Yearly Archives: 2018

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), Kyoto

November 2018
Kinkaku-ji also known as the Golden Pavilion, was originally built in 1397 as a retirement villa for a shogun and according to his will, it later became a Zen temple after his death. The Golden Pavilion is now designated as a World Heritage site by Unesco. It opens daily from 9am to 5pm and has admission fee. The entry ticket itself is an art form worthwhile as a souvenir.

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

The Kinkaku-ji on a bright sunny morning.

From the Kyoto station, we took bus #101 from bus stand B2 for Kinkaku-ji. The bus will stop at Kinkakujimichi bus stop and the entrance to the temple is about 6~8 minutes walk away. We reached the entrance door early at 8:30 am and naturally it was still closed.

Kinkaku-ji.

The walk from Kinkakujimichi bus stop to Kinkaku-ji outer gate.

Kinkaku-ji.

A few minutes walk from the outer gate to the temple entrance.

Kinkaku-ji.

Area map of Kinkaku-ji.

In-front of the entrance, a short line has already started to build for tickets. While we waited for the doors to open, more visitors arrived and the ticket line has swelled to four. Adding to the crowd, a bus load of school children also turned up. Precisely 9:00 am the doors opened and the scramble for tickets began. The ticket counter was efficient and the crowd got their tickets quickly and started to walk in.

Kinkaku-ji.

Walking to the entrance.

Kinkaku-ji.

Entrance doors shut at 8:30 am. The ticket office is inside.

A tree-lined path leads you to a pond, in the middle of which stands Kinkaku-ji. Its walls covered with gold leaf, is beautifully reflected by the waters. This is truly a mesmerizing sight. The structure being almost covered in gold leaf, earns the name Golden Pavilion. Perched on this three storey building, is a phoenix which goes unnoticed by many visitors.

Kinkaku-ji.

Entrance doors opened, in we go for our tickets.

Kinkaku-ji.

We guess this is the ticket as we were handed  a pamphlet together with it at the ticket office.

Kinkaku-ji.

First sight of Kinkaku-ji..

Kinkaku-ji.

Bathe in the early autumn morning sunlight.

Like most major sites around Kyoto, one will be impressed with the temples and their grounds but disappointingly overwhelmed with the huge crowds, similar to the one we experienced at the bamboo forest earlier. The beauty of these attractions are also compromised by the noise they make especially tour groups that are hurrying through to get to their next attraction. Once the tour & the school groups left, calmness sets in and you’ll be back to your normal sense. Luckily these groups weren’t long before they left. Thank god.

Kinkaku-ji.

The reality. Crowds everywhere at Kyoto’s attractions.

Kinkaku-ji.

It’s a matter of timing arriving at your location whether you’ll be part of this or otherwise.

Walking along the pond surrounding the pavilion, you’ll pass some wooden architectural designed buildings. Referring to information from the pamphlet, this could be the former head priest living quarters. Walking further on, you’ll be passing the back of the pavilion and onward through some well maintained garden. Nearing the end of the walking path are souvenir stalls and restrooms. The walking path involves sections with stairs, nothing too strainous but not wheelchair friendly.

Kinkaku-ji.

The former head priest quarters.

Kinkaku-ji.

Garden outside the quarters.

Kinkaku-ji.

View from the back of the pavilion.

Kinkaku-ji.

Another view from the back. Beautiful in the warm morning sunlight.

Kinkaku-ji.

The pond surrounding the building. There are Koi fishes inside.

Kinkaku-ji.

A phoenix on the top of the pavilion goes unnoticed by many visitors.

Our walk towards the exit pass through gardens with maple trees with leaves starting to turn reddish signifying the start of autumn. The garden are well kept and it’s difficult to find fallen leaves along the pathway. The whole pathway isn’t long and can be completed leisurely in less than an hour, if you can avoid the crowd.

Kinkaku-ji.

Walking path (right) through the garden.

Kinkaku-ji.

A miniature natural waterfall. It’s really small actually.

