Thursday, February 6th, 2014

After our now customary continental breakfast in the cafe it did not look all that much warmer out today though the snow seems to have abated.

Breakfast - Not Much Different than Yesterday

Every night we have a bit of a debate as to what we would like to do for the following day. Having been to Kyoto before the conversation has been fairly easy as we have seen most of the big sites so it is a matter of figuring out from the rest what would be interesting to see. In the case of this trip the idea of seeing more of the temples and the wonderful countryside has won us over pretty much every day.

Well. The end of our Falafel Walk was a bit unsatisfactory yesterday with the final few temples being closed when we visited so we figured we would finally complete what we had started back in 2007. It was quiet as we retraced our tracks along the Philosopher’s Walk. There have not been many people out but today was even quieter.

Another Day on the Falafel Walk

I noticed as we walked along that on the roof of one of the homes was a crane which I thought was quite unusual - Not normally found perching on the rooftop…

Crane!

Returning to the Honen-in temple (free entrance!) we found the gates were now open and we could enter.

Entrance Open

The main temple buildings were closed because a service was underway but we were allowed to walk around the rather pretty grounds. After passing through the gate there were two zen stone gardens on either side of the path formed into a raised bed with an abstract pattern looking like lightening bolts raked into the top.

Gardens

A building to the right was being set up with an art display so we continued through the gardens with it’s rather muddy pond (this time of the year at least).

Temple Pond

The trees around the temple had wonderfully twisted roots and branches which made it look so interesting.

Twisted Trees

Main Buildings

The temple seems a bit more modern with not only the art display of modern art being set up but also to the side an abstract piece that consisted of a stack of stone balls in the middle of a circle of stone paving having randomly placed long skinny black polished stones looking like fish pointing towards the center. I liked the saying on the side: “Listen, Think, Accept, Practice, Believe”.

Modern Art

Leaving the temple we followed a side road to the next temple rather than returning for more Falafel. The narrow road wound it’s way through some quiet residential streets along the side of the mountain. I don’t think they speed too much along here and, come to think of it, I don’t remember any cars coming up on us…

Side Roads

Someone's Front Door...

The last temple is one that most tourists visiting Kyoto see: Ginkakuji Temple. It was certainly obvious to see with a more unusual visit than any of the others: We had to follow a path leading in one direction around the grounds. Approaching the main entrance we were guided along a path lined with an incredibly high hedge. Entering (500 yen) we were presented with a small garden then passed through a second wall to be presented with the temple grounds proper.

First Garden

There are two magnificent zen gardens formed of raised beds of stones: One is a simple but massive organic shaped bed of stones about a foot off the ground with a linear pattern on the top. Another was simply a head-height pillar of stones in a cone-shape. To think of the amount of effort and concentration to make these structures is incredible.

Stone Gardens

We did not see into any of the buildings as we were guided around the grounds following the bamboo railings of the path up the side of the mountain and back down.

The Walkway

Temple Buildings

There were a lot of school groups here stopping here and there to hear what their guides had to say (though they breezed through a lot quicker than we did as we stopped every few seconds to take pictures and admire what we were seeing - they did not seem to be doing so much admiring…perhaps they have done this tour before or find yet another temple boring?).

View of Kyoto Beyond the Temple

The “Silver Pavilion” is near the entrance and is, contrary to what you might think, not covered in silver as they ran out of money when it was built in the 15th century. It is a small pagoda on the edge of a small pond.

Silver Pavilion

We admired the view for a few minutes before continuing on to the rather nice (and busy) gift shop. Picked up a few typical sweets from Kyoto as well as a fabric painted black and white picture of a dragon which I thought was quite nice…Actually, I liked going around and trying samples from just about everything. The plastic replicas of what the different things were also helped us figure out what was what.

 Leaving the Temple

On the way down the hill after leaving the temple we noticed that a lot more of the shops were open then when we passed through last night. Some of the shops were demonstrating how various things were made including the sweet pastry sheet with red bean paste wrapped sweets common here.

Demonstrations

Looking Into a Restaurant Window

This time we were not so keen on the long walk back to the river to catch the subway so we instead chose to take our chances on the bus. I had read a bit last night about what would be involved but it turned out to be very easy. We found the bus stop we needed and waited for a few minutes for the bus to arrive. We boarded through the back door and sat down - This bus was simply a flat fare so you paid as you left from the front doors.

Onboard the Bus

The bus was lovely and warm inside as we took the bus to the Gion district where we exited (220 yen each) at the Yasaka Shrine. I remember it from our first trip. It is very orange.

Yasaka Shrine Main Entrance

You enter the shrine by a series of steps leading away from the main street then through the main gate and finally up around a small incline into the main shrine courtyard.

