Day 6: Sunny eastern part of Kyoto

Trip Start Apr 08, 2010
1
8
42
Trip End May 06, 2010


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Where I stayed

Flag of Japan  , Kinki,
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

For this second day in Kyoto, the weather had decided to be gentle and quite sunny. After visiting some of the major temples on the north-western part of the city the day before (but not all of them, we'll come back to that later on), we decided to focus on the easter side of Kyoto, naming Higashiyama.

But before that, we had to move in our new hostel. Actually, while preparing our trip to Japan from France and making the hotels reservations (especially using their internet websites and/or touritsts blogs, which is very convenient when you don't speak japanese like us...),it had been impossible to book several nights in a raw at Sandal Wood. Even three weeks in advance, booking an accomodation in Kyoto is quite a challenge !
Thus for the rest of our stay in Kyoto, we stayed at K's House Kyoto. You can find several K's House in Japan (Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Mt. Fuji...), which are western like hostels, very modern, clean and convenient. Prices are very affordable and the staff is young, helpful and speaks good english. A good adress, but very different from Sandal Wood, such big hostels making yourself feel less at home.

From Sandal Wood, going to K's House Kyoto seemed pretty easy on a map. We took a bus and went to what we thought was the hostel address. But nothing... After 10 minutes walking around the block, we realized that we misread the name of the street: do not read Shijo when it is Shichijo! To be completely honest, we have to say that it was not that obvious, since every bus stop in Kyoto is at a corner of X and Y streets and is named "XY stop". Every bus stop BUT the ones on Shichijo street, whose names are Nanajo Street and Y.

For the record, the city map of Kyoto is vey easy and american like: a large grid with north-south and east-west streets. The east-west street are named by number (very american again...): 1st street, 2nd street... but with japanese numbers. Example: Go-jo is 5th street.
To come back to what we said, Shichi-jo should be Shichi-jo because it means 7th street. But seven can also be said nana in japanese! Thus the street is called Shichi-jo, but the bus stops on this street are called Nanajo and something.

As we did not find Shichi-jo bus stops on the city map of Kyoto, we finally thought Shi-jo would be ok!
Morality: we "lost ourselves" because 7 can be said in two different ways (at least) in japanese ;-)

We finally arrived safely at K's House Kyoto, put our luggage in the room, and rented bicycles! For 700 yens, you can rent a bike for one day at the hostel. Kyoto being very flat, it is for sure a good way to enjoy the city and save time when commuting from a temple to an other!

We took the path that follows the river, northbound, up to Ginkakuji temple. This temple is also known as "The Silver Pavillon". It is quite similar in the architecture and landscape to the Golden Pavillon, except the fact, of course, that it is not covered in gold, but shines like silver when the weather is sunny, which was the case. A very beautiful place... but also very famous and very crowded! Still a lot of scholars groups, led by noisy and running teachers! Quite of a contrast with the supposingly zen and relaxing landscape... Nevertheless, the garden is gorgeous, and the temple itself is really beautiful.

Then we rode our bikes on what is called "The Path of Philosophy": a very cute stone-made path close to a small stream and covered from the sun by blooming cherry trees. It may sound a bit "cliché" but it is trully beautiful and quiet.

There are many temples along this path where you can stop and enjoy the scenery. But we clearly had no time for all temples (and I don't think a lifetime is enough to discover all the hidden beauties of Kyoto)
We finally arrived at Nanzen-ji temple, which sits in a huge park. Many different buildings, an enormous wooden door (San-mon) at the entrance, and a nice relaxing park. We wandered there for a while and then went to the Hojo, which is the main building, famous for its dry garden. This place was just AWE-SOME! I don't know if it's both the place itself and the beautiful weather, but the atmosphere there was really unique and relaxing. It has been very difficult for us to leave the place!

Though, so many things we wanted to do ;-)

We finally managed to move from Nanzen-ji and went to Kiyomizu-dera, an other famous spot in Kyoto. Its main building has a huge terrace dominating Kyoto. Dimensions of this temple are really impressive and intimidating. And still, it might be the temple which fits the best in its natural environment: it is surrounded by moutain, vegetation, trees, and you can enjoy this scenery by walking on a small path and feeling just... somewhere else!
Only drawback of this destination: the road leading to the entrance of the temple is only made of shops (souvenirs, food, arts and crafts...) and it is overcrowded! I already experienced the same kind of sensation in Mont Saint Michel, France, in August... For those who have already been there during summer, they surely know what hell it is!

To finish this very busy day, we took the train to Inari, which is on the JR Nara Line, 10 minutes away from Kyoto station. The city is famous for its shrine, Fushimi-Inari Taisha. It is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice and sake. A tunnel of bright red torii gates winds its way up the
side of the mountain.
A torii is a traditional japanese gate, most commonly found at the entrance of or within a shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the sacred to the profane. Usually, you find a few torii gates in a shrine, but what makes Fushimi-Inari shrine exceptionnal is that there are torri gates all along the 4 km path leading to the top of the mountain!
At the end of the day, when the sun goes down, the warm light illuminating those torii tunnels are just incredible. 
Recently, this fantastic location was used as a setting for a scene in the film Memoirs of a Geisha.
If you come to Kyoto, you should absolutely go to Inari at the end of the day: no toursists and amazing colours and atmosphere!

A last train to Kyoto and this was, eventually, the end of this long day ;-)



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