We met our guide Miyake at the train station, and then walked a short bit together with the other participants in the tour (three younger couples) to pick up our bikes and helmets.
We were doing the tour on traditional Japanese three-speed "mamasan" bikes.
We started the tour by biking out from the station area, and rode along the Kamo river.
We did many stops along the way so the biking wasn't too strenuous, quite the opposite - I could've biked around all day! We were so lucky, the weather was absolutely beautiful, we could bike only in our t-shirts. I loved it!!
This was our happy group of bikers:
Our first stop was at the Shinto Heian-Jingū Shrine, one of Kyoto's largest and newest shrines built in 1895 for the city's 1,100th anniversary.
We knew by now how to cleanse ourselves before entering:
The influence of the god-beasts of the four cardinal directions is owed to the distinctive Chinese influence, here Byakko the white tiger in the west:
Inside the shrine you could find out your fortune by shaking one of these containers to find a number.
If you took that number to a lady and paid ¥200, you would get a fortune. Traditionally if the fortune is good, you keep it, otherwise you leave it at the temple by tying it on something, like this:
The Torii Gate is one of the largest in Japan at just over 24 meters tall:
Onward to the next stop:
Our second stop was at the Nanzen-ji Temple, one of the most important Zen temples in all of Japan. It's history dates back to mid 13th century, but the oldest of the current buildings was built after the civil wars at the end of the 16th century.
The Sanmon entrance gate, constructed in 1628:
We were so lucky as to get to witness some kind of ceremony take place just when we arrived. The monks were chanting and walking around in a circle, it was so beautiful, and a bit hypnotizing. Had they broken off and walked out into the distance - I would've followed!
Look at their shoes! Love!
There was also a large brick aqueduct on the grounds here, which looked a bit out of place. It was built in the Meiji era in 1895 and is part of the European style Lake Biwa Canal project which was used to carry water and goods between Kyoto and Lake Biwa.
The monks came out of the temple just as we left the site:
Finally we biked along the nearly 2 km long 'Philosophers Walk', which was exceptionally beautiful! Even though the cherry blossoms here was only at about 70% by now, it was really spectacular!
This route is so-named because of a Kyoto philosophy professor, Nishida Kitaro, who used to walk along here for his daily exercise. The path is said to be one devoted to meditation and contemplation, although on a day like this meditating would be rather difficult, with the masses of people around!
The path follows a canal lined by hundreds and hundreds of cherry trees, apparently all numbered. So pretty!
We finished the tour by biking through a part of the Gion area. We came through a pretty little market, and passed tons of dressed-up geishas:
In the afternoon we had time with a spot of shopping in the nearby Aeon Mall while we waited for the Roses to finish their playdate. Shopping and coffee, kept everyone happy!
The we had to say goodbye to Matt and the Rose kids as they were going back home to Osaka, as we continued with Misuzu to Tokyo. See you soon guys!