The Last section of the "Kyoto and the Zen of Japan" Windstar cruise included docking the ship in Osaka followed by a two-day land tour of Osaka and Kyoto. Kyoto is not shown on the Windstar map below, but it's just a few miles inland from Osaka. As this was a "sampler" cruise, we didn't spend long in any one city, but I'd definitely put Kyoto at the top of any and every visit to Japan. They saved the best for last!
First, quick stop in Takamatsu
Ritsurin Garden, a three-star Michelin green guide garden
Osaka Castle, one of the most famous in all of Japan, dates back to the late 1500s with its gorgeous roof and reliefs carved in the shape of crouching tigers gilded in gold. It's hard to capture the size and grandeur of the buildings and grounds, but I tried.
Below is Nijo Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, adorned with wood carvings, artistically painted sliding doors and expansive tatami (woven mats) rooms. Taking photos of the interior were prohibited, unfortunately. This is where the Japanese Shogun surrendered in 1868, ending the Shogunate era, returning power to the Emperor, and ultimately opening Japan to the west.
Highlight of the Trip - Dressing in Traditional Kimonos
Laughing all the way
A very patient group of locals dressed each of us in traditional kimonos.
You can't believe how many layers and steps it took!! We each wore about six layers but the classic kimono has over 18 elements and takes hours to assemble.
Form fitting, but hot!
Where does one put their cell phone when you don't have pockets? In your obi (or sash), of course!
Of note is that this kimono belonged to her grandmother and is passed down from generation to generation.
Grand Finale - Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)
One of my very favorite locations of the entire trip was the Golden Pavilion. It's a Zen temple whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf, situated on beautifully landscaped large pond. Once a retirement home of a shogun, it became a temple after his death. The light has a special glow as the light reflects from the temple to the pond.
Fabulous ending to a fabulous trip to Japan. Kyoto did not disappoint. Surely wish we'd had several days here, though. If ever you visit Japan, make sure to see Kyoto!