We decided to head to Kyoto for an extended stay, both because of the huge amount of sights but also to use it as jumping off point for some easy day trips. TL;DR This proved to be a good strategy!
Day 1 - Kyoto Introduction
Landed on the 28th after an easy trip from Kanazawa - where we left wistfully! Our budget hotel, while cheap and small, was at least close to the train station for our day trips.
We arrived a bit later in the day so we decided to do a quickish trip to a temple, also had impending rain. So a bit of a hike to get to the temple of choice, the Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Although under construction it was quite a sight (for us and the throngs of other tourists!). Even with the light showers we enjoyed our intro to Kyoto.
If you've been following along, we've taken the approach to eat a lot of our meals "in" to keep our traveling costs down. The hostels in which we've stayed so far (Takayama, Hakone, Kanazawa) had huge well-appointed kitchens for us to use. Kyoto, not so much. Despite that we decided to stock up on foodstuffs. We also found the infamous 100 Yen stores...similar to the Dollar stores in the US...same crap, different continent!
Day 2 - Exploring Kyoto
Next morning we had of course eduction-on-the-road (read: home-schooling Gage) and then off to a variety of walking tours...Sannen-zaka Hill and Ninnen-zaka, well-preserved districts of old houses, no cars, and throngs of tourists.
<<pictures of old district, 11/29>>
Then we walked over to Chion-in Shoren-in Temples. A bit less touristy - well, maybe just more spread out? - some really impressive grounds and gates.
We decided to brave Nishiki Market. Typical of many Asian markets there were lots of exotics, fried everything and new mixtures of the familiar. And yes, filled with lots of others taking in everything. It was a bit overwhelming and led to bad food choices (inadvertent fish cake for me, which I mistook for a deep-fried onion. Bleh!
Totally fatigued but we wanted G to have a chance for his stuff too (not just boring adult sights), so we found a cool patisserie and had a nice coffee (nb: really good coffee in Japan) on the way to the Manga Museum. Ok, really just an oversized library of every type of Manga literature but he was definitely in to it.
OK now really fatigued we were trudging back to find some food out and ran across this little tempura place just opening (we stopped since they had a big pile of vegetables sitting out front). Really delish!
Particularly liked the seitan component of the meal.
Day 3 - Day trip to Nara
With rain likely the next day (spoiler alert again: don't trust the forecasts too much, just make a plan and do it - the weather may not totally work out but life is too short to plan around it) we decided to take our day trip to Nara. Easy travel from Kyoto train station - 45 minutes and you're there.
Crazy Beautiful Gardens!