Today was a very busy day.
Before I headed out for sightseeing, I tried begging at the APA Hotel for another night. No luck.
So I grabbed my stuff, and raced to Kyoto Station and managed to grab one of the last lockers in the basement area. They were pretty much full by 8:30 a.m.
Soft-sided luggage is a godsend, because I can squish it into a smaller locker. The softer, the better. The less of it, the better, too.
Then I grabbed a local train to Tofukuji to see the temple there.
On the way to Tofukuji, I saw my first pretty red leaves:
As I was walking, I saw a place called Rikkyou-An, and it had a lovely garden inside.
Then I arrived at the entrance to Tofukuji. It was packed, and the line was huge.
It seems as if all of Japan has descended on Kyoto to stare at red leaves. I started my day by going to Tofukuji Temple, which a number of magazines recommended as a top place to see the fall colors.
That was my first mistake: relying on popular Japanese travel magazines. Japan is a group-oriented society, and everyone reads the same things, including the same travel magazines, so everyone was at the same place.
It was insane. Scores of people cornering some random trees with red leaves, shooting photo after photo.
Yes, they’re pretty, but are they that pretty?
We’re surrounded by 1,400 years of culture, countless UNESCO World Heritage sites, and nobody cares. It’s all about the leaves.
It’s somewhat mystifying.
That said, I managed to get caught up in the leaf frenzy too. I found myself taking lots of pictures of red trees and their red, red, leaves.
Have a look:
This is the Tsutenkyo Bridge, from the entry to the temple:
And after an hour of that, I left. Tofukuji is a very nice place to visit just about any other time of the year. The do leaves make it really pretty. It’s just the crowds that make it unbearable. Pick a weekday or come some other time of year.
I ran into a couple from the U.S., and we engaged in that usual activity of foreigners in Japan, which is a bit of head-shaking at the things we don’t quite understand. I’m sure everyone does it a bit when they travel somewhere.
Goodbye Welcome Inn
I headed back to the station. It was 11 a.m., so I stopped by the Welcome Inn Reservation Center for the last time. They are closing it permanently after the 30th. Shoot. Anyway, I tried to see if I could scrounge up a western-style hotel room, in a 40-mile radius, but didn’t have any luck. The lady suggested that I try the travel agencies in the station.
I decided to give Nippon Travel a shot, and waited a bit to see an agent. He managed to find the last hotel room in Osaka, at the Business Hotel Consort. I took it for 5,000 yen. What the heck. It’s not the most exciting name for a hotel, but beggars can’t be choosers tonight. My only other option is sacking out at an internet cafe, and while I’d like to try that sometime, I’m fine with being in a regular hotel, too.
After reserving a room for the night, I went to the Kyoto City info center for ideas, because after dealing with the morning’s crowds, I was stumped for what to do next. I didn’t want to go to another temple or shrine that was as crowded as Tofukuji and fight leaf peepers all day.
I asked one of the consultants there if there was a way to avoid the crowds and still soak in some of the Kyoto atmosphere.
Then he recommended Arashiyama. It was actually a pretty good idea, because Arashiyama has enough room to spread out.
Sort of. Anyway, Arashiyama is pretty.
This post is already long because of the photos, so let’s continue it in part two.