Getting out of the mega-city of Tokyo was a nice break every couple days or so. It just so happened that after we got our rail passes that we decided to schedule a day trip outside of Tokyo about every other day.
The bullet train ride from Tokyo to Kyoto was about three hours. When we arrived in Kyoto, we decided that it would be a good idea to rent bicycles and ride around the city. This allowed us to move quickly but also gave us enough control to stop when we wanted to and move slowly enough to still take in the city and soak in the sights. With only a couple things on our must-see list, we figured the day would be an easy one (it wasn’t). The first thing we did was ride our bikes towards Kiyomizu Dera. We rode a few miles before arriving at the west entrance of the park.
We spent a few hours walking through the park, most of which was uphill, passing by a few temples and a insanely large graveyard. The views along the walk were impressive to say the least. Up until that point we had only seen a handful of people. Nearing the end of our trek, we turned a corner and finally arrived at Kiyomizu Dera.
Along with the temple, there were literally thousands of people buzzing along the main drag filled with shops that sold food, trinkets, and other things. Many Asians wore kimonos and geta, which just made the environment that much better. While walking around taking photos, I was approached by a group of Japanese middle school students. They asked if I could help them with their English homework. Of course, as a teacher myself, I obliged.
After spending a bit more time walking through shops, we jumped back on the bikes and grabbed some udon for lunch. After lunch we planned on biking to the bamboo forest in Arashiyama. While riding and navigating simultaneously, I dropped my phone. Not only did I drop it, but it ended up right in between my spokes, slamming into the back of my front fork. Needless to say, it was done for. After riding a bit more, we decided that the additional mileage was not manageable before the last train left for Toyko. We returned the bicycles, had a match shot frappuccino, and hopped on the train back to Tokyo.
We did however make a second trip to Kyoto two days later. While this did mean that we would have to cross Osaka off our list for this trip, we thought the bamboo forest would be worth it. When we arrived the second time, we took a cab straight to Arashiyama.
Still, we got sidetracked (a little lost) and ended up taking a hike to the highest point in the area. We were greeted at a temple at the top of the trail and decided to take in the view and reap the reward for our walking. I observed quietly at first, but then decided to make small conversation with some other visitors and took a few portraits.
After the temple, we took the easier walk back down and headed toward the bamboo forest. For someone who likes to take photos of natural environments, it was hard to wait out the perfect shot in an area that is packed with tourists and selfie sticks. I didn’t expect the amount of people that were there but I did manage to grab a few shots I was happy with.
While Kyoto was a bit more tourist-filled than anticipated, we did find the nature-based reprieve we were looking for although it took a bit of walking (and biking) to do so. Of course, we only were there for two half days so we remained focused on the bigger sites to see.