2018 © K. W. Bridges & Nancy Furumoto www.kimbridges.com email@example.com
Viewing Notes • This photolog consists of four parts. • The layout is designed for double-page spreads. • Some pictures span two pages. A black page background color indicates that an image is split between two pages. Picture Information • All of the photos were taken by K. W. Bridges and Nancy Furumoto between November 22 and 27, 2017. • We used a combination of Google Pixel 2XL phones and a Sony RX1R II camera to take the photos. • Photo processing was done with Adobe Photoshop. • Composite panoramas (of which there are many) were created using Kolor Autopano Giga 4.4 Acknowledgements • Cindy Howland-Hodson helped with the editing. She has a sharp eye and a great command of the language. We’re greatly indebted to her. • We relied on many Internet websites for information. We appreciate the efforts of many businesses and government agencies in creating and maintaining information about travel in Japan, especially for peak tourist seasons. • Chris Rowthorn’s InsideKyoto.com website was especially valuable. We used his recommendations to craft an itinerary prior to coming to Japan. Without his advice, we would have missed many key sights.
Organization This is a long document. It is divided into four parts, each about the same length, for convenience. The places visited are listed on the next two pages. They are grouped for each part in the order in which we went to the places. This map of Kyoto, Japan, provides a general spatial context for our explorations. The areas of daily activities, corresponding to the parts of this document, are shown on the map.
Kamo River 162
Part 3 Part 2
Kyoto Station 9
Shinkansen Tokaido Route
Part 1 Distance Walked: 4.6 miles Wednesday & Thursday – Honolulu To Japan Honolulu Sky Club JR Train Office Tokyo Station Shinagawa Station InterContinental The Strings The Dining Room
Part 2 Distance Walked: 6.2 miles Saturday – Southern Higashiyama Kiyomizu-dera Temple Inoda Coffee Kodai-ji Temple Ryozen Kannon Temple Otani Shrine Chion-in Temple Maruyama Park Yasaka Shrine Shoren-in Temple Minami-za Gion Uokeya U
Friday – Tokyo to Kyoto & More Shinagawa Station Kyoto Terminal JR Office Tourist Information Office Citadines Sobanomi Yoshimura Keihan Station Fushimi Inari Shrine Tofuku-ji Temple Tsuten-Kyo Bridge Kamo River CoCo Ichibanya Karasuma Gojo Co.
Part 3 Distance Walked: 6.6 miles Sunday – Northern Higashiyama Nanzen-ji Temple Nanzen-in Temple Nanzen-ji Temple Dojo My Garden Eikan-do Zenrin-ji Temple Philosopher’s Walk Honen-in Temple Ginkaku-ji Temple The 24 Hour Meat Shop
Part 4 Distance Walked: 6.4 miles Monday – Western Mountains Kyoto Station Katsura River Bamboo Forest Tenryu-ji Temple Nonomiya Temple Dangoro Cafe Gio-ji Temple Gion Manzara Tuesday – Travel Day Kyoto Station Tokyo Station Narita Airport Terminal 1 Muji To Go Kabuki Gate Sky Club
Total Distance Walked: 23.8 miles
Red is always there Winter chases green away Ěś Watch the falling leaf
Anticipation A lot of planning has gone into this trip. It’s not just that we’re going to a foreign country. We’ve been to Japan. This time, the details are important. There is only a short period to catch the autumn splendor. That’s our goal. View Japan’s fall foliage. Japanese flock to see two phenological events; cherry blossoms in the spring and maple leaves in the autumn. Kyoto is an epicenter of tourism during these botanical events. The guidebooks predict many people doing what we plan to do. Temples and shrines, the places considered best for viewing, will fill with spectators. The Shinkansen (“bullet train”) connects Tokyo to Kyoto. Two hours between the cities. This fast train makes it practical for urbandwellers to slip south from the big city for foliage viewing. That’s convenient. You can pick the day near the peak color for your outing. No worry about a place to stay. Take a quick trip at the right time. It’s not so easy for us. We must arrange travel and the associated logistics in advance. We’ll select a date and hope that Mother Nature’s phenological calendar is in sync with ours.
