October 15 – Day 2 in Kobe, Japan
Today we booked an all day tour to Kyoto to visit various shrines and temples, and return to Kobe via the bullet train – from 6:30 am to 4:30 pm, a very full day. Usually we don’t book tours longer that a half day, so we have time to prowl around on our own, but we really want to ride the bullet train, and we had a half day on our own yesterday due to the early arrival. After a quick bite for breakfast – the kitchen wasn’t quite open yet, we were out to our bus by 6:30. To our pleasant surprise, the guide was the same young lady who escorted us to Mt. Rokko, Yuko, who was easy to understand and had a sparkling sense of humor. She filled the gaps between stops with loads of information on life in Japan, and her life as a young single woman in Kobe, living with her parents.
This is Yuko, from later in the day on the Bullet Train.
After an hour and a half bus ride, our first stop was at the Temple in Kyoto. Kyoto was the capital of Japan at one time, and has long been a religious and spiritual center, having over 1600 temples and shrines. By the way, they are called Temples if they are Buddhist, and Shrines if they are Shinto.
Ninety percent of Japanese claim to be Shinto, and 85% claim Buddhism – obviously many are both. Shinto can perhaps be described as the indigenous religious beliefs and practices of Japan, while Buddhism came into Japan in the 6th century AD, and gradually it came to interpret Shinto from a Buddhist perspective – the two tend to be compatible and mutually supportive. Shinto has no founder, nor any official scripture, but there are “sacred” books of Shinto, written in the 8th century, which are compilations of the oral traditions and history of ancient Japan, from which Shinto doctrines can be understood. At the core of Shinto are beliefs in the mysterious creating and harmonizing power of Kami and in the truthful way or will of Kami. Shinto is more readily observed in the daily life of the Japanese people and in their motivations than in a formal belief system or philosophy – as an attitude toward life.
This group of Japanese businessmen is meeting at the Heian Shinto shrine to seek the blessing of a new venture.
We visited the Kiyomizu Buddhist Temple, high in the foothills surrounding Kyoto, and spent time touring the beautiful grounds.
The next stop was the Kinkaku-ji Temple, which was originally a summer villa built by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa in 1397. It is often referred to by its common name The Golden Palace, due to the gold covering of its most prominent building.
Before heading to the train station for the trip back to Kobe, we visited the local Kyoto market, in the middle of downtown – it is about 4 blocks long, jammed with people doing the local shopping.
Ok so what Japanese delicacy is this????
As is normal, the guide tells us what time to return to the bus, and this time tells us several times, and emphasizes it, since we must make the train station for the trip back. Sure enough, two people don’t show, and still haven’t arrived after 30 minutes – after a frantic search and many phone calls to the ship, the guide makes a decision and we leave for the train station. She is quite concerned, but we make the bullet train with three minutes, minus two passengers.
The train ride was spectacular – smooth, quiet, and fast 270 kilometers per hour – 167 mph. It took us an hour and a half to drive up on the bus, and 29 minutes to return.
When we returned to the ship, our missing passengers greeted us – how does that work?
We also learned that the typhoon has changed our itinerary. Instead of heading to Okinawa as planned, we will now travel through Japan’s inland sea to extreme southwestern Japan to the city of Nagasaki.
A couple more interesting sites in Kyoto.