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Friday, December 30, 2016

Visiting Ginkakuji Temple (銀閣寺) in Kyoto—Personal Experience

Ginkakuji Temple (銀閣寺) is located at the end of "Along the Old Canal" path (or Philosopher's Path) if you start the path from Nanzenji Temple. Ginkakuji literally means Silver Pavilion (銀閣寺), which is different from the temple named Kinkakuji (or Golden Pavilion / 金閣寺). However, the main building itself (i.e. Silver Pavilion) is modeled after the Golden Pavilion.

On 11/28/2016, I have visited Ginkakuji Temple via another route—I have arrived at Demachiyanagi Station (出町柳駅) and walked eastward on Imadegawa Dori. On the way to Ginkakuji Temple, I have also stopped by Kyoto University and Yoshida Hill.

Ginkakuji Temple outstanding


Ginkakuji consists of the Silver Pavilion, half a dozen other temple buildings, a beautiful moss garden and a unique dry sand garden. It can be enjoyed by walking along a circular route around its grounds, from which the gardens, buildings, and Kyoto City can be viewed. Below pictures are displayed in the same order visited by me on that circular route.

Two-Stored Silver Pavilion


Sand Garden


Waterfall


Bridge View


Temple Compound Viewed from Hillside


Kyoto City View


Moss Garden Covered with Leaves



References

  1. Kyoto Walks
  2. Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)
  3. Kyoto Travel—Philosopher's Path (Along the Old Canal)
  4. Japan Travel: Eating in Nara (奈良) (Travel for a Purpose)
  5. Japan: Temple Lodging at Mount Koya (or Koyasan 高野山) (Travel for a Purpose)
  6. Temple Lodging in Koyasan—Personal Experience (Travel for a Purpose)
  7. Visiting Arashiyama (嵐山) in Kyoto—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  8. Visiting Ohara in Kyoto—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  9. Visiting Nigatsudo Hall (二月堂) in Nara—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  10. Visiting Yoshiki-en Garden (吉城園 / よしきえん) in Nara—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  11. Visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  12. Travel: How to Ride a Train in Japan (Travel for a Purpose)
  13. Japan Travel — How to Ride a Bus in Kyoto Area (Travel for a Purpose)



Visiting Gion District and Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto—Personal Experience

Based on Japan National Tourism Organization's (JNTO) publication—Kyoto Walks, it says that, in Kyoto, the best surprises are reserved for those who are willing to walk. Among those recommended routes, it includes
On 12/01/2016, I have visited Higashiyama Area.  In this article, I'll focus mainly on three points of interest in the order of my visit on that day:
  • Gion (祇園) outstanding
  • Sannenzaka (三年坂)/ninenzaka (二年坂) shops outstanding
  • Kiyomizudera (清水寺) 

Gion District


Gion district is located around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine in the east and the Kamo River in the west.  It is famous for traditional Geisha entertainment, which is probably the largest area in Japan which is associated with this form of entertainment.  It is filled with shops, restaurants and tea houses (茶屋 ).

Geisha is the general term.  In Kyoto, it is known as Geiko and Maiko (geiko apprentices).  Geiko and Maiko are part of Kyoto tea houses' tradition of hospitality.  You can view this video:
for more information.

In below photos, you can see some girls dressed in Geisha's clothes. They are just tourists.  Those clothes can be rent in shops for around ¥3,000.  In the trip to Higashiyama Area, I have seen girls dressed like Geisha and in groups of two or three.  They seem to have fun to take pictures with views and each other.



Yasaka Pagoda





Ninenzaka (二年坂)/Sannenzaka (三年坂) Shops 


In direct translation, Ninenzaka means 'two year hill' and Sannenzaka means 'three year hill'. They are slopes connected to several shrines and temples in that area.  The path is famous for its souvenir shops, tea shops, and restaurants.  Kiyomizuzaka is super-crowded most of the time, but Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka are less so on regular weekdays.




Kiyomizudera (清水寺)


Kiyomizudera temple is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) UNESCO World Heritage site.[3] It was also one of 20 finalists for the New7Wonders of the World.

On the day of my visit, it was night time.  The light was lit up around 5:30 pm.  






