Good morning Kyoto, here are the photos of that crazy log riding festival!
Monday morning in Kyoto
, - I opened the window and found out that it was raining outside. It was so heavy pouring that I could hardly see near-by buildings... I turned TV on to have a look at forecast, secretly wishing for the rain to stop or at least to slow down... To my amazement I stumbled upon the images from Onbashira Festival - log riding one, I wrote about it earlier. I took some pictures still being shocked and shivering right to the bone.
Well, as time was running out and rain started to get heavier I decided to take my umbrella and just step out for a challenge. Actually, there is no such thing as bad weather for a traveler, it's all good, still lots of places to see and lots of good memories to fetch.
Log riding festival
I already decided that I definitely have to see Golden Pavilion and that became my objective for that day. I figured out by maps that I'll start from Hanazono Station taking JR Sagano Line (I got JR Pass so let's make a good use of it =)) and than will walk up my way to Kinkakuji Temple. On the way I'll visit as many places of interest as I want as there are plenty of them marked on the maps or just go wherever wind blows or rain sweeps...
Once I left the hotel I realized that I really underestimated the weather... I decided to stick to my delusional hope of future getting better and marched straight to Kyoto Station. By the time I reached station my shoes were squeaking and croaking like froggies because they were full of water, I could literally pour it out.
Log riding festival
.. I prayed that I won't get sick! I quickly found the right line and hopped on the rapid service train as I had no need to buy tickets with my JR Pass. Hanazono Station was the fourth one and I reached it in about 20-something minutes. I chose the right exit and stepped out in the rain...
I walked along the road and saw Hokongo-In Temple Complex. To keep you updated - rain was quite fierce, like thick water wall, I no longer paid attention to my squeaking shoes... I paid 300yen admission fee and found myself alone in a beautiful garden, drowning in Cherry Blossoms and nicely shaped Lotus Pond. I read somewhere on the Internet that the pond is famous for it's blooming Lotus flowers but I guess it was not the right season for it. As the history says, it was founded in 824, it was originally a villa, was built by Kiyohara-no-Natsuno, a court official whose descendants still live in nearby Omuro! Later Toba emperor's empress "Taikenmonin" built Natsuno's Kiyohara residence as Hokongo-In Temple.
Log riding festival...scary huh!
It was in 1130. Empress loved the garden and it was really beautiful and tranquil place to be. I took my time walking around and even sat on the bench under the roof watching Cherry Blossoms and falling down rain...
After that I set my feet towards the Complex of - Taizo-In Temple, Myoshinji Temple, Daishin-In Temple, Torin-In Temple. I passed by a few small restaurants and one of them was King of Dumplings - I recognized it by it's logo. There are many of them in Japan, I think it's a franchise. I didn't want to eat yet and I was afraid that if I go and eat I'll get all cozy and won't be able to move on with my plan so I decided to pass for now.
I entered the Complex of Temples and had to wait till somebody shows up at the front gate office to buy a ticket.
Hanazono Station. Hokongo-In Temple.
There were not many people around especially in that weather, rain didn't stop even for a second... A few young people passed me by, it was still school time so I think they were students or something like that. I waited for about 5 minutes and than an old man showed up, he somehow explained to me that there was no admission fee for visiting the Complex and gave me a map of it. So off I went to explore it. I made many turns and eventually lost orientation of where exactly I was according to the map. I think that the whole complex is still in use for religious services hence the reason for free visiting. I saw some services going on in Temples and lots of monks and priests but I didn't enter since I'm a Christian and have no idea of other religions customs.
It's raining, it's pouring...
Finally I managed to find out the way out of the intricate maze of passes but the negative point of it was - I had no idea where was that on the map...
Ok, I left the Complex and saw a street map. For a few minutes I tried to match it to my map - it was useless. According to both maps - North was in completely opposite directions... After drowning in frustration and rain I decided to trust my sense of directions and just move on. I can't tell you exactly where I made the wrong turn and how many times I did that but I started to feel uncomfortable as I reached quite narrow streets with no shops and no people around. The street were unable to accommodate two-way traffic and the drivers used street mirrors to make sure they avoid accidents.
Hokongo-In Temple garden
.. I needed somebody, just one living thing would have been enough but it was hopeless. I thought that I should just stop any passing by car and ask for directions but I didn't feel comfortable in doing it. I'm shy and I'm a girl after all... I was walking and walking and suddenly I spotted a bakery, oh gosh, that was unimaginable happiness! I caught a lady who was walking out of it and showed her my map and asked whereabouts of Toji-In Complex because that was my next target. She said she had no idea and took me inside the bakery. The shop owner was a nice young lady who spoke little English. She looked at the map for some time but apologized because she couldn't help me... I was literally shocked. How come you live in town, have business here and have no idea of close whereabouts?.
