ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Shirakawa

DAY 6 (3/6): SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.30

After a leisure stroll in the picturesque Ogimachi (荻町), at around 11am we crossed the suspension Deai Bridge (であい橋)over to the main parking lot / Open-air Museum Gasshozukuri Minkaen (合掌造り民家園).  The rain was quite heavy and instead of visiting the open air museum, we opted for a lunch break at Soba Wakimoto (蕎麦脇本), a lovely soba restaurant housed in a traditional gassho-zukuri building.  The lunch was a delicious soba noodle soup and a mini bowl of Hida beef rice.  After lunch we crossed the bridge back to Ogimachi, and paid a visit to the Myozen-ji temple complex.  The visit included seeing two gassho-zukuri buildings, the Kuri (former residence of the monks) and the worship hall.  Before leaving Shirakawa-go, we headed up to Shiroyama Observatory Deck (城山天守閣展望台) for the spectacular birdeye’s view of the village and the surrounding mountains.  At around 1:40pm, we headed back to the bus station, picked up our backpacks, and boarded a “world heritage bus” heading to Ainokura (相倉) of Gokayama (五箇山), where we would stay the night in a 300-year-old gassho-zukuri house.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the other side of Deai Bridge (であい橋), the tour bus parking lot and the Open-air Museum Shirakawa-go or Gasshozukuri Minkaen (合掌造り民家園) didn’t look busy at all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor tourists who arrive by tour buses, Ponte Deai (であい橋) would be their point of arrival into Ogimachi.

DSC_7606Just a stone throw away from the tour bus parking lot, we arrived at Soba Wakimoto (蕎麦脇本).  We decided to go for a bowl of soba and a cup of hot tea.

DSC_7612Two “raccoons” welcomed us at the front lawn of the soba restaurant.

DSC_7609It was 11am, and we were the first to sit down in the dining hall of Soba Wakimoto.

DSC_7610We ordered two soba sets.  Both came with a seafood soba, and a bowl of Hida beef rice.  The meal was fantastic and gave us an opportunity to dry up our jackets.

DSC_7605After lunch, we headed back to Ogimachi.  Outside of a tourist restaurant, a sarubobo (さるぼぼ) doll offered visitors a photo opportunity with this amulet of Takayama.  The faceless doll was a traditional gift made by grandmothers for their grandchildren as lucky charm.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack in Ogimachi, we passed by Myozen-ji Temple again and decided to paid a visit.  Built mainly in the early 1800s, Myozen-ji Temple presents a rare surviving example of gassho-zukuri temple architecture.

DSC_7570In the Myozen-ji Temple, we could visit the Bell or Shoro Gate, the Kuri, and the main worship hall.  All three structures were constructed with the unique thatched roof of the gassho-zukuri style.  These temple structures were built in the early 1800s.

DSC_7503The Kuri of Myozen-ji Temple is one of the largest building in the village.  Our tour of the temple complex began from here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe spacious attic of the Kuri building had been converted into a two storey museum.  Back in the old days, attics of many gassho-zukuri houses were used to make washi paper and raise silkworm.

DSC_7659Outside the Kuri, the gassho-zukuri houses and reflective rice paddies offered us a glimpse into the fading rural lifestyle of Japan.

DSC_7645The upper levels of the Kuri building allowed us a closer look at the straw eaves of the thatched roof.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the Kuri, a zigzag corridor led us to the main worship hall of Myozen-ji Temple, where the interior was decorated with a series of paintings depicting the Mount Fuji.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the ground level of the Kuri, we arrived at a beautiful fire hearth where visitors gathered around to smell the burning natural wood.

DSC_7700Before leaving Shirakawa-go, we walked up the hill near the bus station to Shiroyama Observatory Deck (城山天守閣展望台).

DSC_7704The Shiroyama Observatory Deck (城山天守閣展望台)  offers the iconic postcard view of Shirakawa-go’s Ogimachi.

DSC_7711Despite the rain, the village of gassho-zukuri houses looked spectacular with the lush green surroundings.

DSC_7743Although most tourists prefer to visit Shirakawa-go in the snowy winter when the gassho-zukuri houses were lit up by flood lights at specific weekends, we didn’t mind to visit in late spring to see the village with its reflective rice paddies and lush green surroundings.