References

  1. Kyoto Walks
  2. Begin Japanology Geiko and Maiko - YouTube(video)
  3. Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)
  4. Japan Travel: Eating in Nara (奈良) (Travel for a Purpose)
  5. Japan: Temple Lodging at Mount Koya (or Koyasan 高野山) (Travel for a Purpose)
  6. Temple Lodging in Koyasan—Personal Experience (Travel for a Purpose)
  7. Visiting Arashiyama (嵐山) in Kyoto—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  8. Visiting Ohara in Kyoto—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  9. Visiting Nigatsudo Hall (二月堂) in Nara—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  10. Visiting Yoshiki-en Garden (吉城園 / よしきえん) in Nara—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  11. Visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Visiting Hasedera (長谷寺) near Nara—Personal Experience

After viewing this video, I have decided to visit Hasedera (長谷寺) —one of the famous flowers temples in Nara area. From the stock images on Google, Hasedera seems to look even better with blooming flowers in the springtime. For the autumn colors, however, you may also be rewarded with memorable views depending on the timing of visit.

On 12/04/2016, I have visited Hasedera (長谷寺) on a rainy day and, based on a rough estimation, I may have missed the peak autumn colors by 2 weeks. But, as the video's title says, visiting Hasedera in any season, it can offer you tranquility and awesome views of covered walkways, buildings, and Buddha besides flowers and Nature.


Stairs to the Main Hall (本堂)








Main Hall (本堂)







Nice Restaurant in Town Area


For travelers on the road, finding a nice restaurant to rest and relax is the most rewarding experience. Luckily on that day, I was able to find a nice restaurant in the Town area leading to the Temple. I would say this is the most beautiful restaurant that I have ever visited during my 12-day trip in Japan.

Kneeling down on the tatami and surrounded by an amazing garden, I have decided to reward myself with a local cuisine named にゅうめん (nyuumen).

にゅうめん is a kind of somen from Miwa. They are thin as a thread, white as snow. They are eaten with seasonal vegetables in both summers and winters. In summer, they are eaten cold and, in winter, eaten in warm broth.

With my order, it also came with 柿の葉すし (かきの葉ずし / kaki no hazushi). かきの葉ずし is made of rice seasoned with vinegar and slices of salmon or salted mackerel on top. The mackerel used in this food is prepared according to a special method which is kept secret by the people who make it. This is why かきの葉ずし is only available in Nara.

Finally, I have also ordered a Japanese Sake to warm up on that cold rainy day. After tasting Sake the first time on Koyasan,[5,6] I am falling in love with Sake. It tastes sweet and smells fragrant. Best of all, it didn't cause me hangover after drinking it.





References

  1. Nara: Tranquil temples and bountiful blooms (video)
  2. Hase-dera (総本山長谷寺)
  3. Hase-dera (TripAdvisor)
  4. Japan Travel: Eating in Nara (奈良) (Travel for a Purpose)
  5. Japan: Temple Lodging at Mount Koya (or Koyasan 高野山) (Travel for a Purpose)
  6. Temple Lodging in Koyasan—Personal Experience (Travel for a Purpose)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Visting Uji (宇治) near Kyoto and Nara—Personal Experience

Uji (宇治) is between the two ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto. In my researh article, you are recommended to visit Uji for its history and tea culture. But, my trip to Uji on 12/03/2016 was mainly for autumn colors and paritally for history by visiting the famous Byodoin Temple (平等院).

Byodoin Temple (平等院)


The image of Byodoin Temple best of Japanis the one shown at the reverse side of ¥10 coin. This is quite a testament to its importance in Japan's History. Somehow its eleventh-century Phoenix Hall (鳳凰堂 ), with its glorious statue of Amida Buddha, survived war, fire and years of neglect, and today preserves a stunning display of Heian-period art at its most majestic.[1]



View from the Hosho-kan Museum (鳳翔館)


Uji Riveroutstanding


The city sits on the Uji River, which has its source in Lake Biwa. Lining the riverbank, many teahouses and restaurants showcase Uji's famous tea and tea themed foods. Visitors can try tea flavored soba noodles, green tea ice-cream and other popular Uji tea treats while enjoying the view.

On the day of my visit, first, I walked through old town area towards Byodoin Temple. Then I crossed the bridge and walked along the north bank of Uji river on a paved road. After reaching the suspension bridge, I turned around and walked along the south bank of Uji River.

The photos below are shown in the same order of my visit.









Instagram Friends


When you travel alone, you learn new things and/or meet new people everyday. While walking along the Uji river, I have met three travelers—two from Canada and one from Japan. How did they know each others? The short answer is Instagram.

The platform connects them is Instagram.  Via Instagram, they start to know each other by adoring each other's photos. When the Canadians decided to vist Kyoto, they have asked if this Japanese acquance could guide them around. The Japanese friend happily accepted. So did they meet and travel together in Uji on that day.

