AsiaJapanKyoto

The day everyone decided to visit Kyoto.

Kyoto Travel Blog

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People as far as the eye can see. Near Ginkaku-ji.
This morning Steve had a good time using his Japanese at the bake shop across the street ("Excuse me, this one please, thank you." Sounds easy, but in Japanese that's 16 syllables to remember!) and consequently came back to the room with a very large selection of baked goods. No complaints from me, of course.

The plan today: break free of Osaka and head to Kyoto to experience its traditional gardens and ancient temples. 

Kyoto is northeast of Osaka, about 30 minutes by train. The city is something like 1200 years old, and brimming with ancient architecture... over 1800 temples and shrines. There are innumerable gardens (and the trees are in bloom!), and we were looking forward to a respite from the crowds and urbanism of Osaka.
Almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
(Guess what? Everyone else had a similar plan, because everywhere we went there were hoards of people. Foiled again!)

We detrained in Kyoto's main station, not thrilled with the prospect of another municipal transportation system to figure out. Blech. The tourist office gave us a map of walking tours, but I already knew we wanted to check out eastern Kyoto, where some of the most interesting temples and gardens seem to be located. We decided to go to that area by bus, and bought a day pass for about $5. There was a huge line, and we were lucky the door closed right in front of us, so that we were the first ones on the next bus, which means we got seats. The bus proceeded to fill up well beyond its intended capacity, and off we went, bursting at the seams.

We had no idea how long the bus trip should take, nor could we find our position on the map, nor could we see the signage outside very well, plus it was so warm.
Moss display at Ginkaku-ji.
.. so we ended up getting off way too early just to escape. Only to discover we hadn't traveled very far at all...only about 1/3 of the way there! So, we took the easy way out, grabbing a cab and riding to our destination in comfort (the cab door opened and closed automatically for us, the headrests were covered in lace, and our driver wore white gloves -- no sense in riding a bus when one can have this instead!). It was lunchtime, so our first destination was a vegetarian restaurant listed in Fodor's (Cafe Peace), which no longer existed, but had been replaced by another vegetarian cafe (Cafe Proverbs). (I will review it later.)

From there, it was a fairly easy walk to Ginkaku-ji, or "Temple of the Silver Pavilion." (The temple was not silver, nor had it ever been, but silver leaf was part of the original plan, so I guess the name stuck.
Very Important Moss at Ginkaku-ji.
) Turns out the temple was under renovation, and it was completely shrouded in scaffolding and tarps ... seems like there should have been a discount to the entrance fee then? There wasn't.

We explored the stunning gardens, which were brightened by moss coverings -- such a vivid shade of green! There was no debris, as fallen leaves are immediately swept up (that's where that steep entrance fee goes!). The effect is a pristine green carpet punctuated with trees and plantings. Gorgeous. There were also Zen gardens with raked sand, and a perfect pyramidal sand structure, which was being worked on while we were there. Unfortunately the experience itself was anything but Zen, however. We marched along the path, our pace being set by the conflux of people in front of and behind us.
Raked sand garden at Ginkaku-ji.
The crowds were as amazing as the gardens!

From there we strolled down the Path of Philosophy, appropriately in deep thought...speculating where all these people could have come from. Everyone was out taking photos like mad, understandable as the cherry blossoms were absolutely breathtaking. The trees seemed much more ancient than those in Osaka. The trunks were black with age, which made a striking contrast to the white blossoms. More strolling (and picking our way through the crowds), and then a stop for a $4 thimbleful of coffee for Steve, tea for me (we were able to do the whole thing in Japanese!).

Then another cab ride to the next place on my list, Heian Jingu. With all the cab rides we were out of cash (again!) and hadn't enough for the entrance fee.
These guys obviously have Master's Degrees in Sand Castle Contruction. At Ginkaku-ji.
So I stationed Steve on a park bench while I went to find a cash station, which was at a hopping 7-Eleven not far from the temple. 

Built in 1894, Heian Jingu is actually kind of "new," but I really wanted to stroll in its three blossoming gardens. This was a good call, as there were not nearly so many people here and we could really pause to enjoy the views. Now I really love English gardens, and thoroughly enjoy the formality of French gardens as well, but Japanese gardens are in a category all their own. I think they are unparalleled in their beauty. The planning that goes into these spaces (light space, dark space, hidden space, open space, etc), and the upkeep that is required to maintain them (trimming, propping, sweeping) is just astounding.  Steve has studied these principals to some degree, and gave me a little education (especially in the area of tree maintenance -- he has bonsai trees) as we went along.
Moss garden at Ginkaku-ji.
It was a really nice visit.

