ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Honshu: Kansai Region

DAY 5 (3/3): FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan, 2016.12.07

After we came back from Fushimi Inari Taisha, we thought it would be a good idea to find a place for lunch in Downtown Kyoto.  There was still a few hours before our 18:30 flight.

06We opted for a revisit of Nishiki Market (錦市場), the five block long market street known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”.

04For the past few days we didn’t really have a decent meal of sashimi.  We ended up sitting down at a sashimi restaurant Nishiki Daimaru Yoshi (錦大丸).  The restaurant was hidden behind its fishmonger shop.

01At this popular restaurant, we were the first customers sitting down at the long counter in front of the food preparation area.

02There was only set lunch available.  We wouldn’t mind as long as the sashimi was fresh.  The set included sashimi, tempura and grilled fish.

03The washroom at the restaurant was small but full of character.

07After lunch, we went outside of the Nishiki Market and arrived at the back side of Daimaru Department Store.  There was a small vendor selling farmer’s produce.  We couldn’t resist but bought a few items to bring back to Hong Kong.

05Then we headed back into Nishiki Market for another stroll.

08We passed by a vendor selling all kinds of traditional sweets and snacks.  We picked up some regional roasted peanuts.

09There were quite a few shops selling Tsukemono (漬物, Japanese pickled snacks).  Many items were seasonal.

10Then we passed by the chestnut shop where we bought some delicious local chestnuts before.

11At the end of Nishiki Market, we arrived at the entrance of Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine, a Shinto shrine conveniently located at the heart of the downtown.

12Another shop worth noting in the area was Tamaru Inbo (田丸印房), a Hanko shop, a store selling traditional stamps and seals made of wooden or stone blocks.  With over a century of professional reputation, Tamaru Inbo was a great place to check out Japanese hanko.

13From Shijo Dori, we walked east to the Kamo River (鴨川).   We decided to walk south along the river for a final stroll along the peaceful river.

14The weather was perfect for a relaxing stroll.

15Like us, many preferred to take the route along the river instead of the city streets.

16We passed by many restaurants facing the river.  Hopefully next time we would be able to enjoy a meal at one of the many waterfront dining patios during the summer months.

17We left the riverbank when we reached Gojo Dori Street.  We decided to get a good cup of coffee before leaving for the airport.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe landed on a cafe called Efish just south of Gojo Dori, at Kiya-machi Dori, a small neighborhood street sandwiched between the Kamo River and Takase River (高瀬川).  Unlike several blocks up north where Kiya-machi Dori represented the vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene of the city, here the narrow street became a laid-back neighborhood alley.

19Efish is great for its relaxing atmosphere by the river.  Other than refreshing food and drinks, Efish also showcased cool design housewares inside the cafe.

20On our way from Efish to Kyoto Station, we walked past Umeyu Rakuen (サウナの梅湯), a retro 80-year old bathhouse.  In 2015, 25 year-old Yusuke Minato, a long-time devotee to traditional bathhouses, took over the declining bathhouse and transformed it into a hip venue to promote traditional bathing, as well as occasional gigs and flea market.  We didn’t have time for a soak and would have to save it till next time.

21After another few minutes of walk we could see Kyoto Tower from a distance.  A big crow on the treetop over our head was making loud noises, as if yelling out our parting wishes with the ancient capital.

22Minutes later we reached the futuristic Kyoto Station once again.  We took the escalators down to the basement to pick up our backpacks at the lockers and hop on a Haruka Express for the Kansai Airport.  As the train leaving the station, we were already planning for a return trip sometime in the near future.  Kyoto was and always will be the perfect venue for us to dwell in the power of heritage, nature, and spirituality whenever we were overwhelmed by the dull and routine work lives.

This concludes the record of our 5-day Kyoto trip in December 2016.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 5 (2/3): FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan, 2016.12.07

On the summit of Mount Inari, there was a small Shinto shrine, and a shop selling candles and souvenirs.  The shop had yet opened its doors when we were there.  From the peak our only way was to head down.  We took our time and followed a different route to go down.  We ventured into a few quiet spots of small shrines and graves off the beaten track in the woods.  The descend was shorter than our uphill hike.  By the time we reached Yotsutsuji intersection again at midway, it was quite a different feeling with a whole lot more of visitors looking for the best lookout spot to take pictures.  We stopped by a few shrines to bow our heads, throw our coins, clap our hands and pay our respect to the Shinto deity.  As we approached the mountain foot, we were so grateful about the unique and delightful experience of the hike.  We felt a little sad for both the hike and our 5-day Kyoto trip were coming to an end.  We reached the final torii gate at around 10:40, exactly three hours from the beginning of the hike.

dsc_3993There was a small shrine at the peak of Mount Inari.  We went up, left some coins and felt grateful to have such nice weather for most of our stay in Kyoto.

01The shop at the peak had yet opened its doors.

dsc_3982The sun was higher and certainly brighter by 9:20 when we reached the peak.

03We chose a different route for the descend.

04There weren’t as many torii gates along the first part of this trail, and it felt like a walk in a densely forested hill.

dsc_3823Occasionally we would see the “donation price list” of torii gate along the trail.  Anyone, and in many cases tourists, could pay 1,302,000 Japanese yen to erect a vermilion torii gate to continue the tradition of the Senbon Torii (千本鳥居).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe passed by a few shops that were preparing to open for business.

07During our descend, we arrived at a forest opening where the peaceful sunlight shone through tree tops onto old graves and mini shrines.

08The air was crisp and fresh.  Everything was so peaceful and serene.

09There was a maintenance staff moving a few things here and there, but the atmosphere was otherwise supremely tranquil and spiritual.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANo matter where we were on the trail of Mount Inari we could also find kitsune (fox) statues.

06Other than stone foxes, there were also occasional stone lions.

11And at one shrine, there was also a bronze horse statue.

12It was difficult to imagine how much work was needed to maintain all the thousands of small shrines and graves on Mount Inari, a spiritual destination ever since the first shrine was established here over 1300 years ago.

13There were layers upon layers of history, memories and wishes of different generations of worshipers at different corners on Mount Inari.

15Some of the temizuya (手水舎, purification pavilion) in front of the shrine was beautifully decorated.

16Despite simple, some small temizuya fit perfectly well with the naturalistic surroundings.

17The vermilion small torii offerings stood out no matter where they were placed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore reaching Yotsutsuji intersection, we passed by several shops housed in traditional wooden buildings right by the trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was just past 10:15 when we returned to Yotsutsuji intersection.  The number of visitors was significantly more than earlier when we first came up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn maybe an hour or so, the shops and tea restaurants would be packed with visitors.  The famous dish at Inari was the kitsune udon (fox udon), a bowl of hot thick wheat noodles topped with pieces of fried tofu, supposedly the favorite food for foxes.

20After Yotsutsuji intersection, we basically followed the same route that we came up.

21One of the last shrine we passed by was Byakkosha (白狐社), a shrine dedicated to the deity of white foxes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe vivid maples behind the last torii reminded us that autumn was almost over.  It was time for us to head back into city centre of Kyoto.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 5 (1/3): FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.07

For several years the famous Shinto shrine Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) has been voted as the favorite tourist attraction in Kyoto on a number of travel websites.  The images of the vermilion Senbon Torii (千本鳥居, thousands of torii gates) winding up the Mount Inari (233m) and the clusters of miniature shrines and private graves hidden in the woods certainly nourish the public imagination of a mysterious old Japan.  We thought of visiting the shrine in late afternoon or early evening when the twilight was gradually fading away, shifting the tone of everything from orange to violet and then blue.  Somehow that wasn’t realized, and instead we chose to explore this highly popular and spiritual place early in the morning of our last day of the trip.  To beat the crowds, getting up before sunrise was crucial.  It was only a short JR train ride from Kyoto Station to Inari Station.  By the time we set foot at the entrance route of the Taisha it was a little before 7:30am.

01To make the most out of the last day in Kyoto, we get up before dawn and carried our backpack and luggage to Kyoto Station.  At daybreak, we bid farewell to the tranquil Shirakawa River in our Higashiyama neighborhood.

02At Kyoto Station, we stored our belongings at one of the many lockers and hopped onto a Nara-bounded train for Inari Station.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ride to the peaceful Inari Station took only a few minutes, and the entrance route of Fushimi Inari Taisha was just right across the road.

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Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) was first established in the 8th century dedicated to Inari (稲荷大神), the God of Rice and Sake.  In the agricultural nation, the God of Rice was a powerful figure who governed the fortune of lives.  In the modern age, the power of Inari had been shifted to offer blessing on the prosperity of businesses and people’s lives in general.

04A large torii gate led us towards the Romon Gate (楼門, Lower Gate).

05The Romon Gate (楼門, Lower Gate) was a donation in 1589 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣 秀吉), the famous daimyō (大名, feudal warlord) who unified a large part of the country.

06There were only a few visitors at the Worship Hall in front of the Honden (Main Building).  After paying our respects, we couldn’t wait longer to begin the hike up to the peak of Mount Inari via the remarkable Senbon Torii.

***

On Mount Inari, two features stood out.  First was of course the vermilion torii gates.  Donated by individuals and business companies, there were over 5000 torii gates guiding our way up the Mount Inari.  The second feature was the kitsune (fox).  Uncounted statues of foxes appeared along the trail, usually came in pairs standing in front of the Shinto shrines.  Foxes were believed to be the Kenzoku, the messenger of god.

07We walked past the first pair of bronze fox statues right after the visit of the main shrine.  Many fox statues here carried a key in their mouth (to the rice granary).

08Our hike up the 4km trail began at this cluster of the vermilion Senbon Torii (千本鳥居, thousands of torii gates).

09Only a handful of visitors were there, such a blessing given this place is also famous for big visitor crowds throughout the day.  The record was 2.69 million during the 3 days of New Year period in 2006.