The date for the best viewing of Autumn colors varies from north to south. The place we’re headed is predicted to have good color from mid to late November. That’s just when we’ll be there.
Decision time. Thanksgiving weekend works. Nancy will miss only a few days at the office. Past foliage peaks for our destination corresponds to these dates, too. That sets our travel schedule; leave on November 22 (Wednesday in Hawaii), arrive in Japan on Thursday, spend Friday to Monday in Kyoto, and return home on Tuesday. We lose a day heading to Asia and retrieve it on Tuesday’s eastbound trip. We’ll have a short period to capture the sights. So many temples and shrines. So little time. The next concern is the weather. Japan gets very soaky wet in the fall. We’re prepared for foul weather as we always carry rain gear. But big storms are beyond what we can handle. So, fingers crossed that the skies are clear during our short stay. As usual, we’ve been checking forecasts. Things appear OK sometimes; other days they look iffy. We have settled the structural logistics. Time to pack our bags. Tomorrow is our departure. We reserved a taxi for an 8 AM pickup. That was prudent. The news reports suggest that Wednesday in Honolulu will be a very busy travel day. The advice: arrive at the airport four hours before an international flight. We’re not taking this suggestion; three hours is OK. It is smart to get lots of sleep before a long flight. Sometimes that is easier to imagine than to accomplish. We both spent a restless night. Sleepless in Honolulu.
Wednesday & Thursday: Honolulu to Japan Up at 6 AM. Time for coffee. Do the last minute things. Remaining task: take the electronic gear off the charger. Then down to get the taxi. It is a short ride to the airport. Our usual inside-the-airport route is straight to the TSA check-point. Today, we’ve got to show our passports to the airline agent before entering security. That’s simple. Done. The TSA lines are short. Weren’t there going to be gobs of people here today? It takes but a few moments to pass through security and into Delta’s Sky Club. Friendly faces greet us in the lounge. The usual chit-chat at the reception desk. Next stop: coffee and breakfast. Potato salad, bean salad, and a little fruit. Followed by chili-and-rice (Kim) and chicken soup (Nancy). They serve meals aboard so we need not eat much. Time to head to the gate. We’re flying out of Gate 17, not one we’ve used in recent years. Combine that with all the Asian faces and this trip is already feeling different. We board and store our bags. Our seats are up front on this flight; 5B/C. These are great as they reconfigure to a lie-flat position with the touch of a button. They come with a big, fluffy blanket and a full-size pillow. This is perfect for a nap.
The plane leaves HNL with wheels up near our scheduled departure time (11:20 AM). The climb to altitude is smooth. We’ve looked ahead at the weather across the Pacific. Satellite images show only a few bands of rainfall. They are far away at this point. It should be an easy trip. Our Pacific-crossing will take around eight hours. We’ll arrive a half hour before schedule, according to the captain. The crew gave us a large menu early in the flight. There are two basic choices for the lunch meal. Asian or Western style. We went for the Western, perhaps because there was much more demand for Japanese food (given the mix of passengers). Next choice: fish or beef? Fish for Nancy and beef for Kim. It’s fun to compare the offerings. When the food arrived, we saw that both were good choices. Airline fare gets too many poor reviews. These are great meals.
Full and happy. Let’s watch a video. The screens on this plane (B767) are smaller than those we’ve had on recent international flights (e.g., Airbus). They are adequate. Movie is finished. Time for a long nap, stretching out on these very comfortable lie-flat seats. This is a luxury. The airline menu says three food services. We have eaten one. The next service is cold Soba noodles. We sleep through it. That’s OK. We’re still full from the first course. Enough napping. There is plenty of time to read. We’ve both downloaded the Lonely Planet book for Kyoto. It’s easy to skim on our (new) Pixel 2 XL phones. We anticipated this trip when we bought these smartphones. This model has an excellent camera and there is lots of RAM for photo and document storage. That’s perfect for this trip. Our final in-flight meal is a Korean dish with rice. Good food. Full, again.
