Sunday, 11 July 2010

From Kiyomizudera Temple to Gion in Kyoto

{ Japan April 2010 - Day 6 - Kyoto }

It was finally time to visit Kyoto! While I love the vibrant and electric feeling that Tokyo radiates, I would still take culture and history over people and city anytime. Kyoto has one of the most number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan and many historical buildings. So, I was excited to see what the city has to offer.


Once we reached the Kyoto Station, we went up to the Kyoto Tower that offered a 360 degrees view of Kyoto from 100 metres above ground. While the view was great (and I loved the mountains at the horizon), the tower looked like an out-of-place candle.


Kiyomizudera Temple

From the bus stop at the main road, it was an uphill climb to reach the Kiyomizudera Temple. The path was filled with shops and restaurants catering to tourists and selling many local specialties and souvenirs. The best feature of the temple was the wooden platform standing above the hill. It provided a great view of the city amidst the cherry blossoms in various colours below. However, everyone had the same idea and the place was filled with tourists!

Behind the main hall was the Jinshu Shrine with two "love stones" standing about 18 metres apart. It was said that if you were able to walk from one stone to the other with your eyes closed, if you would be able to find love. You can also get someone to help you walk across, but that would mean you would need help in finding love. With all the people around the area, it would be a challenge to walk from one stone to the other! At the lower ground was the Otowa Waterfall which was divided into three streams of water. There was a long queue of visitors who used a cup attached to a pole to collect the water to drink.


From Kiyomizudera Temple to Gion

From the temple, we walked through the narrow lanes of Higashiyama. Although the alleyways and the steps were filled with visitors, I loved all the shops and houses along the path. I was not sure if there were old and refurbished or newly built, but I could easily imagined the Japanese in the olden days walking along the path in their traditional costumes. There were souvenirs and snacks to be bought all the way.


After the pleasant walk, we reached Maruyama Park. Similar to most of the parks in Japan during the cherry blossom season, it was a popular spot for hanami. There were many small stalls selling many Japanese food and snacks.


Just next to the park was the Yasaka Shrine, which was also known as Gion Shrine. The centre stage was filled with lanterns. I believed these were sponsored by the locals who came here to pray.


Gion was just across the Gion Shrine. The streets were lined with wooden houses with many restaurants. Gion, of course, is the famous geisha district. We went there with the hopes of catching a glimpse of a geisha (geiko) or geisha apprentice (maiko) but were, unfortunately, not that lucky.


::: Footnotes :::

{ How to get to Kyoto } From Tokyo, we took the Shinkansen to Kyoto. The journey took about 2 hours and 40 minutes. The price for a round trip ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto is about the same as a 7 day Japan Rail Pass. So, if you plan to take the Shinkansen, do consider getting the Japan Rail Pass. The Japan Rail Pass is only valid for the hikari and kodama trains, but not on the faster nozomi trains.

{ UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kyoto } There are a total of 17 monuments that had been included as part of Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities). Kiyomizudera Temple is one of the 17 monuments.

{ Kyoto Tower } Standing at just 131 metres, Kyoto Tower (京都タワー Kyōto-tawā) is the tallest building in Kyoto. It has a viewing platform that provides a good start to orient yourself when you first reached Kyoto. The ticket is 770 yen per person, but we got it free with our hotel stay in Kyoto Tower Hotel.

{ Kiyomizudera Temple 清水寺 } The temple can be reached by bus from Kyoto Station. From the Kiyomizu-michi bus stop, walk up the hill to reach the temple. Entrance fee is 300 yen per person.

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