10Soon we arrived at the trailhead of the dual route.  Both route would ultimately converge back to a single path.  We picked the left route.

11From one direction, the Senbon Torii appeared clean and minimal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking back we could see columns of dates and donor’s names along the path as far as the eye could see.

14We stopped at most of the sub shrine along the trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a while, the trail gradually turned steeper with stone steps.

18Half way through the ascend, the view from the Yotsutsuji Intersection was amazing in a clear morning.  Many tourists would turn back from here.

19We continued on the uphill journey, and stopped by a number of miniature shrines and grave clusters.  Mini fox statues, mini vermilion torii gates and candles were often seen as offerings.

20We often made detours from the trail into groups of mini shrines and graves.  We bumped into this what looked like a shrine guardian cat.

21The cat came from behind the shrine and jumped from a a stone stele to another, and finally stayed on a small tablet under the morning sun… just for a few seconds.

22A pair of stone lions and foxes were on guard by the small shrine of God of Rain.

23The early morning sun was nice and warm, and cast a magical highlight onto the torii gates.

24Fallen autumn leaves added an extra sense of solitude to the quiet trail.

26While at certain spots the autumn leaves gave a vivid background to the otherwise greyish setting of stones steles and statues.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy the time we reached “Second Peak” we knew we were just minutes away from the peak.

27At around 9:15 we reached the top of Mount Inari, after about an hour and 45 minutes of hike.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 4 (6/6): RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.06

It was already past 7pm when our Kintetsu express train arrived at Kyoto Station from Nara.  We decided to check out the Kyoto Ramen Koji (Kyoto Ramen Street) on the 10th floor of the station for a quick dinner.  We took the escalators up to the famous Daikaidan (Grand Staircase).  The Daikaidan stretched from 4th floor all the way up to the sky garden on the 15th floor.  Architect Hiroshi Hara specifically provided a stage on the 4th floor, while the staircase would become an enormous amphitheater.  There was no performance when we were there.  Instead, the stage was occupied by a large Christmas Tree.  The lights changed colours according to the background music.

07The big Christmas Tree occupied the open space on the 4th floor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the Christmas Tree we walked up the Daikaidan (Grand Staircase) to the 10th floor for our ramen dinner.

05There was a strip of LED lights at the nosing of each step.  The lights changed colours constantly.

04With the LED lights on each step, the entire staircase became a giant screen of festive animations.

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We entered the building on the 10th floor, and could immediately smell the pork ramen and feel the warmth of the atmosphere.  Here at Kyoto Ramen Koji (Kyoto Ramen Street), there were about ten different ramen restaurants, representing the ramen style from different parts of Japan.  We ended up picking Masutani (ますたに), a Kyoto based ramen restaurant established since 1948.

01We queued in front of the restaurant for about 20 minutes and then ordered our ramen from the machine by the entrance.

02Once inside, we handed the tickets to the staff and sat down by a wooden counter.

03After several minutes, our hot and delicious ramen arrived, a perfect answer for the chilly night!

***

After the tasty ramen, we didn’t want to go back to the hotel yet.  In front of Kyoto Station, we hopped on a night bus bounded westwards.  Our destination was the ROHM Illumination Festival 2016.  With 800,000 light bulbs lighting up 82 trees along Kasuga Dori, ROHM Illumination is the biggest annual Christmas lighting event in Kyoto since 1995.  ROHM, a Japanese semiconductor manufacturer based in Kyoto sponsored the event annually to light up the immediate area of its office in town.  The light show was smaller than similar events in other large cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, it did however transform a tranquil neighborhood into a romantic, glittering and festive promenade of lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe entrance of Kasuga Dori was guarded by the two Yamamomo Trees (Chinese bayberry) covered with dazzling lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Yamamomo Trees were round in shape, perfect for turning into spheres of lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKasuga Dori was lined both sides with 20 metasequoias, all dressed up with tiny light bulbs to create the luminous promenade.

11With the lighting, the yellow crowns of the metasequoias appeared as if on fire.

12Two types of light bulbs were used, small LED and twinkling incandescent lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lights transformed the small Nagura Park into a romantic public venue.

14Families and kids were having fun in Nagura Park.

15Under different music, the LED balls on the ground and the 13.5m (h) by 9m (w) LED screen made use the lawn next to the Nagura Park to put together the “Ensemble of Light”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKids had a good time at the playground and the light show.

17Antique cars somehow blended in well with the ambience of the light festival.

18At 9:30pm, we turned back to the entrance of Kasuga Dori and had a final look at the two for the trip’s last day.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 4 (5/6): NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan, 2016.12.06

In October 2014, we stumbled upon a small shop in the shopping centre Tokyo Midtown.  Utensils, furniture, cloths, and other miscellaneous household items were on display on wooden shelves and stands.  Merchandises were displayed in clusters according to brands from different parts of Japan.  The design of that attractive small shop in the middle of a high-end shopping arcade, according designer Yusuke Seki, was inspired by shotengai (traditional shopping street).  We stayed at the shop for quite some time, and ended up picking up a blue umbrella with a nice wooden handle.  At its underside, there was a small label with an illustration of two deer and a traditional logo saying Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten (中川政七商店).  Later on, we did some online research and realized that Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten originates in Nara, and has been around for three centuries.

Opened in 1716, Nara’s Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten just celebrated its 300th anniversary.  Originally, the small Nara shop produced hand woven textiles for samurai and monk ceremonial robes.  The textile was known as Narazashi, or sarashi bleached hemp textile.  During the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the society went through a dramatic change.  Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten was forced to diversify its focus on other products such as table cloths and handkerchief.  Entering the modern age, the shop defied all odds of modernization, persistently remained faithful to its traditional techniques and craftsmanship.  Nakagawa, the 13th president who joined the family business in the last 15 years or so, tested the potentials of his traditional shop to a new level.  Not only did he opened new shops outside of Nara like Tokyo and Osaka, Nakagawa also re-branded the company, and gave new life to old products such as using the old technique of mosquito net making for the new best selling fukin (Japanese style table cloth).  Furthermore, Nakagawa proactively engaged in fruitful collaborations with other craft companies across the country to come up with new brands and merchandises suitable for the contemporary era.

This time around, we were in Nara after a long day of temple hoping.  We promised ourselves that we couldn’t leave the city without visiting the Yu Nakagawa Main Shop (遊中川本店), the flagship store of Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten located at a tranquil alleyway near Sanjo Dori.  At one corner of the shop, several merchandises commemorating the 300th anniversary of Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten were on display.  A beige cloth with beautiful embroidery was a reproduction of their 1925 product exhibited at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris, the design world fair that gave birth to Art Deco.   90 years on, Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten is still standing at the crossroad between the old and new, advocating a good mix of traditional crafts and contemporary aesthetics.  At their 300th anniversary, their locally made fabrics and household merchandises are as cool and modern as ever.

15The subtle wooden machiya (町屋) facade of Yu Nakagawa Main Shop provides a perfect fit for the shop that advocates high quality local crafts and products.

14The design of Yu Nakagawa is a comfortable blend of traditional and contemporary elements.

dsc_3595The signage of Yu Nakagawa Main Shop (遊中川本店) with the iconic deer symbolizing the city of Nara.

dsc_3602Rows of colourful textiles behind the cashier counter attracted our attention right from the beginning.

16Cloths, bags, paper products, socks, scarfs, utensils, etc were on display in the pleasant interior.

dsc_3599Most items on display came from their own brands, such as 2&9, their line of well made socks.

dsc_3605It was already dark by the time we left Yu Nakagawa Main Shop.

17Before we left Nara, we also stopped by Nipponichi (日本市) at Sanjo Dori.  Nipponichi is also a brand from Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten focused on selling Japanese made souvenirs.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 4 (4/6): KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan, 2016.12.06

Visiting Nara and Kyoto in Japan, where historical temples and old timber houses mushroomed across the landscape and lined along the alleyways of the ancient capitals, is a close encounter with what we consider as the heritage of Japan.   A brief visit to Kofukuji on our way out of Nara Park provided a proper closure to a fruitful day of cultural heritage when we had already seen Horyuji, Todaiji and Kasuga Taisha.  A prominent representation of the Nara Period (AD 710-794), the Buddhist temple had seen better days in history, primarily during Nara Period and Heian Period (AD 794 – 1185), when Kofukuji and Kasuga Taisha controlled much of the politics and religion of the kingdom.  Since, Kofukuji had gone through a gradual decline.  The anti-Buddhist policies of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) gave the temple its final blow, when Kofukuji was forced to be separated from Kasuga Taisha, such that Shintoism could be separated from Buddhism.

Kofukuji is the headquarters of the Hosso sect of Buddhism in Japan.  Hosso, known as Yogachara in Indian Buddhism, is the school of Buddhism focused on meditative and yogic practice and believed that human experience is primarily constructed by the power of the mind.  This school of philosophy was founded by the famous Chinese monk and traveler Xuanzang (玄奘), who visited India in the 7th century for Buddhist teachings and scriptures.  Some of Xuanzang’s pupils were later responsible to bring the teachings of Buddhism to Korea and Japan.  As the headquarters of Hosso, Kofukuji was once a large temple complex comprised of 175 buildings.  Today, only a few of the original architecture remained.  While we were there, the Central Golden Hall was under renovation and covered with scaffolding.  We could still, however, admired the ancient architecture of Kofukuji Temple, including the Octagonal Halls, Eastern Golden Hall and the iconic Five-storey Pagoda.

dsc_3563We passed by the iconic Five-storey Pagoda (五重塔) on our way out of the Nara Park.

02At 50m, Kofukuji’s Five-storey Pagoda (五重塔) is Japan’s second tallest, and an iconic symbol of the city of Nara.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe beautiful Eastern Golden Hall (東金堂) houses a large wooden statue of Yakushi Buddha.

dsc_3576Overview of the Eastern Golden Hall and Five-storey Pagoda.

