Autumn Leaves in Tofukuji, Jojakkoji, Eikan-do
Trip Start Mar 31, 2010
8Trip End Mar 31, 2010
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The first destination on the day was Tofukuji Temple. The temple is not so popular except in late November, but it is the one of the busiest temples of Kyoto in this season. The purpose of all the visitors is autumn leaf viewing. It is said that its Zen garden is also beautiful, but most of the visitors seemed to prefer autumn leaves. To get the best view of autumn leaves, I had to pay JPY 400 for an admission ticket for the Tsutenkyo Bridge
JR Tokai TV Commercial Tofukuji (Japanese)
It says, "A long time ago, a priest of this temple had all the cherry trees cut down, leaving over autumn colour trees. It is presumed that he decided to ignore spring and to value autumn instead. How decisive he was!" His decisive action shows a good example of Japanese admiration towards autumn leaves.
The video is shot at Tofukuji Temple, one of the major Zen temples of Kyoto. Unfortunately, most of the Japanese including me don't care about the main feature of the temple, but about autumn leaves of its garden
I visited Arashiyama for the second time, so I knew how to get to my destinations even without a map. The first destination was the Togetsukyo Bridge, but I happened to see beautiful autumn colours in Tenryuji Temple and decided to stop by the temple for a minute on the spot. Hogonin, a subtemple of Tenryuji, was located nearby and it was attractive with a long waiting line at the ticket counter. If I had had time, I would have visited the temple, but I couldn't this time. The Katsura River and Mt. Arashiyama were just beyond the temple. Mt. Arashiyama was picturesque, composed of different coloured trees. Although I had visited there in March, it was obvious that the landscape was much better in autumn than in spring. The rainfall probability was only 30% in Kyoto for the day, but it was raining around there. I took some pictures quick and left for Kameyama Park. In fact, Kameyama Park, a hillside park, was not an autumn leaf viewing spot, but I knew a view of Mt. Arashiyama from its lookout was spectacular. So I climbed the hill up to the first lookout. There seemed different lookouts, but I knew the first one was the best choice. In reality, a view from there was great, but the lookout was crowded. The next destination Jojakkoji Temple was only 10 minutes' walk from there.
Jojakkoji Temple was very crowded. I visited Kyoto on a weekday to avoid a crowd, but still the temple was crowded. The temple located in Mt. Ogura is said to be the best place to view autumn leaves in Arashiyama. I found that was true, but I also had to admit it was probably the best in Kyoto. Fujiwara no Teika, a Japanese poet from late Heian and early Kamakura periods and a selector of Ogra Hyakunin-isshu Poetry Anthology and the New Collection of Ancient and Modern Times, acclaimed beauty of the mountain and built a villa there
Jojakkoji Temple Website (Bilingual)
I realized that I had underestimated this temple, when I found its bilingual website. It also has large-sized videos from two different peak seasons. You must be tempted to visit the temple by the videos.
Nijo Castle was not an attraction for autumn leaves, but one of the best tourist attraction of Kyoto. I had thought that I might be tired of autumn leaves after I visited Tofukuji Temple and Arashiyama and had added the castle to the list of my destinations. As soon as I arrived at the gate of the castle, I started taking pictures and I was so enthusiastic about taking photos around there that I got into the castle premises without realizing it and buying an admission ticket.... Anyway, the main part of the castle for visitors was not its donjon, but Ninomaru Palace. The truth was that the castle didn't have a keep, because it was struck and burnt by a lightning in 1750
JR Tokai TV Commercial Nijo Castle (Japanese)
It says, "Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu got the approval of the appointment and, ironically, the 15th Shogun (Tokugawa) Yoshinobu wrote a letter of resignation here 260 years later
From Palace to Castle: Samurai Architecture
You can take a peek at great Fusuma Paintings of Ninomaru Palace. (They are prohibited to take pictures.)
When I left Nijo Castle, it was almost at dusk. In my original plan, I was scheduled to visit Nanzenji Temple. I hesitated to go there, because I was sure I couldn't enjoy autumn leaf viewing without illumination. Nanzenji had a lit-up garden, but I wanted to see its aqueduct and Sanmon Gate. However, Eikan-do Zenrinji Temple, the final destination of the day, was close to Nanzenji Temple, so I decided to try Nanzenji Temple, too. When I saw a picture of the aqueduct, I was impressed, but it turned out to be much smaller than I had expected and not impressive at all at dusk. Still, I thought I would never come back to the temple and took some pictures there. On my way to Eikan-do, I was a bit lost, so I asked a rickshaw driver the way to the temple. He looked young, but he kindly told me the way
Zenrinji Temple is generally called Eikan-do due to the merciful priest called Eikan living in the Heian Period. The temple is famous for a rare Buddha statue glancing backward and beautiful autumn leaves. It is said that Eikan realized the Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata) walking in front of him, when he was walking on a corridor of the temple. Suddenly, Amida looked back at him to say, "Eikan, you are slow". Actually, most of the visitors in that season visit the temple for autumn leaves. In my case, I visited the temple in the evening, because a ticket fee of the night is cheaper than that of the daytime. The admission fees to Eikan-do were JPY 1000 in the daytime and JPY 600 in the evening, which were the high prices in comparison with other temples of Kyoto. Anyway, I was so excited that I didn't care about the long waiting line to buy a ticket at the counter. To be honest, however, I was terribly disappointed at the autumn leaves of the temple. Illuminated autumn leaves themselves were beautiful, but for lack of specialty of the temple, I was not sure what was the advantage of visiting the Eikan-do
Eikan-do Official Website
It has a slide show on its homepage. Check out "Eikan-do Now", if you have a plan to visit the temple in the autumn leaf season.
According to VirtualTourist.com, Kyoto Station seemed to be one of the tourist attractions. The building was rebuilt in 1997 as a project for 1200th anniversary of the Heiankyo Capital Relocation. It is a ten storied building with a observation deck on the roof. On my way to the roof, I found a 22 meter-high Christmas tree and a lot of young people looking at the tree and listening to the background music on the stairs. I had take-out dinner there and enjoyed a view of the city from the roof later.
My Blog Entries about Kyoto
Cherry Blossoms in Tenryuji, Gion, Kiyomizu
Fushimi Inari, Ryoanji, Ninnaji, Todaiji
Momiji in Kyoto Video
There are a lot of autumn leaf viewing spots in Kyoto. Here is an overview of the famous viewing spots.