Temples and Shrines
Trip Start Sep 04, 2007
59Trip End May 28, 2008
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My first impressions of Kyoto were of just another asian city, with tower blocks and neon lights. But as you walk around you start to find hidden temples and streets of traditional houses. I spent a few days seeing some of the 2000 temples and shrines in the city so here are a few of my favourites:
1. Kiyomizu-dera was first built in 798 and rebuilt in 1633. The main building is perched on the side of a hill and supported by hundreds of wooden pillars. This was the first temple I visited and it was heaving with Japanese kids on schooltrips to Kyoto. They were keen to practice their English and would often run up to me to ask a few questions. They were very well behaved compared to British kids.
2. Kinkaku-Ji is also known as the golden temple because the top two tiers are covered in gold leaf. When the sun shines it is an amazing sight and well worth a visit.
3. Nanzen-Ji has the third biggest gate in Japan, called Sanmon. The gate is 22m tall and the best part is the public are allowed to climb it for great views across Kyoto.
4. Fushimi-Inari Taisha is a head shrine for Inari, who is worshipped for wealth. The mountain side is covered with thousands of torii (gates) which have been donated by people successful in business. It was a spectacular sight to walk along the pathways through all the torii.
5. My favourite garden was at Kodai-Ji. The landscaped garden and tea house provide a great place to relax after seeing so many temples and shrines.
I stayed in a great hostel in the Gion district of Kyoto. Our host Yashi often cooked dinner for us, or would take us for evening walks to see some hidden temples. We would often drink sake, although I still don't like it (and it gives a nasty hangover). Gion is also a famous geisha district and in the evening we would often spot a geisha on the way to an appointment. Geishas normally hide from the cameras in the street, but on one occasion I got lucky and she posed for us.
I really liked Kyoto. There is so much history and fascinating culture to explore, not to mention excellent food. Its one of my favourite cities in the world!