Monday, 29 May 2017

Hopping round Kyoto with a bus pass

Rock garden at the Daitoku-ji temple 
On our first full day in Tokyo we decided to purchase a one day bus pass, and coupled with our Japan rail pass, try and tick off as many of the major tourists sites as we could in a day.

Our first stop was the walled Daitoku-ji temple complex in the north of the city. There are twenty two temples inside the walls, with several open to the public to visit. All of the ones we saw had an entrance fee so we only went inside the Daisen-In zen garden. No photos are allowed inside the temple. It was a very tranquil and relaxing place and I have never seen such manicured gravel in all my life.  Surely they can't have placed all of those pieces of gravel individually. Surely?
The golden temple
It was then a second hop on the bus to get across to the far more popular golden temple, Kinkaku-ji. The ancient looking temple was actually rebuilt in 1955 having been burnt down by a novice monk five years earlier. The temple and lake were beautiful but it wasn't particularly tranquil with the crowds of tourists filing round with us.

In stark contrast to all of the other temples we visited there were hoards of stalls positioned so that you had to walk past them on the way into / out of the temple. They all felt quite out of place.

I'd been suffering with a streaming nose for a couple of days (pleasant image for you I'm sure) and as we walked past a pharmacy Becks convinced me that I should go in to buy a decongestant. Unfortunately the pharmacist didn't speak any English, and with Google translate letting me down, I attempted to act as having a cold with very little success. I was sold a nasal spray (Japanese pharmacies are expensive!) which I later discovered was a hay fever medicine. However, it had some positive effects even if it was a placebo.
Inside the bamboo garden
Our third stop of the day was one of the sites I was most looking forward to in Kyoto, the bamboo forest at Arashiyama having seen so many stunning photos of the place over the years. Sadly it was one of the most disappointing places we visited during our time in Japan. There was definitely a lot of bamboo but I saw none of the vistas that inspired me to visit in the first place.

Fushimi Inari-taisha
Our final stop of the day was Fushimi Inari-taisha. The main shrine was built in 1499, but the site is probably best known for the thousands of torii gates which line the paths on the mountain behind the main shrine.

I was already beginning to approach dusk as we arrived at the shrine so we didn't have long enough to explore the whole mountain and discover the inner shrine. However, we still managed to drift along quite a few of the walkways and up part of the hill.

Foxes (to can be seen in the photo above) are regarded as messengers and there were quite a few of them in and around the temple. Becks bought herself a small ceramic fox as we descended from the hill in the fading evening light. Sadly it got crushed in her bag on the flight home.
Torii gates

Dinner at Ootoya
For dinner we went to Ootoya, which is a chain of restaurants that we saw from time to time on our trip round Japan. It was a teishoku style restaurant meaning the food is served as set meals. I really liked the place as it was one of the view set meal places we visited during our stay and I think we picked a pretty good one to try. It was simple, clean and efficient and I was a happy boy with my katsu, rice, cabbage, pickles and mustard after a long day sightseeing without a lunch stop!

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