Anyhoo. We spent four nights in Kyoto, and managed to pack quite a bit in. The train station there was incredible, and came complete with a giant Christmas tree.
On our first night, which was Christmas Eve, we met up again with our Kanazawa housemate Seigo, who had done the hard work before we got there and found a couple of good bars. There is a street/area full of restaurants and bars called Pontocho*, which is a kind of laneway.
Apparently Christmas Eve is quite a big commercial thing here, and a sort of couples' night out, and the streets of the shopping area near the Gion bridge* were absolutely crawling with people. We found a small bar with a dragon fly as its logo, where we encountered oragami-folding bar tenders, drinks with LED ice cubes, and Santa enjoying one last drink after a night of hard work.
G bought me some Christmas flowers because I love Christmas and miss not having the big traditional thing, and we turned them into a Christmas tree.
Christmas Day was spent visiting the Silver Temple (a UNESCO world heritage site) and strolling along the nearby canals. Even in winter it was a pretty walk but I imagine in spring it would be spectacular with the blossoms.
We also came upon an old viaduct and another temple complex*, but we had left our run too late in the day and it was closed to visitors. The gatehouse was still pretty impressive though.
Boxing Day included some more spectacular sightseeing. First up was the famous bamboo grove*, which I imagine would be more spectacular with no people around, but was still quite pleasant.
Next stop was the chaos of the money park*, where you spend twenty minutes hiking up a hill, and then you can feed monkeys from inside a human cage. Apparently the monkeys don't like being looked at or approached, so it was surprising that they seemed to spend quite a bit of time looking at and approaching humans. Although perhaps less surprising given how many people were feeding them!
Next stop was the golden temple*, and I've got zero pictures of it on my phone, so I may add them from my computer when I get back to Australia. But anyway, the golden temple was infinitely more spectacular than the silver one, so if you come here you should definitely visit the silver one first so you're not let down by it!
Lastly we stumbled upon the world's oldest Zen garden*, the ones with takes gravel and rocks. Again this was UNESCO listed and I had expected something a bit bigger or more spectacular. But it was still quite serene,if not entirely what I had expected. I guess the significance is in the history more than in the garden itself.
Apparently it's spectacular with the cherry blossoms in spring, and in Autumn when the leaves turn red they are open at night and have lights shining up from the ground to illuminate the leaves and make the whole thing glow.
Last stop was the pottery shops running down the road nearby - apparently this is a good place to pick up Kyoto pottery, and although a little pricey in places you can get some very beautiful things.
So that was Kyoto. I'm exhausted just writing about it - you don't really realise how kick you've packed in until you sit down and record it.
Next stop - Hiroshima!
*I'm too lazy to check all the names of these places and provide links from my phone, but they're all in easily-identifiable pictorial form on the bus/public transportation map, available at the information centre at Kyoto station. You can also pick up one and two day bus passes from the ticket machines in the main bus bay at Kyoto station (but apparently nowhere else that we could find), which I'd recommend doing if you're planning to see a few things