We pass through an area of heavy weather bands and get a short bumpy ride. Near Narita, we hit the second front. This happens as we are descending in the final approach. The plane bounces around more this time. It doesn't last long. We are lucky. Turbulence isn’t fun. A few minutes later we’re on the ground. We’ve made it to Japan. And we are early, as the captain predicted. The only luggage we carry is a backpack and shoulder bag. That lets us leave the plane’s cabin quickly and start the lengthy walk to border-crossing formalities. We are ahead of the rest of the passengers at this point. The first stop; an immigration “machine,” has a short line. We don’t wait long. They scan our two index fingers and take a photo. Next event: the immigration agent. He does a passport inspection and requests a re-do of the fingerprint and camera routine. Quick. Efficient. We can walk through the baggage arrival section. No need to pause as we are carrying everything; no checked luggage for us! We surprise the customs official by traveling so light. Just a few more steps. We are in the terminal.
Now we’re really in Japan. First task: withdraw Yen from an ATM. We see a machine and we both use our debit cards. Nancy’s card works. Kim’s bank says “no.” Bummer. But we’ve got enough money to get started. Next stop is the JR Train office. We need to validate our five-day JR pass and make train reservations. This requires filling out a form and waiting for an open counter. Our agent speaks English, although her voice is soft and hard to hear. Very friendly and helpful service. Tickets in hand, we head to the nearby platform. It is a half-hour wait for the N’EX (Narita Express) train. Signs show how well-organized travel is in Japan. Overhead displays update with arrival information. They also show where each car stops. We bought “Green Seat” passes and the tickets specify the train and car number, along with the seat. Floor markings guide you to stand at a specific place to enter. After our long flight it is good to have simple, clear instructions. The signs are informative. No ambiguity here. That’s important for tired travelers. The N’EX is a modern train. There is great attention to detail. An attendant cleans the car and rotates the seats. Everyone gets to face forward. Attention to detail. We remember that from our previous trip. It is nice to see.
Our train arrives and we have ample time to get settled. The N’EX trip from NRT to Shinagawa takes around an hour. It is near sunset as we leave. The result is that you see the passing landscape as shades of gray. Here and there, bright neon lights splash color on the drab-appearing buildings. We can see lots of tall apartment complexes in the cities as we speed along this route. There is a repeating pattern of towns and farmlands. A thick layer of fog covers some fields. That’s a surprise. Does this observation give a hint regarding the upcoming weather? We roll into a megalopolis. The train stops at Tokyo Station and, after a short pause, moves on across the city to Shinagawa, today’s destination.
The Shinagawa Station is huge. We prepared ahead by looking at the terminal maps. Our hotel is close. Knowing the basic route gets us through the crowds with confidence. Good reinforcement. Our planning has helped with the travel complexities. Once outside, we can see the tall buildings surrounding Shinagawa Station. It is easy to spot our destination, thanks to having seen how it looks on Google Street View. It is a short walk to the hotel entrance. An elevator takes us to the 26th floor. After wandering, we find the check-in desk. Deep sigh. We’ve finished the day’s travel. We’ve come a long way. This is InterContinental’s The Strings. What a strange name. The hotel occupies seven floors at the top of a large building. A woman staff member shows us to our room. A detailed explanation of everything is in order. She shows us the room’s “hidden” features. We’re too tired to discover things ourselves. It is good to get a demonstration. This is a modern hotel. We sort of remember Toto toilets from a previous trip. They are now a de rigueur fixture in all Japanese hotel rooms. A toilet with a lot of features. OK. Let’s not try them now.
It is now about 6 PM, local time. That’s 11 PM in Honolulu. We’re weary but feel the need for food. The alternatives are to go hunting around the terminal (which has lots of meal choices) or to eat in the hotel’s restaurant. We saw the dining area from the walkway next to our room. Easy decision: head to the lobby. We’ll have a bite at “The Dining Room.” There aren't many people eating in the hotel restaurant. Is this a good idea? The display menu lists a $25 hamburger. That’s about right. Let’s give the restaurant a try. We’re seated and given a menu. Quick scan. The price of a hamburger is $100. What? To be fair, it’s not the same hamburger as we saw listed at the entrance. But we’re startled. For the record, here is what we saw on the menu. 45 days-aged black haired Miyazaki beef sirloin steak and Matsutake mushroom burger. ¥10,000. How very Japanese.
