After a day in Tokyo, it was time to take the two hour ride on a bullet train down to Kyoto. Kyoto was the imperial capital of Japan for more than one thousand years and contains many of the country’s most famous and important historical sites. Today it is a city of about 1.5 million.
After we arrived in Kyoto, our first stop was one of its most famous places, Kinkakuji. Kinkaku, the Golden Pavilion, is a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha and was first built in the 14th century. The golden building is quite stunning as it sits in contrast to its surroundings. I can imagine it must look truly spectacular in the fall or winter. Although the building looks of a piece, each layer is in fact constructed in a different architectural style.
Surrounding Kinkakuji are beautiful gardens and other buildings for worship. There is also a beautifully minimalistic teahouse called Sekkatei, meaning “Place of Evening Beauty.”
After Kinkakuji, we walked to the nearby Ryoanji Temple, a zen Buddhist site which is famous for its rock garden. The simple and meditative rock garden was built in the 16th century. Rock gardens are so minimalistic that they can take some work to appreciate, but if you take the time to sit and silently observe them, they can be very rewarding.
Following Ryoanji, we made our way to Ninnaji Temple. This temple was founded in the 9th century, although most of the surviving buildings date from the 17th century. The temple complex contains several beautiful buildings and some stunning gardens. I would love to live in a house designed in the style of parts of Ninnaji. Certain buildings showcase the natural beauty of unpainted wood, contrasted with greenery and gardens around every corner.
Our last stop for the day would be Fushimi Inari Shrine, a Shinto shrine in the mountains of Kyoto dedicated to the worship of Inari, the god of rice and agriculture. This shrine was certainly the most amazing site of my trip so far. The central buildings of the shrine were very impressive but even more so were the endless paths up the mountainside lined with bright orange pillars and leading to many smaller shrines. The place had an air of mystery and beauty about it that was only enhanced by the warm light of the setting sun.
After our visit to the shrine we traveled back to Kyoto station, which is an impressive piece of modern architecture. We had some ramen for dinner and then made our way to our hostel for the night. The next day would have many more beautiful sights in store.