Kyoto, finally! When you think of Japan’s history, Kyoto is the place to go. With its 2000 temples and shrines and pretty scenery, it is almost impossible to not feel as if you’ve traveled back in time. If there is one place in Japan you need to visit at least once in your life, it is Kyoto.
I was overwhelmed with all the sights and as impressive as it all is, 4 days will never be enough to see everything. Internet and Lonely Planet have been my best friends this trip but for Kyoto I decided to follow the itineraries of the website of Japan Guide (www.japan-guide.com). We arrived quite late from Kanazawa and didn’t want to rush on our first day, so I chose to do the ‘Philosophers Path’ itinerary which would lead us to a lot of pretty places.
Our walk started at Ginkakuji, a Zen temple in East Kyoto (Higashiyama). The grounds consist of the ‘Silver Pavilion’ (which is actually not really silver; they named it the Silver Pavilion to compete with Kinkaku-ji, the ‘Golden Pavilion’), some other temple buildings, a dry sand garden and our favorite part of the grounds: a moss garden. The temple also offers a beautiful view of Kyoto.
Our first temple was a big hit for us. Mark and I love moss gardens and this one was absolutely stunning.
The walk continues along the Philosophers Path. This is a stone walkway along a canal and was named this way because it is said that Nishida Kitaro, one of Japan’s most famous philosophers, would meditate along this canal. At the beginning of spring, this is one of the most beautiful place to witness the cherry blossom, as there are hundreds of trees along the canal.
We came across these kitties along the way 🙂
During our walk, we started to realize how many temples Kyoto really has. I think we passed about 15-20 temples a long the way. At the end of the Philosophers Path is Nanzenji Temple. One can find many sub temples on the huge grounds of Nanzenji.
Walking further to Hojo, a large brick aqueduct awaits. The water of the canal of the Philophers Path originate from water that runs through this aqueduct. Paths run alongside the canal that lead into the surrounding forest, towards Kaege Incline.
Passing the Kaege Incline and following the canal, you can’t help but notice the huge red torii gate on your right hand side. This gate leads to Heian Shrine. We arrived at around 16:00 and noticed that the crowds had already left.
Mark and I felt very calm at this shrine, due to the wide open court at the center of the grounds.
Behind the main buildings there is an attractive, paid garden with a variety of plants, ponds and traditional buildings. We really enjoyed our walk here. We heard so many frogs but weren’t able to spot one.
Our walk ended in Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district. The area is surrounded by traditional wooden houses which house restaurants and teahouses. There are, of course, temples and shrines in the area as well. We found a lot of tourists in this area, but no geisha’s 😦
Our first day of Kyoto was wonderful! We saw so much and didn’t feel like we missed out on anything. We are going to Arashiyama tomorrow and I’m wondering how long it will take before we have temple burnout.