“Easy Japan” in historic Kyoto
Chris Pritchard, AAP
August 28, 2012
Oh, no! We’re headed the wrong way. I’m on the wrong bus. Signs are in English as well as Japanese but I’d asked a bus driver whether he was headed where I wanted to go and he nodded affirmatively. I’d completely forgotten a friend’s well-intended warning that there are two very similar-sounding places.
I decide to keep going. After all, getting lost is part of discovering an unfamiliar city.
Kinkakuji or Ginkakuji? Whatever you do, speak clearly. The two are on opposite sides of Kyoto – though, fortunately, both are major attractions.
The former, also called the Golden Pavilion, is one of Asia’s great sights. Set on a lake, it’s a temple mostly covered in gold leaf which shimmers in reflection on the water. The latter, the Silver Pavilion, isn’t silver-coloured but is nonetheless much revered. Queues shuffle through its gardens.
“People often joke about foreigners ending up at the wrong place,” laughs a tourism official. “But this usually means seeing two beautiful World Heritage-listed temples instead of one. (Kyoto has 17 World Heritage sites.)
Overseas visitors mostly want to see the Golden Pavilion – while domestic tourists look forward to both.
Aside from Kinkakuji-Ginkakuji mix-ups, Kyoto is often called “easy Japan”. Ideal for first-time visitors, its scenic charms are such that travellers inevitably return.
Less frenetic than, say, Tokyo or Osaka, it’s no less hi-tech. (Electronic games company Nintendo is based in Kyoto.)
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