Entries tagged with “Kyoto”.

BuddhaThis was my third day in Kyoto and my last full day here and in Japan.  I had been in the northern region the day before, on this day I was heading over to the Southern Higashiyama area which has the most famous (and popular) temple walking tour.  This was to see the temple that friends who had been here in February told me was their favorite (Kōdai-ji) and also as the Lonely Planet had said this walk was pretty much must see. It was again a bus ride over but looking at the map I realized that I had walked further then the distance there the evening before when I went to the nightlife area.  So I decided to walk.


For the third day I walked past this walled structure about eight blocks from my hotel and this time I decided to figure out what it was. This was fortuitous as it turned out to be this stunning garden practically right down town. I ended up spending several hours there and as it was about lunch time now, I ended up walking back to my hotel afterward and getting lunch at a conveyor belt sushi place (Kaiten-zushi) that was near Kyoto Station.

Covered bridge in Shosei-en

Southern Higashiyama Walk
After lunch I headed back out and onto my original plan.  I did have less time now, but I knew I could only really do a couple of temple anyway before I wore down.  Once again I took a pretty long trek, but once again this proved so rewarding.  Even in Kyoto which is packed with sightseeing areas, everybody takes public transit so in between you see no tourists and you are in places where the residents live and shop.  I was mostly walking along a fairly busy road but I got to see plenty of the “real” Kyoto.  As I approached the temple filled edge of the valley the shops all became pottery, lacquer-ware and masonry.  I had arrived at Teapot Lane.

Teapot lane
Walking up teapot lane to Kiyomizu-dera

The above gallery contains pictures taken while walking in between various temples in Higashiyama. The first couple are leading up to Teapot Lane and then the lane itself.  Teapot Lane was up hlll and the final climb up to Kiyomizu-dera was up stairs with an orange pagoda visible above the trees.  Kiyomizu-dera was packed with tourists and Japanese students. Once again I was used for English practice this time it was kids from Hiroshima who asked me to write them a message of peace. The temple had a big gate and an open area with the pagoda and a shrine and this interesting shrine where you walked through a passage underground in total (and I mean total) darkness till you got to a room with a Buddha in it. There a tiny hole let a shaft of light fall on top of the Buddha. This was super cool I have to say. From this area you paid and went through a second gate to the primary temple area at Kiyomizu-dera.

One of the little halls at Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera was crowded but I had a great experience here. It was just outside the secondary gate that an elder showed me how to perform the purification ritual (which I knew by now but was sweet I thought). Inside I encountered Maiko (Geisha in training) who were doing some tourism of their own (and featuring in plenty of photos from the other tourists) and I witnessed another elder demonstrating to interested kids another ritual. This is clearly a big and wealthy temple but it was as usual packed with neat grottoes, beautiful wooded areas and so on.

Maiko walking down the scenic streets
Southern Higashiyama Walk (from the Orange pagoda on)

The day was winding down and I wanted to get to Kōdai-ji with enough time to do it justice so I headed out. Following my walking tour I went down a much more crowded and even more scenic street which was fully lined with shops and packed with students in their yellow rain hats. Following the route I went down stairs and around corners in ever increasingly traditional and kick ass narrow streets. Eventually ending up at the “most scenic street in Japan”.  From there it was up a stairway to a parking lot for several temples. You could see a gigantic (as in probably 6 stories) Buddha peeking above the wall of one of these temples. Perpendicular from this was Kōdai-ji which I headed to forthwith.

The grounds and a little building at Kōdai-ji

Kōdai-ji was another Zen temple (Rinzai) which were definitely the most appealing to me.  This one was tucked into a corner of the valley and was a beautifully integrated into it’s surrounding bamboo forest.  It had a dry rock garden  which had mounds of raked gravel instead of rocks as at Ryōan-ji.  It also had curved edges on two sides instead of the rectangular area at Ryōan-ji. This gave it a very natural, organic feel as if it was the edges of a pond (which is sort of the metaphor of these rock gardens).
I stayed at Kōdai-ji pretty much until closing time which was signaled by the booming rings of the temple bell.

