Journeys in Japan, Part 7: Kyoto, Day 2

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.



The muddy water below Togetsukyo Bridge.

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.


Tenryuji Temple.


Koi, koi, koi!

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Beautiful bamboo behind Tenryuji.

IMG_0679 IMG_0687 Right beside Tenryuji were peaceful and beautiful bamboo groves. The sunlight streaming through the tall bamboo stalks created a particularly beautiful effect.


Entering the bamboo groves.

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Next it was on to Jojakkoji, a small mountainside temple founded in the 16th century. The temple had a quiet and understated atmosphere, with gorgeous maple trees and moss throughout the grounds.


Sign outside Jojakkoji Temple.



The first sign of fall.


The entrance to Jojakkoji.

IMG_0739 IMG_0744 IMG_0748 IMG_0749 IMG_0755 IMG_0757 IMG_0762 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.


Otherworldly Gioji Temple.

IMG_0783 IMG_0787 IMG_0790 IMG_0793 IMG_0795 IMG_0801 IMG_0806 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.


An interesting shop on Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street.



A Shinto roadside offering.

IMG_0821 IMG_0824 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.


The approach to Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple.


The many faces of Otagi Nenbutsuji.


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The interior of Otagi Nenbutsuji.


Writing on the back of the statues.


One of the fearsome guardians of Otagi Nenbutsuji.

IMG_0916 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.


At Adashino Nenbutsuji.



An unusually round structure, something you don’t see often in traditional Japanese architecture.

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Lunch time!

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.


The moat of Nijo Castle.


The impressive entrance to Nijo.


Beautiful Nijo gardens.



Fish swimming with the light.

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The Nijo Castle grounds from above.

IMG_1001 After Nijo, it was off to Heian Shrine. This Shinto shrine only dates back to the nineteenth century but is still impressive for its architectural beauty.


The entrance to Heian Shrine.


Prayer slips.

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The white tree was made of many slips of white paper with prayers on them.

IMG_1041 IMG_1048 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 entrance to Kiyomizudera Temple.

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A beautiful view from Kiyomizudera.


The main hall of Kiyomizudera.


A beautiful view of Kyoto from Kiyomizudera.

The grounds behind the temple were also beautiful and provided some excellent views of the temple from afar. IMG_1119


Light from the setting sun creating a neat effect on trees near Kiyomizudera.


Looking up at Kiyomizudera from below.


The Otowa Waterall. Its waters are divided into three separate streams and visitors use cups attached to long poles to drink from them. Each stream’s water is said to have a different benefit, but drinking from all three streams is considered greedy!

IMG_1133 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.


The streets in front of Kiyomizudera.



A delicious steamed bun!


An impressive array of soft-serve ice cream flavors.

After a cheap dinner nearby, we headed back to our hostel and got a good night’s sleep.


Good night, Kyoto.

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.


A delicious lunch of sushi in Tokyo.


Miso soup.

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.


Goodybe, Japan!


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