2018 © K. W. Bridges & Nancy Furumoto www.kimbridges.com firstname.lastname@example.org
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 Café 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
Saturday: Southern Higashiyama Deep sleep last night. Walking drained us. We went a long way. The counter recorded over 20K steps. Up at 6 AM. Nancy, the early riser, surfs the Internet for a refresher on today’s travel goals. Coffee and green tea in the room, along with a small cookie. That’s all we eat before setting off to enjoy the sights in Southern Higashiyama. “Higashiyama” means “East Mountain,” so we’re headed to the southern part of the hills on the edge of Kyoto. Kiyomizu-dera is within walking distance of our hotel. It is our first destination. This is a large temple complex at the southern end of the area we hope to cover today.
The walk to Kiyomizu-dera takes about a half hour. We leave at 7:45 AM. Few people are on the sidewalks. The morning is beautiful; the sky is blue, the breeze is light. We are being cautious. We dressed for wet weather. The forecast calls for clear skies. Be safe. Thatâ€™s our decision. Radar says storms are headed toward Kyoto. The switch to rain clothes saves our other wardrobe for homebound travel. The Higashiyama temples are at the edge of the mountain. The temple properties often extend up the hillside. You reach Kiyomizu-dera by ascending the neighboring streets. There are several orange-colored shrines along the route, and a small crowd of people.
We head up the nearby stairs. There is a larger temple complex at the top. Many trees have changed color. The forest is a mix of red, yellow, and green. Colors are both bright and subdued. The vegetation is more colorful higher up. The view is great. Big temples. Forest-filled valleys. Kyoto sits far below, in the distance. This is a prime location to admire and photograph the temples and their surroundings.
We debate for a few moments. Should we pay to enter? The temple building is under reconstruction. Is it worth it? Yes. Let’s do it. That’s a good choice. We discover we’re getting access to many places. A well-defined pathway leads through the gardens and around the hillside. We visit several temples. Returning to the starting point is a long walk. Along the way we get magnificent views.
This is a perfect start to the day. We’ve already seen autumn foliage in peak color. Will it get better? Today’s route goes north from the Kiyomizu-dera Temple. We’re confident in our way-finding abilities. Online maps (aided by GPS) indicate our location and give navigation advice. Crowds mean that something is interesting. Street signs are informative, and we use intuition. Just join these navigational resources. It gives us freedom to wander. Just keep heading the correct general direction. Off we go, heading down hill. Walk through neighborhood shopping streets. Turn north. Wow. The shops that line these pedestrian lanes have some exquisite wares. Check out the pottery. Beautiful works of art are on display in store windows.
We skipped breakfast. Remember? Now we’re on the lookout for someplace to eat. There is a coffee shop: Inoda Coffee. It is promising. Peek in the window. It doesn’t look like you can sit and eat. Unfortunate. It looked interesting. What’s this? An opening leads to a courtyard. Seductive. In we go. We find a garden, with a pond and some very colorful trees. Several photographers are here, too. This is a prime photo location. A semisecret photo site. That done, we see a restaurant next to the garden. Quick geometry check. It must be the seating for Inoda Coffee. Let’s return to the coffee shop. How did we miss this? There are lots of tables here. We get seated so we can look outside and view the pond.
This will be our brunch. Kimâ€™s choice includes a special egg, meat, and salad. Nancy has a salad that comes with meat and an egg. Similar ingredients. Different proportions and preparation. American style coffee. Very satisfying. We need both the break and the nutrition. The ambiance adds to the experience.
The walk continues. We keep heading north. Fascinating street views. People, food, merchandise, and people. What is of most interest is the unexpected find. Look on the street. Peer into windows. Gaze into stores. Walk the side streets with eyes wide open. Enjoy the cultural diversity.
There is something interesting here. The sight draws us in. This is Kodai-ji Temple. A shogunâ€™s wife created this place. Several masters helped her make it special. Kobori Enshu, Japanâ€™s most famous garden designer, built the gardens. Sen no Rikyu, originator of the Japanese tea ceremony, designed the tea house.
An entrance fee lets you stroll through the grounds on a well-defined track. Are we hearing drums beating? How unusual. Search the garden. Spot the colorful trees. Check the buildings. Note the fine architectural details. Listen. Hear the drums?
The pathway leads to a building. You must enter to continue. Take off your shoes. Put them in a bag. That’s the standard practice. We’re walking on the old wooden floors of the villa. The route takes us around the building’s periphery. We turn a corner. The screens are open and we can see inside. There is a wedding ceremony underway. Participants and audience are sitting. Formal dress. Most wear black. Shhhh. We are right next to them. Walk quietly. Show respect. They don’t allow photos. That’s OK. Best to not linger. Outside again. Put shoes on. That was interesting. People still use these buildings for important events. Old traditions persist in these historic sites. We get the answer to the earlier question: Drums? The drums are part of the wedding ceremony. Now we can pause. We are in front of a nice dry-garden. It is photo worthy.
