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On Friday May 23rd, CIEE Tokyo staff took a total of 72 students – including Semester, Academic Year, and Gap students – on a weekend excursion to Kyoto and Nara.

Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years from 794 AD. With literally thousands of Buddhists temples and Shinto shrines, 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and an enduring tradition of crafts and artisanship, Kyoto’s cultural and historical importance to Japan and the world cannot be overstated.

On Saturday, students had the option of exploring Kyoto independently or choosing from a variety of CIEE staff-led activities. These staff-led activities included visits to Arashiyama, an area in west Kyoto that also includes the Iwatayama Monkey Park and the Sagano bamboo forest; selected temples and shrines, including Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji (the Golden Pavilion and Silver Pavilion), Fushimi Inari Shrine, and Kiyomizudera (the Pure Water Temple); and the Toei Kyoto Studio Park, where visitors can learn about Kyoto’s film and TV industries. 

P5240003Students and CIEE staff member (far left) at Arashiyama, in front of the famous Togetsukyo (‘Moon Crossing’) Bridge.

P5240005Monkeys roam freely at Iwatayama Monkey Park in Arashiyama, a roughly 20 minute hike from Togetsukyo Bridge. One student is pictured here feeding a monkey from within a caged rest area.

P1020542Students pose in front of the Golden Pavilion. 

P1020550After dinner, students painted their own Kyoto-style hand fans.



The following day, we went to the nearby city of Nara, which was the capital of Japan before Kyoto during the 8th century. This part of the excursion included a guided tour of Todaiji (the Eastern Great Temple) and Kasuga Taisha (Kasuga Shrine). These two sites, together with six other places, make the ‘Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara’ UNESCO World Heritage Site. Students also had some time to explore Nara on their own, and to feed the deer roaming around Todaiji and Nara Park. 

P5250017Although it was last rebuilt at only two-thirds its original size, Todaiji is still the largest wooden structure in the world. 

P5250021Students had fun making friends with the deer. Considered to be sacred in Japanese Buddhism, the deer in Nara are free to roam, and visitors are encouraged to feed them special ‘deer crackers’.

P1020567Group photo in Nara



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