North West Kyoto
This was our first day in Kyoto after all day Shinkansen trip from Aizu.
The night before (shortly before the office closed) we dropped by the Kyoto
Tourist Information Center and picked up some maps. We also booked a
Goodwill Guide for the next day to help us see the city. The goodwill
guide (a young Political Science student from the University) was a great
guide and showed us a number of excellent sites
Having seen Nikko and knowing knowing more temples were coming up, we were
quite excited to see a castle. Nijo-jo Castle was built in 1603 to
hold Tokugawa Shogun Iemitsu (and they hand out English information sheets.)
The castle itself has two moats and two sets of walls. Once you get
inside the first walls (look for the colorful Koy as you walk over the moat)
you see Ninomaru Palace - where court was held.
The palace is both practical and beautiful. One of their claims to
fame is the nightingale floors - floors that squeak when you walk on them.
The inner rooms are surrounding by the squeaky floors and any intruder would
make noise (and hopefully awake a guard) when they crossed the floors.
The inner rooms are set up with mock court settings (including beautifully
outfitted mannequins) and the screens are original paintings.
The temple grounds are beautiful. We were lucky enough to be there
during the cherry blossom season.
Golden Pavilion: Rokuon-Ji Temple
I am so glad we visited the Golden Pavilion. This must be the worlds
first tourist enterprise. The Pavilion is visible from most angles
and almost any view is beautiful. The place was swarming with tourists
and school students, all trying to get the perfect shot of loved ones with
the temple in the background. We would up helping a few parties take
You start quite far from the temple and walk around closer and closer.
Each floor of the temple is done in a different style. The first (not
gold) is palace style, named Ho-sui-in. The second floor is in the
style of a samurai house and is called Cho-on-do. The third story is
in Zen Temple Style and is called Kukkyo-cho.
Zen Rock Garden: Ryoanji Temple
After the Golden Temple, I figured I'd seen the best of Kyoto. The
Zen Rock Garden was a pleasant surprise - while not so flashy, it's a deeper
Japanese experience. The rock garden is set up so you sit on the one
side and try to see all the stones in the garden. Some rocks will obscure
others depending on where you sit. The Zen aspect is to try and see
all 15 stones - impossible until you reach a state of Zen enlightenment (or
get 15 feet tall.)
The temple itself has wonderful Japanese details. Beyond having to
take your shoes off before getting on the platform, and the smell of the
wood beams, several adornments (including these bells) really stood out.
After trying to wrap our brains around 15 stones, we went for walk in the
traditional gardens. The moss garden was beautiful (reminded me of
home in some ways), and the pond accented the surrounding hills.
Drinks Under the Blossoms: Ninna-ji
At this point it's 3pm and we are tired of walking and site seeing.
Our guide came through for us again - a few minuet walk south is the Ninna-ji
temple. This temple doesn't offer tours or relics - it offers beer!
At this time of the year it's traditional to sit under the cherry (or apple)
blossoms and drink. Drink we did.
After a full day of sight seeing and touring, we returned to our Japanese
style inn (and evening bath) and slept well.
Tags: Japan(15), temple(8), garden(7), architectural decoration(4), cherry blossoms(4), castle(2)
People: Jesse(2), Sean(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > A Trip to Japan > North West Kyoto
Last Modified Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 at 00:36:13 Edit
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