This is my second visit to the old capital city of Kyoto, Japan. Previously I visited the city for a day and did not seem to finish what I had on my wish list of places to see. It was not possible! There is so much to see around Kyoto! So I went for another visit and this time I managed to visit the Nijo Castle, the Kyoto Imperial Palace, visited the Golden Pavilion once again, then last but not the least the Fushimi Inari Shrine. So come along for a walk through my photo gallery of my second visit to Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan.
Nijo Castle. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in 1603 as a residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu. The castle was finished around 1626. Some parts of the castle was damaged by fires on 1788, remained closed and empty until it was donated to the city of Kyoto in 1939 then opened to the public the following year.
The castle ground area is vast 275,000sq metres of two main palaces – The Ninomaru Palace as well as the Honmaru Palace surrounded by traditional Japanese gardens, moats, inner and outer gates. The palace buildings are mainly built in timber and beautifully made. Unfortunately, as with any World Heritage Sites, photo taking is strictly prohibited inside the palaces.
Kyoto Imperial Palace. Formerly the residence of Japan’s Imperial Family until 1868 when the capital city was moved to Tokyo in 1869. The current structure had been reconstructed around 1855 after the original palace was burnt and moved around the capital over the centuries. The palace grounds are elongated and filled with beautiful tree groves and broad gravel path where tourists can walk through.
The Imperial Palace is open to the public and private tours are held frequently throughout the day. I have indicated ‘private tours’ as the gates are not open to just anyone who walks in. If you wanted to join a private tour it is best to go with a tour group. Otherwise you have to make reservations, be prepared to bring your passport and fill out security forms prior to being allowed in. Once inside the group is accompanied by security at the front as well as the end of the group. It is discouraged to walk away from your group or venture out on your own. The inner buildings are private and not available for viewing.
Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion). Formally called Rokuon-ji, which literally translates to The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, dates back to 1397 is a Zen temple formerly the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955 having been burnt numerous times in the past. The impressive structure covered in gold leaf is what’s left of the shogun’s villa. It overlooks a big pond and the complex is surrounded by a classical Japanese garden design. Each of the three floors represent different architectural design to reflect the extravagant and wealthy aristocratic circles of the Kitayama culture of Kyoto.
This was my second visit to the pavilion and it was not boring to see it once again. This time around I had a beautiful sunny day for my photos as oppose to the cloudy and rainy day during my first visit.
And last…but not least The Fushimi Inari Shrine, which I had been beating myself for missing out since my last visit. For those of you of have read the book and seen the movie – “Memoirs of a Geisha”, this shrine would, hopefully, bring back a sweet memory. This was one of my favourite books and the movie was just an ‘icing on the cake’ as they say. Fushimi Inari was one of the places where they filmed the movie. Remember the scene when Chiyo as a young girl, after she met the Chairman and got given the change from her sweet treat, ran through a series of torii gates to make her wish to one day meet him again. Well, call me a romantic, but it was here at Fushimi Inari Shrine where she ran through, and I wanted to do the same…
Fushimi Inari Taisha. The shrine is the head shrine of several thousands of shrines (32,000 sub shrines) around Japan dedicated to Inari, the shinto god of rice. Also famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates donated (paid by) Japanese business. If you are keen, follow the trail of these torii gates that takes you up the wooded forest towards the sacred Mount Inari. The whole trail could take you up to three hours to go up and back. At the summit of the mountain one can enjoy a view of Kyoto.
When my hubby and I went it was such a hot day and I forgot to spray myself with insect spray. We went up to, I believe, level 2-where the track splits into a circular route. We were exhausted and decided to go back as my legs already resembled a polka-dot legging. But, I still have to admit, it was very much worth the visit. It was an experience walking through these torii gates.
And that, I’m afraid, was my farewell for Japan (for now.) I have enjoyed my stay exploring and learning about the country, a little bit of its history, the people and the food! I would love to have the chance to learn more, see more and experience more of Japan. I hope you all will get the chance yourself.
