Friday, December 30, 2011

Japan: Day 5 - Kyoto: Temples and more Gion

Today we decided to cover as much as we could, before 5pm. Most sites of interest close between 4-5pm (Fodor's guide includes those times).
We started at Kyoto Station after purchasing the day pass ticket. The first stop was Sanjusangen-do Temple. Y600 entrance fee, but this is the cost to get access to some unique statues considered as Japan's treasures.

The temple is nice but not better than others. However, he 1000+ statues make the visit worth. There is a giant Buddha, and 27 other deities originated in Hindu religion. This is old stuff. It is mandatory to take shoes off. They run out of slippers and I had to walk with my socks. It's winter, and after 10 minutes it was kind of cold, so be prepared if you travel at this time of year.

Afterwards, we took the bus to Yasaka Shrine , on the side of Gion. This is a nice colored temple, with a few old buildings hanging Japanese paper lanterns.

Yasaka Shrine - Kyoto
Yasaka Shrine - Kyoto

From there, we walked 5 minutes to the north and hit Chion-in Temple, which has an impressive entrance, supposedly the largest gateway in Japan. I recommend stopping by.

The following stop was Shoren-in Temple, about a 15 minutes walk to the north (need to get out of the Chion-in temple garden on a small side street). Shoren-in is a nice old Japanese building, with a beautiful garden, and some very old paintings from 16th century. This one can be skipped without gilt if somebody doesn't have plenty of time.

Shoren-in Temple - Kyoto
Shoren-in Temple - Kyoto

While going back to the bus stop, after the Chion-in, we stopped at a UCC bar very close to it. This was an easy choice because the menu was in English. We liked the place and the food: Y1050 (u$13.7) for a lunch menu (main dish, salad or soup, coffee or tea).
Later, we continued our trip to Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver pavilion).

Ginkaku-ji Temploe of the Silver Pavilion - Kyoto
Ginkaku-ji Temploe of the Silver Pavilion - Kyoto 

Dry Garden - Ginkaku-ji Temploe of the Silver Pavilion - Kyoto
Dry Garden - Ginkaku-ji Temploe of the Silver Pavilion - Kyoto

The entrance cost was Y500 (u$6.5). The gardens are the highlights here, and are worth a visit. Only one small building remains (the temple) which is old and closed to public. I wouldn't put Ginkaku-ji on top of my list, but by visting it I don't need to go to other dry gardens.
On the road to the temple there are lots of nice shops selling food, sweets, ice cream, and art objects. We liked this road too, in particular, the fact that they offer free samples of sweets and tea. There are fewer shops than in Kiyomizudera that we visited yesterday.
Next on our list was Nijo-jo castle. We crossed the city to get there, and got disappointed at arrival when we discovered that it was closed until January 4th. It seems that all palaces are closed the last week of the year. As I said before, end of year isn't the best time to visit Japan. Not because of the colder weather but because lots of places are closed. At this point, it was going to be too late to go to some other temple, and we headed to Gion. This district ended up being a very cool place to be after 5pm. There's a lot of life, thousands of people, shops, malls, restaurants. We walked to Gion Corner to check ticket availability, but this was yet another place to be closed at this time of year. In this theater, one can experience 50 minutes of 5 different typical Japanese arts, performed by Geisha at a much lower cost....but not today for us.
We ended the day by having a burger at MOS Burger, a Japanese chain. Double burger plus fries cost is about Y640 (u$8.31). The burgers are of pork and beef (caw). They are pretty good, but not as good as 100% beef burgers :-)

Tips & Tricks

  • We could have fit one or two temples more in today's visits, by keeping track of the opening/closing times, and by checking in advance whether the castle was open.
  • After a couple of days I confirm that the location of our hotel is excellent. It's close to bus lines that reach most, if not all, tourist places in Kyoto.

No comments:

Post a Comment