Monday, November 23, 2009

Kyoto: Kiyomizu Temple

We have been in Kyoto just over 24 hours and I am totally smitten. This is a true city of contrast. There are centuries-old temples side-by-side with every 21st century convenience. There are kimono-clad women (and some men) of all ages on the buses and in the shops. The food is amazing, the city is navigable, and it is unbelievably beautiful here. I find it so much more interesting here than in Tokyo, which feels like many other large, international cities to me. Kyoto is unique.

Last night we were pleasantly surprised to find a delightful, narrow, covered street filled with shops and restaurants not far from our hotel. The crowds were impressive, as they are most everywhere we've been in Japan. But really, it's an important part of the experience here—feeling the bustle of all the bodies.

In the morning we headed to Kiyomizu Temple, the most famous temple in Kyoto (impressive for a city that boasts thousands of temples). The weather was perfect and the temple site was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It is a huge, sprawling complex with many buildings, fountains, and all the gorgeous autumn leaves.

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The water cascades down from a spring and is believed to have healing qualities.

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We stopped for a bowl of noodles in a tea house on the temple grounds. We have all fallen in love with the bowls of noodles, broth, and sweet, fried tofu.

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The road leading to the temple is packed with little shops and restaurants. And mobs of people!

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Afterwards, we sat on the river banks and watched snowy egrets and herons play in the water.

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Anna made some new friends.

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We ended the day with a vegetarian dinner made by a cat-loving nun. We ordered 3 "dinner sets", each with rice and soup and four unique dishes—a total of 12 delicious plates!