Kyoto – Ancient Capital of Japan

Kyoto used to be the capital city of Japan hundreds of years ago and so it hosts some of the best temples in the whole of the country as well as many festivals around the year, we were luck enough to be there during Gion Matsuri.

Gion Matsuri

During our time in Kyoto it rained pretty much every day.  There was some doubt about whether this festival was going to be on but they decided to go ahead with it anyway.  Pelting with rain we stood in shelter and watched the people outside move around huge shrines chanting rhythmically.  Eventually the progression moved down the road and away from the temple.

Nijo Castle

One of the many UNESCO World Heritage sites in Kyoto, Nijo Castle was founded by the famous Tokugawa.  It served as a the residence for the Tokugawa shogunate when they were in Kyoto as well as a show of strength for the other feudal lords around the area.  It has been painstakingly restored by the Japanese.

Within the Castle is the Palace where the shoguns actually lived and held court. Recently restored, you can walk around the palace and learn about the history of the Tokugawa shogunates.  It also has some very interesting, although in Japanese, information about how they restored the palace.

Nishiki Market

Along this old, and very long, road Nishiki Market has everything you want from an asian market.  Food, drinks and trinkets line the road, there’s plenty of samples to try.  If you want fresh fish, sweet things or fruit then you’ll find what you want.

Himeji Castle

I think Himeji Castle is my favourite place in the whole of the Kansai area.  It’s beautiful to look at and the more you learn about it’s intricacies the more wonderful it seems.  I visited it last year but it was still under reconstruction at that point and covered in a protective scaffolding, so I was very excited to come back and see it for a second time when it was fully on display.

Constructed over 700 years ago Himeji castle was built as show of strength and power.  Although never under siege it has wonderful techniques for protecting the castle, all explained wonderfully by our guide.

It’s also incredibly beautiful.

Next to the castle itself are some beautiful gardens which you can visit for only an extra 50 yen.

Himeji is the most impressive castle I’ve seen in Japan and I was so happy to go back there again for a second time.

Next stop

Next we’re heading all the way up Japan to the northern island of Hokkaido.  It’s my first time to this colder part of Japan.  It meant to be an untouched wilderness and I have big expectations.

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