Walk more. Look at the great trees. Many of the extensive gardens, particularly those that border the forests, have stands of huge bamboo. We like that. It is a treat to stroll through these “grass” forests. If we’re lucky, there will be a breeze. Then we’ll hear the sounds of hollow stems crashing together. Kodai-ji Temple has a bamboo forest. Today, there is no wind. The forest is silent.
We spy something outside the bamboo forest. It is a huge Buddha. What is that doing here? A path splits, going to either a parking lot or returning to the temple buildings. The parking lot is the way to the Buddha statue. Letâ€™s explore this unexpected place.
Ryozen Kannon Temple is unlike the other temples. This memorial honors people killed in WW2. It is worth seeing. An entry ticket entitles you to a stick of incense. It is a fat stick and they light it for you. Walk into the courtyard holding the burning offering. The incense is put into a large urn in front of the temple. Thatâ€™s important protocol. It establishes our first destination.
Now we can wander. There are temples here, and a few interesting artifacts. Also, several war-related buildings. One room has soil from each of the places that Japanese soldiers fought. A filing cabinet holds the names of people killed in the war. The unknown soldier has a memorial. And more. Much remains unexplained. This is an unusual addition to Kyotoâ€™s many temples.
We head back from Ryozen Kannon to the Kodai-ji Temple property. Remember the wedding that we couldnâ€™t photograph? The bride and groom are headed our way. Time for a quick snap. Such formal attire.
We wander for a while. Itâ€™s a good opportunity to see the neighborhood and street activity.
We’ve found a broad walkway running up toward the mountains. This is the dramatic entrance to Ôtani Shrine (otherwise known as Nishi-Ôtani). Some of the remains of Shinran, the founder of the Jôdo Shinshû sect of Buddhism, are found here. This is a small site that has considerable religious significance. There are few people here. That gives us a break from the crowds. A huge cemetery is adjacent to the buildings. Generally, one doesn’t wander in these sacred places.
We go further north and arrive at a big intersection. At one side stands a huge Sanmon. This gate tells us we are at another large religious complex. This is Chion-in Temple. These Sanmon are interesting. They are both buildings and gates. They announce the entrance to a religious property and provide a â€œportholeâ€? so that you get a glimpse of the wonders inside. Look through the gate. There are lots of colorful maple trees. See the steps going up the mountain? There must be something to look at up there. Time to get climbing again.
The stairs lead to Chion-in Temple. The immense temple building is under re-construction. A large steel structure encloses the historic temple. While it protects the workers and the building, the enclosure also blocks us from seeing the structure. You can still enter the temple (for a fee). Weâ€™re not interested. We came to see the gardens and the autumn foliage. We skip the temple. Stay outside. Head toward the mountains. There might be something interesting.
Weâ€™ve lost most of the crowd. Now we can wander around at our own pace. We feel the need to look around the Chion-in Temple property for hidden gems. There are side roads that look interesting. But for now, weâ€™ll keep heading back toward the mountains.
We get a reward. There is a scenic pond with colorful trees. An iconic bridge crosses the water. Another chance for photos. We are not alone in recognizing the iconic scene. Photographers jostle for space here. They wave their hands to direct people posing on the bridge. Will we ever get our time for a picture? We can’t wait too long. Never mind if people are in the photo. Look at the water in the pond. Ugh. Somebody’s neglected the maintenance. Or, perhaps, this is the way the pond looks during this season. In either case, it is not very photogenic. Time to move on. A temporary walkway goes around a building. This leads to stairs that take us further up the mountain. You never know what you’ll find when you go to these out-of-the-way places. The stairs look quite impressive. Maybe that’s a hint that there is something worth seeing. Up we go. We reach a small complex of temples at the top.
We go in the gate. Wow! Alongside the courtyard is the most spectacular set of maple trees we’ve seen. This is why people flock to Kyoto. To say that these trees are beautiful is an understatement. They are at peak color. We are seeing a full spectrum of red, orange, and yellow. We’re transfixed. Click. Click. Click. We dare not miss taking a good shot. Climb up the stairs, under the blaze of the maple trees, to a small shrine. It is from here you can look through the colorful leaves toward the other shrines and temples that comprise this complex. As we wander the grounds, we poke our heads into an adjacent building. Look what’s here! A huge Buddha head. What an unexpected placement. One more thing to make this place memorable. Not many people have found this special place. Too bad. We find it hard to leave.
