Day 5 (August 17th): Toshodaiji and Horyuji
I began my second day in Nara with a blueberry danish (110 yen) that left me ready to take on the day, even though the weather report said it was going to be a whopping 93 degrees. Now, I thought I was being a smart, responsible traveler by locking my extra money up at the hostel before I left, but (me being the doofus I am) I accidentally forgot to replenish the money in my wallet and ended up heading out for the day with only enough money for one train ticket and one temple. The temple I chose to visit was one called Toshodaiji, which was a beautiful temple complex with some seriously awesome bronze Buddhist statues in the main building.
After Toshodaiji, I had to make the trek back to the hostel to pick up some more funds. Although I had planned to visit Horyuji and Todaiji in the afternoon, time constraints meant that I had to pick one, and I chose Horyuji, the self-proclaimed oldest wooden structure in the world. Even though it's a bit of a side-trip from Nara, it was definitely worth it.
After that, I headed back to the hostel with some very sore feet and a sense of accomplishment. Getting caught in a downpour five minutes from home was actually quite refreshing, and I left Nara this morning with nothing but good feelings for the city.
Day 6 (August 18th): Kyoto
A Fated Encounter (with Totoro)
Kyoto is one of the places that I've been most looking forward to visiting, because it's a city saturated in so much history. It was the capital city before Tokyo, and one of the only major cities in Japan that managed to escape the bombings during World War II because of its cultural significance. The hills around Kyoto are packed with some of the most famous temples in the world, like Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion), the Byodoin (home of the Phoenix Hall) and Kiyomizudera, a temple with a beautiful terrace that looks out over Kyoto. I'm hoping to visit both Kinkakuji and Kiyomizudera tomorrow, and I'm ridiculously excited, as they're both places that we've discussed in a lot of my classes.
Today, however, was not a temple day. Today was the day that I got to tour Nijo-jou, the stunning castle in the middle of the city that was originally home of the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (whose tomb I got to see during the very first camp--full circle!). I didn't expect to love it as much as I did, but it's definitely the most awesome place I've seen so far on my trip. I'm going to see Himeji-jou in Kobe in a few days, and now I'm even more excited for it.
My distrust of public transportation led me to walk to Nijo-jou, and although it was extremely warm, I'm glad I did. Kyoto is such an interesting mix of old and new, and you can walk down a street that looks really modern and suddenly there'll be a humongous temple smack in the middle of everything. When I got to Nijo-jou, I was sweating buckets, but it was so beautiful that it didn't even matter.
I did, however, get even further proof that Studio Ghibli and I have some sort of cosmic connection.
Even though I brought my umbrella with me when I left the hostel, the amount of rain that started coming down made it pretty clear that I needed to find somewhere to stop. Wandering through the backstreets, every place where I could shelter was already crowded with other people. Just when I was about to give up, what do I see? Totoro. Through a dark, hidden passage filled with Studio Ghibli memorabilia, I found a shop filled with cute stuffed animals, figurines, keychains, and anything else you could possibly think of. What better place to wait out the rain? On top of that, the shop was playing "Make It With You" by Bread, and if there's one thing that makes me happy it's Golden Oldies. Truly, it felt like destiny.
While I didn't get as much done today as I would have liked, what I did do was awesome. I managed to find the hostel without getting lost at all, and it's a really nice hostel, too, so I'm pretty satisfied with myself. Tomorrow is going to be awesome!