Japan Take Two: Kyoto Temples and Market

by - Monday, March 26, 2018

We spent our last day in Kyoto exploring the Higashiyama District in the eastern part of the city. Higashiyama is definitely where you get the feel that you are in "old Kyoto." There are narrow streets lined with old traditional shops and tons of temples and shrines.

We started our morning at Kiyomizudera Temple. In comparison to the other temples we visited, this one seemed massive. Its grounds were huge, and we spent a while exploring.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple Kyoto

We visited the pagoda and drank from the streams of running water that are supposed to bring you good luck.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple Kyoto

Drinking water meant to bring good luck at Kiyomizu-dera Temple

We walked through some of the merchant shops and I bought a little charm that I plan to use as an ornament for my Christmas tree.

Pagado and Kyoto

We also visited the Jishu shrine, which is dedicated to a god of love and match making. At this shrine there are two stones set a decent distant apart. Legend has it if you can walk from one to the other with your eyes closed you will have good luck in love. We didn't do this, but we watched a bunch of other people try, and I'm not sure how anyone is successful given that the shrine is so packed with people. There's no clear path without running in to others.

One of the love stones

But by far the coolest thing we did at this shrine was visit Zuigudo Hall, which is dedicated to Buddha's mother. At this shrine, you take off your shoes, and then walk down into a pitch black basement, which is supposed to represent a mother's womb.

When I say it was pitch black, I mean I literally couldn't see my hand in front of my face. It was a little freaky, but there was a rope that you held with your left hand that guided your way, and then when you were smack in the center there was this illuminated rock that you're supposed to touch and make a wish before emerging back into the daylight.

I've never experienced that level of complete and utter darkness in my life.

Once we finished at Kiyomizudera, we spent some time wandering around the famous streets and back alleys that make up the Higashiyama district.

Strolling down bustling side streets in Kyoto

Alley curves

We strolled up through a park and stopped off at a couple of temples as we walked.

Massive bell at shrine in Kyoto

We eventually found our way to the Philosopher's Path, a stone-lined path along the canal in the northern part of the Higahiyama district. The path is isn't super long, but it makes for a nice walk. It's of course lined with temples, but we only stopped at one at the southern most end (by this point in the trip we were slightly burning out on temples).

We walked the entire length of the path up to Ginkakuji, often known as the Silver Pavilion. This pavilion was modeled after the Gold Pavilion we'd seen the day before. But unlike the Gold Pavilion, it was never painted silver. Also unlike the Gold Pavilion, the grounds at the Silver Pavilion have way more to offer.

Ginkaku-ji shrine in Kyoto

There's the pavilion itself as well as some stunning gardens -- there's a sand garden, a moss garden and plenty of ponds, streams and waterfalls.

Sand sculptures at Ginkaku-ji

More Ginkaku-ji grounds

If you were to only have time to do one of the pavilions on your trip, I'd pick this one.

After catching a bus back into the main part of the city, we strolled through Nishiki Market, making a random lunch from food we found at street vendors.

We wrapped up our last day in Kyoto by grabbing dinner in Gion, one of the famous geisha districts and strolling along Pontocho Alley.

FitBit stats:
32,429 steps
13.8 miles

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