Temples, Shrines, Temples, Shrines…

Last night we checked into K’s House Kyoto which is close to the train station in the south side of Kyoto. We dropped our bags off and headed to down town Kyoto and walked millions of miles up and down streets of restaurants, stalls and shops.

Up early as usual with a big day planned. We first headed down to Kyoto station and got a train to Fushimi Inari-taisha Shire with their 4km of red tori gates.
“The magical, seemingly unending path of over 5000 vibrant orange torii gates that wind through hills behind Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine makes it one of the most popular shrines in Japan. The walk around the upper precincts is a pleasant day hike. It also makes for a delightfully eerie stroll in the late afternoon and early evening, when the various graveyards and miniature shrines along the path take on a mysterious air.

This shrine, dedicated to the God of rice and sake in the 8th century, also features dozens of statues of foxes. The fox is seen as the messenger of the god of grain foods, Inari, and the stone foxes are often known by the same name. The keys often depicted in the fox mouthes are keys to granaries. This shrine is the central location for some 40,000 Inari shrines throughout the entirety of Japan. ”

We got back on the train and headed to Arahimaya and went to the Tenryu-ji Temple with it’s beautiful gardens.

“Tenryu-ji Temple is main attraction is its Zen garden which dates from the 14th Century. A triumph of design, the garden features a large pond which catches the reflection of the maple trees and large rough-cut rocks which surround it. It also makes use of “borrowed scenery” from the nearby hills of Arashiyama, which seem like the next tier of the garden. Many elements of this garden were prototypes for later gardens built elsewhere.

In autumn, the maples provide a fine display of fall color, while in spring you might see the blossoms of wild cherry trees or the stunted trunks of Japanese red pines on the distant hills. In any season, as you sit in the shelter and view the garden, you will likely find your thoughts settling and your body relaxing. The garden has a way of calming one’s spirit it was designed partly for this reason.

The name Tenryuji means, “Heavenly Dragon Temple,” and it was built after a shogun dreamed of a dragon rising from a nearby river, which was taken to mean that the recently-deceased emperor Go-Daigo was not resting peacefully. The temple with its garden was built to placate his spirit. It is now the headquarters of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism, and visitors can sample the temple’s Zen vegetarian cuisine, known as “shojin ryori.”

Up the road from the temple is the Path of Bamboo which looks like it’s a scene out of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

After a few goes at getting the bus we went up to Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion). It is so golden and is in the middle of this pond that is reflective like a mirror and the gardens around as well. Every photo was like a postcard…gorgeous.

“It is perhaps the most widely-recognized image of Kyoto: the small, graceful temple whose upper tiers, balconies and eaves are covered in shining gold. Seen reflected in the adjoining “mirror pond” with its small islands of rock and pine, Kinkaku-ji Temple, “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion,” is a breathtaking must-see.

The building’s first purpose was to serve the retiring Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu(1358-1409) as a residence. The gold-leaf-adorned building was converted into a Zen temple shortly after his death. In an event that was later fictionalized by the renowned author Yukio Mishima, a 21-year-old monk burned Kinkakuji down in 1950. The temple was rebuilt in 1955, and continues to function as a storehouse of sacred relics.”

Down the road from the Golden Pavilion is the Ryoan-ji Temple with it’s zen rock garden.

“Ryoan-ji Temple is famous for its mysterious rock garden, the most celebrated in Japan, which defies attempts at explanation. Enclosed by an earthen wall, fifteen carefully placed rocks seem to drift in a sea of raked white gravel. A viewing platform right above the garden gives visitors an unimpeded view, although from whatever angle you view the garden, you can never see all fifteen stones.”

Back into town with a quick stop at the Imperial Palace gardens for some coffee and pancakes and we headed back to downtown Kyoto. We were so hungry and tired that we decided to sample the Japanese McDonalds…weird…Chris got this burger with squishy cheesey prawn stuff inside. They have teriyaki burgers there too! We felt just as sick as we do at home afterwards!

The first stop in our last morning in Kyoto was to Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion (that’s not silver at all!) It is a zen garden that a man called Ashikaga Yoshimasa built for his retirement. The main building was under construction and it was freezing cold, but nothing could take away from the beauty of the gardens, raked sand, mossy hills, stone paths and cute bridges, streams and waterfalls.

After this we thought we’d try our luck at the Kyoto Imperial Palace, and low and behold…it was open week so everyone (including the Japanese) were allowed in for free! Yay 🙂