The first site of the day was Kinkaku-ji (a.k.a. the Golden Pavilion). I kind of snicker a little whenever I hear Kinkaku-ji. It sounds a little kinky :) Kinkaku-ji was built as a retirement home for a shogun (army commander). It was later converted to a temple and now houses some Buddha relics. Frankly I started getting tired of seeing autumn colored leaves but it was evident that they maintained the landscaping at Kinkaku-ji. I had to take pictures of the pretty leaves again. The pavilion itself was gorgeous. This beautiful building has gold leaf gilding on the top two floors and was on a small island in the middle of a pond. This was one of the sites I really wanted to see in Japan so we left early to avoid the crowds. We actually got there 30 minutes after the place opened and it was already packed! I guess we didn't come early enough! A tour group was there and you had to wait for people taking pictures in the best spots. The temple was exquisite and the surrounding garden enhanced its beauty. It was surreal seeing the temple and its reflection in the pond. We took a stroll around the garden and visited the souvenir shop. I ended up getting a framed picture that had Kinkaku-ji in gold leafing.
The next designation was Tenryu-ji.
Supposedly this area had a very nice bamboo grove and Larry wanted to see one before we left Japan. We took the bus over. Since it was the weekend, there were many tourists out. The bus got stuck in traffic and Larry and I started dozing off. By the time I woke up, I realized that we passed our stop! Fortunately it wasn't that far out. We passed Arashyama which was basically a big area with a bridge and lots of souvenir shops. But it was a tourist trap! There were lots and lots of tourists everywhere. Frankly I don't know why they are all here. There was a temple up in the hills and lots of shops. And the bridge had a good view of the river full of small boats. But it wasn't like it was picturesque or anything. After navigating the crowds, we found Tenryu-ji. It was a temple with a garden. I didn't think the garden was that impressive. I don't think the leaves were at its autumn peak yet. But when I started seeing some bamboo, I started getting excited. I took about twenty pictures in this one place with some bamboo. But then I saw the corridor of bamboo and was blown away. It was so cool. It was kind of dark because there were so many bamboo trees blocking the sunlight. It really felt like a samurai movie and I can imagine a samurai or ninja warrior flying out of nowhere and tip toeing through the bamboo stalks. Of course there were lots of people in the area so you had to be patient at the more picturesque spots. But it was great. How can you not visit Asia without seeing a bamboo grove?
I felt like we hit most of the sites I wanted to see in Kyoto
. We also had to head back to the hotel and pack. Back in Osaka, we found the department store we were trying to find the other night. The store had a lot of high end stuff. It reminded me of Macys in New York City. We visited the department store cafeteria (heard that the department store cafeterias had pretty good food) but it was pretty expensive just like everything in the store. For our last night in Osaka, we had to go back to Chibo for Okonomiyaki! The place was packed and we actually had to go up to the third floor. The setup was similar - we ate at the bar where we can see the Okonomiyaki made right in front of us. The cook was another guy who wasn't as animated as the other guy from our first visit. I went with the same dish I had before. Larry tried the seafood one. It actually had a prawn sticking out of it! I thought that my Okonomiyaki wasn't as good as the first one but it was still pretty delicious. For dessert we found a cafe where we got our sugar fix via strawberry parfaits. I'm certainly going to miss all the great Osaka food :(
Today was the last day we ventured out to Kyoto so I wanted to visit the sites I really wanted to see. The first thing we did, upon arriving in Kyoto, was getting an all day bus pass. I've heard that the bus was the most efficient way to get around Kyoto. It was a bit of a hassle getting the pass. There were no signs saying where to get it. We had to get it from the subway station attendant who didn't speak much English. But I got a chance to attempt to speak Japanese. It wasn't pretty but we eventually got the passes. We got an English bus map which had all the major tourist sites and spelled out exactly which buses to take. Easy as pie! Buses are a little different from those back home. You ended from the door in the back. As you passed the bus stops, there was a monitor at the front of the bus that told you what your fare was. It didn't quite make sense for me. The seats were pretty small and there wasn't a lot of leg room. When we reached our stop, you exit from the front of the bus and pay your fare at a machine near the driver