03Founded in AD 813 and reconstructed in 1789, the Nanendo (南円堂, Southern Octagonal Hall) is another beautiful piece of architecture.

04List of donor’s names near the Nanendo (South Octagonal Hall)

05The stair down to Sanjo Dori Street was lined with donor’s flags.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA path off the stair led us to a platform where a cluster of small Buddhist shrines stood under a few maple trees.

08A beautiful statue stood out from the cluster of shrines.

06Reconstructed in AD 1181, the Three-storey Pagoda (三重の塔) is one of the two oldest surviving buildings at the temple complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Nanendo viewed from the Three-storey Pagoda.

10Nakatanidou (中谷堂) at Sanjo Dori near Kofukuji is famous for its traditional fast mochi (Japanese rice cakes) pounding known as mochitsuki.

11Yomogi mochi at Nakatanidou (中谷堂) are made with a wild Japanese plant called mugwort.  These rice cakes were really tasty.

12After a long day of temple hoping, we stopped by the relaxing Mellow Cafe for a quick bite.  The cafe is famous for its stone pizza oven.  We ordered a pizza with top with cheese and Japanese pickles.

13And washed the pizza down with a glass of local beer…

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 


DAY 4 (3/6): KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan, 2016.12.06

It was a short walk from Todaiji to Kasuga Taisha (春日大社), the most famous Shinto shrine in Nara.  The main path to Kasuga Taisha was a pleasant walk in the woods.  First there were just old trees along the path, but soon came the stone lanterns.  As we get closer to the shrine complex, more and bigger clusters of stone lanterns appeared.  Over three thousand lanterns dotted in and around Kasuga Taisha.  Every year, during the festival of Setsubun Mantoro (February 2-4, Spring Festival) and Obon Mantoro (August 14-15, Bon Festival), thousands of lanterns at Kasuga Taisha would be lit up at once.

01Atmospheric stone lanterns and old trees lined the path leading to Kasuga Taisha.

02Deer is considered to be messengers of the gods.  They could be seen all over Nara Park, including the grounds of Kasuga Taisha.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere seemed to be never-ending rows of stone lanterns on our way to Kasuga Taisha.

04We passed by the Treasure Hall before entering the main shrine complex.  The Treasure Hall houses a number of relics from the old shrine.

05Before entering the complex, we passed by a huge wall filled with names of donors.

06From the lantern lined path, we walked up the stair to enter the main vermilion complex of Kasuga Taisha.

07Close up of the moss-covered stone lanterns near the main entrance.

08.JPGMany lanterns were written with prayers from donors who made contributions during the 60th renewal of the shrine.  Traditionally Shinto shrines in the Ise Jingu would be demolished and rebuilt every 20 years to celebrate the concept of impermanence.  Since the Meiji Era at the turning of the 20th century, only the damaged parts of the shrine would be repaired instead of replacing the entire building.

09After the entrance, we passed by the wooden pillars that supported the Heiden and Buden (幣殿・舞殿, Palace of Offerings and Dance Palace).

10Then we came to a gravel courtyard dominated by the Great Cedar Tree (社頭の大杉).  The ancient cedar was about 800 to 1000 year old.

11Next came the most prominent building in the courtyard, the Chumon and Oro (中門・御廊, Central Gate and Veranda).

12Spreading both directions beyond the Chumon, the Oro Veranda is full of suspended lanterns.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 10m tall Chumon is the central gate in front of the Main Sanctuary of the shrine.  Many visitors line up to come in front of the Chumon to pay their respect.

14Vermilion is the dominant colour at the shrine, while green, brown and beige are also used in the ornaments.

15Each metal lantern along the Oro Veranda and East and South Cloister looks distinctive.

16The small shrines near the South Cloister blend in perfectly with the natural surroundings, especially during autumn times.

17There were so many lanterns in Kasuga Taisha.  How nice if we could visit the shrine again during Setsubun Mantoro or Obon Mantoro Festival when they were all lit up.

18Even the shadow of the lanterns look amazing under the afternoon sun.

19After the main shrine at Kasuga Taisha, we headed into the adjacent cedar forest to check out some of the auxiliary shrines.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the auxiliary shrines we visited was Meoto Daikokusha (夫婦大国社, couple shrine).  Dedicated to the Shinto deity for couple relationships, Meoto Daikokusha is popular for visitors hoping for happy relationships and successful match-making.

21Some local visitors and even tourists came wearing traditional kimono dresses.

22There were many quiet shrines in the forest, each had its devoted supporters.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe visited several of the auxiliary shrines.  The last one we saw was Golden Dragon Shrine.

24It was late afternoon and we were a little tired and hungry.  Following the two rows of moss-covered stone lanterns, we slowly walked out of Kasuga Taisha.

25Near the exit of the forest path, we saw a herd of deer outside the forest right by a beautiful grassland.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 4 (2/6): TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan, 2016.12.06

It was only 10 minutes of train ride from Horyuji Station to Nara JR Station.  Our plan was to spend the remaining of the day touring the Nara Park (奈良公園), where wild sika deer (日本鹿) have been roaming freely for over a thousand years.  The park is also home to a number of top sights in the city, including Todaiji Temple (東大寺), Kasuga Taisha (春日大社), Kofukuji (興福寺), and Nara National Museum.  Despite located a little further from the park than the Kintetsu Nara Station (近鉄奈良駅), the Nara JR Station (奈良駅) is still within walking distance to Nara Park.  It took us about half an hour to reach Nandaimon (南大門), the south gate of Todaiji Temple.  The 57 x 50m Daibutsuden (大仏殿, Great Buddha Hall) of Todaiji is one of the largest wooden building in the world.  Despite its enormous size, the current building is actually 30% smaller than its predecessor at the same site.

dsc_3156It was about 11 when we stepped out of Nara Station.  The weather was fine and clear.

dsc_3158Once we entered Nara Park, we could see the warning signage on how to be cautious with the wild deer.

dsc_3175Some deer were quite aggressive, especially when a visitor had food in hand.

dsc_3194There are over 1200 deer in Nara Park.  Some researchers suggest the number might have already passed what the grasslands in the park can support.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe route leading to the 12-th century Nandaimon (南大門, South Main Gate) of Todaiji was loaded with tourists, vendors and deer.

dsc_3204We weren’t the only ones standing at Nandaimon looking back at the approaching tourist groups, but also a curious deer.

dsc_3199Made by Busshi Unkei and Kaikei, Agyo is one of the two 8.5m tall wooden Nio (仁王, Guardians of the Buddha)  were erect at the Nandaimon since AD 1203.

dsc_3233At around noon time we finally reached Daibutsuden (大仏殿, Great Buddha Hall).  Known as the largest wooden structure in the world before the modern times, the present reconstructed building was only about 2/3 the size of the previous version.  Since AD 752, the hall had been reconstructed a few times after destruction from earthquake and fires.

dsc_3241We were lucky that it wasn’t the most crowded time in the day to visit the Daibutsuden.

dsc_3254The 15m tall bronze Birushana Buddha is Japan’s largest, depicting Vairocana Buddha (大日如来).  Flanking both sides of the Buddha are the two Bodhisattvas.  Once inside, we were overwhelmed by the sheer size of the 550 tonne bronze Buddha and the enormous volume of the hall interior.

dsc_3271Even Even the large statue of Komokuten (広目天) was dwarfed by the steep stair and high ceiling.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking up to the wooden Komokuten from below truly made us appreciate the enormous scale of the building.

dsc_3279The bronze and gold used for the original 8th century building almost led to financial bankruptcy of the emperor.

dsc_3312The golden halo of the Birushana Buddha is 27m in diameter with 16 images.

dsc_3300Wooden model of one of the previous Daibutsuden building.

dsc_3324Before leaving Daibutsuden, we paid our respect to the bronze Buddha and the golden Bodhisattvas one last time.

dsc_3328The queue of visitor kept on appearing at the entrance.

dsc_3334The wooden Binzuru (Pindola Bharadvaja) statue.  Visitors lined up to touch and have photo with the wooden statue.

dsc_3340Once got out of Todaiji, we would need to confront the curious hungry deer again.

dsc_3357Deer, Mirror Lake and Todaiji.

dsc_3368Small deer taking a nap just outside of Todaiji Temple.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 4 (1/6): HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan, 2016.12.06

Our day excursion to Nara (奈良) started before dawn.  We get up at 5am in the morning, and took a 6:15am Nara-bound JR train from Kyoto Station.  Our plan was to make a transfer from Nara JR Station to Horyuji Station (法隆寺駅) and visit Horyuji Temple (法隆寺) in suburban Nara, then returned to Central Nara and spent the rest of the day to check out the Nara Park attractions including Todaiji and Kasuga Taisha.

Founded in AD 607 during the Asuka Period (飛鳥時代), Horyuji (法隆寺) is one of the oldest temples in Japan.  In this UNESCO World Heritage site, the Five-storey Pagoda is widely believed to be the oldest timber structure in the world.  The architecture itself was largely influenced by the styles of Korea and China.  The large temple ground is divided into two main precincts, the Western Precinct (西院伽藍) where the ancient pagoda and Kondo (金堂, Sanctuary Hall) are located, and at 122m further east the Eastern Precinct (東院伽藍), where the octagonal Yumedono (夢殿, Hall of Visions) is situated.

23From Horyuji Station, it was a 20 minute walk via an ordinary suburban road to the Horyuji Temple.  The setting changed dramatically as we turned into the tree-lined approach route in front of the temple entrance.

01As we approached the entrance, the staff were sweeping the forecourt of Nandaimon (南大門, South Gate) under the yellow morning sun.

dsc_2933After Nandaimon, the stone path led us towards the Chumon (中門, Middle Gate), which was unfortunately covered with scaffolding.

dsc_2936_01On our approach to the Chumon (中門, Middle Gate) we passed by the peaceful stone route leading towards the Todaimon (東門, East Gate).

