(extras pt 2) Kyoto
The second and last one of the "couldn't help pimping" kind, another place I love imagining them strolling around. Kyoto may not have the most dramatic setting, being in a shallow valley surrounded by rolling hills, much like many Italian towns, with no seaside or ocean in sight and only a narrow river, but it is probably the most different city from traditional Western ones that I've seen.
Traditional Japanese guesthouse/small hotel called ryokan, where you sleep on a mattress rolled out on top of the tatami mats
Kyoto is full of temples and monasteries of every shape and size, belonging to two religions happily existing side-by-side. I can't remember the names of individual temples without digging into the guidebook, but I'll mention the famous ones. As a quick colour code, if it is orange, it is Shinto (the Japanese pagan religion worshipping nature's-spirit deities); if it is plain wood, it is Buddhist.
The archway below is a typical Shinto artefact, also built as a form of offering to the relevant deity - you'll see plenty more of them in a few pics' time ;)
The famous Kyomizu Deru Buddhist temple, a contender on the "man-made wonders of the world" shortlist a while back. Looking at which buildings made it in the end and which ones didn't, I was frankly stumped.
These are the foundations of the temple, with the upper part of these seen in the photo above. Rather remind me of Nolan's Batcave :P
The fox-y creature in the next pic is the rice deity, who is also the patron deity of sake (rice wine) producers. Given the importance of the above as local food and drink respectively, the growers and merchants tend to be relatively wealthy, and give generous offerings to the deity - as will be seen.
The following ten or so pictures are of the subjectively most surreal site I've seen on this planet so far, and I've seen a fair number. The "galleries" here all consist of the fox-deity offering archways built next to one another, and they go for hundreds of yards, crisscrossing a forested hill just outside Kyoto, with shrines in between. I walked there for a couple of hours, it felt like being on another planet. The date being early July 2007, two months before I moved to Italy with uncertain prospects of staying beyond a year and a half, I wrote a wish on a sort of votive offering paper, of being able to stay in Italy. Five-plus years on, I am still here - maybe I should thank the fox :P
The following set are from a medieval palace/castle in central Kyoto, forget the name. Not the imperial palace though, the opening days/times/advance reservation rules were such that I missed a chance to get in there in the three days that I was in the city.
Various sights around town - starting with another fox shrine. Kyoto must be a huge favourite with Zorro fans :P
This and the following one are of the (also famous) Ginkaku-Ji, Golden Pavillion. The name is literal; it is covered in gold leaf.
Rooms within a monastery complex - visitors are welcome to stroll around so long as they behave themselves.
...and a final bunch of sunset-time pics.
From the next picspam onwards, I move on to locations they actually get to within the course of the story ;)