I know. I'm sorry. "Kickin'" with no "g." But I clearly like alliteration and it felt weird somehow to have the "g" and that's the best I got right now. Imagine my face with the "deal with it" meme right now.
Kyoto! Kyoto was the coolest. Maybe my favorite city. It's the old capital of Japan. Fun fact from our food tour guide, Kanemoto: Tokyo literally means "east of Kyoto." I bet Kyoto-ans hold that shit over Tokyo-ites heads all the time. But maybe not. Maybe they are more mature than that.
But yeah, Kyoto was awesome. It's still a huge city, but its a bit more connected to nature. It's surrounded by mountains that are easily accessible, and there are a billion temples. Perhaps literally, that is how templed this city feels (yes, I verbed it). So. Many. Temples. And it was awesome. We checked out:
Fushimi Inari-Taisha: There is a huge temple at the base but the cool part is taking a walk up the mountain through an endless arcade of torii (huge red shrine gates). Each torii had been bought/sponsored by companies. The Fushimi Inari temple is dedicated to the gods of rice and sake (sweet!), and as the role of agriculture diminished in Japan, these deities were brought in to ensure prosperity in the business. So basically, these companies who in turn "sponsor" a torii are trying to buy themselves some sweet, sweet business karma. Fox statues are everywhere, too, as they are seen as the messenger to Inari. We went before sunset, it was pretty rad.
Higashiyama Area: beautiful spots, we got our zen on (kind of).
A bunch of temples here are connected by old school preserved roads with cute shops. You feel like you're in Busch Gardens except it's the real thing. I feel blasphemous even writing that but it shows the influence Busch Gardens clearly had on my younger self. Here, people come out in full kimono mode, and it's not for the tourists. Kimonos are still totally in (though, I get the feeling it is special occasion wear. I have clearly done no research on this), and its awesome to see. The women are all decked out with gorgeous hair and makeup, and then there's these two sweaty schlubs from DC huffing up the hill next to them, mayyyyybe taking photos like a total creeper (well, just one of us anyway, big guess who).
Sanjusangen-do Temple: We went to this temple which boasts 1001 golden wooden statues (overachievers) of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. She has something like 33 additional statues, all different, there to protect her clone army. I don't know what from, but I guess everyone's got enemies. It was an amazing site to see, all 1034 life size statues perfectly lined up in this enormous wooden hall. No photos allowed, but I googled this one just for you:
I also saw an old Japanese man shush the crap out of a bunch of giggling Japanese schoolgirls, which amused me immensely.
Kiyomizu-dera: This temple was clearly a hotspot, it was suuuuuper crowded, but still worth it. It has something called a Love Stone, where people try to walk from one stone to the other with their eyes closed (probably 30-40 ft apart?). If you make it, you will absolutely rock it in the love-life department. If not, there's always tindr (Buddha said so). You are also allowed "assistance," if you like, but if you use it, it means you will also need "assistance" in your love life. Hiiiiiiilarious.
We did not do the love thing, regardless of my jokes about this being a great "starter marriage," I am kinda hoping it sticks (ie, we have it, lets not tempt fate, eh??? ) That, and we were absolutely engulfed by school kids. So no love rock journey for us. But we did stand in line (Kanners voluntarily in line! Can you believe it?) to drink from a sacred waterfall (called "otowa-no-taki"). The waterfall was split into three sections...one stream was for luck in love, one for luck in school, one for longevity. There were no signs in English to tell you which was which, so even though we were going for the longevity magic water stream, we could only roll the dice and hope for the best. I probably drank the school one. Damnit. Maybe I should think about grad school....
Kyoto is also where we had the most fun dining experience: conveyor belt sushi. It. Was. AWESOME!!! Every glutton's dream. Every plate was 150 yen (less than $1.50) and usually consisted of 2 pieces unless it was a real choice fish; then it was 1 piece. And they had other stuff, like horsemeat sushi (eh) and miso soup, etc. But we were focused. And we conquered SEVENTEEN plates.
I loved every second of it. Oh, what's that? A fish youve never heard of? Yes, please. And I'lltake tuna, and salmon, and roasted duck (?! yes.) and. And. And. Just the best. There was a lot of awesome weird and obscure choices, none of which i can now remember. Yay, giving up on daily journaling!
BUT THE BEST part of Kyoto was the monkeys.
ou can take a train to the outskirts of town to an area called Arashiyama and hike 10 min up a mountain and see a crap ton of adorable, yet terrifying, Japanese Macaque monkeys. These are the same kind of monkeys that are famous for chilling in hot springs in the snow, with bare red butts. The monkeys are completely wild, and just gather at this spot. Proooooobably because humans often give them snacks. But! The whole thing is really impressively run. The rangers have signs everywhere telling you what to do and what not to do ("do not look them in the eye" is a particularly frightening one...). And the only feeding going on is with the HUMANS inside a cage, giving the MONKEY park sanctioned natural snacks, like bits of fruit.
I found out early on that the "no eye contact" rule was no joke. I accidentally looked one in the eye and immediately thought it was going to murder me...Or at the very least, steal my soul. And maybe it did. Another time, one passed by me and by total (terrible) reflex (and to Adam's horror), I called to it like I was trying to get a puppy to come see me. Adam and I both thought my day had come, but I just turned around and walked away like I wasn't a total moron and I think the monkey forgave me (because I am still here). Lots of baby monkeys, too, which were adorable because they never looked at me like they could steal my soul. They were just adorable, the end.
Arashiyama is also an area with a huge bamboo grove. It was very peaceful and zen and I think I speak for us both that we found the meaning in life there. Just kidding, it was crowded as shit, but, still pretty beautiful and worth it, even with the rest of Japan (or maybe more correctly, China) was there.