The question again: is it a mistake to eat here? It is too late to change our mind. Time to order. Nancy selects butterfish and Kim opts for salmon. We’d get a bottle of wine, but the limited choices are expensive. And we’re tired. So we ask for a glass each of Rothschild Pinot Grigio ($16). [Later, when we looked at the bill, we realize that the cost was not as unreasonable as we thought. Dinner here was a good idea.] There is a unique item we spotted on the beverages menu. For $40/person, you get two hours of all-you-can-drink. Your choice of refreshment. They call it a “free flowing” choice. Another nice Japanese touch. The quality of our meals is excellent. The atmosphere is nice, too. Empty tables filled. A nice surprise: this is a popular restaurant. Today is Thanksgiving in the US. Here, it is also a Japanese holiday. A cross between Thanksgiving and Labor Day. That may explain the restaurant’s popularity. Back to the room. The lights are on in Tokyo. Magical. Close the curtains. The hotel room is quiet and dark. Our bodies know it’s 1 AM. Sleep comes quickly.
Friday: Tokyo to Kyoto & More Weâ€™re up early. This gives us lots of time. Maybe we can explore Shinagawa Station. Nancy makes coffee. We shower. Dress. Open the curtains. Take a daylight look at Tokyo. A great sunrise view of this huge city. We can even see the river through the spaces between buildings.
Then we realize we are not early. We’re right on schedule. Woops. It is time to move. Let’s gather our stuff and go to the desk to check out. Our hotel is nearby the station. As we head to the Shinkansen platform, we pass by a huge stream of commuters. This is a weekday. These people work in the nearby office buildings. Lots of pedestrians. Most dressed in black. At one point we cross through this horde of suit-clad walkers. Weaving between the somber-faced salary-men is difficult. We have our tickets, so we head into the terminal. We’re a half-hour early. This gives us time to stop at a kiosk and buy takeout food and a beverage. That will be our breakfast. The display case presents choices and we tell the vendor what we want by number. This procedure works well. Nancy gets a bento box and Kim goes for the tiny sandwiches. We grab two cans of hot coffee. They keep coffee in a small heated showcase. Clever. Food in hand, we’re off to the departure platform. We watch the high-speed trains come and go, each right on schedule. The trains stay briefly. You’ve got to be ready and lined up at the proper spot. It is easy to do. The signs are very informative. We get on our train. It rolls, ever so smoothly, out of the station. We head south.
This is a Hikari Shinkansen. There is a faster bullet train. We can’t use it with our JR pass. That’s OK. Our train is nearly as fast. We speed through suburban Japan as we head toward Kyoto. Two to four story houses, industrial buildings, or small agricultural fields cover the landscape. Larger cities have some taller apartment or office buildings. Most homes are small. Narrow streets. Close packing. Our seats are on the left side. We view snippets of the ocean. Large rivers, too. The big mountains are to the west. That’s on the opposite side.
We’re here to view the fall foliage. We strain to spot red and yellow leaves. There weren’t any colored trees seen on the N’EX trip from Narita yesterday. This morning we saw one reddish tree below our hotel. As we go south, more color shows on the hillsides. That’s very encouraging. Perhaps we got the phenological timing right.
Hungry. Get out the purchases made at the Shinagawa Station. Buying food was a good move. People eat as they commute. We join them and gobble up our carry-out fare. A train â€œhostessâ€? provides packages of wet towels (another Japanese thing). Later, she comes by and takes our trash. The system works well. Train travel and grab-and-go meals fit together.