Famous Hokongo-In Temple Lotus Pond (no Lotuses though...)
.. That is one of the things in Japan I can't quite comprehend and I came across it so many times! It's a mystery... Anyways there was another customer in the shop - old lady with a walking stick, she heard our conversation and grabbed my hand quite firmly. She literally ordered me to wait for her as she knew the place I needed to go. I patiently waited for her but I was grumbling inside my head thinking that the lady is quite old and if we walk together it'll take ages for us to reach anything... I gave up and decided to relax, wait and see. After she finalized her purchases she took me outside and dragged me to the taxi parked near-by. I was literally stunned and speechless. She explained to me that she came here by taxi and going back by it as well and that her place located next to Toji-In Temple, she was happy to take me with her no need to pay.
Hokongo-In Temple garden. Glorious Cherry Blossoms
So we hopped in and she asked me about Australia and told me that many years ago she visited Melbourne and she was really happy to help me. She spoke little English but she was really expressive and very friendly. The taxi driver was quite old man and he was looking at me with caution like I was some sort of wild animal =) We drove for about 5 minutes and stopped in front of Toji-In Complex. I was so excited you wouldn't believe! I gave my savior grandma a little gift (I had a few key-chains shaped as boomerangs with aboriginal paintings on it), she tried to resist but eventually took it and was smiling and waiving from the car. I was really grateful to her to be back on track! It was still exciting experience to see other casual sides of Kyoto.
The rain was getting heavier again and I had a quick walk around in Toji-In Temple Complex. I seriously doubted my camera as I was worried that so much water will ruin everything. I left the Complex and tried hard to find the pass around it. I saw lots of young people passing by and followed them and found myself on the grounds of Ritsumeikan University. Ok, now I knew where I was and where I have to go but to get out of the university grounds was a tough job again. Eventually I made it to Kyoto Museum for World Peace. The funniest thing I was unable to find it on the map... Oh gosh, it's like I was looking somewhere else. I admit it - I was probably tired already but I refused to give up. So I decided to follow my sixth sense again =) and it worked! I saw the entrance to Golden Pavilion!
I bought the ticket and happily entered the place I was dreaming about.
.. I took my time walking around and snapping pictures. It was pouring and I was all wet but totally satisfied =) The groups were passing by really quickly as they didn't want to stay under whipping rainfall for long. So it was luck in some weird way =) After I finished exploring the place I bought a bottle of orange juice from vending machine and sat under the roof to decide what should I do next or rather - what do I want to do next.
I looked at the map and decided to make a detour to the Complex of Daisen-In Temple, Daitokuji Temple and Imamiya Shrine. The distance didn't matter any more =) I decided to stick to the main road to avoid being lost again and I made it there after a while. Somehow I didn't feel tired and I just enjoyed the places.
Hokongo-In Temple garden
After leaving the Complex I decided to head back home. But... before that I decided to walk down (yes, exactly - to WALK. Was it my stubbornness (stupidity?) =)) to Nijo Castle. It sounds really crazy but I think the last pieces of common sense had been fiercely washed out by the rain somewhere in the middle of my journey =) I was passing by streets and tried to capture every single detail for my virtual memories of Japan, making another great addition to it =)
At some point I was thinking of catching a taxi but they were all full, no wonder - it was raining with no escape! So I gave up and just walked and walked and walked. Eventually I reached the Castle but I was one hour late, it was already closed for visiting. I got a little upset but I knew I was unfair.
Hokongo-In Temple garden
I visited and saw so many places that day that it was already unbelievable so I turned back to JR Nijo Station and went straight back to the hotel. I was drenched to the bone, tired but surprisingly unable to eat... I just had some evening tea and really hot bath and went to bed.
It is quite remarkable how long was my walking trip. I'm still amazed by my superhuman strength taking into account it was raining like there is no tomorrow, my shoes and feet were totally soaked, I didn't have any food the whole day and I only drank half of the orange juice bottle I bought... And the most of all - I was up safe and sound next morning and nearly repeated my walking distance in Nara.
Hokongo-In Temple pond
Sheesh, I know, I am - Miss Incredible =) (either mentally challenged or just simply idiot).