Photos in Kyoto

Hi blog.

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…

Ah, Kyoto.

Everyone who is someone, or even anyone, in Japan has been there.

Ryoma was here.

That soy sauce could kill you…

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.

The main entrance to the Yasaka Shrine from the street.

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.

One of the horned guardians of the Yasaka Shrine.

You can see the horn more clearly in this shot.

(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!)

Komainu or Kirin?


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!

Pagoda visible from the Yasaka Slope.

OK, I lied… I got this shot of an onigawara at Kiyomizu. Many temples have their own unique onigawara.


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.

The main pavilion at Ginkakuji… it’s not silver!

Now, that’s a sandcastle! The Kogetsudai is said to be to reflect the moonlight, or to represent Mt. Fuji.

The main pavilion viewed from across the sand garden.

The garden and pond.

Raked sand.

The pavilion viewed from the hill.

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.

Sand art…

… and more sand art.


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.

he main gate to Kinkakuji.

The main pavilion from across the pond.

Closer up.

You can see the phoenix on the roof.


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.

The main Ryoanji building with onigawara.

The famous rock garden at Ryoanji.

♫ I am a rock, I am an island ♪

“Enlightenment?” “Nah, it’s just a bunch of rocks.”

I reckon I was just about the only person who noticed this door post decoration. Everyone else was distracted by the rocks!

On a pleasant day I could just sit and watch these for hours.  I almost did.


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.

Pagoda at Ninnaji.

One of the gates.

Nio statue.


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.

World’s tallest grass?

I think no-one else thought to stop and photograph the bamboo until I did.


Next was Tenryuji, a large temple with a nice garden and large pond.  Here, many of the plants were labelled – how thoughtful!

The pond at Tenryuji. Yes, that is my finger in the top-left corner.


Some pretty cool rocks at Tenryuji.

A gnarly red pine.


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.

Anyone for bridge? Togekkyo.


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!

The main shrine torii and building at Fushimi Inari.

A fox guardian. Inari either manifests as a fox, or foxes are his servants.

And so it begins… the hundreds of torii gates.

Mini shrines everywhere.

Mossy fox.

There were the occasional Buddhist deities…

… and occasional toads.

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.





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3 Responses to Photos in Kyoto

  1. njmagas says:

    Fushimi Inari is so much nicer in the summer. Hotter, but way less people, and you can take the climb at your own pace. The view is nicer too, with the torii starkly contrasted by the blue sky.

    Come back to Kyoto soon! 🙂

    • wildinjapan says:

      I hope to!

      When the news about the heavy snowfall came, all I could imagine was getting nice shots of Ginkakuji in the snow.

      • njmagas says:

        I was so disappointed I was out of the country during that snowfall! The last time it snowed that much was five years ago–our first year in Japan. We were told that Kyoto gets a big dump about every five years, but this year we went home for the holidays and missed it!

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