A quick check of a GPS app. The Shinkansen’s pace is a steady 160 MPH. We’re zipping south! It is a smooth ride. The countryside changes as we get closer to Kyoto. Now, most houses are two-story. These are gray buildings with tile roofs. We spot a few solar farms. Some are large, with hundreds to maybe thousands of panels. These energy installations are not common. We see them here and there. A few wind turbines, too. The forests, and sometimes the cities, have trees with reds and yellow leaves. Now, they are muted tones. Perhaps these are not the temple-variety maples. Are we too late? Are the bright colors fading? Hard to tell. Details get lost with the speed of the train. Snow covers the tops of some high peaks. Winter is coming. How soon will the snowline reach the valley? Two hours of scenery-packed travel passes quickly. Our station is announced. Stops are short. Be prepared. We grab our gear and wait by the exit. A few minutes pass. The train door opens. Then we’re out. Kyoto!
We’re in the huge Kyoto Terminal. Our first priority is to take care of some business in the terminal. We are not heading back north on the Shinkansen until Tuesday. It’s best to reserve seats now. That ties down an important detail. Getting tickets requires we find the JR office. It turns out to be easy. We line up to secure our reservations. Soon, we have tickets in hand. This is a cavernous terminal. There are fifteen floors, a few of them below ground. An underground shopping center? That’s interesting. This isn’t the time to explore. We’ll come back another time and poke around.
Our next task is to find the Tourist Information Office. This is where you buy subway/bus passes. It doesn’t take too long. Signs point to the location. It is a small office with a lot of tourist literature. People pack the place. We don’t need information. We just need customer service to sell us some passes. Patience. A short wait in line and we get a few pairs of two-day passes. This covers our transit around Kyoto. Next adventure: find the subway. A Google map helps. It gets us started. We proceed with confidence we are going the right direction. Head out of the terminal. Go down an escalator. That’s what the signs show. Now we’re in a shopping mall. That’s not too surprising. Big cities have underground malls. But where is the subway? Walk more. Look at the signs. At last. An arrow points toward the platform. Relief. We’ve figured out a key part of the system. The train heading north arrives. We board. It’s a short ride to our destination.
We reserved a hotel near a transportation route. Citadines, the name of our hotel, is just a few doors away from the subway station. That’s very convenient. It is noon and we’ve made it to the hotel. We know that we’re too early to check-in. Our plan is simple. We’ll store our luggage, go sightseeing, and do the hotel formalities later. Happy surprise. They are ready for us even though we’re here well before the normal check-in time. Now we can put our bags in the room. It also gives us a chance to get organized. Now, let’s head back out. We have things to do. There are places to visit this afternoon.
It is mid-day. That means lunch. Food is important. We’ll need energy to power us through our sightseeing agenda. Nancy searched on-line before we came to Kyoto and found a “noodle” place next to our hotel. That’s perfect. Let’s go there. The location is convenient. This might be a great choice, as eating noodles in Kyoto is high on our To Do List. Sobanomi Yoshimura is in a “rustic” building. We’re sent upstairs. Just a few tables here. We sit at one that is empty. They bring wet towels and tea. This is a common practice in Japanese restaurants.
We order cold soba and tempura, along with a beer. It doesnâ€™t take long for our orders to arrive. The waiter gives us directions; the liquid goes into the bowl. Then dip the soba. We follow his instructions. A great meal. At the end of the meal, the waiter delivers a pot filled with liquid. More advice. Pour this into the remaining dipping sauce. Drink it. Wonderful. The mystery liquid is miso. This makes a good combination. Big lunch. Full again. We spot a cook making the soba noodles as we leave. It looks very authentic. Sobanomi Yoshimura was a perfect choice. Things are going smoothly! Weâ€™re feeling good.
Two transportation lines run north-south through the city. One, the Karamatsu, is the subway we took to the hotel. The other route, the Keihan, is a few blocks to the east of our hotel. These train lines go parallel to each other, at least in the cityâ€™s central area. We need the Keihan line to reach the shrines and temples in the southeast part of Kyoto. Off we go. It is a short walk along the street and over the river. Then, into the station.
