The last stop on the Asian leg of our Semester at Sea voyage was in Japan. We docked in Kobe, but SVV and I immediately hopped a train from there to Kyoto for the night (about $10 each and a 45-minute ride).
News flash: Japan is expensive, y’all. While a few of our ship friends stayed in guest houses around the country (marginally cheaper), we didn’t decide to go to Kyoto until a couple days before we docked and, by then, all the prices I found on Hotels.com were exorbitant. So, to save our travel funds, we forked over some more of our coveted Gold Passport points to stay at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto for free. Hmmm…$650 a night or 18,000 points—I think we got the better deal in that equation.
We checked into the hotel, and seeing as the skies were heavy with rain, caught up on all of our Internetting until they cleared. (It was the first time we’d had a speedy connection since leaving the United States in August.) Unfortunately, this wasn’t until 4pm, and being the start of winter, the sun set not long after that.
Still, as soon as the rain stopped coming down, we hit the pavement and took a walk out to Kiyomizu-dera, one of the most well-known temples in Kyoto. Fact: The city has 1,600 temples and 400 shrines, so even if the weather had been in our favor, we wouldn’t have made it to even a fraction of them.
The temple was just about a 20-minute walk from our hotel; however, even while following the map, we found ourselves on a side road surrounding by cemeteries.
The road was steep and we knew it led up to the vicinity of Kiyomizu-dera, but the further we walked, the more tombstones we encountered. It was a bit eerie—particularly, as we never passed another pedestrian during our walk—but quite the sight.
By the time we finally found the temple, we’d nearly lost all the light.
Plus, the place was closing down so we didn’t even get to go inside (which was actually fine by me as I’ve seen a whole lot of temples and other religious sites in my travels).
It was a worthwhile endeavor nonetheless, though, as we looked out and saw all of Kyoto lit up at dusk.
After that, we wandered down the main touristy stretch on our way home. I didn’t have a phone the whole time we were traveling around the world, so for once, I wasn’t readily accessible by Twitter and email at all hours of the day. Thus, imagine my surprise when I got back to our hotel and had a Tweet that one of my followers had seen us at the temple in Kyoto. “I recognized you on the shopping street, but I couldn’t figure out where I knew you from!” This wasn’t a first occurrence, though: It was actually the third time this happened to me at various points of the voyage—I guess it’s just illustrative of how small social media makes the world! You can be on the opposite side of the globe from where you hail and still run into someone who “knows” you.