Kyoto Festival, Shrines and Temples

Another article in our OBT series. When we were planning our trip, everyone said that we needed to spend time in Kyoto Japan because it represents ancient Japanese culture. We did see many temples and shrines but we also stumbled onto a large festival with floats and parties.


For our first day in Kyoto, I arranged a personal guide through Just like at home, we went to Starbucks with Haruka (our guide) to get coffee and plan our day. He suggested we visit six shrines and temples along with the Gion area, which we (Mike) thought might be too much, but we wound up doing everything. We visited the Imperial Palace, the Fushimi Inari shrine with 10,000 Torii gates, and the Higashiyama Jishoj (Silver Temple), which all had nice, traditional, Japanese gardens.

The Sanjūsangen-dō shrine, which I thought was the most impressive, had 1001 hand-carved statues of Buddha, each with 40 hands, none of which were exactly alike. Haruka told us that each sculptor only made 2 of these life-sized Buddhas. Some of them had even survived for more than 600 years. At this shrine, there were also very expressive stone statues of 28 guardian deities whose origins lie in Hinduism.

Summer Festival Parade

On our way back to the hotel, we found a few of the floats being readied for a parade. They were all lit up with 16 or 20 Japanese lanterns on each end. The mood was festive and many people were out buying commemorative fans and shirts. The next morning, Mike and I managed to get out on the street in time to see most of the Kyoto Summer festival parade. There were lots of people marching along with each float and some people in the floats hitting gongs and drums. The entire spectacle was really interesting and then we saw it again on the news that night.

(Listen for the cicadas in the trees)

Cooking Izakaya

In the afternoon, we attended an Izakaya cooking class at a small cooking studio in a residential area of Kyoto. There, we met people from Israel, Mexico City, and Spain. We made seven different dishes and most were quite good. The highlight for me was making dashi from scratch and learning how to make miso soup using dashi.

Japanese cooking is surprisingly simple but with lots of umami from the dashi, mirin, sake, soy sauce, and miso. My favorite dishes were the chicken in vinegar sauce and the sautéed kabocha, which is a type of squash. Happily, we were all able to cook together successfully and we had fun, of course, the big glass of sake with our meal helped, too.


Thursday we took a day trip to Hiroshima on the Shinkansen train. We visited the Atomic Bomb Dome, which is a building near ground zero that was still partially standing after the atomic bomb exploded. We then went to the Hiroshima Peace Museum, which described in detail the events of August 6, 1945. As you can imagine, the museum is moving and sad but very even-handed and factual. At the end of the route through the museum, there is an extensive section on the benefits of nuclear disarmament and you could hardly argue after the descriptions of people’s skin peeling off. They figured in Hiroshima 70,000 people died instantly and another 70,000 died within a month from the effects of radiation.

More Temples

Our last day in Kyoto, we decided there were a few more temples we had to see before we left, namely the ones they take you to on all of the tours including the Tenryuji temple, the bamboo forest, and Kinkakuji (Golden temple). As with all tourist spots, they were all packed with people, but the Golden Temple was pretty impressive.

Next stop on our roving retirement is Bangkok.

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1 comment

  1. Hiroshima was very moving for me too! We were there last fall and reinforced our belief of no more wars!

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