Day 4 – Temple Run in Kyoto
Last night I had a great time meeting other people in our hostel while having some beer. This is one thing I like staying in small hostels – I get to know and interact with other guests – hearing their stories and sharing mine. It is always heartwarming to meet people of different nationalities, of different background and of different orientation. It somehow makes me feel at home with new found friends. This perhaps is one reason why staying in a hostel is more beneficial than staying in big hotels. For example, Shiori-an Hostel where I stayed in Kyoto, has a very lovely receiving area cum kitchen where guests can simply seat and meet other people. It’s effortlessly meeting new friends. The hotel staff are very accommodating as well making sure that we feel at home. Apart from this, Shiori-an Hostel is conveniently located 3 minutes by walk from the nearest subway station and there is also a bus stop nearby. Going to Downtown Kyoto wouldn’t be difficult too as it is merely 3 kilometers away, good enough for a 30-minute leisurely walk. Know more about Shiori-an here.
Today, I am going to Downtown Kyoto – the UNESCO Core Zone – to have a feel of the Ancient Imperial Capital and I will just walk! Walking is a good way to exercise in this lovely city!
First in my list today is to see Kiyumizu Temple (also called Kiyumizu-dera Temple) or the Water Temple. Kiyumizu Temple is very famous for both local and foreign tourists. It is located on top of a hill that has a commanding view of Kyoto City. Locals believe that this place is auspicious that is why many come here pray, look for good fortune in love, or simply fall in love with the magical spell of Kyoto’s most famous temple!
It is just unfortunate that Kiyumizu Temple is currently being renovated giving me a limited view of its grandeur.
Also located within the compound are various buildings and shrines and some artifacts which are considered national treasures.
From Kiyumizu Temple, I went down the road full of shops, restaurants and ryokan (or Japanese style lodging houses) to get to Kodaiji Temple. The narrow path gives a special feeling that one is actually walking down memory lane – of the powerful Japanese Imperial Era. I had that feeling that I have actually walked where the great Japanese Emperors have set their feet on. And I had the time of my life enjoying that awesome experience!
Kodaiji Temple or the Wooden Temple is a Buddhist Temple built in 1606. All the original buildings here, made of richly decorated woods, are declared by the Japanese government as Important Cultural Assets including the Zen Garden in the compound.
From Kodaiji Temple I just followed the narrow road until I reached Yasaka Shrine. By the way, I have a map with me when I did all the walking here. I intentionally did not visit other sites in the area, though there are plenty, because of limited time. However, even with a map, I got lost several times.
Yasaka Shrine is very popular because of Gion Matsuri – Japan’s most famous festival – which dates back over thousand years ago and involves a procession with massive floats and hundreds of participants. Apart from the festival during the month of July, Yasaka is also famous during Spring for various cherry-blossom parties. Yasaka Shrine is brightly painted and is one of Kyoto’s most famous landmarks.
From Yasaka Shrine’s Main Gate, I crossed the street to have my lunch and coffee. From here, I can now get a bus for my next destination – Kinkakuji Pavilion.
A visit to the Kinkakuji Pavilion or Golden Pavilion is the main reason why I am in Kyoto. I have always been fascinated by the grandeur, the charm and the magic of this Temple covered with real gold leafs – gold leafs are gold that are made into extremely thin sheets. To me, a visit to Japan is not complete without visiting the Golden Pavilion!
The Golden Pavilion is an impressive 3 layered building overlooking a pond originally built in 1408 but the current one is a reconstruction made in 1955. Golden Pavilion was built to echo the extravagant culture that developed in the wealthy aristocratic circles of Kyoto.
I left the Golden Pavilion complex at around 3PM and decided to go back to my hostel and take a short rest because I plan to re-do what I have just done tonight. There must be a different magic Kyoto has at night time.
After a dinner in Yoshinoya (yes, the Japanese fast-food chain also seen in Manila) I walked again and did exactly what I did earlier today except visiting the Golden Pavilion. True in indeed, the view, the atmosphere and the feeling is entirely different during night time!
This is Kyoto. The lovely get’s lovelier! The awesome becomes irresistible!
At around midnight and after not seeing a real geisha, I went back to my hostel a bit frustrated. I was told that real geishas would normally walk the street before midnight. I saw no one.
Day 5 – Memoirs of a Geisha
Exhausted and tired last night, I did not manage to wake up before 10AM. So I am late and therefore I have to cancel visiting the Silver Temple. It should have completed my temple-run in Kyoto – Water Temple, Wooden Temple, Golden Temple and Silver Temple. At any rate, I think I did not miss that much because after all, the Silver Temple is never covered with silver!
Alright, so I checked out before lunch time to proceeded to Nara. But I have to drop by Inari Station for the famous Fushimi Shrine where Memoirs of a Geisha was filmed. From Kyoto Station, I took the JR Line and get off in Inari Station. I left my luggage in one of the paid lockers in the train station. Fushimi Shrine is just 2 minutes by walk from the Station.
More than Memories of a Geisha, I wanted to see Fushimi Shrine or Fushimi Inari Shrine because of its brightly colored thousand torri gates which span a network of trails leading to the sacred Mt. Inari. By the way, Inari is the Shinto God of Rice.
I had the time of my life taking photos here. The place is photogenic – perfect for photo shoot!
Before 2PM, I left Inari for Nara using the JR line. I decided to stay in Nara instead of Osaka for 2 reasons: 1, it’s cheaper in Nara and very close to Osaka and 2, Nara is not crowded and as metropolitan as Osaka. I am booked at Nikko Hotel for 2 nights.
Nikko Hotel is located right in Nara JR Station. I took a short nap and by 4PM I went out to visit Kofukuji Temple which is about 15 minutes by walk from my hotel.
Kofukuji Temple is famous because of its 5-story pagoda. The pagoda is Nara’s symbol and it’s most important landmark. It was originally built in 730, and was most recently rebuilt in 1426. Imagine that! Walking in Kofukuji grounds is in deed walking hundreds of years ago!
After visiting Kofukuji Temple, I walked through the streets on Nara to familiarize my self. And then I had a sushi dinner in the ‘world’s longest sushi counter’.