Kyoto – Northern Highashiyama

The afternoon I went out to follow the philosopher’s path in northern Higashiyama. But first I wanted to visit the two large temples Naznen-ji and Eikando. Due to my awesome sense of orientation however, I missed Nanzen-ji and ended up directly at the Eikando temple. This was a real treat, the leaves were already changing colours and the gardens were laid out beautifully with lots of lakes and small turquoise rivers. The individual buildings were connected by small covered wooden paths, that wide from one to another. From there, I originally wanted to head for lunch, however the lines ended up being too long, so I skipped lunch and continued on to the philosopher’s path.

Unfortunately I had hurt my foot in the morning and was limping quite badly by the time I reached the path. I was also in a hurry because I didn’t know when the temples at the end of the path would close and didn’t want to miss it. This is a typical case where less would’ve been more. Instead I tried to ignore the pain and rush down the path, which certainly took my focus away from the view and onto the pain and, I must admit, I was also a bit disappointed.

The philosopher’s path came highly recommended by friends an family for its peaceful atmosphere and enjoyable views. But I think, I visited at the worst possible time, though. Most of the leaves of the bushes had already lost all their leaves, but the trees hadn’t gotten their fall colours yet. It was a mix of browns and some green mostly. In particular in the first half. If I had been able to stroll, it probably would’ve been nice still.

There’s certainly a lot of people strolling on the path. There’s artists sitting on the benches and bridges drawing and the water is flowing in a small canal next to it. The entire business with my foot was very unlucky, especially since I still don’t know how I hurt it, it just suddenly started in the bus. I did, however, also get lucky on several occasions that day. First, I did arrive at Yasuka shrine to see the end of a procession and all the monks (I’m assuming that’s what they were) and temple workers filing through the court yard, for me to observe and enjoy and then, on the philosopher’s path, I did a small detour into¬† … temple and just as I arrived a newly wed couple exited the temple, giving me the opportunity to see what a Japanese bride & groom look like. Not something I did expect to have the fortune to see.The temple itself was pretty, but not exceptionally so. What made it special to me is that I was almost by myself once the couple had left. It was very peaceful.

At the end of the path is a temple with a silver pavilion. The last of the main sights in Higashiyama. The real name of the temple is …, but mostly it is known as the silver pavilion. So, given this name, I was kind of expecting a silver pagoda. However the name is purely describing the intentions of the builder, not the actual reality. Therefore the pagoda is covered in a simple layer of white paint and the silver was deemed unnecessary. In reality the story goes as follows:

The shogun (the de facto leader of Japan, the emperor was just a puppet) Ashikaga Yoshimasa wanted to build a relaxing house for his retirements. He had a plan to cover the pavilion with a silver foil once it was finished building. Due to several unforeseen events (meaning wars) the building process was delayed and he died before the silver foil was applied. His successor did not see much of a reason to finish the expensive covering and therefore the temple today is as Yoshimasa last saw it. With no silver attached.

And finally, after that, I could have lunch. Sure, by now it was almost 5pm, but the long lines at the restaurants I had passed, had been so discouraging, that I had put off eating until the end of the sightseeing. It was the right decision (if you ignore my growling stomach), as I got a place right away in a small noodle shop, that had been recommended by my guide.

The noodle soup was exquisite and very nicely presented too in a ‘make your own soup’ kind of way: I got the clear soup, the noodles in a separate bowl and an entire plate of different ingredients to add to my soup as I prefered.

I was advised to not just make one soup, but rather put a few noodles with 2-3 ingredients into the bowl and eat that. Then repeat with a different selection. In that way I had ginger-sesame soup, eggplant-muhsroom soup, onion, sesame, radish soup and so on.

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