DSC_7720It was touristy, yet the scenery of Shirakawa-go and its traditional gassho-zukuri houses made the visit to this UNESCO World Heritage site more than worthwhile for us.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 6 (2/6): OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.30

The illuminated Gassho-zukuri village houses blanketed in thick layer of snow make a fairy tale like postcard scenery have attracted visitors from close and afar, making Shirakawa-go an extremely popular tourist attraction at specific winter weekends.  Situated in the remote snow county of the Japanese Alps, gassho rural regions such as Shirakawa-go (白川郷) and Gokayama (五箇山) have been historically isolated from the outside world.  A unique rural lifestyle and special vernacular architecture have been developed in the past few centuries to tackle the snowy and wet climate of the mountains.  Gassho-zukuri (合掌造り集落), which literally means “hands in prayer”, refers to the exceptionally steep thatch roofs of the regional farmhouses due to the heavy snowfall of the area.  These steep roofs have become a unique symbol of the region.  In 1995, three of these remote Gassho-zukuri villages: Ogimachi in Shirakawa-go (荻町), Suganuma (菅沼) and Ainokura (相倉) in Gokayama were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Due to its proximity to Hida-Takayama, most visitors opt for a day trip (or half-day trip) to visit Shirakawa-go.  Few would venture farther into Gokayama and even less so would stay the night at one of the mountain villages.  In recent years, a number of the centuries old Gassho-zukuri farmhouses have been transformed into guesthouses, allowing visitors to experience the villages’ unique beauty and tranquility after the departure of the daytrippers.  Being the largest and most accessible Gassho-zukuri village, Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go is the most developed in terms of its tourist facilities.  A number of its old farmhouses have been converted into museums, restaurants and souvenir shops.  There is even an area called Gasshozukuri Minkaen Outdoor Museum, where historical farmhouses have been relocated and grouped into an open air museum.  Taking the 8:25am bus from Takayama, we arrived at Shirakawa-go bus station in about an hour.  When we arrived at one of Japan’s most picturesque farming village, steady rain kept on coming down with no end in sight.  We stored our backpacks in a locker at the bus station, picked up a village map and bought a transparent umbrella from the tourist office, and off we went to explore touristy yet charming Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go.

DSC_7465Just outside the bus station, we had our first peek of the rural charm of Shirakawa-go.  Rhythmical rain drops rippled across the flooded paddy field of lush green rice seedlings.

DSC_7471Despite the rain, we were delighted to enter the tranquil world of Ogimachi.

DSC_7477It was 9:20am.  Not too many tourists were around.  We stopped by the pond of waterlilies in front of Wada Residence, one of the largest gassho style house in the village.

DSC_7478Ogimachi has a extensive network of irrigation channels.  Visitors may occasionally find carps in the water.

DSC_7518A row of cute scarecrows offer an amusing background for photos, and a friendly reminder of Ogimachi’s rural past.

DSC_7493Straw from farm crops are harvested in the autumn, dried as a snow fence around the gassho style house, and used to repair the thatched roof in the spring or autumn.  Due to the need of a large labour force, neighbors in the village would come over to help on repairing the thatched roof.

DSC_7621Many gassho style houses, including the Yamaainoie Residence (山峡の家), have been converted into cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops or guesthouses.

DSC_7635The small gassho style house serves as a charming little cafe with splendid views of rice patties.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe entrance of the cafe is decorated with plant pots, wood lattice and a “thinker” statue.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 1961, the construction of Miboro Dam at Sho River in Takayama was completed.  several villages and shrines were submerged, along with about half of the surviving Gassho-zukuri houses.

DSC_7622Today, the biggest concentration of Gassho-zukuri houses are found in Ogimachi, Ainokura, and Suganuma.  Important structures, such as the Myozen-ji Temple in Ogimachi, have become rare survivors from the bygone period.

DSC_7628Thatched roof repair works can still be seen in Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go.

DSC_7627The steep angle of the thatched roof of the Gassho-zukuri houses help to prevent snow accumulation, though people, especially outside visitors, have to be cautious of the falling snow below the roof.

DSC_7624A number of Gassho-zukuri houses in Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go have been turned into guesthouses.

DSC_7755Fire hydrants are important in the farming village because of the combustibility of the Gassho-zukuri houses.

DSC_7754Because of the rain, the mountains beyond Ogimachi were covered in beautiful mist while we were there.

DSC_7749Newer houses in a distinct architectural style can also be found in the village.

