Day 34 & 35: Kyoto

Kyoto comprises of low lying buildings and has broader roads. People are more polite and generally of an older age group. I didn’t see many black and white suits unlike Tokyo. Since Kyoto sees far more tourists, the locals were more open to interaction and many of them spoke English. I loved it! 

Our field trip in Kyoto started with the popular tourist attracted called Kinkaku-ji temple. It is a world heritage sight and is know for its garden designs. The Kinkaku-ji complex was huge and included a place to learn some calligraphy and do tea ceremony. I chose to spend my time on calligraphy.

The Golden Pavilion at Kinkaku-ji temple
Calligraphy at Kinkaku-ji temple:I was asked to write my name and age on one side of a thin wooden stick in katakana and hiragana respectively, and on the other side write a wish in kanji characters (the most advanced Japanese script). There was a sheet with some standard wishes written in kanji characters that we could choose from. I chose the one which wished for meeting new and interesting people in the future. I had the option of leaving the wooden stick there at the temple which would be subsequently burnt at the next festival with other sticks for my wish to come true. Of course after the hard work, I chose to take the risk of my wish not coming true and kept the wooden stick with me. 

We also went to another temple called Daisen-In which is famous for its rock gardens. Each rock was shaped and designed in a certain way and had a distinct meaning behind it. It was very peaceful and quiet and one can spend any amount of time there just looking at the rocks. 
All this while we traveled by bus, which was very convenient. There was a flat rate of around 220 Yen that we had to pay every time we got on the bus. But for tourists who are expected to ride on the bus three or more times, a day pass for 500 yen can be purchased. The bus had a screen which displayed the name of the next stop on it in Japanese as well as English. 
After dinner, I accompanied some friends to Shijo dori which is supposedly the downtown shopping street of Kyoto. Apart from the branded stores, it had small boutiques and souvenir shops and local restaurants. But instead of having a metropolitan posh look to it like Tokyo’s Ginza or Singapore’s Orchard, Shijo dori was decorated with lanterns and cultural things. For once I felt that I was in japan and not in just another metropolitan city. 
A night view of a rainy Shijo dori
On the second day of our field trip, we went to Sanjusangendo, a Buddhist temple with a 1000 Kannon statues and 28 guardian statues. The guardian statues had their roots in hinduism and many of their names originated from sanskrit. 
We later went to Gion, another shopping area of downtown Kyoto, which is very close to Shijo dori.  

Gion, a popular shopping district of Kyoto

A kabuki (Japanese form of drama) theater at Gion 
Shirakawa River, by the Gion and Shoji area
Yatsuhashi, a sweet from Kyoto. The white outer part is mochi and it is filled with red bean paste inside.
Picture Source:

 Another stop was Kiyomizu temple (literally meaning clear water). It is on a hill top and has a beautiful view. A shrine that is next to the temple is famous for its love stones, which are basically two rocks situated a few meters apart. As per tradition, you should touch one rock and with closed eyes walk in a straight line to the other rock. If you do so successfully, your love life will apparently be a success.

The view from Kiyomizu temple
One of the two love stones at Kiyomizu temple
Matcha ice cream with a baked cinnamon stick

An interesting fact I learnt today was that Japan is called Nippon in Japanese. It feels strange to discover something so basic so late. Makes me feel like I still know nothing about local life here.

In the evening, we took the train back to Tokyo. Our program officially ended and my classmates and the professor said goodbyes in a corner at the Tokyo station. The study abroad program was an exceptional learning experience for me and it had passed by so quickly. I headed home for one last night with my lovely host family. 

For my last dinner with the Oi family, we ate tuna and avocado with rice and seaweed-once again a new dish. It’s amazing that my host mum made something different on each day of my five weeks.