I began my second day in Kyoto in Arashiyama, a quiet district in the western outskirts of the city. The area has been popular since the the eighth century, when nobles would enjoy its natural beauty. I started the morning at Togetsukyo Bridge, which is supposed to offer a nice view of the surrounding landscape. However, there had been a typhoon in Japan just a few days prior and the river below was completely brown. Still, it wasn’t a huge disappointment and I soon moved on to Tenryuji Temple.
Tenryuji is ranked among Kyoto’s five great Zen temples and was founded in the fourteenth century. Besides its impressive temple building, the complex also contains beautiful gardens and walking paths.
Close to Jojakkoji but even more nestled into the forest was Gioji Temple. This temple had an amazing moss garden that made it seem like it was something out of Middle Earth or Narnia. It had an incredible otherworldly quality to it.
After Gioji, I wondered through the Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street. The buildings in this street are preserved in the style of the Meiji Period (19th century) and many of the private residences have been converted into interesting shops and restaurants.
Beyond Saga-Toriimoto Street was the astonishing Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple. This temple is famous for its 1200 stone statues of rakan, devoted followers of Buddhism, each with a different facial expression. The temple covers part of a forested mountain slope and is quite a peaceful place. While Shonte and I were there, there were no other visitors, which added to the temple’s quiet mystical atmosphere.
Near Otagi Nenbutsuji was our final stop in Arashiyama, Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple. This was another impressive site, founded in the early ninth century. A famous monk placed stone statues for the souls of the dead there.
From Arashiyama, we traveled to Nijo Castle, built in the 17th century as the Kyoto residence of the shogun, the hereditary military governor of Japan during the feudal era. Nijo Castle is considered the best surviving example of feudal Japanese castle palace architecture. The castle interior was quite impressive, as were its expansive gardens and grounds.
My final stop for the day was Kiyomizudera Temple, Kyoto’s most famous site and one of the most celebrated temples in all of Japan. It was founded in the eighth century in the wooded hills east of Kyoto. The temple complex is quite expansive and contains some astounding architectural and natural sights.
The streets in front of Kiyomizudera were filled with stores and shops and I couldn’t resist stopping by one for a steamed bun. I hadn’t had a good one since leaving the United States and I had quite a craving. We also stopped at a soft-serve ice cream place which offered an impressive variety of flavors.
After a cheap dinner nearby, we headed back to our hostel and got a good night’s sleep.
In the morning I took the bullet train back to Tokyo and had a great meal of sushi at one of Tokyo’s top-rated sushi restaurants for lunch. It was quiet and out of the way and provided an authentic Japanese sushi dining experience.
With my belly full of delicious sushi, I made the trip back to Narita airport and boarded a flight back to Busan. It had been another marvelous trip in Japan and I hope I can return again someday.