-impressive structure into something mystical and magical - and the AsiaVus, by dint of sheer luck, had arrived at the right place at the right time:

Looking down from the temple at the queue behind us

Dusk was falling as we entered- cherry blossoms everywhere.

Looking down as the lights come on over the mountainside

Reflections in the grotto


Stacy Rushton said…
Wow! What a beautiful place! I always love traveling along with the AsiaVus. You point out the funny along with the beauty and make me feel like I have seen it all myself. As I have traveled to neither Korea or Japan (transits in airport do not count) they are both high on my list of places I'd love to go. Each of your travel posts reinforces that! Thank you!
MsCaroline said…
Stacy - Awww...thank you! I know full well that I am not a good 'typical' travel blogger - there are many really good ones out there whose blogs I refer to for useful information - but I love hearing the quirky little things about places - which is probably why I like to share quirky things! I think you would love both Korea *and* Japan - although I am a little prejudiced towards Korea, for obvious reasons. I hope if you make to Korea, you'll do it while I'm still here!
Karen said…
Literally drooling over your photos (Have I mentioned that it has been a long,cold winter and is shaping up to be a cold, rainy spring?) and giggling over your prose! Love the apropos reactions to the head massager! Sunny (er) and warm (er) today for the double birthday bash. Josh is 17, as of March 20, and Katie is 15, as of yesterday.
MsCaroline said…
Karen - happy birthday to both J & K - Cullen was 17 on the 13th (another coincidence - or did we already know that both boys had March bdays?)
Hope your weather warms up soon - you really do deserve a break after the winter you've had!
BavarianSojourn said…
Thank you so much for the "hat tip" Caroline! :) How lucky you were to see it with the cherry blossoms (albeit with crowds!) I bet it was completely beautiful! Did you get to meet with Peter in the end?? Emma :) xx
MsCaroline said…
Emma - you're welcome - but all I said was true! Yes, it was very lovely, but I felt like I was in a tide of mass humanity stalking the poor cherry trees. We never did get to meet with Peter - as you can imagine, he's pretty heavily booked at this time of year - but we will definitely be going back (short, cheap flights for us) and will be sure to get in touch with him when we do.

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