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Castles, Temples and Shrines

Kyoto Travel Blog

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Downtown Kyoto

This turned out to be one of the busiest days of our entire trip - we were determined to hit as much Kyoto culture conceivable as we planned to venture out to Nara and Osaka on the following days.

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.

A mad window in one of the stores
 Inside, the beautifully landscaped gardens unfolded around the Ninomaru Palace - known as a national treasure.  Heading in here is a must - as you squeak your way around on the nightingale floor - the best discouragement of burglary I've ever seen/heard.  The frescos and decoration are staggeringly beautiful, and it was a shame that pictures are a massive no-no; I would have liked some to remember the decorations more vividly.

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.

Downtown Kyoto

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.

Outside Nijõ-jõ castle
 

"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."

"Same difference."

"Ah."

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.

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Downtown Kyoto
Downtown Kyoto
A mad window in one of the stores
A mad window in one of the stores
Downtown Kyoto
Downtown Kyoto
Outside Nijõ-jõ castle
Outside Nijõ-jõ castle
The entrance to the castle with ob…
The entrance to the castle with o…
The entrance to Ninamaru Palace an…
The entrance to Ninamaru Palace a…
Decoration on the gate
Decoration on the gate
Detail on the palace itself
Detail on the palace itself
Gold and shiny!
Gold and shiny!
Mark hitting Japanese teenager pose
Mark hitting Japanese teenager pose
The garden of Ninamaru palace
The garden of Ninamaru palace
The pond and garden of Ninamaru
The pond and garden of Ninamaru
The decking detail of the inner pa…
The decking detail of the inner p…
Really beautiful grounds
Really beautiful grounds
Walking towards the Hanmaru palace
Walking towards the Hanmaru palace
Hanmaru palce
Hanmaru palce
The grounds
The grounds
Looking at the palace - not allowe…
Looking at the palace - not allow…
Looking down across the Nijõ-jõ …
Looking down across the Nijõ-jõ…
The moat
The moat
The path - I guess this needed a c…
The path - I guess this needed a …
One of the gates - I love the arch…
One of the gates - I love the arc…
Giant ginger man!
Giant ginger man!
Northern Higashima area
Northern Higashima area
A roadside shine
A roadside shine
Pretty fountain
Pretty fountain
Heading towards another temple
Heading towards another temple
Mountain!
Mountain!
San-mon Gate, the entrance to Nans…
San-mon Gate, the entrance to Nan…
Looking at the massive doors
Looking at the massive doors
The path to Nanzen-ji
The path to Nanzen-ji
Nanzen-ji Temple
Nanzen-ji Temple
The aquaduct before Nanzen-in
The aquaduct before Nanzen-in
Aquaduct - kinda appeared out of n…
Aquaduct - kinda appeared out of …
Trying to be arty
Trying to be arty
Mark
Mark
Nanzen-in temple
Nanzen-in temple
I love how close all this is to th…
I love how close all this is to t…
Jizõ - the protector of children,…
Jizõ - the protector of children…
Konchi-in temple
Konchi-in temple
One of the guardian statues outsid…
One of the guardian statues outsi…
Me - enjoying crushed ice.  And lo…
Me - enjoying crushed ice. And l…
The delights of crushed ice.  My m…
The delights of crushed ice. My …
Kyoto
photo by: ys484