Torii gates, temples and garden in Kyoto

{ Japan April 2010 - Day 7 - Kyoto }

Wanting to make full use of our second, and final day, in Kyoto, we took off (relatively) early in the morning. We only had half a day left before leaving for Osaka in the late afternoon. The plan was to spend the day around northern Kyoto, but at the last minute, we decided that we wanted to have the ultimate torii experience!

The Ultimate Torii Experience

Walking down the orange torii gates was a surreal experience. If you have watched Memoirs of Geisha, you may remember the scene where the young Sayuri ran through a gateway of orange torii gates. That scene was filmed in Fushimi Inari Taisha. The torii gates were donated by worshipers with their names written on one side of the torii gates (see the 4th photo with all the wordings), and put along a pathway going up the hill behind the main building. We only managed to walk a section of it, and even then we couldn't stop snapping photos! While it looked orange when we were there, it came out looking red in the photos.

The Golden Pavilion

Our next stop is the Golden Pavilion, or Kinkakuji Temple. If the torii gates of Fushima Inari Taisha is not the most photographed temple in Kyoto, then the Kinkakuji Temple most be! The bright golden pavilion looked even brighter and shinier under the bright and beautiful sunlight. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea! The place was filled with tourists, who had to gather at a specific area. Everyone was busy snapping photos of the pavilion. If only we could have the place to ourselves for five minutes - then it would all be perfect! The pavilion itself was not opened to public and we had to be contented with admiring it from the outside. 

After admiring the pavilion for as long as we could (among the crowd), we walked along the pathway across the garden. There was a pond along the way as well as statues that people threw coins for luck. Just before leaving the temple area, there were souvenir shops and a tea garden. The other parts of the temple seemed ordinary in contrast with the amazing golden pavilion.

The Zen Temple and Garden

Leaving Kinkakuji, we went to the town of Arashiyama for a quick lunch. There are many shops, cafes and restaurants lining along the main road. The highlight of Arashiyama would be the Tenryuji Temple. It was a Buddhist temple with meditation hall, lecture hall and kitchen, among others. However, the highlight of the temple must be the beautiful garden. The garden was designed in the fourteenth century by Musō Soseki, one of the founder of the temple. Up till today, the garden retained the same form, and was considered to be one of the oldest of its kind.

After strolling along the colourful garden, a path from the temple led to bamboo groves just behind Tenryuji Temple. As we were pressed for time, we only managed to walk a small section of the bamboo groves. After that, we walked to the train station, to catch a train back to Kyoto Station, before making our way to Osaka.

I would, if I could, spend a few more days, or even weeks in Kyoto. The trip ended too quickly, but I promised myself that I would definitely make my way back to the beautiful old town.

::: 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). Both Kinkakuji Temple and Tenryuji Temple are two of the 17 monuments.

{ Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社 } The shrine is just outside the JR Inari Station and can be easily reached on the train from Kyoto Station on the JR Nara Line. It is said that it will take about 2 hours to walk the whole path. There is no entrance fee to the shrine.

{ Kinkakuji Temple 金閣寺 } The site was originally a villa and became the Kinkakuji temple in 1397. It was eventually converted to a zen temple. It was burnt down in 1950 and the current pavilion was rebuilt in 1955. Kinkakuji Temple can be reached on the bus from Kyoto Station. However, the trip is quite long and took about 40 minutes. Entrance to the temple costs 200 yen per person.

{ Tenryuji Temple 天龍寺 } The temple was founded by Ashikaga Takauji in 1339, and its first chief priest was Musō Soseki, who also designed the garden. The buildings in the temple were destroyed by fire numerous times and most of the buildings today were reconstructed during the Meiji Period. Tenryuji temple can be reached on the bus from Kinkakuji Temple. It is also connected via the JR Sagano line from Kyoto Station. The entrance fee to the garden is 500 yen with additional 100 yen to enter the hall. 

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