Kinkaku-ji.

Even the slopes does not have fallen leaves.

Kinkaku-ji.

This is the long exit stairs. Fortunately, it’s downhill. This is a view from the end of the stairs.

Being our 4th day in Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji is the last attraction we will be visiting before leaving for Osaka. We have also intended to visit the Silver Pavilion and the Philosopher’s walk but after reading reviews decided for the more exquisite Golden Pavilion.

Higashiyama District, Kyoto : Sannenzaka & Ninenzaka

November 2018
Returning to Kyoto train station from Fushimi Inari shrine, we opted for a taxi ride to visit the Higashiyama District. From our readings and research, a lot of uphill walk is involved to visit this area if we would have taken the bus. So we got on a taxi at Kyoto station which is easy, as there are always taxis waiting. The drive was about 15 minutes and we got off at the intersection of Matsubara Dori/Gojo Zaka saving us time, energy & stamina.

Higashiyama District

The blue is part of our taxi route & the red is our walking path.

If you have walking difficulties, follow our walking route, it’s downhill all the way, otherwise be prepared for a strenuous uphill walk if you do in reverse direction. Coming by bus, from the bus stop, will be an uphill walk to get to the point where our taxi drop-off point was. Believe me, the ¥1,400 taxi fare will be well spent. (We opted not to visit Kiyomizu-dera Temple as the roof of main hall is undergoing maintenance till 2020 and the building is surrounded with scaffolding and covered up from the ground to the roof.)

Sannenzaka

At the other end is Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Top of it’s pagoda building is visible. To the left is the staircase going down to the start of Sannenzaka street.

Sannenzaka

The steps going down Sannenzaka.

Sannenzaka

Viewe of the steps in reverse direction.

A visit to Kyoto would not be complete without a walk through these streets. These streets winds around the Higashiyama district and at the end of Sannenzaka/Ninenzaka, you can opt to continue your walk onward to Gion. Although the street is paved, the stairs at the start of Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka would be the only part not accessible to wheel chair bound visitor.

Lined with traditional shop houses like those we’ve seen in Hanamikoji street in Gion, these pair of pedestrian street, invoke a feeling of old Kyoto. The traditional wooden storefronts, cafe, restaurants, tea houses and souvenir shops caters for the needs of tourists, passerby and pilgrims. One may not notice there are no overhead cables along these streets, thus bringing out the genuine traditional feel of old Kyoto.

Sannenzaka

The wooden storefront along the streets.

Sannenzaka

Kitchen wares for sale.

Sannenzaka

Ninja outfit for the kids.

About 100m from the bottom of the stairs of Sannenzaka, walk straight pass a 4-way junction and to your right look out for a wooden entrance to a couple of restaurants inside. Many may give this a miss as you would not notice any attraction. Go in and you’ll find a small pond with a lot of big size Koi fishes. If you have some biscuits in hand, break it up and toss it into the pond. See the reaction afterwards.

Sannenzaka

The nothing fancy wooden entrance to a couple of restaurants inside.

Sannenzaka

The restaurants inside.

Sannenzaka

This is the pond with the Koi fishes.

Sannenzaka

A private residence after the pond.

Sannenzaka

The Kois scrambling for the biscuits.

Your walk from Sannenzaka will take you to Ninenzaka where this street too has a downhill staircase. From the top, you can see a shop with 3 opened umbrellas which makes it an icon unique to Ninenzaka. Further ahead, there was some heavy construction works going on so we turned back and continued to walk along  Sannenzaka.

Ninenzaka

The iconic umbrellas of Ninenzaka.

Ninenzaka

Wooden storefront & kimono girl. Typical old Kyoto.

Ninenzaka

The stairs half way looking up.

Continuing our walk, we pass by the pagoda styled Hokanji Temple before finally exiting to the main road of Higashi Oji Dori, where we caught the bus back to Kyoto station at Kiyomizu-michi bus stop.

Hokanji Temple

Downhill towards Hokanji Temple.

