I arrived to Kyoto around 7 a.m. from Tokyo by way of overnight bus, which while it was the cheapest option, I vow never to take again. During the 8-hr. ride, I could not sleep. We stopped what felt like 10 times for 15-min. breaks. I'd wake up each time with neck cramps and general discomfort. Snoring to my left. Oh well.
My hotel check-in time was 4:00 p.m., so when I arrived at 7:30 a.m., I could do nothing but nap in the lobby until my volunteer guide (through a program called the Good Samaritan Club - Thanks Steven Kim for the rec!) Suzuho arrived at 9:00 a.m. She was super sweet from the start handing me a bus map I would diligently use throughout my time in Kyoto. She's a 19 year old International Relations student at the University of Kyoto. She will study at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI next year as part of an exchange program. It will be her first time in the US. I hope she at least has a decent time. I didn't want to promise the world to her as I know nothing about Kalamazoo. I said it'd probably be cold in the winter. I also told her to be open and initiate conversations. Most people are nice. Fingers crossed she doesn't run into a bunch of dbags.
She took me to a bunch of beautiful temples, each different in style & purpose. My favorite of the day was Ginkaku-ji - the Silver Pavilion. We took Tetsugaku no michi (Philosopher's Walk), a famous and very peaceful path along a little stream named because a long, long time ago, some well-known philosopher walked down it. In the many little alleyways along the path, I saw a ton of adorable flower and plant arrangements in front of homes and shops. I took a lot of pics, but am only sharing a few. I saw the second cutest shih tzu (after Cooper) balancing on the back of her owner's bicycle. I sampled lots of little mochi desserts with maccha tea. For lunch, I ate a warm, steaming bowl of udon noodles in curry broth - my first time and it was delicious!
Our last stop was the Yasaka Shrine in Gion (considered Downtown Kyoto). Here, there are three holy waterfalls you can drink from (with little metal cups). Each representing a different blessing: 1. good health 2. love 3. good grades. I chose to drink from the waterfall of health as I no longer need to care about grades, and I have plenty of love in my life.
Though there were no cherry blossoms or colorful autumn trees (therefore less crowds), it was a beautiful sunny day in Kyoto! Thank you Suzuho for the personalized guide and teaching me so many Japanese words and cultural facts! Arigato-Okini! (Thank you in the Osaka region)
Now, on to Day 2...my first full 24-hrs of solo travel.