japan & korea 2017, travel

Japan and Korea 2017 Day 7 (Part 2): Nijo Castle, the Golden Pavilion, and the Geisha District

Welcome to part 2 of Day 7 of my 2017 Japan and South Korea trip! If you read my blog post about Day 7 part 1, you’ll know that we had quite a busy start to our first day in Kyoto (to the point where I had to slice what would normally have been one blog post into two blog posts…sigh). We did not mess around! We had 2 days set aside for Kyoto, and were going to make the best of it, and see as much as we could because we have no idea if we’ll ever be able to go back. Please read on if you’d like to see what we did for the rest of our first day in Kyoto!

After taking a cab down the mountain following our visit to Kiyomizu-dera, we made our way toward Nijo Castle (or, Nijojo)! And I didn’t really know what to expect. I had made all of the plans for Tokyo and surrounding areas, but other than booking the AirBnB for Kyoto, I left everything else up to my dad. He’d made a list of what he wanted to see, and my friend worked as our guide, mapping out the city and in what order we should see everything (poor her! I don’t think she knew what she signed up for, haha).

Nijo Castle was pretty interesting though, because whoever takes care of everything kept things the way that they were back in the day! I mean, back when samurai were still a thing. Some of you may remember that I was sad to have found that the inside of Odawara Castle had been completely modernized, so I was very very happy to find things as they used to be in Nijo Castle. Unlike the other castles we saw (and will see) on this trip, Nijo was just 1 story off the ground (the parts that I saw anyway), and they had these large windows on most of the outside. They also explained to us how in the winter, they have a very complex way of covering the windows with specially-made wooden planks. Sorry if you find that kind of thing boring! For me, it’s fascinating. (Also, I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to share any of my photos about the inside of the castle. I’m pretty sure that we weren’t allowed to take photos. But here is an article that includes photos of the interior for those of you who are curious!)

When the tour was over and we wandered around the beautiful gardens for a while (they were quite lovely, and I’m glad that I was able to get photos of that), we hailed another cab and made our way to Kinkakuji (or, the Golden Pavilion). I had seen multiple photos of the golden pavilion online, since it comes up a lot when you search for Japan wallpapers and such. But I had no idea that it was located in Kyoto, and that we would be seeing it. I was just along for the ride during our 2 days in Kyoto! These gardens were quite lovely, and I wish that we had had more time to really take everything in, rather than run (or take cabs, in our case) from place, to place, to place.

But hey, I guess we saw more than the average tourist would, right? Always have to keep the positive aspects in mind. I do plan on visiting Kyoto again, and really taking my time with some of these places though. I would especially like to go back to this little section we found as we wandered away from the golden pavilion, which showed some recreations of huts and houses that would have commonly been seen in Feudal Japan. I wouldn’t say that I’m a history buff, nor was I a history major in school, but I really do enjoy hearing about particular histories! And if there are visuals, all the better! By this point, we were getting pretty hungry, so we lit some incense for good luck, and made our way toward our next destination: Gion!

For those of you who don’t know, Gion is Kyoto’s famous Geisha district! And before I say anymore, I just want to say that it’s important when/if you go to Gion, and you see a geisha (or a maiko, geisha apprentices), you do not bother them for pictures, or follow them around. If they are walking down the street, fully dressed, it means that they are on the way to a place of work. It would be like someone stopping us when we’re about to get off at our bus stop, or stopping our car while we’re on our way to work, to ask if we can take a picture with them. Just to provide an example. Alright, now that that’s out of the way, we did not even look around for any geisha because we were extremely hungry.

My friend was able to find us a restaurant right on the Shirakawa River, and it was pure perfection. The restaurant served okonomiyaki (something like a pancake ((not sweet)) with vegetables and other toppings), and they had many options. So we settled in, seated on the floor just like we wanted, and ordered some different types of okonomiyaki and some delicious Japanese beer. It was one of the best meals ever, and I cannot begin to describe how happy I was to eat in such a neat little restaurant, right on the Shirakawa River! Some of you might be wondering what it is with me and this river, and all I can really say is that I’ve seen it TV shows, movies, and anime since my early teens, and it was a dream come true to finally see it, and Gion with my own eyes!