Courtyard

This is quite an active shrine with many people around and banners everywhere. Outside of one building they have attached several ropes hanging from the roof that worshippers would swing making a rattling sound from a device attached to the top. It caused a lot of entertainment for visitors.

Do-It-Yourself Gonging

We made our way around the gardens with small shrines jammed together throughout each quite different than one another.

Small Shrine

More Shrines

We left the temple down Shijo Dori (road) which we found very easy to remember - The covered pavement on either side of the street that is lined with quite nice shops (including a “Hello Kitty” shop which we visited to see if we could find anything for my wife…).

Hello Kitty!

Shijo Dori

Last night I had done a bit of research and found that there was a Udon Museum here in Kyoto (see The Kyoto Projecct: Kyoto's Udon Museum for further details) so we found it down a side street (two over from the river) and gave it a visit.

Udon Museum

It was quite similar to the Takoyaki Museum in Tokyo with a small exhibition room and a few rooms that you could eat in. Long and narrow with eating rooms on the ground floor and upstairs, the exhibition was located beside the kitchen towards the back on the right which had pictures of all the different types of udon available in Japan (who knew?).

Wow, lots of different kinds!

In a display case they also indicated how udon is actually made. In the corner was a fortune-telling machine with an odd puppet inside that we watched animated by another visitor who put money into the slot…Made out of wood it opened and closed it’s mouth, picking up a fortune slip and dropping it for the visitor to retrieve. A shop is located on your right as soon as you enter the museum with a mural on the wall having plastic mock-ups of the different types of udon positioned within the outline of a map of Japan.

Udon Map of Japan

It was quite cool here as there was no heating…

We were shown into a tatami mat room to have something to eat. Two other couples were on the floor at tables on either side of us with one end of the room looking out over a tiny garden. Thankfully this room was heated though it was a bit drafty every time the sliding doors were opened.

View of the Garden

We were told to ring a bell when we were ready to order and given the menus to look through. Eventually we made our orders - I went for an unusual combination dish consisting of three large, wide udon which came with a hot mushroom broth for dipping and a soup of udons shaped into small twisted shapes (like twisted gnochi). Both were absolutely delicious. On the side was a bowl of rice with the thin beige strings that I knew were the dried, tiny fish we have seen before (I ate it quickly and tried not to think too much about this). Mother had an unusual dish of udon over vegetables in a small amount of light broth topped with a raw egg.

Lunch - Udon!

After the udon museum we wandered through Gion - This is the geisha district of Kyoto and as soon as you leave the main road the buildings are all made of dark wood and look very old. The streets are very narrow (reminding us of Takayama).

Gion District

Nearing a small canal I remembered from previously we walked along the canal and saw them filming something ahead of us and figured out it was for a wedding with the bride and groom dressed in traditional clothing.

Canal

We saw several other geisha and maiko (trainee geisha) as we wandered around.

Meiko?

A number of restaurants were there and, surprisingly, not very expensive. We also passed by a number of expensive antique shops. It was very quiet back here away from the main roads that surround it.

Old Restaurants...

We left behind the geisha district and visited a book/CD/DVD shop I had spotted to see if they had any videos or CDs that I was interested in (no - I even asked a shop assistant as last night I had put the Japanese characters for what I wanted onto my phone to show them…). Passing over the river we returned to the same covered mall we had visited last night.

The River

This time I was looking for a shop that I had visited last time we had been here. We could not find that but found a place called “Animate!” on the 1st floor. Unfortunately the crowded interior was filled with mostly manga (Japanese comic books) and very little in the way of CDs or DVDs. Again, they did not have what I was looking for (and they had some very dodgy DVDs in the back I noticed as well…). I am giving up. This is silly. I do not really want these anyway and can likely get them a lot easier back in London.

Shops

Yummy! Oh, it's plastic...

We continued walking to the end of the shopping centre in the south then turned west to make our way to a subway station. Before entering the station I was getting hungry again after the fairly light noodle lunch so dropped by Yoshinoya for a bit of takeaway (though it was confusing to explain to them this is what I wanted to do as they initially directed me upstairs to the seating area…mother understood though…). I picked up some beef on rice with curry and a side of miso soup. Yummy. I ate cross-legged on the bed in the hotel.

This was our last day in Kyoto. It has turned out to be a lot busier than I would have liked (and my wife would have liked - I am supposed to be relaxing!). We spent a bit of time this evening packing our ever-increasing stuff into our bags. Tomorrow it will be a fair amount of travel and we move onto a different stage of the trip - the skiing. This will be new for both of us but promises to be very interesting.

>> Next: Day 10



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