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Kyoto, the home of Japan's imperial court for over 1000 years, is home to a staggering array of temples, shrines, and castles, most of them dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. This was our next stop after Miyajima, and one of the highlights of the trip.

Jesse does his best to "Fight the Power," on the recommendation of this sign.

Inside a pachinko parlor, a temple to sensory overload ten times more overwhelming than an American arcade.

Waiting for the bus

At Chion-in, one of the largest temples in Kyoto. Originally built in 1234, most of the buildings now date to the 17th and 18th century.

A covered walkway at Chion-in

The grand temple at Chion-in

An ornate shrine in one of the smaller Chion-in temples

The huge steel torii at the entrance to the Heian-jingu shrine

Kinkakuji, the famous "Golden Pavilion"

Jessica poses with visiting schoolgirls at Kinkakuji

Himeji-jo is one of the few Japanese castles that survives in their original wooden construction. Most others have burned over the years, but this building has stood since 1580.

On the castle grounds, we came across a man showing off his trained squirrel. He wasn't doing it for tips. He just had a trained squirrel and wanted to share it with the world.

The 5-story donjon (central tower) was a breathtaking sight

Climbing the steep stairs in one of the peripheral buildings, the Princess's Quarters

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Stocks for rifles and gunpowder lined nearly every wall

Jessica celebrates reaching the top level of the castle

At the entrance to Kiyomizu-dera, one of the largest and most famous temples in all of Kyoto. The peaceful, contemplative air we found in many temples was a bit lacking here due to the huge crowds of tourists (most of them Japanese).

The road to Kiyomizu-dera is so crammed with souvenir dealers that it's known as "Teapot Alley"

Jessica purifies herself before entering the temple

A deck at Kiyomizu-dera

Visitors' prayers

Jesse drinks from the waters of Otowa-no-taki, a sacred waterfall believed to have therapeutic properties.

A covered shopping arcade

The Zen garden at Nanzen-ji

Rakes for the Zen garden

The proprietor of Birdland, a tiny 10-seat bar in Gion, Kyoto's nightlife district. An expert on single-malt scotch and jazz, he was a remarkably gracious host.



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