9:08am: It's a bright, sunny day here in Kyoto. We will be changing rooms soon and touring shrines. From what I hear, Kyoto is heavy on the Zen vegetarianism, so hammercock should feel right at home.
10pm: We're a bit battered and bruised after today. It was a blazingly sunny day for temple hopping. Our first step was Higashi Hongan-ji which was right by our ryokan. This was after we packed for our room transfer. The temple was under restoration until 2011, but we could still tour inside (minus the shoes, of course). It was the day of carrying giant shoes inside plastic bags that were obviously too small. Higashi was actually the locals' competitive answer to Nishi-ongan-ji Temple which was a few blocks west. Both were beautiful for being the largest wooden structures in Japan. For a while, they boast themselves as the largest wooden structures in the world.
After Nishi, we decided to convert our travelers' checks into bills. The traveler's checks have been pretty much useless except for the fact that they were in Yen, so no fees. At the Kyoto Central Post Office it felt like "Silly Americans holding the line" with our broken English. After spending 30 minutes there, we decided to get a one-day bus pass to reach the other temples. Near the bus station was a vending machine that served hot foods. We ordered fries. They were tasty.
On the bus to near Gion, we ran into a trio of tourists from Italy (Naples, Rome, and Sicily to be exact) heading our way. We all went to Chionin Temple after a decent hike up the hills and stairs. Of course, there are a lot of shops for local sweets, ceramics, and kori (shaved ice). There were lots of temples and shrines. I pretty much lost track once we hit Eastern Kyoto. There was a shrine dedicated to the love stone where people go for prayers on love and relationships. The story is that you close your eyes and walk from one stone to the other, while saying the name of your intended. If you make it to the other stone, the relationship will be a good and loving one. If not, then it's just not meant to be. I've seen Japanese tourists fail this. My wife has witnessed me succeeding. Looks like we're stuck to each other :)
At around 2pm, we toured the shops and acquired a really good sake set (minus pandas having sex). There was also a sweets shop where you are given complimentary cold green tea. I ate a white peach soft serve while hammercock ordered kori with yuzu. It was like having marmalade. Yum. After this, hammercock was feeling ambitious and wanted to hit Nanzien temple. We saw that and hit the top of the giant wooden Sansen Gate. With the trees, it would have been lovely. However, the sun was blazing and the air was dense. I accidentally backed into a metal panel and burned by arm.
The Nanzien Temple area has a lovely garden that made it worth the trip. In the evening, we ate a yodufu and tempura course in an area dominated by Zen Buddhists. It was on a bus back to our ryokan that we saw central Kyoto at night. Screw Times Square. Screw Las Vegas. There was a sensory overload as we saw shops, bars, and the occasional Irish pub. I'm a city boy myself, and this was my kind of place. I'll leave the serenity to my wife. Unfortunately, I couldn't stop there. There was no time. There never was time.