02Beyond the scaffolding of Chumon (中門, Middle Gate) we entered the temple courtyard and the magnificent timber colonnade surrounding the yard.

03The beautiful timber Cloister (回廊) was constructed in the Nara Period (AD710 – 794).  It was relaxing and peaceful to walk along these ancient timber columns.

dsc_2954The 32m Five-Storey Pagoda is one of the oldest timber buildings in the world.  Tree ring dating suggested the central pillar was fell in AD 594.  Despite named as Five-Storey Pagoda, there is actually only one usable level (the bottom level).  The upper levels were inaccessible.

04The 7th century Kondo (金堂) is another one of the oldest wooden architecture in the world.  The building houses a number of precious Buddhist statues and murals.  Unfortunately much of the original murals were destroyed by fire in 1949.  The murals in the today’s Kondo are reproductions from 1967.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe dragon ornament at the upper section of the Kondo is a magnificent piece of handcraft.

07The Kondo (left), Five Storey Pagoda (right), and Chumon (centre with scaffolding) are three of the oldest buildings in the compound built in Asuka Period (飛鳥時代).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked to the back of the Kondo and Five-Storey Pagoda to reach the Daikodo (大講堂, Lecture Hall).

09Built in AD920 during the Heian Period (平安時代), the Daikodo houses the Yakushi Trinity in gilt wood.

10After some time wandering in the cloister of Western Precinct, a large group of school students showed up.

11Eastern Chambers (東室) from the Nara Period (奈良時代) was the former residences for monks.

12Walking through the Todaimon (東門, East Gate), we left the Western Precinct (西院伽藍) for the Eastern Precinct (東院伽藍).

13Entering the Eastern Precinct (東院伽藍), the East Court Bell Tower (東院鐘楼) stood prominently for the past 800 years since the Kamakura period (鎌倉時代, 1192 – 1333).

14.JPGIn the Eastern Precinct (東院伽藍), the most impressive building is the octagonal Yumedono (夢殿, Hall of visions).  It houses some important statues as well as monk’s seating for prayers.

15Beautiful timber corner detail of Yumedono (夢殿, Hall of visions).

16The Yumedono is surrounded by another peaceful timber cloister and atmospheric trees.

17We headed back to the Western Precinct (西院伽藍), and passed by a number of vivid maples on the way.

18Also octagonal, the Saiendou (西円堂, West Round Hall) stands atop a hill at the northwest corner of the temple compound.

19Sandwiched between the cloister of the Western Precinct and hill of Saiendou stands the impressive Sangyoin (三経院).

20Despite the architectural beauty from the Kamakura period (鎌倉時代, 1185 – 1333), our focus was shifted to the two cute cats sitting right by the entrance stair.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe two cats often interacted with each other.

22After a thorough visit of the temple compound, we were ready to walk through the Nandaimon (南大門, South Gate) once again and found our way back to the local train station.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan

 


DAY 3 (7/7): CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan, 2016.12.05

After a long morning of temple visits, we spent the remaining of the day hopping here and there to satisfy our appetite and check out shops and buildings in Downtown Kyoto.  After coming out from Ginkakuji, we decided to go for a late lunch nearby at Kani Douraku Kitashirakawa (かに道楽 北白川), an outlet of the seafood restaurant chain specialized in Japanese crab.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKani Douraku Kitashirakawa (かに道楽 北白川) was at the upper level of a building.  The big display window of crab dishes on the street level ensured that we had found the right place.

02Unlike the main Kani Douraku (かに道楽) shop in Downtown Kyoto or Osaka where there is a large and catchy crab model on their store signage, Kani Douraku Kitashirakawa (かに道楽 北白川) was much low profile on their shopfront.

03Each of us ordered a set meal with several courses of crab dishes.  This is crab sashimi.

04We both like the grilled crab.

06We also ordered kegani (hairy crab from Hokkaido).

07The table setting was Japanese in style, with views to a small Japanese garden.

08It was already late afternoon when we were done with our full course crab meal.  We spent some time walking in the downtown area to check our a few design shops and modern architecture.  The first one we checked out was Tadao Ando’s Kyoto Design House, a piece of modern architecture housing a shop specialized in local crafts and design merchandises.

09After an hour or two wandering leisurely in the downtown checking shops and covered retail streets, we found ourselves passing by another Ando’s design, the Time’s Building.  Built in 1984, the project offers interestingly intimate commercial spaces in an urban setting.  Right by the tree-lined canal along Kiyamachi Dori (木屋町通), the building made reference to a boat floating in water.

10At dinner time, we went to explore the atmospheric Pontocho, one of the most popular nightlife alley in Kyoto.  Just steps away from Kamo River, the narrow alley was flanked both sides with small timber houses that were primarily restaurants, bars and chaya (tea houses).

11Pontocho was narrow and busy, and full of dining options.

13We ended up choosing a sake bar to end our day.

14The sake bar obviously offered lots of options for sake.  We decided to get the small cup so we can try a few more options of sake (Japanese rice wine).

16The sake bar was specialized in sake made in the local area.

18The two young staff were friendly despite we could only communicate with simple English/ Japanese words.

19There were over thirty different kinds of sake available.  The chart on the wall indicated the four main variations of taste for the sake: sweet, pure, dry, bitter.

21One of the sake we tried was Koto sen nen (Thousand year old capital).

23Sake and Japanese pickles.

24Small squids in wine sauce was super delicious.

25Oden mix (関東煮) with five ingredients offered good snacks to go with the sake.

26When we left we passed by the busy Pontocho Kaburenjo Theatre.  Audience were coming out of the theatre that was famous for shows of traditional Kamogawa Odori dance.

27Too bad we didn’t have time to check out one of their shows at Pontocho Kaburenjo Theatre.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 3 (6/7): GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.05

Modeled after Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), Ginkakuji Temple (銀閣寺, Silver Pavilion) is probably the most popular Zen temple in Northern Higashiyama.  Unlike Kinkakuji which was the cultural focus for Kyoto aristocrats, Ginkakuji was always the  centre of cultural activities for the majority throughout history.  As a Zen Buddhist temple, Ginkakuji was also named Jishō-ji (慈照寺).  It was a focus of the local cultures, and influential in a number of traditional arts, including tea ceremony, flower arrangement, poetry, theatre, horticulture, and architectural design.  Consisted of several temple buildings including the Silver Pavilion, a dry sand garden and a lush-green moss garden, Ginkakuji represents the grand finale at the northern end of the Philosopher’s Path.  After Honenin Temple, we finished the remaining portion of the Philosopher’s Path and turned right onto Ginkakuji Sando (銀閣寺参道), the approaching route that led us to the famous Zen temple.

dsc_2790Beyond the main gate, the Ginkakuji Fence (銀閣寺垣) stood right in front of us.  We turned right and walked towards the ticket office.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter getting our tickets, we immediately entered a small dry Zen garden.  A few pine trees stood in magnificent gestures.

02Everything in the dry Zen garden was carefully thought out and maintained.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGoing through the Hoshokan Gate, we arrived at the main temple ground.  Everything in the main garden centred at the Kinkyochi Pond (Mirror Pond).

04Unlike Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), the Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) was never painted silver in colour.  The humble timber structure matched perfectly well with the natural surroundings.

05As we began to stroll along the garden path, we immediately arrived at the unique sand garden.  The first unique feature was the Kogetsudai (向月台, Moon Viewing Platform).

06The path brought us around the Ginshadan (銀沙灘, Silver Beach) in front of Hondo (Main Hall).

07The linear patterns of the Ginshadan (銀沙灘, Silver Beach) were carefully maintained.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe round edge of the Ginshadan (銀沙灘, Silver Beach) with Kogetsudai (向月台) at the background.

09A moss-covered rock in the Kinkyochi Pond (Mirror Pond) stood like a sculpture in the water.

10Moss covered landscape around the tranquil Kinkyochi Pond (Mirror Pond).

11The path continued to a peaceful waterfall known as Sengetsusen Waterfall (洗月泉, Moon Cleansing Waterfall).

12The Sengetsusen waterfall (洗月泉) had become a fountain of wishes, where visitors would throw coins onto the stone in the water to make wishes.

13Leaving the Togudo Hall (東求堂) and Hondo behind, the path began to climb up gently onto the hill behind the temple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe undulating ground of the slope was covered with lush-green moss.

15A good mix of vegetation on the hill, including maples and bamboo.

16The path led us to a corner at the temple ground where the Ochanoi (Well for Tea Ceremony) was located.

17On the hill, the view back down towards the temple buildings and the Kyoto scenery beyond was spectacular.

18Looking down to the Ginshadan, the linear patterns of the Silver Beach looked really neat.

