Kyoto wanderings

Hi everyone. Sorry it’s been a few days since my last post. I’ve been busy all day and either too tired or no internet at night. I’m posting this from my friend Mori-san’s laptop in Osaka before I head out to Nara this morning.

Ok, where to start. On the 12th I headed out from Asakusa to Kyoto. I caught the Hikari Shinkansen (bullet train) down to Kyoto. It was about a 2:30 trip, and very nice. I actually talked for the whole time to a guy named Hide-san who was originally from Chiba but had lived in the states for 18 years, currently in Chicago.

After arriving in Kyoto I met up with Caitiy and her parents, and we went off walking. We visited Sanjusangendo, the longest wooden building in Japan (really freaking long) filled with 1000 life-size Kannon statues plus an 11 meter tall one. It was amazing, nothing but Kannon statues right next to each other, 10 or so deep on steps, and then as far as you could see.

Unfortunately there were no pictures allowed inside, although you can see I start shooting from the hip all stealth mode later throughout the trip. I’m tired of being the guy who doesn’t take pictures, and then I go and see someone’s flickr account with pictures of the place I just was and didn’t take one. I make sure not to use flash, so it doesn’t affect the preservation efforts.

After that, we went across the street to the Kyoto National Museum. There were some very cool exhibits of calligraphy and painting, as well as lacquerware and ceramics. Also, some surprising architecture.

Then we decided to head up through the Otani Mausoleum and then Toribeyama. Toribeyama was really amazing. There were tens of thousands of tomb markers. It was awe-inspiring.

After walking up the hill through the cemetery, we reached Kiyomizu temple. Kiyomizu stands for pure water, and is famous for its natural spring that you can drink from and is said to have healing properties. So of course I had to go and take a drink.

We were starting to run out of energy and places were closing down, so we walked through the shopping district underneath Kiyomizu and towards Kodaiji, a very famous Zen temple. Along the way I saw a couple Geisha/Maiko (probably Maiko) walking along a path, and took a couple quick shots. But it was so far away I had to use like 40x digital zoom so they’re not all that sharp.

Finally we were done, so we got some dinner in Gion and headed back. I found out that my hotel had a Routenburo(露天風呂), an open-air bath on the roof. I threw on my Yukata, grabbed my towel and tenugui(hand-towel) and headed up. I walked into the bath to see the following sign:


which translates as “people with tattoos or irezumi (Yakuza tattoos), please refrain from entering the bath”.

For those who don’t know, I have a small tattoo. A celtic band around my left bicep. I knew this would come up in Japan, but it was still interesting to see. After studying the sign for a minute I realized there wasn’t an English version. So, assuming my best Gaijin smash, in I went. The bath was great, and though I got some looks (whether from the fact I was a gaijin or I had a tattoo or both) no one confronted me about it. I sat down on my stool, washed, and then got in the bath. Afterwards I jumped in the cold bath to cool down my core, because Kyoto was really hot. Man it was heaven. I used it like 4 times over the next couple days.

The next day we caught a cab up to Ginkakuji (silver pavilion), which is a buddhist temple. Unfortunately the pavilion itself was undergoing restoration, the gardens were worth seeing.

After Ginkakuji, we walked along the Philosopher’s path (哲学の道, tetsugaku no michi). A mile long path that follows along a little canal. It’s very peaceful. At the end of the path was Eikendo, a really pretty Zen temple.

After going through Eikendo, Caitiy’s parents headed to do some shopping, and the two of us headed on to Nanzenji, one of the most famous Rinzai-zen temples in the area. Especially well known are the zen rock gardens. It was one of those places where I could spend all day just sitting and contemplating.

After Nanzenji, we discovered this tiny little Buddhist temple called Saisho-in behind an aqueduct up behind Nanzenji. It was very peaceful. And then we walked back through some of the Nanzenji complex, which included some huge gates, and a cute woman doing a Yukata photo shoot. I went ahead and gaijin-smashed my way in for a picture.

We walked down the hill and a bit North along the Biwa aquifer to the Heian Shrine, which is an area that has been reconstructed to how the administrative district of Kyoto looked during the Heian era, about 1000 years ago. It was very pretty and had amazing gardens.

Finally, a quick stop through the Kyoto Handicraft center (tourist trap with lots of souvenirs), we grabbed some food from a convenience store and ate by the river. It was nice to get out of the sun. Then we walked back to the hotel. It must have been a 10+ mile day easy, we were worn out. Of course, then it was time for a quick bath, and then head out for dinner. We met up with one of Caitiy’s friends Sayo and had Yakiniku. That was very tasty.

The next day Caitiy and her parents headed out for Nagasaki, and I headed for the Imperial Palace complex. You have to call/write ahead to get a pass to actually go into the palace, but the complex is open and includes lots of shrines and gardens. It’s a 65 Hectare area, so plenty large.

After spending a couple hours there I headed up for Kinkakuji (Gold pavilion). That was really amazing. It’s lacquered and then covered with gold leaf.

The gardens were also very peaceful, even though there were a lot of people there. After Kinkakuji I headed back to Kyoto station to put my backpack in a locker, because it was way too heavy in the heat and humidity. Then I headed back up to the shopping street below Kiyomizu to buy some Yatsuhashi for my friend in Osaka Mori-san and his family. It’s important to bring a gift if you’re going to be intruding on someone’s house in Japan. Yatsuhashi is the famous product of Kyoto, and consists of a mochi-like substance cut in triangles and folded around various fillings. It’s amazingly good.

Then it was off to Kodaiji and the Ryozen Kannon. The Ryozen Kannon is a gigantic stone buddha that is part of the memorial to the unknown soldier of WWII. Supposedly it’s the largest stone buddha footprint in Japan.

Kodaijiis another very famous Zen temple, with great gardens and a really cool bamboo garden. As I was leaving it started to sprinkle so I took refuge in a shrine complex called Yasaka. There was some sort of festival going on (probably part of the Gion festival that was going on in Kyoto during this time), and I caught some fan dancing and some chanting.

Then it was back to the station and off to Osaka where I met my friend Mori-san. This post ended up taking a long time, so I cover Osaka later, probably at the same time as Nara.

Full album here:

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0 Replies to “Kyoto wanderings”

  1. I immediately recognized the picture of
    Kinkakuji (Gold pavilion). It’s my wallpaper on my computer. I randomly found it a couple months ago looking for something peaceful. (the picture i found has a little more of the lake and mountain behind it but no doubt it’s the same building) Can’t believe you went there!! It seems so tranquil, isn’t it in the middle of no where??

  2. You didn’t go to Fushimi Inari? That was my favorite place in all of Kyoto (along with our awsome hostle)

  3. @Naruto: It is up on the side of the hill, but just on the opposite side of the city from Ginkakuji.

    @Rowen: I went to a lot of places, but I didn’t have time for everything. Fushimi Inari will be the next time I go (I’m here for 3 months, remember?). I want to spend a few hours at least there when I do hit Fushimi.

  4. Keep the posts coming, its great to hear about your antics in Japan.
    Oh and “gaijin-smashed my way in for a picture” made me burst out laughing! Thank you!


  5. What’s the phonetical pronunciation of Gaijinsmash and what’s a Yakuzatattoos?

    PS We went to Sushi Zanmai last night and I thought of you. 🙂

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