Stay tuned for more adventures around this weird and wonderful world of ours. Up next…Gold Coast, Australia!
Kyoto was the former capital of Japan for over 1000 years yet even until today it remains as the country’s cultural centre and very much loved by visitors both locally and from around the world. It truly is a magical place. Unfortunately for me, I only had a short day to visit, but definitely not the last one – I will be back for more.
Following the weekend at Tateyama Alpine Route, next on my agenda was the ancient capital of Kyoto! It is a super express ride from Nagoya and quite easy to get around. From the time I stepped out of the train, the atmosphere around the Kyoto Station was welcoming. With the Kyoto city tourism right within a few steps from the central exit I felt comfortable tackling the day tour already. The ladies at the counter were helpful, spoke very good english and knew what was going on as we spoke.
As it was the golden week many places were closed due to the many public holidays happening that week. So I thought I will start with some world heritage sites. First up was Sanjusangen-do Temple. This was second top on my list of places to see (first on the list was the Imperial Palace) for its collection of 1001 Sanju-Kannon statues of buddhist deity. What I failed to read even at the back of my entry ticket was there was a very strict rule on ‘no photos’ inside the hall. I was speechless! as this was the main reason I visited this place! But, I moved on and enjoyed the Kannons and planted them in my memory. There are photos on-line and books about them as well. Nevertheless, outside the temple was as beautiful as the ancient Kannons.
The original temple was built around 1164 but lost in fire then reconstructed in 1266 and has remained unchanged for 700 years. It has since had four great renovations since. It is also known for its 120 metres long temple hall made in the Wayo or Japanese style architecture. The name Sanjusangen-do derived from its famous thirty-three spaces between the columns.
There are literally over a thousand temples and shrines in Kyoto. I managed to visit a couple smaller once within the vicinity of Sanjusangen-do temple before I made it to another UNESCO world cultural heritage listed building – Kiyomizu-dera. This temple was more tourist friendly which allowed photos, except from the private garden, where you can sit down and enjoy with only your memory.
Kiyomizu Temple is set atop a hill along the Otowa Mountain. Built in 778 which, unfortunately, was also burnt down by fires then rebuilt during the Edo Period between 1631-33. The temple is beautiful with the Kiyomizu stage built high on 12 metre pillars and boasts a great view of the city. The landscaped garden all around the temple is so pleasant to walk around (even when crowded) as there are splashes of colour everywhere.
From Kiyomizu temple the walk down beautiful Higashiyama District where you find souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants or just people watching is another experience.
There are many interesting sight to see on the eastern side of Kyoto also known as Higashiyama Dirstrict, but it is a vast area to cover. I missed out on Nijo Castle and the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Instead I chose to visit Rokuon-ji Temple more famously known as Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion.) The golden pavilion is a shariden, a buddhist hall containing relics of buddha. The garden and buildings are believed to represent the pure land of buddha in this world (albeit the crowd) and it was crowded. The design is quite tourist-efficient, though, as everyone can just walk through a path and see all the important features of the temple, without overcrowding in one area.
The garden around the pavilion is a National Special Historic Site and Special Place of Scenic Beauty where one should enjoy strolling around. For such a popular tourist attraction, this might be a bit challenging to accomplish, as it seemed always crowded.
The rain stopped and the clouds were clearing, but it was also getting late and museums and temples were closing. Instead of going to Gion District, which I really wanted not only to visit but experience, I chose to make a final dash over to Heian Jingu Shrine. Considered as the replica of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Heian Jingu is an important cultural property of Japan. A young temple, compared to other temples in Kyoto, at only over a hundred years old – 1895, was burned down in 1976 and rebuilt using moneys collected from donations to what is now the current structure.
And that concluded my day in Kyoto, but only for now, I will definitely visit Kyoto again especially as I want to experience the culture in Gion District. I hope you enjoyed the photo tour with me. Up next is Nara also a former capital of Japan.