19The path followed the topography led us gradually downhill back to the level of Kinkyochi Pond.  Along the way, we passed by the beautiful slopes covered with green moss.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way out of Ginkakuji, we had a last peek at the Silver Pavilion beyond the autumn maples and the beautiful moss garden.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 3 (5/7): HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.05

We decided to make a detour to visit Honenin Temple (法然院) when we about to reach the northern end of the Philosopher’s Path.  Built in 1680 to commemorate 12th century Buddhist priest Honen, the founder of Pure Land Sect of Buddhism (浄土真宗, Jodo-shin-shu), Honenin is a modest and quiet complex hidden in the forested mountain just ten minutes walk away from the much popular Ginkakuji Temple (銀閣寺).  Although the Main Hall would only open two times a year at the first week of either April or November, we still wanted to check out the tranquil temple ground and its famous thatched entrance hut.

dsc_2707Honenin Temple was only a few minute walk off the Philosopher’s Path.

dsc_2726The temple complex of Honenin was hidden beyond a flight of steps up a forested slope.

dsc_2729We came a little late to see the entrance path of Honenin Temple fully covered by red autumn leaves.

dsc_2733South of the Honenin Temple was a tranquil graveyard.

dsc_2737Because of its peaceful setting, many well known individuals chose to be buried here, including painter Heihachiro Fukuda (福田平八郎), economist Hajime Kawakami (河上肇), philosopher Shuzo Kuki (九鬼周造), etc.  But the grave that we wanted to pay respect to was writer and scholar Junichiro Tanizaki (谷崎潤一郎).

dsc_2738There were hundreds of tombs in the graveyard and there was no one around that we could ask.  We searched online and find a photograph of Junichiro Tanizaki’s tombstone.  Based on that photo, we figured it could be situated at the back row.

dsc_2739After a few minutes of searching we finally found the tomb of Junichiro Tanizaki and his wife. in-praise-of-shadows-junichiro-2One of the most influential Japanese author in the 20th century, Junichiro Tanizaki ‘s  In Praise of Shadows(陰翳礼讃, In’ei Raisan) is a great essay for anyone who is interested to understand the concept of Japanese aesthetics.  It’s a homage to the dark timber structures and dimly lit interior of traditional Japanese architecture.

dsc_2730After a detour to the graveyard, we finally approached the thatched entrance hut of Honenin Temple.

dsc_2763Once inside the gate, we were greeted by a pair of Byakusadan or mount of conceptualized water that were meant to purify one’s mind.

dsc_2757Most of the buildings were not open for visitors.  We spent a few minutes to stroll around the central court.

dsc_2754We couldn’t admire the paintings inside the buildings.  This was the only painting we saw without entering.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA beautiful 9-level stone pagoda in autumn setting.

dsc_2766Outside the thatched entrance gate stood a woodland with autumn colours.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 3 (4/7): PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.05

In the early 20th century, philosophy professor Kitaro Nishida (西田幾多郎) walked along the Shishigatani Canal daily to his office at Kyoto University.  Specialized in bridging philosophies of the East and West, Kitaro Nishida considered his daily commute as a way of Zen meditation.  In honor of this famous Japanese philosopher, this canal-side path is named as Tetsugaku no michi (哲学の道) or the Philosopher’s Path today.  This tranquil stone path runs north-south, linking a number of peaceful neighborhoods and temple grounds, from the neighborhood of Nanzenji Temple (南禅寺) to Ginkakuji Temple (銀閣寺) at the northern end.  In spring, the cherry-lined path is a highly popular venue for hanami or cherry blossom viewing events.  In autumn, the maples transformed the otherwise lush-green path into a colourful passage.  Occasionally lined with cafes, shops, restaurants and galleries, the Philosopher’s Path offers the best way for travelers like us to explore the Northern Higashiyama on foot.

After our visit at Nanzenji, we followed street signage, passed by the well known Eikando Temple (永観堂) before reaching the starting point of the Philosopher’s Path.  We walked rather slowly and spent over an hour on the 2km path.

01We passed by the gate of Eikando Temple (永観堂) enroute to the Philosopher’s Path.  Eikando Temple is another popular spot for viewing of autumn foliage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADespite online information stated that the autumn foliage at Eikando Temple (永観堂) had well passed its peak, there were still a number of beautiful maple trees in the temple’s forecourt.

03We wandered in the forecourt of Eikando Temple (永観堂) for a bit but decided to move on to the Philosopher’s Path.  We came to Kyoto a week too late for the peak autumn foliage at Eikando, Shinshogokurakuji (真如堂) and Konkaikomyoji (金戒光明寺) in this area, so we rather saved these till next time.

04The residential street with a vista of the Higashiyama Mountains led us to the starting point of the Philosopher’s Path.

05Some kind of red berries by the street added a bit of Christmas mood to our stroll.

06Soon we reached the starting point of the Philosopher’s Path right by the Shishigatani Canal.  Both the Shishigatani Canal and the aqueduct in Nanzenji Temple belong to the Lake Biwa Canal system that brings fresh water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto.

07The beginning portion of the Philosopher’s Path is a tree lined pathway along the Shishigatani Canal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn old abandoned wagon by the path was used as a cozy home for several cats.

08One of the cats was sunbathing near the wagon.

10Autumn leaves in a stone basin by the path.

11Despite autumn was almost over, the vivid foliage was still impressive at many spots.

12The Shishigatani Canal provided perfect reflection of the peaceful scenery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe air was cool and crisp.  Under the mid-morning sun we walked slowly along the waterside stone path towards Ginkakuji Temple.

15Water channels were everywhere, and some were even lifted up bridging over the Shishigatani Canal.

16The autumn palette made everything seemed so lovely.

17For most of the walk we were passing through sleepy residential neighborhoods.  While most houses looked traditional Japanese, this round one we passed by looked totally out of this world to us.

18After passing by several cafes and eateries, we finally decided to stop by a traditional rice cake shop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ordered mochi, chestnut rice cake, black-bean tea and amazake(甘酒), a type of traditional sweet drink made with fermented rice.

20Just as we left the Philosopher’s Path to make a detour to the Honenin (法然院), we passed by a private home with a healthy orange tree.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 3 (3/7): NANZENIN (南禅院) & TENJUAN (天授庵), Nanzenji (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.05

There are about a dozen of sub-temples in the Nanzenji compound.  After visiting the Hojo, we headed back to the Suiro-kaku Aqueduct.  A flight of steps behind the aqueduct led us to the upper platform of Nanzenji.  There we arrived at the entrance of Nanzenin (南禅院), one of the sub-temples of Nanzenji with a tranquil pond garden surrounded by lush-green forest.  Visitors were not allowed to enter the building, but we were able to tour the garden.  Centered at a small water pond, Nanzenin’s garden was designed in Chisen Kaiyu, or the pond strolling style.  A stone path led us around the pond.  Left of the pond, there was a elegant pavilion inside an enclosure wall.  It was the royal mausoleum of Emperor Kameyama (亀山天皇), the founding emperor of Nanzenji who converted his retirement villa into a Zen Buddhist temple in the 13th century.  According to a 15th century account, cherry trees from Yoshino, reed plants from Nanba, and maple trees from Tatsuta were transplanted, and frogs from Ide were released for the making of the garden.  The autumn foliage had just past its peak.  Most of the vivid red leaves had fallen into the pond, or scattered on the moss covered rocks around the pond.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe temple hall of Nanzenin (南禅院) was not open to the public.

02The water pond in Nanzenin’s garden was created in a heart shape.

03Much of the red leaves around the pond had fallen into the water.

04A sense of deep autumn on the moss-covered ground.

06Most of the stone path was damp and peaceful.

05The mausoleum of Emperor Kameyama (亀山天皇) elegantly stood at the left side of the pond.

07Moss covered a large area of the ground around the pond.

08_Outside Nanzenin, the remaining autumn foliage, dark timber structures and blue-grey roof tiles evoked a sense of solitude and serenity for the otherwise historical setting.

***

Lastly we came to Tenjuan Temple (天授庵), another sub-temple of Nanzenji dedicated to the Zen master who served Emperor Kameyama.  Constructed in 1337, Tenjuan contained both a dry rock garden and a wet pond garden.  We stepped into the complex of Tenjuan as the sun had climbed above the Higashiyama Mountains (Eastern Mountains), casting a touch of warmth into the gardens.  Similar to Nanzenin, we were not allowed to enter the building interior.  Instead, the main focus was again the two gardens.  In the dry rock garden, moss seemed grew naturally around stepping stones, creating a romantic ground cover on the gravel pool.  We sat at the veranda for a few minutes to admire the dry landscape. At the back, there was the Chisen Kaiyu or pond strolling garden.  Just like the garden at Nanzenin, we circled the pond at Tenjuan.  The stroll was quite interesting, especially at the part walking on the zigzag stepping stones across the water.  A school of koi or nishikigoi fish (錦鯉) swam freely in the pond.  When we stopped at the shore, the fish would swim over and gather right in front of us, perhaps hoping that we might feed them?  It was almost 10am by the time we finished with Tenjuan.  We decided to leave the compound of Nanzenji and found our way to the Philosopher’s Path.

09We bought our admission tickets at the entrance courtyard of Tenjuan (天授庵).  The main building was not open to the public.  We followed a side path into the gardens at the back to start our visit.

10The dry landscape of Tenjuan was dominant by the moss and paver patterns.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a pleasant morning strolling around the naturalistic pond.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe zigzag stepping stones was a neat feature in the journey.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPart of the journey brought us closer to the Tenjuan buildings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother feature was a timber bridge.  At this tie of the year the bridge was covered with autumn leaves.

14Maple and bamboo were two prominent natural features in the garden.

15The moss, fallen leaves and pond reflections offered a serene atmosphere around us.

16As we stood by the water to take photos, the koi fish approached us from afar.

17The koi fish gathered in front of us.

19Before leaving Nanzenji, the maples at the entrance court reminded us once again the season of late autumn.

 


DAY 3 (2/7): NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.05

After the peaceful stroll in the nearby neighborhood, we approached the Sammon Gate (三門) from its side.  Built in 1628, the enormous 5-bay Sammon Gate stood proudly at the entrance plaza of Nanzenji Temple.  The timber structure of the Sammon Gate darkened as it aged.  The reddish tone of the wood matched well with the autumn foliage.  Sammon, or triple gate, is a common feature of a Zen Buddhist temple.  It is the short form for sangedatsumon (三解脱門) or gate of three liberation.  To obtain liberation and achieve enlightenment, Zen Buddhism believes the three liberation: to understand that nothing in this world has a distinctive character, therefore there is no fixed form, and as a result there is nothing in this world to be sought after.  The staff wasn’t there so we didn’t get a chance to climb up to the upper deck.  From the Sammon Gate, we walked straight into the middle courtyard where a number of pine and beautiful maple trees stood.  In the middle, the Hatto or Dharma (法堂) was not open to the public.  We could only circle the building from the outside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Sammon Gate (三門) of Nanzenji is one of the biggest in temple gate in Kyoto.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClose up of a timber column of Nanzenji’s Sammon Gate (三門).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are five bays in Nanzenji’s Sammon Gate.