We retrace our steps, go down the stairs, and arrive at the pond. A sign points toward a seventy ton bell. Off we go. The bell is not far away. The bell is huge. This is the largest temple bell in Japan. It weighs 74 tons and dates from 1633. This was the heaviest functioning bell in the world until 1810. A YouTube video shows the ringing of the bell. A team of monks chant and pull ropes. This motion swings the timber that rings the bell. The monks pull rythmically and the beam moves back and forth. At the desired time, another rope is given a strong tug by a monk near the bell. That swings the beam further and the wood hits the bell. Bong it goes.
We wander back downhill on a side trail. Through a garden. Enjoying the view. Few people are nearby. A man approaches us. Can I take your picture? He wants to do it. OK. Friendly and helpful. What a nice guy.
Our walk takes us through a valley. This place has good photoops. Turn a corner. Find a pond with colorful trees alongside the water. A stream runs downhill to a small lake. The lake is on a main walking route. It is a pretty scene. Lots of people taking pictures. We wait our turn. Show patience. Seize the moment and stand at the waterâ€™s edge. Take a photo. (This becomes a landmark for the rest of the day. We return here several times.)
There is a nearby shrine. We wander over to check it out. This is Yasaka Shrine. Wikipedia says that this shrine began in 656. If true, it is really, really old. Many people are standing around watching something. What can it be? Itâ€™s another wedding ceremony. This one is quite public. Soon, the formalities are over. The participants leave and we catch a picture. Everyone looks so sad. Maybe itâ€™s the stress of the day.
The area around Yasaka Shrine is very photogenic. A rickshaw operator poses a young girl and instructs her boyfriend on how to take a photo. This site has some good fall foliage. However, it is famous for cherry blossoms. You can see the cherry trees, now with bare branches, scattered around the shrine.
We started the day at a temple in the south. Our plan is to keep moving north along the mountains. Temples seem to stretch across the entire landscape. We head north. We’re on the lookout for Shoren-in Temple. It isn’t hard to find. Shoren-in Temple is very different. It was once a home. Entrance to the rooms involves removing shoes as we’ll be walking on tatami and wooden floors. There are beautiful screens separating the rooms in the first part of the building. The screens provide a backdrop for a classic photo. One of these rooms opens out onto a garden. People sit. Quietly, they view the scene. That was the design.
There is a large pond and some of the trees are at their peak of fall color. After viewing the garden from this room, we wander through and around several other buildings. We get a lot of good views. We put on our shoes and continue our walk through the gardens. The path is laid out well, just as weâ€™ve found elsewhere today. There are not many people here. We are not rushed. Itâ€™s hard to leave this interesting place.
The sun is getting low. The colors are muted now. No more garden photos. Weâ€™ve really enjoyed this temple. Itâ€™s hard to stop taking pictures.
Satisfaction. We visited the temples we’d planned to see today. If fact, we’ve done more than we expected. Now it’s time to go to Gion, the historical part of Kyoto that exudes so much character. This is the hour that everyone is leaving the foliage viewing sites. Pedestrians fill the sidewalks. Many people are streaming toward the nearby train and subway stations. Others are gathering at Gion’s restaurants. You find the last remaining kabuki theater in Kyoto, Minami-za, at the edge of the Gion district. This is our target. We want to see this historical building. Off we go. We know our destination is near the train station. We join the crowded sidewalk. It’s hard do. The density of bodies, moving as a loosely coordinated mass, is too great. People aren’t touching each other. But it is close packing. Perhaps more than we’ve ever experienced. It takes a while to go just a few blocks. The crowd is not moving very quickly. Surprise. The theater is undergoing renovation and protective materials cover the outside. There is nothing to see. At least we tried to accomplish this goal. Now, we’re glad to break away from the crowd. They continue to head for the transportation hubs or walk toward Kyoto’s central district. Our destination is Gion. That requires a U-turn.
Retrace our steps. Fight the crowd again, this time we’re moving in the opposite direction. We need to eat. We missed a planned unagi (eel) meal yesterday. That won’t happen tonight. We know the right place. We saw it on our walk through Gion earlier. Gion Uokeya U opens at 5:00 PM and it is just about that hour. We head back to the restaurant. The Gion establishments that we pass have long lines. People are waiting outside for seating. That’s worrisome. Will we be able to get into our restaurant? We’re lucky. There is only a short line at Gion Uokeya U. Good. They have room for us. This was close. Only two small tables are unoccupied when they seat us. This is a very small restaurant. Most of the seating is upstairs. There, you need to sit cross-legged on tatami. We’re not used to that. It would make for a very uncomfortable dinner. Our table has regular chair seating. It’s comfortable.
The focus of the meal is a big bowl of rice with unagi on top. Add soup, condiments, and bottles of beer. A great dinner. This makes Nancy happy. Check off an item on the To Do list.
We end the day with a half-hour trek back to the hotel. Tired feet. Weary legs. The step total was over 28K today.
A visit to see the spectacular colors of some of Kyoto's famous temples. Part 2 of four parts.