Visit to Kyoto – Part 2
… continued from Part 1.
We started the next day with a subway and bus ride to Ginkaku-ji Temple, also known as the Silver Pavilion. Outside the temple, there was a commercial street filled with food stalls, shops and restaurants.
Originally designed as a retirement villa for the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa in the Muromachi Period (1392 – 1573), Ginkaku-ji Temple was modeled on its sister temple Kinkaku-ji Temple (the Golden Pavilion). Yet Ginkaku-ji Temple was never gilded in silver, and the main temple building remains an unpainted brown, and in its way, exemplifies the Japanese idea that something plain can be beautiful.
Unfortunately, the pavilion was under repair (will be completed in 3 years), but the entrance fee was still JPY 500 (no discount?).
Another bus ride took us to our next destination, the famous Kiyomizu-dera Temple, perhaps the most beloved of Kyoto’s temples. Just like Ginkaku-ji Temple, just outside, there was a very crowded, busy and commercial street, with lots of food stalls, shops and restaurants.
The main hall with its distinctive hip-shaped roof of cypress bark rests on the platform, and houses within it a priceless statue of Kannon Bodhisattva, the goddess of mercy. The expression "to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu" is the Japanese equivalent of the English expression "to take the plunge." The temple is very popular with visitors, and has something of a festival atmosphere. Admission is JPY 300.
Several other buildings are also designated as "national treasures". People come to the temple to drink water from the falls by collecting it in tin cups; the water is said to have therapeutic properties, and drinking from the three different streams is said to confer health, longevity and success in studies.
There is also a shrine on the grounds, and praying there is said to help one succeed in finding an appropriate love match. People looking for a romantic partner can be seen walking between two prominent stones with their eyes closed. If one can make the journey alone, this is taken as a sign that the pilgrim will find love, while those who need assistance in making the crossing will require an intermediary to help them find their mate (makes sense, doesn’t it?).
A short walk took us to Gion, where you can catch sight of maiko and geiko girls in kimono walking through its streets, entertaining in traditional ochayas (geisha teahouses).
We did see several girls in kimonos, but suspected that they were just tourists or visitors dressed up as geishas or maikos.
Gion Corner has a unique theater presenting one-hour shows of seven of Kyoto’s professional performing arts, along with a nearby shrine.
Kama River is the main waterway running through Kyoto near Gion and below is a picture taken near sunset.
It was raining today so we decided to go indoors and visit The Museum of Kyoto. This museum gives an understandable introduction to Kyoto’s history and culture. Permanent displays are the History of Kyoto section, the Fine Arts and Crafts Gallery the Movie Hall and the Movie Gallery. Special exhibitions are held throughout the year and we attended the Tale of Genji exhibit (we plan to learn more about this work of fiction written many years ago).
We had lunch at the Roji-tenpo section, with reproductions of facades of Edo-Period townhouses. The red-brick building was once the Kyoto branch of the Bank of Japan.
A short JR train ride took us to the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, famous for its vermilion colored Torii gates.
This shrine, dedicated to the God of rice and sake in the 8th century, also features dozens of statues of foxes. The fox is considered the messenger of Inari, the god of grain foods and the stone foxes are often referred to as Inari. The key often seen in the fox’s mouth is for the rice granary.
The magical, seemingly unending path of over 5,000 vibrant orange torii gates that wind through hills makes it one of the most popular shrines in Japan. Be warned though that the walk around the upper precincts is a day hike, with uphill and downhill slopes.
If you had watched the 2005 Hollywood film, Memoirs of a Geisha directed by Rob Marshall, there was a key scene in the movie where the main character was running through these torii gates (though it was recreated in a movie set). Below is a YouTube video walking through the torii gates.
Back to Kyoto station and the return trip to Tokyo. Although we had some rain during the first and last days, it was a wonderful trip, seeing several historical temples and shrines and beautiful Japanese gardens. We certainly plan to return to beautiful Kyoto, and also visit nearby Nara, another ancient town filled with history.