We arrived hassle free in Kyoto and quickly found our hotel directly opposite the Kyoto Station – the Hotel Hokke Club Kyoto. As it was late Saturday afternoon when we arrived we spent the evening having a quick look around the station area. To our surprise there are a huge number of shops and eating places and many malls around the Kyoto Station area.
First thing on the agenda for Sunday was a bike tour with the Kyoto Cycling Tour Project. We did the Back Street Tour which goes for about 4 hours from Kyoto Station through Miyagawacho & Gion areas, up the Shirakawa River for a spell and then onto the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park.
First stop on the tour was Higashi-Honganji Temples. These are considered the largest wooden structures in the world. Originally constructed in 1604, the halls of the temples were rebuilt recently in 1895 after being destroyed in fire four times – a common issue in Japan.
From the temples we rode through back streets and onto Gion which is the main entertainment district. We stopped at some historical sites along the way and also received a great briefing on Geisha’s by our guide while in front of one of the Geisha homes.
After exploring Gian it was onto the Heian-jingu Shrine. As we approached the shrine you ride under a huge red-orange gate.
Final stop was along the river and then onto the Imperial Palace Park. The Palace itself is only open on certain days and as we were there during a set of public holidays we were unable to go inside. But a ride around the park and gardens was still a treat.
At around 1:30pm our guide dropped us at a great little place for lunch. We got to keep the bikes for the rest of the day and so could slowly make our own way back to Kyoto Station to return them.
On our way back we called into the Kyoto International Museum of Modern Art which has a Miko (Geisha) Dance demonstration from 2 to 3pm that runs in 3 sessions for 15 minutes each. We were not that impressed with the dance but the area of the museum where it is held also has a lot on Japanese craft which was very impressive to see how all the various things are done – from weaving to painting to fan making to lacquering etc.