Dry garden at Kōdai-ji
Dry Garden at Kōdai-ji

I headed out from the temple area and walked around the narrow streets a bit more. I knew my temple touring was over (which was okay as I’d spent many hours in these two) but I intended to do the rest of the Higasiyamai walk, which would go past a couple more temples. This would take me north and then I’d head across the river and I’d end up at Pontochō where I had decided to get dinner. It was evening now and as I followed the walk I ended up at Maruyama-koen park. On the edge of that is Yasaka Shrine which was now all lit up. This was incredibly stunning and something I had not seen before.

Yasaka Shrine in the Southern Higashiyama Walk

From here I walked along and through the park, past a massive Pure Land temple and then through normal Kyoto streets ‘tll I hit the crossroads and headed over to Pontochō, I’d seen a Thai place there the night before and that sounded really good tonight. Alas they were closed but I ended up going to a traditional Japanese place which for my final dinner in Japan was probably for the best. I got my last taste of the amazing fresh tofu there on a balcony that overlooked the Kamo River. I walked through Pontochō and then the covered shopping area and finally the downtown shopping district before completely worn out I caught a cab to my hotel.

Kyoto Station
Kyoto Station from my General Kyoto Gallery

The last gallery above was pictures taken from all over Kyoto. Beginning at the fantastic train station and including pictures from all of the walks I did. It ends with a couple of (poor) pictures of the Shinkansen (bullet train) as I caught it back to Tokyo station the next day.  And that pretty much wraps up my trip to Japan.

Shinkansen pulling into Kyoto Station
Shinkansen from my General Kyoto Gallery

Kyoto TowerI was only in Kyoto for about three days with two days completely without any travel. Each of those two days I spent on long walking tours of regions that’d be just packed with temples. Evenings I spent in the shopping and nightlife districts.  This entry is from my first day where I did a walking tour up in the Northwest of Kyoto. The main temple I really wanted to visit in Kyoto was Ryōan-ji which has the most famous of the karesansui (Zen rock gardens) which I’ve long been a fan of. It was also one of the more difficult regions to get to, but I figured out the bus and took it up to Kinkaku-ji temple which was the start of a three temple walking tour with Ryōan-ji in the middle concluding with Ninna-ji. It was fairly early in the morning which was good as these are some of the most popular tourist sites.

The Golden temple at Kinkaku-ji

Kinkaku-ji‘s main feature is a beautiful golden temple on the edge of a pond. The grounds are stunning as well. From Kinkaku-ji I walked along the temple grounds down to Ryōan-ji. I got off the route a bit at first and walked through a more suburban route. I ended up encountering another shrine, Waratenjin, on the route that was a more pragmatic but still beautiful

Temple Walk Gallery
Waratenjin can be seen in the first 20 pictures in my Temple Walk Gallery.


I got back on the path and shortly made my way to Ryōan-ji.

Dry Garden at Ryōan-ji
The dry garden at Ryōan-ji


Ryōan-ji‘s grounds were stunning, it’s a very old Zen temple and the grounds are just filled with neat areas all over. The lake was the most stunning one I saw and of course the dry garden was amazing. It was probably my favorite of all the temples I visited and I’d love to visit it again at a time when there is even less people there.

Cemetery I encountered in my Temple Walk


From Ryōan-ji I continued on the route and as I walked along the road I noticed a path/stairway into the woods at my right. Well I couldn’t resist that and took those up into what turned out to be a large and crowded cemetery. This can be seen in the Temple Walk Gallery below the shrine pictures.

Temple at Ninna-ji
Pagoda like temple at Ninna-ji


From the cometary I visited the last temple on the walk, Ninna-ji. This was a large complex with many diverse buildings in it. Looking it up on the web it turns out it had huge sections that I totally missed (or were closed). But I was pretty templed out at that point so that’s okay. One amusing thing is that I encountered a group of junior high school students who wanted to talk English with me. It was clearly an assignment but cute.

View from the highest point in the part
View from the highest hill in the park.

From Ninna-ji I headed off on my own to intersect with the JR rail line. The route I worked out took me to this great wooded area that was a park but mostly wooded.  It had paths up to a fairly high point with great views over the valley. Pictures from the park make up the third part of my Temple Walk Gallery.