DSC_7631Due to the unique appearance of the Gassho-zukuri houses and it natural setting, Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go is often considered one of the most picturesque farming village in Japan.

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CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)

 

 


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.

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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 (1/6): ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.03

Our departure schedule to Kansai International Airport (関西国際空港) was far from ideal.  It was a red-eye flight departing from Hong Kong at 1:50am and arrived in Japan at around 6:30am.  At the airport, we picked up our pre-ordered Haruka Express ticket from the JR ticket office and rushed to the platform for the Kyoto bound express train that was about to leave.  The train sped past towns and suburbs along Osaka Bay and reached Osaka in about 40 minutes.  From Osaka, the train took another half an hour to reach Kyoto.  Opened in 1997, the current Kyoto Railway Station is a futuristic building made of glass and steel trusses, with an enormous atrium and a huge stepped plaza reaching multiple storeys up to the sky garden 70m above ground.  We stepped out the station for a quick peek of Kyoto Tower, the city’s tallest structure opened in 1964 coinciding with the Tokyo Olympics.  Together with the modern railway station, the tower often comes as a surprise for tourists who come to Kyoto expecting to see an 1200-year-old ancient city.

We took the escalators down to the subway, topped up our Icoca cards that we kept from our previous Kansai trip, and managed to board the train with our suitcase and backpack.  Our designation was Higashiyama Station (東山駅) on the Tozai Line.  We reached Higashiyama Station at a peaceful residential neighborhood sandwiched between two of Kyoto’s popular tourist areas: Northern Higashiyama (Nanzenji, Ginkakuji, etc) and Southern Higashiyama (Gion, Kiyomizu-dera, etc).  At Higashiyama Station, we purchased a city bus pass for the day and picked up a handy bus map.  We crossed the street and walked into a quiet alleyway right beside the crystal clear Shirakawa River (白川).  We reached Eco and Tech, a 2-star budget hotel that we would call it home for the next five days.  After checking in, we immediately headed out to the bus stop near Sanjo Station (三条駅) and Kamo River (鴨川).  Before arriving in Japan, we had already decided to begin our Kyoto visit at the northwest part of the city where the cluster of three famous temples Ryoanji (龍安寺), Ninnaji (仁和寺) and Kinkakuji (金閣寺) are located.  According to online updates of the autumn foliage at Kyoto’s main attractions, Ryoanji (龍安寺) and Ninnaji Temple (仁和寺) were two possible places where we might still encounter peak autumn foliage.  Because of the recent cold weather, the autumn foliage of 2016 came earlier than usual.  By the time we arrived on Dec 3rd, the fall foliage at most places had already passed the peak.  The bus ride took over half an hour.  It was sunny and we took a brief rest on the bus under the late morning sun.

01Our plane landed at Kansai International Airport (関西国際空港) at about 6:30am.  Despite a sleepless night, we were very excited upon arriving.

02We left the airport and over to the railway station for JR’s Haruka Express train.

04Upon arriving at Kyoto, we were overwhelmed by the steel trusses and overhead catwalks at the huge atrium of the futuristic Kyoto Station.

03A large Christmas tree on the organic shaped platform looked small under the huge atrium roof.

05Across the street from Kyoto Station stood the tallest structure in the city, Kyoto Tower.

06Advertisements on the subway train reminded us that the special night visits to a number of temples were available during the autumn foliage season until 4th of December.  Arriving in Kyoto on the 3rd of December, we made just on time for the night visits.

14-kyoto-bus-mapMany Kyoto’s attractions can be accessed only by public bus.  We picked up a bus map from the ticket office at Higashiyama Subway Station, which proved really handy over the next few days.

07We managed to carry our suitcase up the stairs and finally reached the exit of Higashiyama Station.

11Following online instruction, we crossed a bridge at Shirakawa River (白川) on our way to our hotel.

08aA local couple dressed in traditional costumes were taking photos on a stone bridge at Shirakawa River (白川).

09Eco and Tech Hotel is located in a quiet residential neighborhood away from the tourist crowds.

10Eco and Tech Hotel.

15-websiteWe checked the website http://souda-kyoto.jp/travel/koyo/ for the autumn foliage at Kyoto’s main attractions almost daily for at least a week before departure.  We decided to head to Ryoanji Temple on our first day because of its peak colours.

13We walked to a bus stop near Kamo River (鴨川) and Sanjo Station (三条駅) for Bus 59 heading towards Ryoanji Temple (龍安寺).

***

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