Reference

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Visiting Arashiyama (嵐山) in Kyoto—Personal Experience

Based on Japan National Tourism Organization's (JNTO) publication—Kyoto Walks, it says that, in Kyoto, the best surprises are reserved for those who are willing to walk. Among those recommended routes, it includes
  • Arashiyama Area best of Japan

On 11/29/2016, I have visited Arashiyama (嵐山) and mainly in Sagano Area.


Togetsukyo Bridge


The Togetsukyo Bridge (lit. "Moon Crossing Bridge") is Arashiyama's most iconic landmark. The bridge is notable for its views of cherry blossoms in a riverside park and autumn colors on the slopes of Arashiyama.

On the day of my visit, however, the autumn colors on the forested mountainside was not as brilliant as I hoped. Probably I was there one-to-two-weeks late for the peak autumn colors.

Sagano Area


The area north of the Togetsukyo Bridge (see above map; click to enlarge) is also known as Sagano, which encloses all points of interest described below.

Besides walking, another way to travel around the Sagano area is by rental bicycle, which are available for around 1000 yen near the train stations. Cycling through rural residential areas and past fields while traveling between temples can be a more relaxed and convenient way to enjoy the area.

However, on that day, I have chosen my favorite way of visit—walking. Based on the route I have taken, the points of interest are also illustrated in the same order.

Bamboo Forest


The walking paths that cut through the bamboo groves make for a nice walk or bicycle ride. To visit it, you should try to arrive early in the morning to beat the crowd.




Jojakkoji Temple (常寂光寺)


This mountainside temple is notable for its attractive buildings and gates. Maple trees and moss are located just beside the paths and stairs that lead across the temple grounds. From a number of spots, visitors can also enjoy views over Kyoto.




Gioji Temple (祇王寺)


On the way to Gioji Temple, I have run into an attractive pottery shop (see picture below) on the roadside.


Gioji Temple is very small and nestled deeper into the mountainside. It is known for its moss garden that is punctuated with tall maple trees. The temple's entrance gate and small main hall have thatched roofs. The latter has an attractive round window looking into the gardens.



Adashino Nenbutsu-ji (化野念仏寺)


Adashino Nenbutsuji is located at the end of the Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street. The temple was founded in the early 9th century when the famous monk Kobo Daishi (弘法大師) placed stone statues for the souls of the dead here.

Today, the temple grounds are covered by hundreds of such stone statues. In the back of the temple, a short path leads through a bamboo forest which looks similar to the over-hyped Bamboo Forest while has a much smaller crowd.




Final Words


Adashino Nenbutsuji is the farthest location I have reached on that day. Before heading back to the train station, I have spotted an old-styled Japanese restaurant with a nice garden in the preserved town area (see photo below) and have enjoyed a nice meal over there.



On the return trip, I have seen some Japanese youngsters hooking up lanterns on the roadside to the power line. I guess Arashiyama should look more attractive with lit lanterns in the evening. However, at that moment, a huge crowd was already gathered around me and created a commotion. From the corner of my eye, I have found there was a snake of people walking through the Bamboo Forest. To replenish my peace of mind, the only idea in my mind then was walking as fast as possible to escape the crowd.

As you may have noticed, some points of interest in the Sagano area were skipped on that day:

References

  1. Kyoto Walks (JNTO)
  2. Arashiyama (嵐山) Full Day
  3. Arashiyama and Sagano
  4. Bamboo forest
  5. Benefits of Kansai Thru Pass (2 days / 3 days)
    • Discounts at Ryoanji Temple, Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama, etc.
  6. Arashiyama in Kyoto Tour! - Video Japan Guide (video)
  7. Taking a bus in Kyoto
  8. 20 Recommended Power Spots in Kyoto
  9. Monkey Park (video)
  10. Visiting Ohara in Kyoto—Personal Experience
  11. Visiting Nigatsudo Hall (二月堂) in Nara—Personal Experience
  12. Visiting Yoshiki-en Garden (吉城園 / よしきえん) in Nara—Personal Experience
  13. Visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)—Personal Experience
  14. Temple Lodging in Koyasan—Personal Experience
  15. Visting Uji (宇治) near Kyoto and Nara—Personal Experience
  16. Travel: How to Ride a Train in Japan (Travel for a Purpose)
  17. Japan Travel — How to Ride a Bus in Kyoto Area (Travel for a Purpose)