04The majestic Sammon as seen from inside the compound.

05Hatto or Dharma (法堂), the large lecture hall, was not open to the public.

We then made a turn to the right side of Hatto, reaching a uniquely long structure, Suiro-kaku Aqueduct (水路閣).  The arched brick structure was built in the Meiji Period (1889) as part of the water infrastructure that brought water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto.  Today, the Suiro-kaku still maintains as the only Western style aqueduct in the city.  Standing 93m in length, 4m wide, and 14m high, the aqueduct bisects the temple complex into two.  Originally seen as a clash with the Buddhist structures, the skeptical Kyoto citizens soon became fond of the new addition to Nanzenji.  Today, the Suiro-kaku Aqueduct has been designated a national historical site, an integral component of the temple ground of Nanzenji.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConstructed in late 19th century, the Suiro-kaku (水路閣) Aqueduct passes through the compound of Nanzenji.

08The red brick archways of the Suiro-kaku (水路閣).

09The magnificent design details of the Suiro-kaku (水路閣).

Behind the Hatto stood the Hojo (方丈) or abbot’s quarter.  The Hojo turned out to be a great place to check out karesansui or dry rock gardens.  Ohojo Garden, the karesansui or dry landscape rock garden of the Hojo, contained six stones of various sizes, abstractly depicting a tiger cub crossing a river.  The garden was created by Enshu Kobori in the Kanei Era (1624-1644).  Another dry garden in the Hojo was Kohojo Garden (小方丈庭園).  Constructed in the model times (1966), this dry garden aimed to illustrate the Chinese character of “heart”.  Further into the complex we arrived at Rokudo-tei Garden (六道庭), a series of Zen gardens created by Ueyakato Landscape Co,. Ltd.in 1967.  This garden was much larger and aimed to conceptualize the Buddhist concept of “reincarnation in six realms” into the garden design.  We wandered in the gardens a bit and moved on to visit other sub-temples in the compound.

11One of the rooms in the Hojo (方丈) or abbot’s quarter with screens open to the attractive Zen garden.

12Timber screens and veranda of the Hojo.

13 Kohojo Garden (小方丈庭園), created by Ueyakato Landscape (植彌加藤造園) in 1966, depicts the Chinese character of heart.

14Detail of a stone and the ripple gravel pattern in the Kohojo Garden (小方丈庭園).

15Ohojo Garden (方丈庭園) was created by Enshu Kobori (伝小堀遠州) in the 17th century.

16Vivid maple and moss covered rocks at the Ohojo Garden (方丈庭園), a dry landscape rock garden that abstractly depicts a tiger cub crossing a river.

17Rokudo-tei Garden (六道庭), by Ueyakato Landscape Co,. Ltd.(植彌加藤造園) in 1967, expresses the Buddhist concept of “reincarnation in six realms”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARokudo-tei Garden (六道庭)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARokudo-tei Garden (六道庭)

20A tea ceremony house was called Kyushin-tei.

21Rain chain at the veranda of the Hojo.

dsc_2533The tea room of the Hojo was not open yet when we left the building.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 3 (1/7): MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.05

On Day 3 we decided to dedicate the morning to visit Northern Higashiyama (北東山).  The area was less crowded than the Southern Higashiyama (area around Kiyomizu-dera) but still contained some of the most impressive temples in the city, including Nanzenji Temple (南禅寺) and Ginkakuji Temple (銀閣寺).  We had a simple breakfast at Le Bac a Sable, a small French bakery near Higashiyama Metro Station.  Run by two Frenchmen, the bakery was cozy and causal, and offered good bread and coffee.  After breakfast, we took bus no.5 to head northeast.  The bus drove by National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, Kyoto City Zoo, and Okazaki Park, where a large torii gate led to the Heian Shrine beyond.  We got off at Shirakawa Dori (白川通), and found our way into a network of residential streets heading towards Nanzenji Temple (南禅寺), the most important Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto.  The peaceful street scenery of grey roof tiles, dew-wet timber panels, moss covered stone walls and autumn red maples under the early morning sunlight was impeccable.  We couldn’t ask for more for a perfect start of the day.

img_9189Breakfast at Le Bac a Sable, a simple French bakery near Higashiyama Metro Station.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe waited for the bus no.5 at the peaceful Sanjo Dori.

01bWe got off at Shirakawa Dori (白川通), and crossed the road into a network of small residential streets.

02The air was fresh and the sunlight was soft at around 8:00am.

03A alleyway leading into the neighborhood of Nanzenji Temple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA cyclist under the soft morning sun.

05The residential streets near Nanzenji Temple was so serene.  All we could hear was the sound of singing birds and running water from the channels along the edge.

08Red maples matched perfectly well with the timber sidings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMoss-covered stone and white wash wall of one of the large residential complex.

10Channel brought the fresh water down from the Eastern Mountains.

11Signage for the north gate of Nanzenji Temple and Philosopher’s Path beyond as we approached the temple complex.

12We passed by the entrance of Jishin-in Temple (慈氏院 ) just before entering Nanzenji.

13The woodland near the entrance of Nanzenji Temple.

14Path leading to the main entrance of Nanzenji Temple.

15The trees were still wet from the morning dew.

17The autumn colours at the entrance of Nanzenji.

16A natural carpet of red leaves at Nanzenji Temple.

02The Sammon Gate (三門) of Nanzenji Temple leading into the temple ground.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan

 


DAY 2 (6/6): YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.04

Recommended by a number of blogs and international media such as the New York Times, Yakitori Hitomi (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見) has been named as the best restaurant in Kyoto for Yakitori (焼き鳥) or Japanese skewered chicken.  We made a reservation through the phone about a week prior to our departure.  Fortunately, we managed to communicate with the staff over the phone with simple English and managed to secure a table for 20:30 on our second day of the trip.  Many said that bookings should be made weeks well in advance for this highly popular and intimate restaurant on Nijo Dori at a quiet residential neighborhood in Higashiyama.  It was a 15 minute walk to Yakitori Hitomi from our hotel.  We borrowed an umbrella from the hotel as it was still raining.

Nijo Dori was quiet and there were hardly anyone on the street.  We arrived at Yakitori Hitomi right on time, and were received with a warm welcome by the staff.  The master chef/owner recognized us right away as he was the one whom we spoke to on the phone.  He talked with us for a bit and told us that he had been to Hong Kong more than two decades ago.  We sat by the counter facing the semi-open kitchen.  We were given English menu, and a diagram of a chicken indicating different parts available, from neck to heart to bottom.  We ordered sake, plum wine, and a variety of chicken skewers, local duck fillets, chicken soup, vegetable sticks, etc.  The master chef/owner was the only person who worked at the binchotan (備長炭) or traditional Japanese white charcoal grill.  We sat patiently to wait for each delicious skewer to be served one by one.  The two-hour meal was definitely the best Japanese yakitori we ever had, and on top of that, the wonderful staff service and cozy atmosphere all made it a remarkable experience for our Kyoto stay.

01The secluded front door and street facade of Yakitori Hitomi.

02We sat at the timber counter facing the semi-open kitchen.

03The restaurant interior was cozy and simple.

04Japanese menu of Yakitori Hitomi.

05Diagram showed the various parts of chicken available.

06Sake and salt.

07Chicken knee cartilage.

08Tsukune or Japanese chicken meatball.

09Sasami or chicken breast tender.

10Seseri, or chicken neck.

11Local chicken wings.

12Japanese pickles, and momo or thigh meat.

13Chicken soup.

14A type of Japanese yam.

15Vegetable sticks with master chef/owner in the background.

16Complimentary dish and plum wine.

18Thigh meat.

19Kyoto duck fillets.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 2 (5/6): SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.04

Weather forecast predicted a rainy afternoon.  We planned to spend the rest of the day in Downtown Kyoto on the other side of Kamo River (鴨川).  Before crossing the river, we went to check out Sfera Building, a three storey modern architecture housing design, craft, art, and cuisine all under one roof.  Unlike the timber houses in much of Gion (祇園), Swedish architect Claesson Koivisto Rune used titanium panels with perforated leaf patterns as cladding for Sfera Building.  These perforated panels echo the sunscreens in traditional Japanese houses made of wood, bamboo and rice paper.  In Sfera, there were fine furniture and housewares on display, some were made by local craftsmen and artists.  We explored all floors of the building, and exited through its back door on Yamato Oji Dori.  Just a block south we came to the picturesque Shirakawa Minami Dori (白川南通) at Shirakawa Gion (祇園白川), where the clear Shirakawa Canal passed in front of a row of well-preserved machiya houses (町家).   Many of these old houses were accessible via bridges.  We entered Pass the Baton, a trendy lifestyle shop that transformed a 120 year timber machiya house into a hub for the young generation.  A number of the locals were dressed in traditional kimonos, matching perfectly well with the historical ambience of the machiya houses.

We crossed the Kamo River (鴨川) via Shijo Bridge, which continued as Shijo Dori into the heart of Downtown Kyoto.  In summer, the banks of Kamo River is packed with dining patios and music performers.  It was too cold in early December for these outdoor activities to take place.  Nevertheless, the pleasant riverbanks were occupied with all kinds of people.  A few waterbirds were walking in shallow water hunting for fish.  On the bank, a group of teenage girls in colourful kimonos were taking selfies.  An angler walked to the middle of the river and released his hook with his rod.  We watched him for a few minutes, and suddenly he pulled his rod and acted like caught something on his hook.  All eyes along the banks, including ours from the bridge, were on the angler.  He didn’t disappoint  us and managed to catch a fish that was at least two feet long.

