Wow. I’m totally wiped out. I saw a bunch of stuff after all, in spite of a persistent light rain that wasn’t more than slightly annoying.
For starters, I took the subway and then grabbed a bus to Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavilion). On the bus ride there, I saw a great sight I wish I could have photographed. A large group of guys wearingÂ fundoshi (traditional Japanese underwear that kind of looks like a loincloth) were moving a portable shine across a river. It looked cold. The couple next to me were chuckling, and I asked (in Japanese) if those people were college students, and they replied “Yes,” so I laughed along with them. Ah, college.
I got off the bus at Ginkakuji-Mae (Mae is Japanese for “In front of.” This is a handy word to know.) I was looking at an area map, and it hit me– in Japan, North on maps isn’t always up. North is sometimes anywhere but up. This is very confusing when you’re trying to go somewhere, and it explains why it took me so long to find that martial arts exhibition in Nagoya. The map was upside down to me. Let that be a lesson! Find the “N” first, just in case.
Here’s an example map, just for Kyoto tourists on Gojo Dori. It looks innocent enough:
But if we look closer, we can see that the “N” for North isn’t pointing up!
After struggling with the map a little, I found the famous “Path of Philosophy,” which I’m sure is even prettier when the cherry trees are in bloom, and walked to Ginkakuji temple. The “Path of Philosophy” was famous with Heian Era thinkers who liked to walk along it while thinking about Philosophical Issues.
As I got closer to Ginkakuji, I started to see a large clump of souvenir shops:
Hello Kitty is working hard to sell souvenirs here!
Ginkakuji is not really silver, but the grounds are pretty. Apparently at one point, the guy who built it wanted to cover it in silver leaf, but died before he could get started on the project. Lots of stairs to climb to get to scenic views of Kyoto, and lots of pictures to take.
As I entered the grounds, it just sort of jumped around a corner and surprised me.
It’s still not silver:
There was a beautiful pattern in the sand next to it:
The grounds are beautiful, and I quickly didn’t care that the building wasn’t silver. It’s a beautiful old building in its own right, and it mixes in with the scenery really well:
The lake in front isn’t as big as Kinkakuji, but it’s charming:
Some of the other buildings on the grounds are very attractive:
And the grounds themselves are a feast for the eyes:
I finally found some fall color! It’s late October, but everything is still pretty green. I was hoping to catch Kyoto in fall colors, but I’m a few weeks too early:
Here’s the million-dollar view from the hill behind Ginkakuji. Incredible.
A little tighter in shot of the pavilion itself from the hill. Gardeners are hard at work to keep everything looking gorgeous:
And here’s the sand garden from high up:
I really liked this shot:
Here’s a side view of the pavilion:
And then I left. Here’s the view as you leave and head back to the shopping area:
The shopping street on the way out:
After an hour or so at Ginkakuji, I walked back to the Path of Philosophy, and on to Honen-in Temple.
Honen-in is very pretty, but very small. There wasn’t a whole lot to do there, but I took a few photos before moving on:
Another sand design:
There wasn’t much I could see, but I liked this building detail:
And this stone had some nice calligraphy on it:
And then I left:
The Path of Philosophy to Nanzen-ji
Back on the Path of Philosophy, and here’s a helpful map!
Okay, maybe not so helpful if you don’t speak Japanese. North still isn’t up! Now it’s off to the right.
The Path of Philosophy itself is a beautiful walk through residential neighborhoods:
And there are all kinds of interesting buildings along the way:
It really is beautiful!
As I was getting close to Nanzen-ji, I saw this stream or drainage ditch coming straight down a mountain. I think it looks pretty cool:
I arrived at Nanzen-ji, which has a great big massive gate, and a lot of pretty painted screens. I sat and rested for about 10-20 minutes. My feet were killing me.
The gate is really massive:
And since it was raining, everyone was taking shelter:
It’s hard to get a sense of scale with this: (this is on the way out, but it’s the gate still.)
From the other side:
The brick structure is an old aqueduct that runs through the temple grounds.
Nanzen-ji has its own Zen rock garden, like Ryoan-ji:
And there’s another rock garden over here:
No shoes while you walk around the main buildings on the covered wooden walkways:
The grounds are very pretty:
And here’s a giant bell:
Heian Shrine and Rainbows
Onward to the Heian Shrine. On the way, I saw an awesome rainbow over a fountain.
It arched back into the hills:
And wound up “over there.”
There are some canals in Kyoto. This is one that’s close to the Heian Shrine. It’s beautiful at this time of day:
And now I’m entering the area of the Heian Shrine:
Later, I saw another rainbow over the shrine. Heian Shrine is pretty cool, actually. It’s big, but not “waste an hour here” big. It’s a place you can spend 15-20 minutes, savor, and move on. I drew an omikuji, which I have just translated as “end luck.” I knew it. Too late to tie it to something today. I’ll have to do it tomorrow. (In Japan, if you draw a bad omikuji, you’re supposed to tie it to a branch to keep the bad luck away. Instead there are poles provide to tie them on so you don’t kill the trees.)
Here’s the main gate:
And a place to wash your hands and mouth before entering, because it’s a Shinto shrine.
The buildings are beautiful, but I couldn’t go in most of them:
Look, the rainbow is back!
Ah, the rainbow is heading to the main shrine area:
Ema full of wishes:
Bad fortunes go here:
With my luck ending, I went to the Kyoto Handicrafts Center, where I learned how to spend a lot of money really fast.
I bought some prints, some postcards, and a cute wooden ichimatsu-style wooden doll because I liked her expression. Then, since I spent enough, I got to try the raffle. It’s a Japanese-style raffle, where you spin a big box full of little colored balls, and if you get one that isn’t white, you win something. I got yellow, which means I won a pair of chopsticks.
I will treasure them forever.
I took a cab back to the hotel, and I’m in my room again. I need to rest a bit, and then I will head out and find someplace to eat. Probably Kyoto Station again.
If I had this trip to do over, I’d spend about 10 days in Kyoto, minimum. So I’ll just have to come back to Japan again and spend more time here.
Tomorrow is probably going to be Arashiyama, Eiga Mura (where they film the samurai dramas), and Gion/Ponto-cho.
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I ran into that “North isn’t always up” problem and discovered the method behind the madness. It’s actually really easy to get around Japan once you figure it out. Read more at the link below…
Ah, now that makes sense. I wish I had known that before I went to Nagoya that day. Oh well. Travel is all about learning things.
EDIT: Oh, one other thing– the Kyoto Handicrafts Center is kind of a ripoff. The wooden doll I got for 1500 yen? I saw the exact same one on Miyajima for 1000 yen. Do some research about real handicrafts before you go to Kyoto, and go see the Real Thing.