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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

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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 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 (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 1 (5/6): KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.03

We left Kinkakuji slightly after 4pm.  With the aid of Google map on our phone, we walked southeast into a residential neighborhood along Tenjin River.  Our destination was Kitano Tenmangu (北野天満宮).  Founded in 947 AD, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine was the main shrine dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane, a scholar and politician in Heian Period (AD 794 – 1185).  Among a number of divine identities, Michizane is best known for being the “god of academics “.  Today Kitano Tenmangu is still popular with students.  For tourists, Kitano Tenmangu is an interesting place to check out the flea market on the 25th of every month, and the Ume (plum) Blossom Festival on February 25 when geiko and maiko from Kamishichiken would come and serve tea and wagashi (traditional Japanese confections) to 3000 guests.  For us, we came for the annual autumn leaves when the shrine would open at night from mid November to early December.  We came just in time to see the autumn colours at the second last night of the season.

We reached the side entrance of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine at about 4:30pm.  The shrine was quite busy, not only with worshipers, but also visitors who came for the autumn colours and festival events. Near the main shrine courtyard there was live guitar performance at a corner.  Apparently there was a two-day festival at Kitano Tenmangu called Kyoto Nippon Festival, aiming to showcase the culture, food, and music of Japan.  Before checking out the 300+ maple trees in the garden, we were lured over to another courtyard where a dozen or so food stalls were set up.  Since breakfast on our red-eye flight, we hardly had any food throughout the day.  We were more than happy to devour a few dishes of delicious snacks prepared by staff from different restaurants in Kyoto, which included dumplings, seafood rice, and vegetable soba.

Our spirits were lifted after having the delicious snacks.  The sky was getting pretty dark despite it was only 5:15pm.  We headed back to the main court of Kitano Tenmangu, paid the admission for the night visit, and entered the shrine garden.  Along the way, we passed by another courtyard where a stage was set up.  A female pop singer was performing a lovely ballad in front of a crowd of audience.  We didn’t have the concert tickets so we couldn’t get in, but the music and vocal were loud enough for everyone in the garden to enjoy.  Artificial floodlights were everywhere to illuminate the colourful maples.  Despite the cool weather, the atmosphere was warm with the autumn colours and lovely music.  The garden was divided into two parts: the upper and lower.  We started at the upper garden where the main path soared above a ravine (lower part) on one side, and overlooked the main shrine buildings on the other side.  With the lights and lanterns lit up, the dark timber structures and reed roofs and the shimmering golden ornaments of the shrine buildings looked splendid.  After the upper garden, we walked down the stair to the lower ravine.  Walking along a small river and admiring the colourful tree canopies lit up from below was like a scene from dream.  The highlight of the lower ravine was the red arched bridge.  A large crowd of visitors gathered on the bridge to take photos of the surreal scenery.  The path eventually brought us back up to a platform on the upper garden, where a tea shelter was set up.  All  visitors were free to pick up a cup of hot tea and a traditional sweet confectionery.  We lingered for a little longer in the compound of Kitano Tenmangu.  With all kinds of activities from garden visits, food services, Ikebana (生け花) or Japanese flower arrangement exhibition, live music, and spiritual worshiping, Kitano Tenmangu had truly become an interesting venue of autumn carnival.  On our way out of Kitano Tenmangu, we dropped by the food stalls again and picked up a small plate of octopus balls.

01As evening arrived, visitors flocked into the main gate of Kitano Tenmangu.

02We were overjoyed to find food stalls in Kitano Tenmangu.  We couldn’t resist but to check out the food before seeing anything else.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ordered fried dumplings, vegetable soba and seafood rice.

04After the delicious snacks, we reentered the main court of Kitano Tenmangu.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe immediately lined up to get the admission tickets into the garden of Kitano Tenmangu.

dsc_1368As we walked into the garden, we passed by a courtyard enclosed with purple and white fabric where a mini outdoor concert was taking place as part of the Kyoto Nippon Festival.

06Under the lovely music, we strolled around the upper part of the garden to admire the  autumn foliage.

07Behind the magnificent autumn maples stood the main buildings of Kitano Tenmangu.

dsc_1425With floodlights and lanterns, the golden ornaments of Kitano Tenmangu glittered under the indigo sky.

dsc_1436Looking down to the lower ravine from the upper garden.

dsc_1442After walking through the upper garden we headed down to the lower ravine.