We’ve purchased two-day passes for Kyoto’s bus and subway transport. Nancy sticks her pass into the Keihan Station card reader. It doesn’t work right. Kim tries his with even less success. Soon, a helpful attendant appears. He says something in Japanese. We can’t understand him. More talk. Oh! OK. We get it. Our passes can’t be used on this line. We need to buy tickets. We try the ticket machine. How much do we pay? Long pause. The attendant rescues us again. He punches the keys. We’ve now gotten the needed tickets. It is strange as we thought our passes are valid on all lines. They aren’t. Lesson learned. First hiccup. We head downstairs to the platform. We are going south. That’s where we’ll find the afternoon’s first shrine. The map and the route names are not clear. We think we’ve got it figured out. The train arrives and we board. We’re ready to go. What? The station attendant is at the door. He motions us to get out of the car. OK? He’s seen that we are on the wrong train. He helped us buy the tickets. He knows our destination. And he’s spotted our error. Move to the platform’s other side. The correct train arrives soon. Whew! Now we’re headed in the proper direction. That was close. The attendant’s assistance was well beyond the call of duty. Welcome to Japan! It is a short ride. We are still shaken by the experience.
Weâ€™re back on the street and surrounded by people. This must be the right place. We mingle with the crowd and walk toward the mountains on the east. Shops line the street leading to the shrine. Some vendors have permanent shops. Other places are temporary. Many people are selling souvenirs and snacks from under tents. Think: food. Lots of variety. Things you can eat with your fingers. Many items skewered on sticks, such as grilled meat. It smells great. Excitement surrounds the tents. The vendors are shouting to the crowd. This is interesting but weâ€™ve just eaten. Keep moving. The mass of visitors (read: tourists) heads up toward the mountain. We pass under a few large torii (vermillion-colored gates). We arrive at a shrine complex. Itâ€™s the same color as the torii. The red structures contrast with the green forest. It is a dramatic sight.
This is Fushimi Inari Shrine, the largest Shinto shrine in Japan. Inari is the Shinto god of rice, sake, and money. It is Japanâ€™s most famous shrine, according to websites. This shrine, along with thousands of bright colored torii, is a photo-magnet. It is easy to see why people flock here. The architecture is stunning. The colors are bold and they contrast with the blue of the sky. Even the location contributes to the overall majesty. The shrine is above the city buildings and just below the forest that covers the mountain slopes.
We pass by the main shrine and move with the crowd toward some stairs. A garden, off to the side, grabs our attention. This is our first garden in Kyoto. Nice. Weâ€™ve got a feeling that gardens will be important on this trip. Japanese have long been designing gardens that are distinguished for their beauty.
Pass under a large torii. Then head up the steps. This is where the famous torii archway begins. The torii “gates” form a bright-red tunnel that leads up the hillside. People fill the walkway. Most of the visitors are taking pictures. Watch them; they’ve gotta get that selfie. It is a slow migration. Everyone goes up and up the mountain. We are always under the torii. Many gates are old with faded paint. A few are new. They are closely spaced. Characters written on the side identify the family or business that has purchased the torii.
There are periodic gaps in the line of torii. This provides a space for a shrine. Or a branch in the path. The crowd thins. There are still many people walking with us. Up we all climb. Another opening. This time we see a pond. Some leaves have changed color. A nice view.
Weâ€™ve watched for fall foliage while walking up the mountain. There have not been many maple trees. Fewer than expected. You need to look out through the spaces between gates to spot the trees. Letâ€™s not focus on autumn colors. The colorful torii move us forward. We go higher. Now there are fewer people on the trail. The torii change character. In some places they are small. Other sections have larger gates.
This is where we can head back. That’s a good idea. It is getting late in the afternoon. We have another place to visit. We choose a path although we don’t have much information. It won’t be a torii “tunnel” trail. We’re taking another route. This is a good choice as the trail passes many Shinto shrines. We’re seeing more dark-red colored maple trees, too. This part of the mountain has a special feel. We came to see the torii. We didn’t expect to see these shrines.
We loop back to the place where we started our uphill walk. Now, we need to run the food vendor gauntlet again. Smell the food. Watch people eating while on the go. We’ve got no time to indulge. There is strong motivation to get to the next sightseeing destination. We need more confirmation that we’re in Kyoto at the right time for a good display of autumn foliage. Should we go by train (just one stop to the north)? Let’s walk. There are interesting side streets and it should be as fast as taking the train. Maybe we’ll see some colorful maple trees as we walk through the neighborhoods.
