Kyoto is a city filled with countless temples, shrines and other historically significant buildings.
It was Japan’s capital and the emperor’s residence from 794 until 1868. Over the centuries, many wars and fires destroyed Kyoto, but due to its historic value, the city was dropped from the list of target cities for the atomic bomb and spared from air raids during World War II.
I met up with my friend Michael in Shinjuku station in Tokyo where we boarded the night bus to Kyoto. Although it wasn’t the best way to travel it was cheap and you could at least sleep a bit.
We got to Kyoto early morning and locked our bags up at the station and
immediately started our exploration of the city. We bought a local bus pass for the 4 days we planned on spending here. By taking buses rather than the tube we would definitely get to see a bit more of the city.
Our first stop was Sanjusangendo temple in eastern Kyoto, which is famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. It was breathtaking!!! The temple was founded in 1164 and its present structures date from 1266.
The main hall, which houses the statues, is over 100 meters long and in its centre sits one large Kannon, flanked on each side by 500 smaller statues. They stand in neat rows side by side, each as tall as a human being. The only let down was that we were not allowed to take any photographs inside the building.
Our next temple stop was Kiyomizu Temple situated in the wooded hills of eastern Kyoto. Kiyomizudera (“Pure Water Temple”) is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan, it was founded in 780.
Part of the fun of visiting Kiyomizudera was the approach to the temple along the steep and busy lanes of the atmospheric Higashiyama district. The lanes were filled with many shops and restaurants catering to tourists and pilgrims. Products on sale ranged from local specialties such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets and pickles to the standard set of souvenirs.
Kiyomizudera offers us a lovely view over the city from its famous wooden terrace. Below the terrace, I got to taste a bit of the spring water, which gives the temple its name and which is said to have healing power. I had to stand in line for this but wasn’t going to let the chance for good health this coming season slip through my fingers.
Behind Kyomizudera’s main hall stands Jishu Shrine, a shrine dedicated to the deity of love. In front of the shrine are two rocks, placed several meters apart from each other. Successfully walking from one to the other rock with your eyes closed is said to bring luck in your love live. I don’t have much balance so needless to say I ended up walking a bit skew and missed the second rock. But on the second try I got it right, I figured you should have at least 3 chances to get it right.
Ginkakuji temple Our last stop on our very long first day was Ginkakuji temple. It was a temple made completely out of silver but unfortunately we couldn’t see it as it was being renovated and was covered by scaffolding.
Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion, is a Zen temple at the foot of Kyoto’s Higashiyama (“eastern mountains”). In 1482, shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa built his retirement villa on the grounds of today’s temple. A few years later, the Silver Pavilion, modeled after Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), was constructed.
Tired and smelly we headed of to the hostel. K`s Hostel. Undoubtedly the best hostel I’ve been in so far. I had a lovely shower and then we headed into town for some good sushi!