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Ancient Temples

Kyoto Travel Blog

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Golden Pavilion

Kyoto is a nice city and relatively quiet one. I enjoyed Kyoto as much as Tokyo, loved the long walks, the cosy streets, the ancient temples, and unceasing history breeze in the atmosphere. If you are a history fan, Kyoto is a must see destination. I stayed in Kyoto for 3 nights in my 2 visits to Japan and never got bored of it.

Kyoto Temples and shrines were unique in their own right. I have visited temples in Nara all the other Japanese cities, but Kyoto remains on top. Unfortunately, Japan remains largely a non-touristic country due to English being less spoken and used in public, Japanese being conservative, and fewer attractions available. However, this what makes Japan so unique, you get a strong sense of the Japanese culture as you tour the country.

Kiyomizu-dera
Globalization had less cultural effect on Japan, and you may get a cultural shock on your first visit. 

In addition to the Imperial Palaces, Kyoto has plently to see and explore..Shrines and temples are numerous. Above all, the following are the very best among all which we have visited:

  1. The Golden Pavilion or Kinkaku-ji;
  2. Kiyomizu-dera;
  3. The Silver Pavilion or Ginkaku-ji;

Additionally, they are many more which we didn't visit including Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine famous with the red torii gates, Yasaka Shrine on Shijo Street, and Sanjūsangen-dō Temple which houses 1000 gold plated statues inside. Generally speaking, the visit to any temple/shrine would take at least 1 to 2 hours excluding commuting time between different sites. If you visit Kyoto in the Autumn or Spring time, you will get a plus of seeing the colourful trees or cherry blossoms (respectively).

Since Kyoto is a peaceful city, it is good for cycling. You can hire a bicycle at Kyoto Cycling Tour Project infront of Kinkaku-ji Temple and return it at Kyoto Central Station.  It took us a day to visit the temples, and if we had the chance to visit them again we would definitely hire bicycles to do so. 

 

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Kiyomizu-dera pagoda

In the morning, we went walking all the way to the palaces grounds to enter the Imperial Palace. The  ticker office informed us that the guided tour is free so we booked the noon tour. It is always useful to check the attractions website or speak to the concierge to confirm the opening hours, tours timing and cost. It was particularly important this time as the passport was required to enter the Imperial Palace. 

Since the noon tour was 3 hours later, we spent some time walking around the palaces and then went to nearby Nijo Castle or "Ninja" Castle as some may call it. It is one of the seventeen assets of Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

 Nijo Castle is made of 2 rings of fortifications (i.e. walls). The two fortifications houses 2 palaces with Ninomaru Palace in the inner ring. The Castle was used by Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of Tokugawa Shogunate, and later was surrendered to the Emperor. Similar to other historical sites, Nijo castle underwent changes and was affected by typhoons and fire at different times. This can be observed on the wood work and paitings used extensively in the buildings. Despite that, we were allowed to enter Ninomaru Palace after taking off our shoes. Access to the rooms was not allowed, but the doors were open so we can view what is inside. 

After touring  Nijo Castle, it was time to go back to join the guided tour to the Imperial Palace. This time we were not allowed to enter the palace buildings, instead we walked around the buildings sometimes getting the chance to see what is inside the rooms.
The emperor's gate, opened only for the Emperor and head of states.
Unlike Tokyo's Imperial Palace, the palace grounds in Kyoto was completely accessible to the public. The Japanese gardening style was prominent in all ancient places we've visited. Though it looks simple, the gardens were elegant and inspiring. There are many gardening styles, but all dictate a story or resembles a certain landscape such as mountains, valleys, rivers and sea. The Japanese style originally was influenced by Chinese gardens but developed to become unique; Japanese gardeners began using local material and adapt local culture in their designs.  The Imperial Palace had a dedicated garden for the royal family recreation. Today, this art of landscaping has become a hoppy of different scales extending to aquariums. 

Nonetheless, we have enjoyed the tour and went for lunch in Shijo Street.
Imperial Palace viewed from the Imperial Park
After having a break at the hotel, we went in the evening to Shijo Street again, this time to Gion District. Gion is Kyoto's most famous place to see the geishas in an ancient place but modern time. We have booked for the Geisha show earlier in the day and a fun time at the performance. It is possible to be a guest of a geisha too, where the Japanese tea ceremony is conducted and geishas line up dancing (technically speaking the performance is conducted by a geiko and a maiko). The streets in Gion are lined with traditional wooden machiya merchant houses which attract many tourists and give a sense of the past.

Golden Pavilion
Golden Pavilion
Kiyomizu-dera
Kiyomizu-dera
Kiyomizu-dera pagoda
Kiyomizu-dera pagoda
The emperors gate, opened only fo…
The emperor's gate, opened only f…
Imperial Palace viewed from the Im…
Imperial Palace viewed from the I…
The gate of Nijo Castle
The gate of Nijo Castle
The moat around the Nijo Castle
The moat around the Nijo Castle
View across the moat of Nijo Castle
View across the moat of Nijo Castle
Ninomaru Palace
Ninomaru Palace
Ninomaru Palace entrance.
Ninomaru Palace entrance.
The Throne room.
The Throne room.
Yasaka Shrine
Yasaka Shrine
Main ground of Yasaka Shrine
Main ground of Yasaka Shrine
Yasaka Shrine at night
Yasaka Shrine at night
Narrow street to Kiyomizu-dera tem…
Narrow street to Kiyomizu-dera te…
Kiyomizu-dera niōmon gate
Kiyomizu-dera niōmon gate
Wish plates
Wish plates
pagoda tower
pagoda tower
View of Kyoro city from the temple
View of Kyoro city from the temple
Praying inside Kiyomizu-dera main …
Praying inside Kiyomizu-dera main…
Vending machines are almost everyw…
Vending machines are almost every…
Silver Pavilion
Silver Pavilion
Japanese gardening art.
Japanese gardening art.
Kyoto
photo by: ys484