I decided to make a return visit to Kyoto to check out Arashiyama (western Kyoto); on my first visit in December, I visited many of the main sights (Ginkakuji and Kinkakuji, Kiomizudera, Gion, Fushimi-Inari), but hadn't visited western Kyoto. I made it into Kyoto Station at around 8:50 am and tried to track down my missing earmuffs without success (they went AWOL during my cooking class in Kyoto on Jan. 30).
After dropping off my suitcase in a handy coin locker, I fortified myself with a raspberry cream cheese croissant and a cafe mocha (skim, no whip, like that just made up for the calories!) before hopping the local train to Arashiyama. I leisurely wandered down several side streets before making my way to Tenryuji (天龍寺), with its gorgeous 14th-century garden. I spent over an hour exploring the gardens, and finished by donning slippers and walking through the various temple buildings, which are connected by wooden walkways. I took the northern exit so I could walk through the bamboo forest.
Next, I went to Jojakkoji Temple, with its beautiful shades of moss, and finished with Nison-in Temple, before walking through some of Arashiyama's side streets. Later that evening, I hit Porta and Isetan Department Store for some serious window shopping.
On Sunday, I slept in before starting out at Sanjusangendo, with its 1,000+ statues of Kannon. I spent over an hour slowly moving down the line admiring these ancient 13th-century masterpieces made from hinoki (Japanese cypress). It's a tradition to look for statues that bear a resemblance to you or someone you know. The hall was cool, with clouds of incense wafting around the statues.
From there, I hopped a bus back to Gion, to the Kyoto Handicraft Center (window shopping while avoiding the crowds of American college students), and tried to find the Kyoto Craft Center, but the address was different from the one in my guidebook, so I continued on to the Nishijin Textile Center in the hopes of purchasing a yukata. Unfortunately, I hopped off the bus too soon with just enough change for the return fare to the station, so I walked for over a mile. I bought the same yukata that I’d admired in December, along with a pair of indoor “geta” with foam bottoms. There was also a "kimono fashion show" catering to the busloads of Chinese tourists (just like the last time I was at the center). The two salesgirls that helped me were Chinese (they spoke Japanese and English, but I heard them speaking Chinese when they weren't busy with customers).
On the way back, It had started sprinkling, and I waited for the 101 bus for over 30 minutes in the rain only to be crammed onto the bottom step for the entire return ride to the station (heaven help the people in the back of the bus who wanted to get off earlier, as you pay at the front on Japanese buses). I made it back to Komaki at around 7 pm.