Rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. Rumours of me being too lazy to put together a decent blog post are pretty well spot-on.
Of course, I will try to rationalise it away – it’s cold out there, I don’t have my own camera, family commitments, the trip to Kyoto…
Everyone who is someone, or even anyone, in Japan has been there.
My first experience of Kyoto was during my stint as an exchange student back in 1989. It would be more than 25 years until I visited again, this time as guide and chaperone to my niece (on her second trip – she had to wait less than one year).
This isn’t a travel blog, so I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.
Kyoto had received its heaviest snowfall in over 60 years, and we were warned to expect snow and extreme cold. Luckily, there was almost no trace of that snow, nor was it particularly cold during our stay.
We arrived on January 10th at a little before 11. After leaving our luggage at the hotel, the first stop on the agenda was the Gion area, specifically the Yasaka Shrine.
My own reasons for visiting this shrine were very much WIJ themed – I remembered another blogger’s post about the kirin there. Unfortunately, I didn’t have
my the wife’s camera (I was forced to leave that home), and my mobile phone doesn’t quite cut it in less than optimal conditions, so please excuse the quality of my photos.
The lion dogs which guard shrines are known as komainu (狛犬), but you’ll notice that one of the guardians of the Yasaka Shrine has a single horn. This has led some people to believe that it is not a lion dog but in fact a kirin (麒麟), or unicorn.
(There are bizarre theories that this is related to the lion and unicorn on the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, suggesting a Semitic origin of the Japanese!)
From Yasaka, an easy walk to the famed Kiyomizu Temple, my favourite spot on my previous visit… only to find that it is currently under repair! No photos there!
A bus ride to Ginkakuji, whose garden is well worth the entrance fee. I hadn’t visited this before, so it was quite a treat.
It was here that my niece asked me about various Japanese plants, and I was able to explain about Aucuba, coral bush, and several other plants. She astutely observed the lack of flowering plants and that most of the colour to be seen was fruit.
After Ginkakuji, we took a short stroll along the Philosopher’s Walk and stumbled upon another temple, the Honen-in. It cost us nothing to enter the grounds, but the garden was quite good.
We decided to call it a day – most temples and shrines close to the public at 4:30 in winter – and made our way back to the hotel. There, I plotted out our route for the next day.
The first stop on day 2 was Kinkaku-ji. No-one seems to care that the current building dates from the 1950’s, and after all, it is a very nice piece of real estate. My niece was interested in the carp in the pond, while I pointed out the night heron waiting in a tree.
Ryoanji was next on the agenda. This was my first visit, but I had heard and read a lot about the famous rock garden. It is certainly worth visiting.
Next, we paid an impromptu visit to Ninnaji. A couple of the buildings were under repair, and for me it lacked something – maybe I was suffering from temple overload. Still, we were able to enter the grounds for free.
From there, a bus ride to the Arashiyama area.
The bamboo forest walk was quite impressive, and no camera can capture the feeling of being surrounded by huge bamboo stalks.
Next was Tenryuji, a large temple with a nice garden and large pond. Here, many of the plants were labelled – how thoughtful!
Finally, we walked down to Togekkyo. The bridge was a disappointment – a modern concrete structure, complete with traffic. A bridge too far? Oh, well… tomorrow is another day.
The morning of the 13th brought snow, but it stopped during our late-ish breakfast. My plan was to visit Fushimi Inari Taisha and maybe one other location, time permitting. Time didn’t permit – no-one told me that the shrine complex extends up a hill and needs at least 2 hours to complete the circuit!
A sign proudly states that the shrine complex was voted the most popular destination in Kyoto among overseas tourists in 2014. Each to their own, I guess.
There were other places I would have liked to visit, and I really needed more time for those unplanned “stumble upon” experiences. I just hope I don’t have to wait another 25 years for my next Kyoto visit!
Many thanks to my sister and niece, without whom this trip wouldn’t have happened.