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Kyoto Station

November 2018
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.

Kimono Forest, Kyoto

November 2018
A 5 minutes walk from Togetsu-kyo bridge takes us to Arashiyama tram station of the Keifuku Line. It’s located just opposite the main entrance to Tenryu-ji Temple. Towards the back of the station, you will find another type of ‘forest’ that is lesser known. Not as famous as the bamboo forest it’s trying to replicate, this ‘high tech’ forest certainly will be a delight for the eyes and a fantastic photo spot.

Kimono Forest is a collection of cylindrical shaped 2 meters high acrylic pillars with what seems to be in a variety of colours and patterns of kimono designed cloth warped inside it. It is considered a ‘forest’ since the pillars are clustered like bamboo trees in a forest. The pillars are installed over the station grounds and each pillar has a unique kimono design of it’s own. Rather than a forest, it’s more of a mini art installation with rows of colourful columns framing the path way.

Kimono Forest

The Kimono forest are spread around the Keifuku Line tram station.

Kimono Forest

The Keifuku Line Arashiyama tram station.

Kimono Forest

Signboard almost hidden by the Kimono poles.

Kimono Forest

The tram serving the Keifuku Line.

Along the path, you will find the ‘Pond of the Dragon’, which serves as the guardian of the station to ensure safe journey for everyone. The Kimono forest is free to walk through.

Kimono Forest

Beautifully designed Kimono cloth.

Kimono Forest

‘Pond of the Dragon’.

Kimono Forest

Residential houses besides the tram station.

We ended our day of touring attractions in the Arashiyama area at the Kimono Forest. A 10 minutes walk will take you to the JR Saga-Arashiyama station, for the train back to Kyoto.

JR Saga-Arashiyama station

JR Saga-Arashiyama station.

The Romantic Train ticket office

The Romantic Train ticket office just besides the JR Saga-Arashiyama station. The Romantic Train has a station of it’s own, Saga-Torokko.

The Romantic Train ticket office

A retired steam engine outside the Romantic Train ticket office.