08Looking up to the colourful tree canopies from the lower ravine.

09The highlight of the lower ravine was the red arched bridge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApproaching the red arched bridge.

11Visitors gathered on the bridge to admire the autumn colours of the river ravine.

img_8763_01We completed our garden visit with a cup of hot tea and a piece of traditional snack.

13After the garden visit, we headed back to the main shrine for another quick look.

dsc_1507At one end of the shrine there was a Ikebana (生け花) or Japanese flower arrangement exhibition.

15On a side door of the shrine, there was a sign indicating the autumn colour was at its peak.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe exited the main hall to check out the other buildings in the shrine compound of Kitano Tenmangu.

18We walked by the temizuya, or water pavilion when we exited Kitano Tenmangu.

19Before leaving, we walked by the festival stalls and had an order of octopus balls.

20The banners of Kyoto Nippon Festival was hung on the torii gate of Kitano Tenmangu.

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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
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 1 (4/6): KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.03

The sun was low when we get off at Kinkakuji-mae bus stop, giving everything a bit of a yellow tone.  The path leading into the ground of Kinkakuji (金閣寺) was crowded with visitors from local and abroad.  After a few hectic minutes queuing in front of the ticket office, we finally got our admission tickets.  It wouldn’t be long before Kinkakuji closing its doors at sunset (around 4:30pm).  We wasted no time and walked into the temple ground, which was a large Zen Buddhist garden around a large reflective pool known as the Kyōko-chi (鏡湖池), or Mirror Pond.  All visitors entering the garden immediately gathered by the pond to take photos of the fascinating Kinkakuji building.  Covered with gold-leaf coating, the 3-storey Kinkakuji, which literally means the Golden Pavilion, stood proudly by the opposite shore and glittered under the western sun.  Since late 14th century the building was considered as an icon of architectural beauty in Japan.  Its beauty was so overwhelmingly powerful, prompting a mentally disordered novice monk to burn down the building in an early summer morning of 1950.  Built in 1955, the present Golden Pavilion building is a reconstruction of the 14th century original.  Author Yukio Mishima’s (三島 由紀夫) masterpiece “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (金閣寺)” was loosely based on this tragic incident.  I first learnt about Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion from his famous novel.

After a few minutes taking photos by the pond, we followed the designated path to walk towards the Golden Pavilion.  The building was not open for the public and we could only admire the architecture from outside.  Behind the pavilion, the garden path continued up a hill over to another tranquil water pond, the Anmintaku Pond, where a mini stone pagoda was erected on a small island.  After another short walk we were almost at the garden exit.  Before reaching the souvenir shops, we passed by the Fudo Hall where visitors paid their respect to Fudo Myoo (不動明王), also known as Acala Dharmapala, one of the five wisdom kings and protectors of Buddhism.  Because of the crowds, touring Kinkakuji wasn’t the most pleasant experience we had in Kyoto, but the visual beauty of the Golden Pavilion was still overwhelming.  Unlike Ninnaji Temple where we spent a considerable amount of time delightfully exploring the verandas, courtyards and gardens, we didn’t stay long at Kinkakuji.  In fact, the biggest surprise of the visit was our first glance of the Golden Pavilion and its perfect reflection in the Mirror Pond near the garden entrance.  Nonetheless, the iconic beauty of Kinkakuji under the golden afternoon sun is an irresistible sight for any first time visitor to Kyoto, including us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom Ninnaji Temple, we decided to take the bus to Kinkakuji Temple in order to save time.  If we chose to walk it would probably take us about half an hour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATourists gathered in front of Mirror Pond to take pictures of the Golden Pavilion.

03Kinkakuji, or the Golden Pavilion, shimmered under the late afternoon sun.

04The reflection of the Golden Pavilion in peaceful Mirror Pond was near perfect.

05Close up of the reflection of the Golden Pavilion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApproaching the Golden Pavilion from the waterfront path.

07The Golden Pavilion is topped with a bronze phoenix.

08The small stone pavilion at Anmintaku Pond.

