Saturday, January 10, 2009

Kyoto - DAY 2

Carl here...
Day Two
Today we had a busy day of temple seeing, and souvenir shopping lined up. Our plan was to visit Kiyomizu-dera first, then Byodoin, Kinkaku-ji & Ginkaku-ji. I thought the plan was a little ambitious because Byodoin is about 30 minutes drive from Kyoto and Kinkaku-ji and Ginkaku-ji are in opposite parts of town, this would mean that we’d have to get through the traffic.


Kiyomizu-dera is an unusual temple in that it’s built into the steep hillside of Mount Kiyomizu, in fact part of the main hall is held up by 139 giant pillars.

There is an old saying ‘Have you the courage to jump from the veranda of Kiyomizu?’ which is asked when someone sets out on a new adventure.

Byodoin Temple

I think this is the most beautiful building in Japan,

a lot of people must agree with me because the building is so famous that it adorns the back of the 10 yen coin.

What can I say? I'm a very popular guy!

This temple was originally the villa of the Fujiwara family in the 10th Century, the Phoenix hall was added to the complex in the 11th Century and is all that remains from the period.

The complex now houses an ultra modern museum housing some of the national treasures from the sight and a short film showing the Byodoin in all its former glory.

The inside of the main hall used to be adorned with mother of pearl, gold and silver – all designed to make the inside glow with natural light so that worshippers would leave the normal realm and enter the realm of the Buddha.

They made me do it... honest!


After getting some lunch, and slightly amending our schedule to include the Ryoan-ji temple, we headed to Kinkaku-ji. The golden pavilion was originally the retirement home for Shogun Yoshimitsu Ashikaga (1358-1409), it was always going to be a rather grandiose affair because he would use the site as his base of operations for controlling the country through his 10 year old son, the new shogun. Upon Yoshimitsu’s death, the villa was converted into a temple.

The building that we see today is actually a reconstruction dating from the 1955 after a student monk torched the original in 1950!

The idea is to throw the money into the dish, which isn't as easy as you'd think!


This is one of the more famous gardens in Japan, in fact I have a book at home that is filled with pictures from this place. The main feature of this temple is the ‘karesansui’, a dry garden with just 15 rocks arranged in three groupings of 7, 5 and 3 rocks.

The idea is to sit on the temple’s veranda and contemplate the garden, at any one time you can only see 14 rocks. If you move to another position, you can see other stones, but another will disappear. In Buddhism the number 15 represents being complete so the idea is to try and see all 15 rocks, which you can’t ever do. Of course, as we quickly discovered if you stand up then you can easily see all 15 rocks at one time. Though, I don’t think you can cheat your way to enlightenment!

The temple of the silver pavilion was despite the name, never actually silver. It was going to be covered in silver foil to compliment the nearby golden pavilion but Shogun Yoshimasa Ashikaga (1435-90) never got round to finishing it. It was designed with moon viewing parties, tea ceremony and general romance in mind. Upon the shogun’s death, the villa was converted into a Buddhist temple.

We drove all the way across town, but despite our best efforts, the temple had already closed.

Instead we headed to a hotel (different to yesterday), this hotel was a bargain. Okano got us a great deal, a double room for Amy and I cost a mere 7000 yen AND every room was strictly no smoking and had free broadband.

We freshened up and headed to an izakaya in the Gion district for some food.

Amy's first taste of Nato...

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