Our last day in Kyoto was taken a bit slower. Actually, half way through the day we traveled to our new town Nara.
Allen and I slept in until 8 or 8:30am. Then we leisurely packed up our stuff and got ready to leave Ryokan Nakajimaya. (We had told Alaina we wanted a “late” start and were meeting her at 10am.) The kind ladies at the ryokan let us leave our backpacks there with them which was great. We were not looking forward to carrying them around all day. We met Alaina and all though we were highly skeptical, we headed out to the Buddhist temple Kiyomizudera.
To be honest, we were really “templed” out at this point. There are hundreds of temples and shrines all over (especially in Kyoto) and they all start to look the same. This is even more so when you’re bouncing between them without rest or variety. I found I prefer shrines to temples (Shinto to Buddhist). The shrines often have a more mystical feel along with animal companions while the temples can feel a little stark and sometimes one-note.
All that being said I was pleasantly surprised at Kiyomizudera. Its claim to fame is a large wrap around balcony that you can see Kyoto from. The entire temple is built on a cliff. The main building was larger than average and the inside felt like a preview for China to me: large round wooden pillars with a vaulted ceiling, tall metal lanterns, and seals. It was pretty neat.
My absolute favorite part though was both terrifying and yet strangely thrilling. (For me. Alaina did not care of it. I might have changed my mind if I had been pregnant. Safety concerns sort of kick in.) It’s called the Rebirth Tunnel or Tour through the Womb of Zuigu-Bosatsu. So, at first we thought we were buying tickets to go further into this building and see some artifacts and antiques. But no. That wasn’t it. I got handed this piece of paper describing how to walk through a womb. I didn’t do anything but scan it since there was a crowd behind me pushing in.
We then descended into a dark passageway below. Very quickly all the light was extinguished. I have never been in a darker place. I think the back of my eyelids is brighter compared to that darkness. I could feel my other senses extending out to try and make up for the total lack of sight. I could hear Allen ahead of me, Alaina behind, and feel changes in the air currents as the passage turned. Thankfully, there was a railing you were supposed to grab. The railing was comprised of giant, fist-sized prayer beads. They twirled under my hand as I ran it along.
The passage twisted and turned quite a bit and sloped upward and downward all without any light. Finally we came to a light in the distance. It shined down upon this round sacred rock. The paper had said something about making a wish and then turning the stone? I had forgotten the wish part till afterwards. I gave the thing a light shove but it didn’t look like it would budge let alone turn. I moved on back into the darkness. The end came soon after the big stone. We blinked back into the noon sun temporarily blinded in a different way.
It was a neat little experience and it really illustrated their point: have no attachments. Follow and have faith in the Buddhist tenements. It’s far more effective (and fun) than a sermon. I’m not religious but I appreciated the thoughts and sentiments. Anyway, I was also trying really, really hard not to think of the underground tunnels in the Fatal Frame 2 horror game.
We wound our way back down the mountain and then to the station after that.
The Otowa Waterfall up close. It’s pure spring waters are split into three streams. Each of the streams supposedly has different wish granting powers: success in business, love, or longevity respectively. You’re not supposed to drink from all three though. That’d be cheating.
Back in downtown Kyoto near Kawaramachi Station, we went to another okonomiyaki restaurant. This one, called Mr. Young Men, was muuuuch better. I got the Young Man’s lunch special that came with yakisoba, okonomiyaki, two rice balls, and miso. I was so full after that.
We picked up our bags, did some quick shopping, and then Allen and I were back on the kakigori, shaved ice quest. Allen really wanted to find the first place where we had made it ourselves. There was much walking but we finally found it. There were two different options: make it yourself or they make it. The DIY shaved ice wasn’t available but I guess after seeing Allen’s disappointment, the waitress asked her manager. They were really nice and I felt a little bad as they hauled out all the machines and ingredients but they seemed more amused than anything. The cooks kept telling me to add more syrup and fruit to my shaved ice. It was fun and really delicious.
After a happy end to Allen’s Kakigori tale (or at least the first installment), we all continued on to Nara, home of the sacred deer. I won’t bore you with the details. It was just more traveling. And traveling includes sweat, sore backs, and the usual questions.
“Are we going the right way?”
“Wait, I have to go to the bathroom.”
“Argh! Was that the train?!”
By the time we got to Nara it was late and we were all tired. There was some confusion at the hotel and after that was sorted we threw down our bags and relaxed. I had an iced coffee because I was tired of collapsing on my laptop at 9pm and not having any mental relaxation time. The following hours were bliss. Also, we got to do laundry. Thank god.
Actual Nara sightseeing commences on the following day.
Here’s some more glorious pictures of our Mr. Young Men food. I don’t know why some of the dishes came with little flags.
My okonomiyaki and yakisoba combo.The yummy rice balls that came with my combo.Allen’s okonomiyaki that was previously claimed by the United Kingdoms. Alaina’s..America..okonomiyaki.Special addition! We bought this takoyaki stand as a souvenir for my sister. Here’s what it looks like fully assembled. They had a bunch of different models.