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Kyoto Station

The 15 storey Kyoto station is the city’s intergrated transportation hub. It is served by Japan Railways (including the Shinkansen), Kintetsu Railways and the Karasuma Subway Line. It also houses a large bus terminal for city, long distance and overnight highway buses. A taxi stand is located besides the Bus Ticket Center. It was opened in 1997 and stands in total contrast to many of Kyoto’s traditional tourist attractions.

The station is a big complex with a 13 storeys Isetan department store in it as well as Hotel Granvia at the east end of the station. Touring just the station will take about ½~¾ hour with some quick selfies here and there. We took more than an hour as we are in no hurry while waiting for the slight drizzle outside to fade off.

Kyoto Station

The central entrance facing Kyoto tower.

The building’s futuristic design was conceived to convey historical Kyoto through a modern aesthetic. The station’s large main hall with its exposed steel beamed roof, called the Matrix, is meant to reflect both the structure of the station and the grid like layout of Kyoto’s street network.

Kyoto Station

The Matrix, exposed steel beamed roof

Inside the station, the Grand Stairway runs from the 4th floor of the West wing and almost all the way up to the Sky Garden. It has 171 steps over a distance of 70 meters and a height of 35 meters and is studded with about 15,000 LEDs which generate stunning light shows in the evening. However, during our stay, the lights were under maintenance.

Kyoto Station

The Grand Stairway with the Sky Garden on the top floor.

Kyoto Station offers free admission to the Sky Garden, an open air area on the top floor of the station’s West wing. Located on the 15th floor, it offers good views of the city day or night. Always open, the Sky Garden can be reached from the ground floor (1F) via a series of long escalators with a final flight of 2 short staircase to the Sky Garden. To start your tour, take the long escalator to your right at the central entrance after you enter the station. No ticket is necessary to go up as the escalator is before the train ticket gates. Views here are good but becomes unimpressive to photograph on cloudy days due to heavily tinted glass.

Kyoto Station

The Sky Garden with it’s bamboo plants in the center court.

Kyoto Station

Bench all over the Sky Garden. With good weather, you can enjoy some serenity.

Kyoto Station

The Kyoto Tower jutting out at one end of the garden.

Kyoto Station

Kyoto city view from the Sky Garden. You’ll need polariser to photograph through the heavily tinted glass.

There is a glass-enclosed walkway above the station known as the Skyway Tunnel which enables you to walk the length of Kyoto Station, 45 meters above the central hall. It starts from the restaurant floor on the 11th floor and ends at the East wing leading to Hotel Granvia. So, come down from the Sky Garden and enter the restaurant floor. At the other end, is the entrance to the Skyway Tunnel. Through the windows of the Skyway Tunnel, you can see Kyoto tower, the city, the station complex below as well as the bus stand outside. The views along the way are breathtaking.

Kyoto Station

Entrance to the 11th floor restaurant level at the end of the escalator ride of the Grand Stairway.

Kyoto Station

The other end of the restaurant floor leads to Skyway Tunnel.

Kyoto Station

Walking along the glass enclosed Skyway Tunnel.

Kyoto Station

Kyoto Tower from the Skyway Tunnel.

Kyoto Station

The station below seen from the Skyway Tunnel.

At the end of the Skyway Tunnel is a single long escalator down. From here, you’ll be able to see East Square with it’s metal pergola with flowers and small trees around it. This is the East wing with elevator access to Hotel Granvia.  Coming down the escalator, walk straight and to your left and down a few steps, facing East Square is an open air Lego replica of the station.

Kyoto Station

The escalator down at the end of the Skyway Tunnel taking you to the Lego display (left) and East Square (right).

Kyoto Station

A signboard on the pillar informing of the model display. Easy to miss this as it’s almost out of sight.

Kyoto Station

Open air Lego replica of the station.

Kyoto Station

The East Square with it’s pergola. In the background is Hotel Granvia.

Kyoto Station

The escalator behind the pergola will take you to the Skyway Tunnel.

From this floor, there is a different escalator going down to the station level. Please note that both the Sky Garden at the West wing and the East Square at the East wing is uncovered and exposed to the weather. The Skyway Tunnel is however covered. Visitors at the station who have time to spare, do take this opportunity to tour the station.

Kyoto Station

Looking at the escalators going up to the Sky Garden from the East wing.

Kyoto Station

The escalator taking you to the East wing as seen from the central entrance. This will be to your left as you enter the station.

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.

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