Our next destination is Tofuku-ji Temple. We are alone on our crosstown trek. Other tourists have taken the train. Before, we followed the crowd. Now, we are walking by ourselves on the side streets. It’s harder to navigate. Finally, we see people ahead of us. This provides confidence we’re going the right direction. Sure enough, we soon find an entrance to the temple. We cross the grounds. Whoa! There is a huge wooden structure directly ahead. The sign says this is Japan’s oldest temple gate. Wow. The Shinto shrines are brightly colored. This temple gate has a patina of dark, old wood. That’s a big difference. We’ve been seeing Shinto structures. This is Buddhist.
Walk more. Look at the colorful trees. Yes, we’re getting more color here. Maple trees with bright-colored leaves are now popping up everywhere. Finally. There is not much guidance as we walk across the Tofuku-ji Temple grounds. Should we go up a side street? Why not? The street heads up-slope through cemetery terraces. These must be the resting places of Buddhist monks. The memorials are well kept. Lot of fresh flowers in pots. It is a quiet place. It is special. We’re glad we got off the main track to see it. Turn around. It is time to head back to rejoin the other people. We know that there is more to see at this temple. It is a famous place and it ranks high on the list of visitor attractions for autumn-foliage viewing. Look for the crowd. That’s where we’ll find the action.
A big crowd is moving our direction. Are we going the wrong way? Never mind. Keep going toward the main area with the large gathering of visitors. Look over there. A sign says you can buy tickets ($4). A purchase like this must mean that it gives entry to a significant attraction. Easy decision. Indeed, the tickets let us into the temple garden.
There are lots of colorful trees here. We’ve stumbled into the right place. We’re not alone. Soon, we join a mass of people moving through the garden. Look at all the trees. The leaves have turned color. Some are darkred. A few are yellow. Others are less vivid. Each contributes to the overall beauty. The sun is nearing the golden hour. This enhances the hues. The temple grounds fill a valley. The trail descends to a stream. You cross the water on a small bridge. Climb up the other side. Then pause at a Zen garden. Continue on the path. Go slow. There’s so much to see. This is why we came to Kyoto. Walk across Tsuten-Kyo Bridge. It is a covered structure that spans the valley. This gives an overview of the landscape of this Buddhist temple. The middle of the walkway is a popular photo location. Very popular. Images taken from this spot are famous. This is the iconic fall scene. Look. There are signs here. They are everywhere. All the signs say “no photos.” We watch the selfie-addicts ignore the prohibition. We behave. We’re satisfied looking at the view. The camera is off. Crossing the bridge ends the garden tour. We realize that the gates are closing. We got here just in time. Had we delayed, we would have missed this sightseeing highlight. We leave the Tofuku-ji Temple. We’re very satisfied. We got to Kyoto at the right time. And we finished our planned sightseeing right on time.
The sunlight is fading. It’s time to go back to the hotel. We have a choice. Walk or take a train/subway? Again, we choose to go by foot. It is a 40 minute stroll to the hotel. So far, our focus has been shrines and temples. We’ve been in the mountains and gardens. Now we have an opportunity to see urban Kyoto. The sun sets on the way back. We are enjoying the views of Kamo River as the sky dims. The city lights illuminate. It is a magical hour. There is a 7-11 store across from our hotel. Let’s stop and buy a bottle of wine and “chips.” We’re exhausted from today’s expedition. We need to unwind. Back to our room, food and libation in hand. We’re tired. It is not just the walking. Our biological clock is still on Hawai’i time. Break for an hour. Drink wine. Nibble snacks. It’s a good way to get recharged.
We need dinner. Letâ€™s keep it simple. CoCo Ichibanya Karasuma Gojo Company is around the corner. Tonight weâ€™ll eat Japanese curry. This is a good choice. Fast. Tasty. Economical. Back to the hotel. Now we need sleep. Today was a big day. Tomorrow will be the same.
A visit to see the spectacular colors of some of Kyoto's famous temples. Part 1 of four parts.