Kyoto day three

Day three in Kyoto (December 27).  This was planned to be around Kiyomizudera and the Higashiyama area.

Kiyomizudera is a big temple complex, around a spring of holy water.  It’s up the side of a hill, and I have a very specific route relating to visiting it.

So we caught the bus out there, and got off at the appropriate stop.  Because it is near the top of a hill and the streets are morrow, buses don’t actually get that close.  You have to walk up a steep hill. Some pictures from the walk.

An apartment building, a bit more decorative than usual.

This gives an idea of the steepness of the hill.

Old shop with kids stuff outside. Backyards are not a thing in old Japanese houses.

The area is known for its ceramics.

There were a lot of souvenir shops on this road, and there were even more on the road we went down the hill on.

The temple itself was quite busy, it was a Saturday and the end of the year.  There were a lot of couples in kimonos, which was interesting.  When I lived here it was rare to see men in kimono, and it would usually be in summer, where they wore yukata. It was also not so common to see younger women in kimono- yukata were common, and you would see kimono for the celebration of 20, or at New Years, but there were quite a few.  Kimono are expensive- a proper one, with all the accoutrements will cost into the thousands.  By contrast, Uniqlo sold a yukata set (yukata, obi and hand bag) for about $50 when I was here and you could buy a higher end one for about $100-$150.  Yukata are cotton, they are summer only, and onsens.  Proper kimono are silk, and need more accessories.

But we also saw a lot of ads for kimono rental and I suspect that is why we saw so many in kimono in Kyoto- rented as a couple for the day.

Kiyomizudera is a lovely temple, but part of it is undergoing reconstruction, and was covered in scaffolding and tarps. So I don’t have pictures of the bits I like.  There are a number of different shrines around the temple grounds, including one to help you find love!  There is also a place where you can drink the no longer holy water.  The temple was founded for its access to its holy water, but at some point in the 20th century the government decided that declaring water to be holy was not to be done, so it is no longer holy.

Anyway, there is a spot where it falls over a ledge, and you can stick long handled cups out to drink it.  We have one this in the past, and even bought the special plastic cups to commemorate (rather than use the shared metal ones). G was looking forward to new cups, but it was not to be.  As we were coming down the steps we notified the line for the water was no longer as organised, and then we noticed no cup selling stall! No idea why.  So the theme of this holiday “not quite what we were expecting” is well established.

So we have some pictures from the temple and grounds.  And a comment on selfie sticks.  Sure they sound silly, but there were so many people using them in japan- not to take a selfie of their new makeup or to pull duck face, but to capture a picture with a friend.  Ten years ago, where I lived here, it was very common for strangers to ask you to take a photo, or to be able to easily grab a person to take a photo of you and your party. Not so much anymore- selfie sticks have replaced interaction.

The view out

Fire is a serious risk for Japanese buildings. Preparation ahoy!


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kyoto shrine visit

Today we did the new year shrine visit in Kyoto.  Yes, it was January 2, but the crowds at the main shrines in Kyoto can make the ones we saw in Osaka seem small.  So we wait a day and then go.  Still a bit of a festive atmosphere, but less crowded.

We caught a fairly early train from Osaka, and it was a special rapid, so only half an hour.  We arrived before 9, a fact I only know because we saw the queues of people waiting to go into the sales (there is a department store and a couple of shopping malls attached to the station).  After grabbing a coffee we headed up to the shrine.

One of the excitements of the day was realising just how much it had snowed the night before!  We only got a light dusting in Osaka, but Kyoto received quite a bit!  This was evident from the train heading in, roofs covered, snow on the fields and generally around.  It was cold, but not excessively so.

The shrine we were headed to is the one in Gion, the Yasaka shrine.  

On the way there we managed to avoid much of the snowy sidewalks by using the underground passages, but we had to be street level to cross the river and to get up to the shrine. G had to learn how to walk on snow/slush/ice.  

A view of the entry to the shrine grounds. Still a lot of people!

Still a lot of people, and a lot of people like to wear kimono.