Hokanji Temple

Kimono girls heading to the Hokanji Temple.

Kongoji Temple

Kongoji Temple not far from Hokanji Temple. About the last temple you’ll pass before reaching the main road.

Fushimi Inari, Kyoto

November 2018
Day 3 in Kyoto we will be visiting attractions closer to town starting with Fushimi Inari shrine. Taking the JR Nara Line from Kyoto train station, we got off at JR Inari station. It was a short 15 minutes train ride. As soon as you exit the JR Inari Station, you will see the first reddish coloured main gate of the shrine right across the station.

If you have taken a train using the Keihan Line, you’ll be getting off at Keihan Fushimi-Inari station. This is a different station from the above and you’ll have to do a fair bit of walking to get to the entrance of the shrine, 500 meters or so.

Fushimi Inari shrine

Entrance to the shrine as seen from JR Inari station.

Fushimi Inari shrine

JR Inari station (in the background) right across the entrance to the shrine.

Fushimi Inari is a shrine famous for it’s thousand of gates called torii. The reddish color represents the colour of the sun. These gates were paid for or donated by local businesses and individuals. On the left of the torii, are the name of the company or person who donated it. On the right, you will see the date it was donated.

Fushimi Inari shrine

Another torii before the main gate.

Fushimi Inari shrine

Main gate of the shrine.

Fushimi Inari shrine

Inari Fox watching from the main gate.

Fushimi Inari shrine

Area map of Fushimi Inari shrine.

The shrine is open 24 hours with no entry fees. The best times to come is in the early mornings and late evenings to avoid the crowds. The walk along the torii involves stair climbing, but nothing strenuous.

Fushimi Inari shrine

Dance stage after the main gate.

Fushimi Inari shrine

Entrance to Higashimaru-jinja shrine. A shrine within a shrine.

Fushimi Inari shrine

Miniature torii souvenirs and good luck charms

On the day of our visit it started to drizzle when we reached the shrine office. Past the shrine office, you will see a flight of stairs that will take you to the torii leading to the inner shrine. Just when we were about to start our walk at the torri pathway, the drizzle turned into a heavy downpour, true to the weather forecast for the day. Luckily there was a shelter nearby and we waded for the rain to pass by.

Fushimi Inari shrine

First steps after the shrine’s office towards the torii pathway to the inner shrine. Umbrellas already up.

Fushimi Inari shrine

Heavy downpour starting. Those without umbrellas were drenched.

Fushimi Inari shrine

With the downpour subsided, time for the cameras, hand phones & selfie sticks to come up.

The path of these torii will lead to the inner shrine taking you through an impressive arcade of giant torii. Further in, the toriis are much smaller and shorter in height, The walk isn’t long and soon we reached the inner shrine and the drizzle started again.

Fushimi Inari shrine

Further in, the toriis are smaller in size.

Fushimi Inari shrine

During this section of the torii, it started to drizzle again.

Fushimi Inari shrine

The inner shrine with many students around.

From the inner shrine, the walk to the upper shrine gets you through yet more torii. Go this way to reach the upper shrine. We did not continue further as the drizzle was getting heavier and we decided to turn back. Half way down, you will have to take a detour out of the torii for an exit route to the entrance. On the way out, we took shelter at a tea house waiting for the rain to stop.

Fushimi Inari shrine

A small stream just before the tea house.

Fushimi Inari shrine

Autumn foliage starting.

Fushimi Inari shrine

Tea house overlooking towards a small garden.

Once the rain was over, crowd of visitors started to arrive. We couldn’t imagine how big it will grow especially the rain halted visitors for a good hour or so. And we couldn’t imagine how the ‘traffic jam’ be like in the torii with visitors stopping to pose for photos and selfies.

The rain was actually a blessing for us as we got a ‘clear’ path with few visitors when we went through the torii right after the rain subsided. My wish of getting a few photos of the torii empty realised.

Fushimi Inari shrine

After the rain, the crowd starts to come.

Fushimi Inari shrine

Kimono girls also making their way out.