Kyoto – South Higashiyama

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From Tokyo, I took the bullet train to Kyoto. After arriving at the train station late at night, I rushed into a full day of sightseeing the next morning. My first stop was the Higashiyama district which hosts many of the best known temples in Kyoto.

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I had read that those well-known temples would be very busy during the day, so that it would be good to visit, for example, Kiyomizudera in the early morning.

Arriving at the bus stop ( After 40min of travel during rush hour.. full buses are not fun), I saw the small road leading up to the temple. While the shops weren’t open yet, the visitors sure were up.  School class after school class seemed to walk by while I stared in amazement. It would definitely not be a lonely or isolated experience.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Kiyomizudera has existed over a thousand years, even if the temple in today’s form was ‘only’ build some 400 years ago.

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The name of the temple means “pure water temple” and describes the spring on the temple grounds whose water is supposed to give you a long life. Given the line, I did not stop to drink of that water so I will never know if it would’ve brought me long life or not.

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I’ll just have to hope for the best. The most famous view onto the temple shows it from slightly below, exposing the large wood trunks that hold up the six story high terrace.

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The best view from the temple is probably from said terrace out onto a little pagoda and then Kyoto. While I did find the tempel structure imposing, I did not stay long due to the large crowds and the fact that part of the temple is being renovated and closed. From Kiyomizudera I went on down the streets of Higashiyama, into Sannen-Zaka, a very cute little street with plenty of old houses and, I got very lucky, some real Geishas, or Geikos as they’re called in Kyoto out for a stroll.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFollowing the street you cross many temples, too many to visit, but I did stop at Kodai-ji temple, built slightly before Kiyomizudera by a woman mourning her husband.

The temple is quite small, but has a nice dragon picture on the ceiling in the main hall and I saw my first raked zen garden there. It also has extensive gardens with a nice little covered path going up to the traditional house in an elevated position. On the other side of the street, there is the Entokuin temple, which is joint to the Kodai-ji temple and features more nice gardens. Though I must say that, while I enjoyed visiting them that first day, I liked some of the later temples’ gardens a lot more than these.

 

 

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Continuing down the street leads you directly to the Maruyama park and the Yasaka-shrine, my first shinto schrine. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell, in Kyoto at least. It is still a place of worhip and very busy at all days of the week. I returned to it on Tuesday, as they had special events for the national holiday and saw some traditional japanese dancing there, which was very cool but also very slow for dancing. From there, my last stop in the morning was to be Chion-in. I arrived at the lower entry and looked at the gian gate. What an impressive sight! And, contrary to Kiyomizudera, much less crowded even though it’s another of the top sights.

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I was soon to find out why,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA the main temple hall and gardens are currently partially or entirely blocked due to renovations. The main hall, can’t even be seen because they’ve built a large metal box around it for the duration of the renovation. It was a bit unfortunate. The same will be true for Kiyomizudera soon. Right now, one of the neighbouring halls is already being renovated and the main hall, with the terrace is going to be renovated in the coming years. So make sure to check what’s open before you go.

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