We could have stayed sitting in that restaurant forever, enjoying the good food and company, and listening to the river trickling by just below the windows. But we wanted to let others experience everything, and it was time to explore Gion. We took our time in Gion, which was nice after hopping from place to place all morning, and I was happy to be able to really take my time to take in Kyoto’s famous geisha district. We walked along the river first, taking in the bridges, and establishments on the other side of the river, and just the overall beauty of the area. I cannot even begin to describe everything, and I’m glad that I was able to take as many pictures of Gion as I could, because I can share them all with you guys!

My dad was also able to catch a picture of me taking a picture of a little shrine that really stood out to me (above)! And ugh, he got my cute little backpack that I bought in Tokyo’s Korea Town too! He also captured something that I definitely failed to get on film properly (so to speak); the buildings on our side of the river! I mean, look at those. I can’t get over how beautiful everything looked. Maybe I’ll just move to Kyoto! Haha.

As you can see above, I did get some buildings, but I kind of focused more on the lanterns than the buildings overall, and I really regret that now. But I still have my memories, right? Gion is really a unique place, and maybe I’ll be able to re-visit it in my dreams, if never again in person.

We wandered from one older section, to the more modern main street, to look at the shops, and something very exciting happened! We saw, a maiko! I generally try not to get people in my photos, on purpose, but was definitely not going to pass up the opportunity to take the picture of a maiko. While I was fumbling with my phone, trying to turn on my camera app, my dad already took the picture! And good thing too, because the maiko was in quite the rush, going in the opposite direction than we were, so the moment really lasted only a few seconds! Go dad! So skilled. Haha. I don’t like that other people’s faces were captured in the photo though, so I blurred those out. After that, we were on quite the high, and went into some shops.

We found a pickle shop, that I wish I’d taken pictures of for all of you, but I love pickles and got way too excited. There, I bought a pickled vegetable that I’d never heard of (and that ended up being quite delicious when I ate it back home in Canada), and some salted cherry blossoms (which I still have in my fridge)! Salted cherry blossoms are not to everyone’s taste, but as I’ve mentioned a few times before, I really enjoy the taste of cherry blossoms (whether in ice cream, or mochi), and I could not pass up the opportunity to buy some Kyoto cherry blossoms! I made some tea with my blossoms just to show you how pretty it looks when they open up, and I wish that I could share a cup with all of you!

We spent the rest of the day exploring more of Gion, then visiting a large mall in the much more modern part of the city (which was an experience). Then we enjoyed a nice long walk back to our AirBnB house (which was good for us, since we’d taken cabs for most of the day). Once there, we had fun figuring out how the bathroom taps worked (a lot of older buildings use gas to heat their water, and you have to turn the gas on first, etc.). Then we watched some variety shows on TV while enjoying some of the snacks that we picked up, before heading upstairs for an early night. The plan was that we would wake up sometime between 5 and 6 the next morning in order to head back to Fushimi Inari in the hopes that there would be less tourists. But, I will tell you all about that, and the rest of Day 8 in the next post/s!


7 thoughts on “Japan and Korea 2017 Day 7 (Part 2): Nijo Castle, the Golden Pavilion, and the Geisha District

  1. AHHH this looked like so much fun!! I’m not much of a history buff myself but it’s something about asian culture and history that really intrigues me. And everything looks so beautiful!! <3 Haha the snow falling on your blog kinda looked like cherry blossoms when they were travelling over the pictures 😀 YOUR BACKPACK IS ADORABLE OMG!!

    1. Hehe glad I’m not alone! And it was so so beautiful! I want to go baaaaack :'( <3

      And I was thinking that the snow looked like cherry blossoms too! And then thought about looking for a way to turn them into cherry blossoms when winter is over lmao! Great minds!

      AND THANK YOU! I love my little backpack so much! 😀

  2. These photos look AMAZING Flavia! I’m so intrigued by the world of he Geisha’s, it’s really awesome that you were able to visit. Even though you were rushing around, you did manage to get so much in & the next time you go, you’ll know where to go lol. That Tea looks so good & pretty! haha 🙂

    1. Thank youuu! And I’m intrigued by the Geisha world and traditions too!

      Also, it was such an indescribable experience, but I’m trying my best to share the sights and how it felt, hahaha. And isn’t the tea pretty!? I’m drinking some today again hehe 😛

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