Kyoto(wikipedia, wikitravel) has a special place in my heart. It was the first Japanese city that I stayed in for any serious amount of time, and on my second trip I studied Japanese for a semester in a university there. That said, Kyoto is a bit like the ugly sister I never had.
It is a jungle of concrete cubes and power lines not that unlike Ashikaga, only with bigger gray cubes. The little green patches surrounding the temples are like an oasis in an urban desert. Hidden among the building-boxes is the where the romantic city hides. As I hear cited over and over, Kyoto is the only large Japanese city spared from allied bombings in World War II. As a result, it has an abundance of pre-war wooden buildings, temples, magic.
Our lodging was quite near Kyoto Station, so it wasn't long before we had dropped off all of our gear and were out exploring. We had seen a sizable place that looked important during the cab ride over, so we started off in that direction. While I have lived in Kyoto for some time, there are so many bazillion temples and shrines that many of the places I explored with Angelica were new to me. Anyway..
Higashi Honganji is a giant temple dedicated to someone or something important. One thing about Kyoto is that the ridiculous number of temples really brings down the level of importance in my mind of any one of them. Long story short, there are two very large twin buildings on the grounds. I didn't bother trying to take any pictures of the structures themselves as one of the temples was under renovations, and it was enclosed in airport hanger-looking structure, mammoth in both size and out-of-placeness.
This picture has unfortunately got some super glare going on, but I felt it needed to be addressed. Its a big rope, at 68m in length and 375kg in weight. The rope had a very informative sign, which read:
THE HAIR ROPE
This is one of the many ropes , specially made of the hair of followers who wished for the success of the hall's construction in 1895. As normal rope, at that time, was of very low quality, hair was preferred. They were used in transporting and hanging the huge beams which you can see today in the main framework of these two halls.
So the tower definitely serves a sightseeing purpose, but I hear that there is a bit of controversy about its existence. It is way taller than anything around it, except maybe the massive Kyoto Station from which it stands opposite. It is a giant, bright orange and white thing reaching for the sky. This in a city many look to as the cultural an historical heart of Japan. I vividly remember reading the brochure handed to me at the elevator entrance. It featured a picture of the interior of the tower, with two geisha walking proudly inside. It went on to explain that the "candle-like shape of the tower blends in well with traditional Kyoto". Something along those lines. Pretty much a joke for anyone with eyes.
I figured we had had enough sightseeing for one day, so I took Angelica to the more modern shopping area. Its pretty nice. Not only are there department stores, but several of the streets full of shops are completely covered, making viewing possible no matter the weather.
Not even a walk through a glitzy business district means that you will escape the temples. Occasionally they can be found among a full street of businesses, seemingly unaware of the clash, or just unwilling to move. This one had a pretty cool Buddha statue in it. It had a nice incense smell to it as well.