As we walked west along the busy Shijo Dori (四条通) into the city, it soon began to rain.  We went into Fujii Daimaru (藤井大丸), one of the many department stores on Shijo Dori.  Despite smallest in size, with its latest fashion selections, Fujii Daimaru is popular with young shoppers.  We walked along Shijo Dori as far as the intersection of Karasuma Dori (烏丸通), reaching a shopping centre called Cocon Karasuma (古今烏丸), which was a renovation work designed by architect Kengo Kuma (隈研吾) back in 2004.  Kengo Kuma superimposes a 21st century glass facade laminated with a film of woodcut block patterns of clouds common in the Edo Period onto the original building elevation dated back to 1938.  The sky was getting dark and we decided to grab a quick bite.  Just before all vendor shutters were down, we entered Nishiki Market (錦市場), a famous covered market street selling all kinds of snacks from sushi to Japanese pickles.  We picked up some tofu doughnuts at Konnamonja, and some local jumbo chestnuts before heading back to our hotel for a brief break prior to our dinner reservation at Yakitori Hitomi (焼創彩鳥家人見).

01The titanium screen with leaf patterns of Sfera Building by Swedish architectural practice Claesson Koivisto Rune.

02The design display on the top floor of Sfera Building.

03The sleek bench at the back entrance at Sfera.

04Back facade of Sfera Building at Yamato Oji Don.

05The tranquil Shirakawa Canal at Gion (祇園白川)

06Young women in traditional kimonos at Shirakawa Gion (祇園白川)

07Couple in traditional clothings taking photos Shirakawa Gion (祇園白川)

08A touch of heritage in the interior design at Pass the Baton, Shirakawa Gion (祇園白川)

09Kamo River (鴨川) is a popular public space in Kyoto.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWomen in kimonos taking pictures of themselves at Kamo River (鴨川).

11The iconic Tohka-Saikan (東華菜館) Chinese restaurant building by the bank of Kamo River (鴨川).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn angler struggling with his catch at Kamo River (鴨川).

13Our first encounter with Kamo River (鴨川) was simple and pleasant.

14A man playing a three-string Shamisen (三味線) with his bachi, a Japanese plectrum.

15Erizen Honten (ゑり善本店), a traditional clothing shop with a contemporary facade on Shijo.

16Cocon Karasuma, an urban shopping centre designed by architect Kengo Kuma.

17An atrium of Cocon Karasuma with a special pop up store of sake from Fushimi.

18Covered retail street in Downtown Kyoto.

19Soy vendor Konnamonja with their famous tofu doughnuts at Nishiki.

20Tofu doughnuts from Konnamonja at Nishiki Market.

21Local chestnut from Nishiki Market.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 2 (4/6): ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.04

Claimed to be the oldest Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Kenninji Temple (建仁寺) is a Buddhist temple famous for its zen gardens and traditional paintings in Gion (祇園).  Kenninji was founded in 1202 by Buddhist priest Eisai/Yousai (明菴栄西).  Two times Yousai went to China and brought back with him Zen scriptures and tea seeds, from which Zen Buddhism and the practice of green tea drinking flourished in Japan ever since.  As a result, Yousai was also considered to be the founder of the tea ceremony in Japan.  Since the 14th century, Kenninji was considered one of the five most important Zen Buddhist temples in Kyoto, known as the Gozan (五山十刹制度) or the Five Mountain System.  Today, Kenninji stands at third in this ranking system, behind Tenryuji (天龍寺) and Shokokuji (相国寺), and ahead of Tofukuji (東福寺) and Manjuji (万寿寺).  On top of this five temples is Nanzenji, which serves as the leading Zen Buddhist temple in today’s Kyoto.

Today, with its meditation gardens, ancient teahouse, and timber halls, Kenninji serves as a tranquil oasis in the busy and dense neighborhood of Gion.  We entered the Kenninji compound from its North Gate at Hanamikoji Dori.  Once inside, we took off our shoes and paid our admission at Hojo (方丈).  Inside Hojo, one of the most popular art work on display was “Fujin and Raijin”, a pair of two-folded screen depicting the Wind and Thunder Gods by Tawaraya Sotatsu (俵屋 宗達) from the early 17 century.  The dry landscape garden in front of Hojo was also quite impressive, so as the traditional paintings on the sliding doors of the building, including the Cloud Dragon (雲龍図) and Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove (竹林七賢図).  But for us, the most amazing artwork at Kenninji was Twin Dragons (双龍図), a 11.4m x 15.7m ceiling mural by Koizumi Junsaku in the Hatto (法堂), or Dharma Hall to celebrate the 800-year anniversary of the temple.  Completed in 2002, it took Koizumi Junsaku two years to finish this enormous ceiling painting in the gymnasium of an elementary school in Hokkaido.

Also worth noting was the Toyobo Tea-house, a two mat tea room dated back to the 16th century.  We peeked through an opening into the tea-house and saw a simple interior with tatami flooring and a semi-open partition supported by a natural wooden branch as column.  Before leaving, we spent a considerable period of time at Choontei Garden (潮音庭), a beautifully constructed zen garden surrounded by wooden verandas.  At Choontei, there were three stones at the centre of the courtyard, representing Buddha and two Zen monks.  Choontei was also the perfect courtyard to sit on the veranda and admire the autumn maples.  On our way out, we passed by another small courtyard which named as ○△□.  The serene garden introduces landscape components such as a tree in circular planter or a square area of gravel as visual representations of ○△□, which symbolized water, fire and earth.  The spiritual experience of the gardens, the lovely visual palette of the dark timber, green moss and crimson maples, and the refreshing breeze and warm sunlight enabled us to enjoy a moment of meditation.  Leaving this tranquil dimension, we would meander through Gion, cross the picturesque Kamo River, and enter the busy streets of Downtown Kyoto.

01Entering the Hojo (方丈) Hall, which was built in 1599.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first thing of the visit was to take off our shoes.

03Centuries-old timber structure of the Hojo (方丈) Hall.

04“Fujin and Raijin”or the Wind and Thunder God, is the most popular artworks in Kenninji Temple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe semi open interior space of Hojo (方丈) allows sunlight to enter the building from different directions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVisitors sitting by the veranda of Hojo to admire the dry landscape garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Cloud Dragon screen paintings at the Hojo were by 16th century artist Kaiho Yusho.

08The elegant prayer hall of Hojo with the painting of Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove (竹林七賢図) on the sliding screens.

09Zen Garden or the dry landscape garden at Hojo.

10Visitors relaxed themselves at the veranda in front of the Zen Garden.

10bWe saw quite a number of young women dressed traditional kimono dress in several sights of Kyoto, including Kenninji.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe enormous ceiling mural of Twin Dragons (双龍図) in the Hatto (法堂) or the Dharma Hall.

13Twin Dragons over the main altar at Hatto.

14A stone tsukubai (蹲踞) or stone waterbasin in the tea house garden of Kenninji.

15The minimalist Toyobo Tea-house was built in 1587.

16A path of stone pavers connected a prayer pavilion with the building’s veranda.

17Chouontei Garden (潮音庭) as viewed from the inside.

18Awesome autumn colours at Chouontei Garden (潮音庭).

19Deep sense of autumn at Chouontei Garden (潮音庭).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOverview of Chouontei Garden (潮音庭), with the San-zon seki (the three stones that represent Buddha and two Zen monks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ○△□ Garden (○△□乃庭) was a simple Zen garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ○△□ symbolizes water, fire and earth.

21Leaving Kenninji behind, we were ready to venture into Downtown Kyoto to experience the other side of the ancient city.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 2 (3/6): KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.04

Leaving Kiyomizu-dera behind, we walked down Matsubara Dori (松原通) to the intersection of Gojo-zaka (五条坂), where we were drawn by a small shop selling different senbei (煎餅), or Japanese rice crackers snacks.  The shop Terakoya Honpo (寺子屋本舗) is a well known chain store of senbei in Japan.  We couldn’t resist but picked up a piece of delicious senbei with seaweed spices.  Turning into Sannen-zaka (三年坂), we found our way back to Yasaka Dori (八坂通), the historical alleyway dominated by the iconic Yasaka-no-to Pagoda of Hokanji Temple (法観寺 八坂の塔).  A number of locals and tourists dressed in traditional kimonos were posing for photos in front of the pagoda.   A strong coffee aroma led us to a few shops down from the pagoda.  The sleek design of curved glazing and minimal decor of %Arabica Coffee provided a pleasant contrast to the historical atmosphere of Higashiyama.  We went in, ordered two cups of hand drip coffee, and sat down at the communal table.  A female staff took our order and prepared the coffee at the counter.  After about ten minutes, our magnificent morning coffee were ready, and that was probably one of the best coffees we ever had.

Just round the street corner from %Arabica along Higashioji Dori (東大路通), we arrived at a alleyway leading to the Shinto shrine Yasui Konpiragu (安井金比羅宮).  Nothing monumental or extravagant, the low profile shrine in a residential neighborhood was surprisingly popular with local worshipers due to the specialized wishes of “sever bad relationships and established  good relationships (悪縁を切り良縁を結ぶ).  In the shrine complex, the centre piece “Power Stone Monument” is a 3m x 1.5m tall rock with an oval hole in the middle.  The monument is fully covered with white paper charms.  When we were there, there was a long queue of visitors (mostly young women) waiting for their turns to crawl through the oval hole in a ritual of making wishes related to relationships.  The main shrine building stood adjacent to the “Power Stone Monument”.  In front of the main shrine, racks fully loaded with ema (絵馬) wooden plaques and paper charms written with wishes captured our attention.  Judging from the amount of ema, Yasui Konpiragu should be considered a very popular Shinto shrine.  We exited the shrine complex through a side torii gateway into a residential lane, and soon found ourselves just steps away from the perimeter wall of Kenninji Temple (建仁寺).  Before entering this oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, we stopped by a soba restaurant next to the temple entrance for a quick lunch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutside of Kiyomizu-dera, visitors including us began to walk down Matsubara Dori (松原通) towards the city.

