Castles, Temples and Shrines
Kyoto Travel Blog› entry 9 of 15 › view all entries
Our first destination was the Nijõ-jõ castle, handily located a short walk from the hotel. The castle was originally built in 1603, and, according to the guide, is one of the finest examples of Edo period architecture, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it's a castle. Was another reason needed?
It turns out that huge amounts of Japanese tourists thought the same as us; the place was packed. Walking up to the imposing main gate we were surrounded by masses of Japanese school children chattering happily.
From there we skirted the magnificent five-story Honmaru Palace, which looked like it could be the setting of any historical Japanese/martial arts film you could name. Sadly you weren't allowed inside - not that we ever managed to work out why. More lavish gardens and ponds were laid out around us - and we climbed one of the corner towers which afforded magnificent views of the whole complex.
A quick watch check and we were off. We jumped on the tube for a bit of air-con before heading to northern Higashiyama in search of temples, (not as hard), and the fantastically named Path of Philosophy, (bit more hidden, as all paths to insight should be I guess).
The first stop turned out to be Nansen-ji, a Zen Buddhist temple. The first thing that appeared out of the surrounding trees was the huge San-mon Gate, an imposing structure of wood that towered above us. You could pay to climb up, but our meal in Tokyo was still hurting the finances so we skirted round in search of the main temple building. There, to our slight surprise we found an aqueduct and shade (which was welcome). We scrabbled around for a bit before consulting the LP again.
"Apparently there's a beautiful temple called Honen-in around here," my mate said. "Lets find it."
And so our journey began...
It turned out that this area of Kyoto was packed with temples, shrines and other bits and bobs. We managed to find Nanzen-in and Konchi-in, but our target eluded us. Hot and bothered we stopped for lunch in a small family run cafe. We ate some delicious noodles in their wonderfully cool restaurant before perusing the menu some more.
"What's crushed ice?" I asked.
"Dunno - some local thing?" My companion responded looking up from the LP with reluctance.
"Shall we try?"
He shrugged. "When in Rome."
"We're in Kyoto."
Crushed ice turned out to be quite simple - literally shards of ice hacked off of a large block and covered in a luminous syrup. It was cold, and very very sweet. We ate as much as we could until brain freeze and sugar shakes kicked in before we headed off again in search of enlightenment.