09Even the Fudo Hall near the exit was packed with visitors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was almost sunset when we left Kinkakuji.  Because of the fine weather, we decided to continue with our Kyoto tour with temple night visits despite we were both tired from the red-eye flight.  Our next destination was Kitano Tenmangu (北野天滿宮), one of the few temples in Kyoto where the fall colour was still at its peak.

***

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 1 (2/6): RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.03

We first learnt about Ryoanji Temple and its world renowned garden of zen dry landscape or Japanese rock garden, karesansui (枯山水), back in our university years from the lectures in our class ARCH 249 – The Art and Architecture of the East.  Since then, we had longed for visiting this legendary zen garden.  Our chance had come at midday in a fine late autumn day.  The Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple is situated within a garden compound, consisting of a water pond, woodlands, gardens, pavilions, and the main building complex where the Abbot’s Chamber, Tearoom, Buddhist Hall, and the famous zen garden can be found.

It was a short walk from the San-mon (山門), or the main entrance, to the main building complex.  We took our time to admire the magnificent autumn foliage along the way.  Once inside the main building, we took off our shoes and purchased admission tickets.  First came a dim exhibition hall showcasing artefacts, calligraphy, and artworks related to the temple.  Beyond the exhibition hall was the bright wooden veranda where most visitors gathered.  On one side of the veranda was the Hojo (方丈), or Abbot’s Chamber, while on the other side lay the famous zen garden: 15 rocks of various sizes abstractly arranged in a 248 s.m area of dry pebbles.  Since the 15th century, there were various interpretations regarding the design and meaning behind the rocks, from symbolism of ancient Chinese mythologies to representation of traditional character.  It is open for everyone’s imagination and interpretation.  We sat down at the veranda to contemplate the rocks and pebbles.  The garden was too crowded with visitors for any decent meditation or tranquil moment in heart.  Against the centuries-old oil-earthen wall and the autumn foliage beyond, the garden still captured our eyes visually despite the undesirable midday sun.

After putting back on our shoes, we followed another path that meandered through a small woodland of amazing autumn foliage, passed by Yudofu (西源院) – a traditional restaurant serving tofu meals, and strolled along Kyoyochi (鏡容池), or Mirror Pond, where we enjoyed a picturesque scene of reflections, water plants and autumn foliage.  Before setting off for our next destination, we had a quick skewer of sweet rice balls near the entrance of Ryoanji.

01A sense of autumn immediately beyond the San-mon (山門) or the main gate of Ryoanji.

02An illustration of the Ryoanji Temple compound with the famous rock garden at the centre back location in front of the orange roof Abbot’s Chamber.

03We were just in time to see the last bit of amazing autumn foliage of Kyoto.

04Tree-lined path leading to the Chokushi-Mon Gate (勅使門).

05Steps leading to Chokushi-Mon Gate (勅使門).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike many temples in Kyoto, we had to take off our shoes before entering the temple building of Ryoanji.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATraditional illustration of the rock garden, which is believed to be constructed in the 15th century.  Who was the original designer remains unknown.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first view of Ryoanji rock garden under the unforgiving midday sun.  It would be much better off if it was overcast and gone with the shadows.

10Rock clusters, moss, pebble patterns, earthen walls and red foliage coincided to form a harmonious imagery.

11Patterns of the pebbles are carefully maintained by temple staff,  a daily duty for Zen Buddhist monks in the past.

12The timber floor decking and supporting members were soft and warm to walk on and appealing for touch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATimber details of the eaves and column.

14Interior of Hojo (方丈), Abbot’s Chamber, in which the centre point should be the ideal viewing spot of the entire rock garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe timber veranda continued to wrap around the courtyards into the temple sections not open to public.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA wonderful pine tree against autumn foliage in front of the main temple building.

17A side door of the rock garden remained closed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way out we walked through a small woodland of magnificent colours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe autumn foliage in Kyoto is quite different than the ones we used to see in North America, in terms of leaf sizes and colour ranges.

dsc_1000Yudofu (西源院) – a traditional restaurant serving tofu meals.

dsc_1014Duck and autumn foliage at Kyoyochi (鏡容池), Mirror Pond.

dsc_1027Despite the amount of visitors alongside, it was a nice walk along the Mirror Pond.

dsc_1032After a pleasant visit of Ryoanji, we were ready to see the other temples in the area.

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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
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