Cherry Blossoms in Tenryuji, Gion, Kiyomizu
Trip Start Mar 31, 2010
8Trip End Mar 31, 2010
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When I arrived at the platform of JR Kyoto Station at quarter past eleven, I found out there were trains bound for Arashiyama. So I chose Arashiyama as my first destination even before dropping by the tourist information office. As soon as I got off at Saga Arashiyama, I found Arashiyama Tram Station just next to the station building. The beautiful coloured tram is one of the tourist attractions, because of its conductor's guide for the scenery viewers. However, it didn't seem like an attraction for me, so I didn't take it. Anyway, I walked up to the first destination, Tenryuji Temple, the most popular temple in Arashiyama. It was No.1 of the Five Great Zen Temples of Kyoto and its scenic garden is registered as the first-ever Special Beauty Spot of Japan. The cherry blossoms in the garden were also tempting, although I knew they were 70% blooming on the day when I visited, but weeping cherry blossoms looked in full bloom. Unexpectedly, a lush bamboo grove was in its precincts and it was truly fascinating. I couldn't stay in the temple long, because I had some places left to go and Tenryuji temple was still the first temple I visited on the day.
Four Seasons of Tenryuji Temple website
This is a Japanese website, but it is possible to enjoy a lot of pictures of Tenryuji Temple in different seasons.
On my way back to the train station, I reached the Togetsubashi Bridge. Frankly, it was nothing special. It looked wooden-built, but it was not. The view of Mt. Arashiyama from the bridge must have been beautiful, if it was autumn. Although there were some blooming cherry trees, the view was far from what I expected. The area is chosen as one of the best three autumn foliage viewing spots of Japan, so I may go back there in autumn next time.
Then I headed for Gishoji Temple in Higashiyama. Getting off at the nearest bus stop, I happened to walk up to the temple along the Walk of Philosophy filled with cherry blossoms. The temple is also known as Ginkakuji, or Silver Pavilion. Although Golden Pavilion seems more popular, Silver Pavilion has a different taste. Incidentally, Silver Pavilion have never been covered with silver foil unlike Golden Pavilion with gold foil. It is said that it shines silverly by sunlight reflecting off the pond. As soon as I went through the gate, the hall between tidy hedges led me to the ticket office. I paid 500 yen for admission and got a ticket with a talisman. Soon after the ticket gate, Silver Pavilion appeared. It was not flashy as the Golden Pavilion but very quiet. An interesting Zen garden with a pond was spread in front of the pavilion. Its mossy garden was also amazing and I took so many pictures. The temple is very recommendable for any visitors at Kyoto. It is absolutely worth visiting, although it is a bit inaccessible.
http://shizuokagourmet.wordpress.com/japanese-cakeswagashi-15-yatsuhashi-tabe/) The next destination was Gion, which is famous for tea houses and Maiko dancers (apprentice geisha), but the main purpose this time was viewing night cherry blossoms along the Shirakawa River. They were lit up at night in the cherry blossom season. On my way to Shirakawa, I chanced to walk on the historic Hanami Street. Honestly, it was quite disappointing to me, because the street looked like a "newly built" old town. At the end of the street, Keninji temple was situated, but I didn't have time to spend even in the famous temple. After taking a few pictures, I hurried off to Shirakawa. The night view of the cherry blossoms in Shirakawa fully met my expectation. Pink and white cherry blossoms light up stood out along the river in the darkness. On the opposite bank, the guests in the tea houses arranged along the river seemed to enjoy the cherry blossoms over dinner. Yasaka Jinja shrine was at the end of the Shijo street. Getting through the shrine filled with many food stalls, I entered Maruyama park, which was celebrated for a large weeping cherry blossom tree. I didn't care abouth the other cherry trees and I just stood in front of the main tree for long, touched by its beauty.
Gion is familiar to almost all the Japanese and I associate "the Tale of the Heike" with it. All the school kids read it and its initial passage is like below.
"The sounds of Gion Shoja bells echoes the impermanence of all things; the color of sala flowers reveals the truth that the prosperous must decline. The proud do not endure, they are like a dream on a spring night; the mighty fall at last, they are as dust before the wind." (translated by Helen Craig McCullough)
Kyoto used to be the Japan's capital city with the largest population, but both the government and the emperor moved to Tokyo in the late 19th cetury. On top of that, the population of Tokyo and Osaka overtook that of Kyoto in the Edo Period and now Kyoto is the seventh largest city of Japan in terms of population. (Tokyo is said to be the current Japan's capital, but there is no law to designate Tokyo as the capital.) Even Kyoto itself experienced the impermanence.
Kodaiji temple, the next destination, was close to Gion. It is the temple where Nene, a wife of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, one of the most powerful generals on Japanese history, entered the priesthood. Some of the sites in this temple were also light up at night in this season. The main attractions were a weeping cherry blossom tree in the Zen garden, the Garyu pond, and the bamboo grove. Especially, the Garyu pond was absolutely fabulous. It reflected all the trees around it just like a mirror. (However, you may get a better view in autumn leaf season.) It is too much to say that this temple is a cherry blossom viewing spot, although the fully blooming weeping cherry blossom tree was breathtaking. The admission fee was 600 yen and it was well worth paying.
Kodaiji Temple Official Website
In comparison with its Japanese website, English version provides far simpler and more limited information. However, half a loaf is better than none. Kiyomizu temple doesn't have an English website..., although it is one of the most famous temples of Japan, designated as a UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage Site.
My Blog Entries about Kyoto
Autumn Leaves in Tofukuji, Jojakkoji, Eikan-do
Fushimi Inari, Ryoanji, Ninnaji, Todaiji