After a long day in Osaka, I planned an even longer one in the nearby Kyoto, rising at dawn and on the train by 7am. I’m glad I did, because it was an absolutely packed day, and I didn’t even scratch the surface of the literally hundreds of ancient temples, shrines, and historical places in the city.
I headed straight for city center from the train station, and the beautiful Nijo Castle grounds. The castle itself is picturesque, although you can only enter one of the buildings, but it’s gorgeous one, straight out of a samurai film, with a wide-open floor plan, painted screens, and spacious reception rooms. The gardens around the building are also very nice, especially in this perfect late-fall weather.
The next stop was the Daitokuji Temple, which is actually a complex of several temples, each with separate entry fees. I visited a couple, but particularly liked Daisen-In, a small temple with a Zen garden that really made me understand the appeal. The small rocks and plants representing the earth and various metaphysical concepts and the raked white rocks which meant the rivers and seas of life melded together with the peaceful surroundings to create a relaxing experience, especially with a cup of strong green tea and a small ginger cake to enjoy while taking it in.
Lunch was some more spectacular Japanese pork ramen, along with a small side of fried rice and fried dumplings- a tasty, filling meal all for under ten bucks.
Perhaps the most famous temple in the area is the Kinkakuji Temple, particularly it’s Golden Pavilion, aptly named as it is almost entirely clad in gold leaf. The view of it shining in the sunlight, and reflected on the small lake in front of it, was worth the trip across town to see it, and the surrounding gardens were also quite nice.
All the way on the other side of Kyoto is the hillside Higashiyama Area, absolutely packed with tourist trap stores and the beautiful temples that sustain them. Chion-in Temple may be the most famous, and it’s entry gate and 70 ton bell are the largest in Japan, but unfortunately the main pavilion is being reconstructed and closed until 2019, dampening it’s attraction a bit.
Up the hill from it is Shoren-In, a smaller temple billed as nice place to escape the crowds, but unfortunately not so for me. It was very similar to the other temples I saw, and I was just about templed out by the time I was through it, but thankfully I soldiered on through the very colorful, but small Yasaka Shrine and finally Kodaiji Temple.
This last was also small, but boasted gardens from one of the foremost garden designers of the Edo Period, as well as two teahouses built by an expert in that craft. This temple also boasted some of the prettiest trees of the entire day, as well as a nice bamboo grove facing a massive nearby Buddha statue.
My last stop was dinner at Mos Burger, a Japanese institution apparently. I wouldn’t call it one of the best burgers I’ve eaten, but it was quite good, and the fact that the default burger came with a huge tomato slice and a big dollop of American-style chilli was pretty interesting. After that it was time for my last night bus… and another shot at Tokyo (which you already read about). Next: a return to our regular scheduled broadcasting and a look at the north of India).