02Senbei, Japanese rice crackers, with seaweed spices ordered from Terakoya Honpo (寺子屋本舗), a chain snack shop.

03On Yasaka Dori (八坂通), there were quite people dressed in traditional kimono and posed for photos.

04A grapefruit tree below the Yasaka-no-to Pagoda of Hokanji Temple (法観寺 八坂の塔).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear Yasaka-no-to Pagoda, we passed by  Yasaka Koshindo (八坂庚申堂), a small Koshin (庚申) temple.

06Walking down Yasaka Dori looking for %Arabica Coffee.  Whenever we turned around the Yasaka-no-to Pagoda just dominated the vista.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThree customers sat on a bench in front of %Arabica Coffee Shop.

08Front counter of %Arabica Coffee Shop in Higashiyama.

09Coffee beans stored behind glass cabinets against the long wall in the coffee shop.

10Coffee roasting machine at the back of the shop.

11Two cups of Hand drip coffee!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA long queue for the opportunity to crawl through the hole of “Power Stone Monument” at Yasui Konpiragu (安井金比羅宮).

13A young woman crawling through the “Power Stone Monument”.

14A young woman worshiping at the main shrine.

15A rack fully filled with ema (絵馬) wooden plaques

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Side Entrance and torii gate of Yasui Konpiragu (安井金比羅宮).

16soba restaurant.

17Interior of the soba restaurant.

18Soba with tempura

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASoba with fresh tofu skin in thick broth

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 2 (2/6): KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.04

The Kiyomizu-dera in early morning offered quite a big contrast compared to our previous night visit.  Tranquility replaced commotion of excited crowds.  Soft sunlight took over artificial floodlights.  After entering the Nio-men Gate (仁王門), we walked up to the main temple platform along with several local visitors.    To avoid the tourist crowds coming in an hour or so, we first made our way to the Hondo (本堂), or the Main Hall.  At the entrance of the wooden Kiyomizu Stage (清水の舞台), we tried lifting the displayed Steel Geta and Steel Shakujou, two Buddhist objects dedicated to Benkei (武蔵坊弁慶), a 12th century warrior monk who was famous for his loyalty and strength.  We could lift up the lighter Shakujou (12 kg/26 lbs), but definitely not the heavy Geta (90 kg/ 198 lbs).  We wandered on the wooden stage for a while, and went over to the deck of Okunoin Hall for an overview of the Main Hall, the colourful autumn maples and the distant skyline of Kyoto.

A flight of stone steps adjacent to the Main Hall led us to the popular Jishu Shrine (地主神社), a Shinto shrine dedicated to Okuninushi no Mikoto (大国主命), a deity of love and matchmaking.  Perched above the thatched roof of the Main Hall, the Jishu Shrine is consisted of a cluster of small shrines around a main shrine.  The shrine is popular for lonely hearts who are seeking for real love, as well as couples who are praying for consolidation of their relationships.  At the forecourt of Jishu, two rocks stand 18m apart from each other.  Legend said that if one can walk from one rock to the other with their eyes shut, then their wishes for love would come true.  Names of donors from all over Japan and foreign countries are displayed inside and outside the shrine, indicating just how universal a simple wish for love is.  Apart from love, visitors also come to pray for good fortunate and safety for their family, and smooth delivery for their babies.

As we descended back to the Main Hall, the sun had finally moved above the mountain and shined on the temple buildings.  We made a detour to the temple forecourt for a few more pictures of the buildings under the morning sun.  We then walked south towards the small Koyasu-no-to Pagoda, or Easy Child-birth Pagoda, at the far end of the valley.  Standing right by the Koyasu-no-to Pagoda and looked across the valley, we had a great view of the Kiyomizu-dera as the shadow of eastern mountains gradually receded.  We continued down the valley path to the base of Kiyomizu Stage, where we encountered multiple groups of school students who came for a school trip with their teachers and tour guides.  A large group of the school students gathered at the Otowa Waterfall, waiting for their turn to taste the sacred water from one of the three waterfall streams.  Given the super long queue, we gave up the idea of trying it ourselves.  After a night stroll and an early morning visit, we truly enjoyed Kiyomizu-dera with its magnificent timber architecture, spiritual atmosphere, natural setting, and views of the city.  It was time for us to move on to other places in Higashiyama and Gion before the afternoon rain arrived.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe entered the temple from the main gate of Nio-men (仁王門) and walked up to the main temple platform.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVisitors tried to lift the Steel Geta (90 kg/ 198 lbs) and Steel Shakujou (12 kg/ 26 lbs) at the entrance of Kiyomizu Stage.

06The Main Hall and Stage of Kiyomizu-dera would soon be covered in scaffolding for a major renovation.

07The crimson maples in front of the Kiyomizu Stage offered a poetic sense of autumn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were only several local visitors around, allowing us to enjoy the temple peacefully.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was well past the peak moment but the autumn foliage was still a major enhancement to our visit of Kiyomizu-dera.

05Out the wooden balustrade, we could see the small Koyasu-no-to Pagoda at the far end of the valley.

05bAutumn colours at the valley below Kiyomizu Stage.

08The Main Hall and Kiyomizu Stage as seen from the deck of Okunoin Hall.

09Close up of the structure of Kiyomizu Stage and the valley path.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe stair that led us up to the Jishu Shrine, a sacred place for worshipers seeking for fortune of love.

11One of the two love stones in the forecourt of Jishu Shrine.

12The main shrine of Jishu Shrine was covered with names of donors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the several small shrines at Jishu Shrine where worshipers can make a variety of prayers and wishes, from good fortune to smooth childbirth.

14Okuninushi no Mikoto, the deity of love and matchmaking, and his messager the rabbit.

15Kyodo, the Sutra Hall and Sanjunoto, the Three-storey Pagoda under the morning sun.

16The morning warmed up as the shadow of the eastern mountains receded from the autumn maples below Kiyomizu Stage.

dsc_2023Not until we reached the far end of the valley that we realized the Koyasu-no-to Pagoda, or Easy Child-birth Pagoda, was actually quite small.

18Overview of Kiyomizu-dera as seen from Koyasu-no-to Pagoda.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe valley path below Kiyomizu Stage was packed with school groups.

20Many students were interested for a sip of the sacred water at the Otowa Waterfall.

21It was already 9:30am when we left Kiyomizu-dera.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 2 (1/6): MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.04

There is perhaps no better place in Kyoto to take a morning stroll than the area of Southern Higashiyama, in the historical alleyways between Yasaka Jinja (八坂神社) and Kiyomizu-dera Temple (清水寺).  The bus dropped us off at the street intersection of Higashioji Dori (東大路通) and Shijo Dori (四条通).  We picked up a box of sushi from Lawson convenience store for breakfast, then crossed the road to enter Yasaka Shrine from its west gate.  Yasaka Jinja is one of the most popular shrines in Kyoto, especially when the most famous festival in Japan, Gion Matsuri, takes place annually in July for over a thousand years.  Though in the early morning that we visited, there were only a handful of worshipers and tourists around.  Like many Shinto shrines, Yasaka was like a park dotted with pavilions and shrines.  The most prominent feature in Yasaka was the central pavilion of lanterns with donor names written on them.  Exiting the shrine from its south gate, we headed south in the direction of Kiyomizu-dera, intending to return to this iconic temple for a daytime visit.  Soon we reached the entrance of a traditional stone paved alleyway known as Ishibei Koji (石塀小路).  Flanked both sides by historical timber homes, restaurants and ryokans, the alleyway exemplified what Medieval Kyoto might be like.  We were delighted to have the lane all by ourselves.  After making a few turns in Ishibei Koji, we exited the alleyway at the other end, standing just a stone throw away from two other greatly preserved historical alleyways, Ninenzaka (二年坂) and Sannenzaka (三年坂).

From Ishibei Koji, we continued to walk south on Nene-no-michi Lane (ねねの道), the historical stone paved street in front of the park of Kodaiji Temple.  Soon we arrived at the picturesque Ninenzaka (二年坂).  Timber townhouses known as machiya (町屋) were beautifully preserved along this heritage lane.  Telephone cables which were normally suspended in mid air from street poles to street poles were nowhere to be seen.  It was still early, shops had yet opened their doors and there were hardly any other tourists.  We took our time to soak up the historical atmosphere.  When we reached Yasaka Dori (八坂通), we made a short detour down to take a daytime photo of the Yasaka Pagoda of Hokanji Temple (法観寺 八坂の塔).  Heading back uphill and we soon arrived at Sannenzaka (三年坂), another atmospheric lane with steps that led us to Matsubara Dori (松原通), the last bit of road that would take us back to the entrance of the most iconic temple in Japan, Kiyomizu-dera Temple (清水寺).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArriving at the intersection of Higashioji Dori (東大路通) and Shijo Dori (四条通).

03The west gate of Yasaka Jinja (八坂神社)

04We also passed by smaller shrines in the complex.

06There were hardly anyone around at the main court of the complex.

dsc_1815Traditional lanterns written with donor’s name.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWalking along a lane with orange fence and lanterns and autumn foliage.

08Two ladies walking uphill towards Maruyama Park (円山公園).

09Vending machine and the iconic Yasaka Pagoda in a distance.

10Poster regarding the night visits at Kiyomizu-dera.

11At IIshibei Koji, we had to keep quiet while walking through the stone paved lane.

12Temple houses at IIshibei Koji.

13Temple houses at IIshibei Koji.

14A tiny shrine by a manhole at Nene-no-Michi Lane.

15Magnificent timber machiya along Sannenzaka.

16Approaching the steps of Sannenzaka.

dsc_1866Roadside shrine at Sannenzaka.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe stepped part of Ninenzaka.

19Yasaka Pagoda as seen from Kamimachi (八坂通).

20Walking uphill at Sannenzaka.

dsc_1886Approaching the steps of Sannenzaka.

18.JPGLooking back down Sannenzaka from the steps.

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan