Before getting to Kyoto I had figured two days would have been sufficient to go over the sights of Kyoto - but yesterday I realize it was far from enough so I would spend an extra day in town to see some more of the sights of the city. One of the great things of Kyoto are you can actually get to a lot of sights just by walking one or two hundred meters from one sight to the next. Hence I just walk out of my hostel and walk towards the first of the many attractions of the day.
After a couple of minutes I get to the first attraction.
The Yasaka-no-To pagoda - it is a quite impressive pagoda with its 46 meters. So I walk around it to have a bit of a look at it before I head on to the next spot. On the hill I am waling the different attractions are spread all over the hill and if I don’t watch my spending just a little bit I will end up blowing my budget on going into all the temples. Maybe 3-500 yen ($3-5) per temple don’t sound too bad - but if you go into 10 in a day which is quite feasible in this town it ends up quite a cost. This is why I give up on getting into the grave of somebody famous who I’d never heard of at the Gokoku shrine. Instead I go down a bit on the hill until my eye catch a giant Buddha figure sitting outside looking out over the city.
This seems interesting so I will go in and have a quick look around. The temple complex with the Buddha is a tribute to the unknown soldier of the Second World War. At the main shrine is a Buddhist priest constantly ranting some sort of rite in memory of the old dead soldiers.
But the Buddha statue is definitely what catches the eye at this spot so I keep concentrating on it. At one stage I realize the statue is actually hollow and you can walk inside it to have a look at a little museum with a couple of Buddha figures. I walk out of here and right next door is the next temple which I might as well take a look at - because it is on my way and entrance is free - which is well appreciated on a major day of temple tripping around town. The temple is a quite interesting though not spectacular by Kyoto standards - one main attraction is actually the view over the city.
After I finish my visit at the Kodaiji temple I walk down the street towards the Heian shrine which is one of the main attractions of the city. But somehow I get a bit lost when I start to wonder around to see some interesting houses. Suddenly I end up in another temple complex. This temple is definitely not one of the famous places in the city because I am virtually the only one walking around the premises. It’s a bit strange suddenly to find yourself alone in this busy town - and the most astonishing thing is - if this temple had been located in any other Japanese city it could very well have been the main attraction of the entire city.
But here in the cultural city of Kyoto it is a totally anonymous temple - and I don’t even see a plague giving information about the place but as far as I can deduct from the map I must be at Nanzenji temple complex. I walk out of this place - which is not quite as easy as I would have assumed - due to a large number of streets turns out to be dead ends.
In the end I get out of this area but I am not sure where I am and one thing which Japan is not famous for is street signs. It is virtually impossible to locate my position on the map hence I need to ask around to actually find out how I can get out of here. For some reason I keep running into people who do not speak English. Hence I can’t really establish where I am. But I get to a corner with lots of roads in different directions and it kind of looks like a spot on the map - so I take a change and guess I am actually at that location. Fortunately it turns out I am right and I manage to navigate from here to the Heian shrine.
I see the Heian shrine long before I get close to it - or actually I see the giant torii which indicate the entrance to the shrine complex.
If you did not know the torii is actually a part of the shrine you would not naturally consider them part as the same complex because they are so far apart. It actually take 5-10 minutes to walk from the torii to the Heian shrine complex itself - though I did have to wait a bit at some red lights on the way. When I finally get to the shrine I get to see those huge red buildings the complex are made out of - they are quite impressive to look at with the huge dimension compared to some of the other shrines I have been looking at through the day.
I decide to get up to one last big attraction for the day - though it is difficult to walk straight from A to B in this town so obviously I get distracted by some random temples on the way. But in the end I make it up to the silver temple of Kyoto. The garden of this place is quite unique in the way the sand is presented - it is carefully made in different sort of shapes. It must take forever to keep it so presentable - if there is any wind or rain the sand will lose its shape and the people taking care of the place must spend a lot of time every day to keep it all presentable.
Unfortunately the main attraction of this place - the silver temple - is under repair until 2010. I actually should have known it was under repair because Eiko had probably told me yesterday but I could not remember which of the many temples in the town which were under repair. I guess this is just one of those things which happen - after all it is pretty unlikely I will be in town to see this place when it is ready after the repair next year. Even though the main silver temple is under repair the rest of the place is still quite interesting.
I am more or less done with the sightseeing for the day but I figure the tallest pagoda in Japan would be a good way to end a day of sightseeing - hence I head all the way across town to go and see this tall pagoda. I get down to the temple complex with the pagoda - but unfortunately I get there so late it is closed for the day and there is no way to get in and see it. But with a pagoda 57 meters tall it is hard to hide it behind a wall - hence I do get to see the pagoda - just slightly blocked by a wall.
It is getting darker by now so I start heading back I am templed out for the day anyways.