We rode the train up to Kyoto on Thursday morning. Once there we caught a bus out to the northwest neighborhood of Arashiyama. After a simple lunch of fried rice or rice and curry, we visited a macaque monkey (the only monkeys found in Japan) reserve. It was a fun hike up the mountain. Monkeys roamed wild and then at the top humans could feed them healthy snacks from within an enclosure.
Next stop was the Tenryugi Zen Buddhist Temple. Zen gardens are a new favorite. Adjacent to the gardens is an amazing bamboo grove.
We then walked through the neighborhood with its cool traditional Japanese homes and occasional shrines. Budding haikuists Joel and Sarah were particularly happy when we happened upon the home a famous writer of haikus that Joel had even read about in a haiku book he got for Christmas.
That night we stayed in a traditional Japanese ryokan (Nagomi-Ryokan Yuu). The experience included unfolding our stacked bedding to then sleep on the floor. The kids were in a loft. It was a cold night in Kyoto but thick comforters kept everyone warm.
Our first stop on the second day (after breakfast at McDonald's) were the gardens surrounding the walled imperial palace (Kyoto was Japan’s capital for over 1,000 years). It was really raining so we each got a souvenir umbrella to help keep us dry.
We then visited another Zen Buddhist shrine: the Daitokuji temple complex. Most impressive were the Zen gardens at the Daisen-in shrine (no photos allowed inside so I took photos of the raked gravel and rock gardens from the poster outside to show what we saw on the inside) and the bamboo entry to the Koutou-in Shrine.
Our last Kyoto Temple was the Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shinto Shrine. So cool with its thousands of orange torii (gates). We hiked the whole circular route up the mountain passing through every gate. This shrine was originally dedicated to the gods of rice and sake but now has expanded its roll to include prosperity in business as well as the fields. The fox is considered the messenger of Inari--the god of rice harvest. The many foxes along the way alternately hold keys to the rice granary or stocks of rice in their mouths.
Shades of orange
The modernistic Kyoto Train station (where most in the family had pizza for dinner). It has a large staircase spanning six stories (the escalator spans 11 stories in the open atrium) that uses LED lights to show animated light shows included greetings for Valentines Day (seems to be a big holiday in Japan) and frolicking in-love bears.
We then rode the train back to Kobe.