After wandering around the shrine we headed for my favourite Kyoto temple (yes, I have a favourite!) Kodai-ji.  It’s not a huge temple, what I like is the grounds, the manageable size, and the fact that one of the halls is usually given over to a display on various traditional handicrafts.  One time it was weaving, other time pottery.  Anyway, we didn’t go when we were staying in Kyoto, so I wanted to visit today. 

And I have almost no photos, as I took them all on the big camera (and we haven’t synced those yet.). All I have is one of me in the bamboo forest 

I also have one of the matcha and sweet we bought.  There’s a tea space where you can sit and contemplate the garden while sipping green tea.

After this we went to the tiny museum nearby- the ticket into the temple includes both the temple and the museum (and there is a different ticket which includes another temple which is a former residence with a lovely garden- highly recommend this too). The museum has pieces of lacquerware, and today it had a screen with popular sights of Kyoto in the Edo era.

 In the open area in front of the building with the museum there were some stone tables and someone had made this snow bunny

Then we headed back into town.  We went through some of the shops, accruing some lucky bags along the way.  The last step was going to a shopping centre near the station and buying a new suitcase, to help with some of the stuff we have accrued.  There is a model train shop there, one of its popular features is track rental- you bring in your trains and run them on the track layout they have set up.

Then we caught a train back to Osaka.  A lot of walking, but a nice day.

Added- more pics! It turns out my phone and iPad were hiding some!

The poster advertising my favourite temple!

The garden at Kodai-Ji 


Kyoto day 2

Boxing Day and something completely new! We took a tour of the old Imperial palace in Kyoto.  

You have to book ahead, and this used to be done in writing, by mail!  But now it can be done online.  Japanese citizens are simply notified of the day and must accommodate it, visitors from overseas can nominate a day/time when a tour is offered.  I had never done this (the whole by mail thing) and we booked it for this visit.  It is free

We booked the first tour of the day (10 am) and trekked off at about 9, in order to ensure we were there 20 minutes before, as instructed. Much of the grounds have been turned into a large park.

We arrived in time, dutifully formed a line, as instructed, and showed our tickets to at least two different people.  We then got to wait inside. It was cold.

The palace is no longer lived in.  It was used for some ceremonies in the 20th century, but almost none now.  The tour does not go inside, it’s all looking at the outside.  There are a couple of places where you can see inside, but these are few.  For a few days each year it is opened up mores, and thousands come in to view the interior paintings (while standing outside).

It was interesting, if a little dry and the weather was cold.

The garden was nice

Once the tour was done we headed back to the station, and ended up having some coffee and cake

Next up? Misuyabari, the needle place we had tied the day before.  I had never heard of them before but two different blogs mentioned them.  It’s a 400 year old needle maker and shop! This blog post does a much better job of explaining and directions.

We went down a hall…

And into a garden

The needle shop is in the back of the photo

It’s tiny.  I bought some needles and a tiny travel sewing box and some pincushions.

After the needles we went back to a bakery we had passed for lunch.  To do so we wandered the backstreets around the shopping area.  There are lots of quirky shops, and it is key to remember that some of them are not on the ground floor.  We found a yarn shop (Avril) I had noted for visiting (from blogs) by accident, going in to a building for a TinTin store.

Their website

The side streets and alleys can be fascinating.  We eventually wound up wandering through Pontocho, which is one of the old entertainment districts.  It used to have geisha (not sure about now) and was the district Liza Dalby lived in when she was writing her book about geisha.  Now it’s mostly bars and restaurants

The alley runs,parallel to the river, and there are spaces  where you can see it.

At the end of the alley we turned onto the river path, and came back along that.  At this point in the river it is very man mad- the river bed is bricks and cobblestones!  Entirely lined and directed.

My phone was having trouble with the light- this is at the same time as the other photos, just in the other direction.

There are many restaurants and bars that look out over the river- premium dining, especially in the summer!

We ended,the walk at Shijo bridge, the main way into Gion, across the river.

It did get darker during the walk.

A bit of shopping (looking at hats and gloves) and back to the hotel to rest.