Tuesday, June 28, 2011


On our first full day in Kyoto, we followed Page 130 of the Lonely Planet guide - "If you had only one day in Kyoto..." Southern Higashiyama Walking Tour. It was a full day, so wear good shoes!

We took bus 100 from Kyoto Station to Gojozaka. Really easy. It's a set fare, you pay into a machine beside the driver as you exit the bus, so make sure to have change. And there is a panel at the front showing the next stop, including in English.

The instructions in Lonely Planet are great. Apart from the noodle shop and the pharmacy at the start of the walk, we found all the milestones outlined in the book.

First stop: Kiyomizu-dera - I had seen pictures of this temple, sitting on huge pillars on the side of the hill and it's just as impressive in real life. I think it would be worth going back again in the autumn. It was full of school kids, but we did manage to get a bit of peace and quiet in the more remote parts. And don't miss the Jishu-jinja shrine. It's packed with young women trying their luck for love!

Then, we went down a busy touristy street and another cobbled street to the right. Some lovely shops on the way, particularly if you're fond of Kyoto sweets! And we saw two British girls dressed as geishas. They were quite tall and awkward, and at first, I thought they were men in drag. Oh dear, they wouldn't be happy to hear that!

We then got to Ishibei-koji, a beautiful old-style street with restaurants. All were closed though - and most didn't have menus outside, but the few that did were pricey. Probably better to see this place at night. I guess there would be more of a buzz and you might get a glimpse of their inner courtyards.

We also went in to a very quiet temple area, Otani Mausoleum, with literally no tourists, and found ourselves in a cemetery, very different from Western-style graveyards. It's built on a hill and, if you go up and up, you will have a stunning view of the city with thousands of graves in the foreground. Well worth the effort.

Then we went to a nice little park to rest our feet for a while, and we saw some feral cats that completely ignored us, but went wild when two Japanese ladies went by. We then moved on to Chion-in, a major big temple, with hundreds of visitors. I briefly went in to the main temple during a service - the sheer scale of it was impressive, but hardly a place for quiet reflection.

Last, we went in to Shoren-in, a peaceful temple. There are huge camphor trees at the front so you can't miss it. Lovely garden and a small bamboo grove at the back too.

After Shoren-in, we managed to find a subway station to make our way back to the hotel, where we put our feet up for the evening. A long day!

We took lots and lots of pictures, but at this stage, I would find it hard to identify which temple is which if they were not sorted chronologically!

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