Monday, November 8, 2010

Kanko desu ka?

It took us a day or two, but we finally found the rhythm that works for us in Kyoto;  John and I get up early and do what we need to do, the kids sleep in till about 8, John goes to work and the kids and I go off sightseeing. One of the first phrases we learned in Japanese was “Kanko desu ka?” which means “Are you sightseeing?” This seemed hilariously useless in Hamamatsu, but we dutifully repeated it after the nice lady on the computer, and fortunately, it stuck. Here, it is the first question we are asked.

Sightseeing in Kyoto is unlike anywhere else I have been. Not only is the city interesting in and of itself, but the encircling hills, five with great symbols cut into the sides that are lit for the Gozan Okuribi festival in August, make it dramatic. My guide book says there are 1600 Buddhist Temples, more than 400 Shinto shrines, and 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites. For a city of a million and a half people, it is fairly compact, and because they see (and depend upon) so many tourists, the transportation system is easy to navigate, and people are kind. 

We didn’t come here with a plan, or a list of places we must see. We tend to travel in a less structured way, and see what we see, and find what we find. When traveling with kids, this is a much less stressful proposition than getting all fussed about having to make the next bus or have your day ruined. In Kyoto, there is always another bus, and it likely goes to another ‘must see’ place.

It has worked out well for my kids to have lunch at home and a little down time after a morning out. Then they are ready for another adventure in the afternoon.  I try to come up with interesting alternatives, so they have a choice in what we do, and give each child a chance to pick an activity on alternative days. There is so much to do here, it hardly matters what you do, you will see something amazing and learn about something you didn’t know before. We’ve gone to temples and shrines, gardens, and the zoo. We climbed a mountain and fed snow monkeys.  We accidentally went to 4 UNESCO World Heritage sites.  And we haven’t yet felt overwhelmed or over tired. We have one week to go, though, so we will see how we do!
Here are the pictures of what we have seen and where we have been, Imperial Palace Park, Nijo Castle, Kikakuju, Tenryu-ji. Google tells me I am out of storage, and I need to figure out how to deal with that, but it is 4 AM, so that is a problem for later. More pictures if I figure it out. 

Giant Ginko in the Imperial
Palace Garden

Imperial Palace Park

Making a fall boquet

South gate, Imperial Palace

Imperial Palace park
walking in the gardens at Nijo castle

Here are the pictures of what we have seen and where we have been: 

Kara-mon, Nijo castle
Ninomaru Garden, Nijo Castle

Outer moat, Nijo castle

Special Autumn market, Nijo castle

Dragon detail, Kara-mon, Nijo castle

Garden at Tenryu-ji

Frog pool shrine at Tenryu-ji

Dragon mural, Tenryu-ji

Garden at Tenryu-ji

covered walkway between halls, Tenryu-ji
Kikakuju, the Golden Pavilion