Prior to the Meiji Restoration, Kyoto was the capital of Japan. When you ask any foreigner about Kyoto, you’re almost absolutely sure that they’ll mention geisha. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of them. I saw two on the streets but it kind of felt intrusive to stick my cameras in their faces. Instead, I’ll write briefly about Kiyomizudera, Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji. At the end of this entry, I’ll also provide some tips when visiting Kyoto.
Kiyomizudera is a Buddhist temple and its present buildings were built in the 1600s. As the temple is located at the top of the hill, we were able to enjoy the city views of Kyoto. It is also a popular spot for autumn viewing but unfortunately we were a tad too early for it. The leaves were still pretty green and it definitely didn’t feel like autumn at all.
During the Edo period, it was a tradition for men to jump of the temple (yes, 13 meters high!!!). It was believed that one’s wish would be granted if they survived. We were told that survival rates were as high as 85%. I’m not too sure if I would rather be dead after jumping off the deck because I’m almost certain that the fall led to permanent injuries or paralysis. Thank goodness the tradition is now prohibited. Maybe a guy in history sacrificed his limbs in the hope that this tradition would no longer be allowed?
Today many people visit the temple and drink from the waterfall for good health, longevity and good grades. I heard that if you drink for all 3 blessings, you’re being too greedy!
Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) was another beautiful attraction that we visited in Kyoto. It’s a Zen Buddhist temple which is one of the most popular buildings in Japan. As these sort of places are usually packed with many visitors, I find it difficult to enjoy and appreciate the history of it while I was there which is a shame, really. I find myself snapping away before the next person pushes me out of the ideal spot and not paying much attention to the “contents”.
Last but not least, we also visited Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) which is also a Zen temple. Unlike Kinkakuji, Ginkakuji doesn’t look as grand. I heard that plans to cover the building with silver foil was never relished and its current state is pretty much the same as it was remembered by the founder. No idea how true this is since the building is relatively old!
When you enter the grounds of the temple, it is quite hard to miss the sand garden. It is no ordinary sand garden. It’s a garden with sand packed tightly and neatly.
There is also a wishing pond on the temple grounds.
We were very selective of what to see in Kyoto since Daniel has been there before. It is definitely a culturally and historically rich city and for those interested in these aspects, you’re in the right place! Unfortunately we ran out of time and couldn’t visit Fushimi-inari.
Getting around Kyoto is absolutely simple even if you don’t know any Japanese. Announcements on buses are made in Japanese, English, Mandarin and Korean. I wonder how much they’ve invested in the tourism industry! There is a tourist information center at Kyoto station and the staff speak various languages too. Here is a link to public transportation in Kyoto.
The easiest way to get around Kyoto is by bus. You can get a day pass for unlimited bus rides for 500yen (well worth the money if you take more than 3 rides). If you prefer to pay by cash, please ensure that you have the exact change of 220yen. Buses in Kyoto are well overcrowded (makes me think that there is no safety regulations in place or that they are absolutely sure that it’s super safe to pack THAT many people on the buses).
This is probably the most comprehensive get around Kyoto bus information. It tells you what buses to take, where to take them from and where to get off. Brilliant!