It was getting late, and we didn't have enough daylight to give our next intended stop justice, so we decided to save it for another day. Instead, we headed to the Gion district, where the geisha live, hoping for a sighting. There were lines of shops selling parasols and various geisha accoutrements, all heavily populated by tourists. No geishas to be seen though. We stopped for dinner at a bizarre place, which served only one dish that we never identified but was kind of like an omelet. We were seated on tiny stools that were actually pieces of a tree trunk, next to a Japanese couple and two geisha mannequins. Weird. 

From there we felt brave enough to catch the bus again to the station, thinking there would be less of a crowd in the evening.
Pennies, er, yen in a fountain. Ginkaku-ji.
That was a false assumption, but at least we couldn't mistake our stop since it was the bus' final destination. Then the train ride followed by a subway ride back to our hotel. We got home late by our standards (9:30) (hey, we are up by 6am every day!) and tumbled into bed thinking that tomorrow we might need to take a break from sightseeing and crowds.


cmgervais says:
Yep, we plan to go back to Kyoto for one day, then to Nara (maybe 2 days there - from what I have read I think we will really like it), and also to Kobe.

So much to see, so little time!
Posted on: Apr 04, 2008
abuglio says:
Your photos are great, even despite the grey skies! Head to Nara...equal in history at 1/4 the crowds!
Posted on: Apr 03, 2008
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People as far as the eye can see. …
People as far as the eye can see.…
Almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
Almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
Moss display at Ginkaku-ji.
Moss display at Ginkaku-ji.
Very Important Moss at Ginkaku-ji.
Very Important Moss at Ginkaku-ji.
Raked sand garden at Ginkaku-ji.
Raked sand garden at Ginkaku-ji.
These guys obviously have Masters…
These guys obviously have Master'…
Moss garden at Ginkaku-ji.
Moss garden at Ginkaku-ji.
Pennies, er, yen in a fountain. Gi…
Pennies, er, yen in a fountain. G…
Steve is obviously having a blast …
Steve is obviously having a blast…
Garden trail at Ginkaku-ji.
Garden trail at Ginkaku-ji.
Gardener sweeping up even the tini…
Gardener sweeping up even the tin…
Ginkaku-ji temple under constructi…
Ginkaku-ji temple under construct…
Garden at Ginkaku-ji
Garden at Ginkaku-ji
Garden stroll at Ginkaku-ji
Garden stroll at Ginkaku-ji
Garden stroll at Ginkaku-ji.
Garden stroll at Ginkaku-ji.
Tea area at Ginkaku-ji.
Tea area at Ginkaku-ji.
Browsing, not shopping, at a fair …
Browsing, not shopping, at a fair…
Rugs at fair trade shop.
Rugs at fair trade shop.
Little tyke enjoying a treat.
Little tyke enjoying a treat.
Painter along the Path of Philosop…
Painter along the Path of Philoso…
On the Path of Philosophy near Gin…
On the Path of Philosophy near Gi…
Cherry blossoms.
Cherry blossoms.
On the Path of Philosophy near Gin…
On the Path of Philosophy near Gi…
On the Path of Philosophy near Gin…
On the Path of Philosophy near Gi…
Pug enjoys an ice cream treat!
Pug enjoys an ice cream treat!
Heian temple.
Heian temple.
at Heian temple.
at Heian temple.
Prayers at Heian temple.
Prayers at Heian temple.
at Heian temple.
at Heian temple.
Trellis reflected in pond at Heian…
Trellis reflected in pond at Heia…
Garden at Heian temple.
Garden at Heian temple.
Which way do I go?!
Which way do I go?!
Japanese woman at Heian temple. Sh…
Japanese woman at Heian temple. S…
Pup enjoys the Kyoto view.
Pup enjoys the Kyoto view.
Crowds near Ginkaku-ji.
Crowds near Ginkaku-ji.
Lunch at Cafe Proverb.
Lunch at Cafe Proverb.
Lunch at Cafe Proverb.
Lunch at Cafe Proverb.
Steve with our new friends.
Steve with our new "friends."
Our Kyoto bus ride.
Our Kyoto bus ride.
Kyoto Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
What they feed vegans in heaven.
Cafe Proverbs is a sunny all-vegan cafe in East Kyoto, within walking distance (about 10 minutes) of Ginkaku-ji temple. I started with a small gr… read entire review
Kyoto
photo by: ys484