As mentioned on my previous post, My wife and I visited Kansai area during our golden week holiday. You may already know about Japanese golden week, a three consecutive holiday on the first week of May, so maybe you can imagine how crowded the tourist hot spot locations throughout the country during this time. Yes, it was exceptionally crowded! if you cannot imagine how crowded it was, maybe this photo can describe it..
Anyway, Kyoto is one of the most visited city in Japan. It was a national capital and where the imperial family resides for a millennia before they moved to Tokyo in 1868. Therefore, Kyoto has a long significant history and culture tradition which still being preserved until nowadays. Shortly, if you want to experiencing an authentic Japanese culture, traditions and atmosphere, please ensure that Kyoto is already included into your most-priority place city to visit’s list!.
Kyoto station was a huge-modern style station, it doesn’t represents the city which known as the traditional icon of Japan, but once you stepping out to the bus terminal area, you will see at any directions that almost all of the city bus has temples/shrines on their destination list. This is Kyoto, a city of thousand temples, and if you should pick which is the most famous? well I can say that Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyomizu Dera and Kinkakuji are shared the top three position of all.
I recommend to pick just the bus pass if you intend to traveling around Kyoto because based on my experience the subway pass didn’t work so much. And please be prepare for the direction, since the locations of temples are spreading around the city so if you can divide your desired destination by area it can help you a lot and make your journey way more effective. And if you plan to visit quite a number of temples in one day, just forget it! Kyoto is not that small, so just pick the some of them or spend more days if you still want to travel all of them.
In my case, My wive and I visited Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyomizu Dera, Yasaka Shrine and Gion District on the day we visited Kyoto. So? how was it? ok..let’s talk about them!.
Firstly, we went to Fushimi Inari Taisha, temple which dedicated to Inari-Okami or the shinto’s patron God of rice, agriculture, merchant & industry. Famous for its long-sequence of orange-ish torii gate (the temple’s gate which marks the boundary between common world and divine world), located at base of inari mountain south eastern Kyoto. It was so crowded which forced us to do more effort in order to take a good picture of us inside the torii tunnel. Overall, this temple is exquisitely unique and worth to visit. Its bright orange-ish colour make a perfect background for your photos. Don’t forget to take one of the cute fox doll back home as souvenir :p
Before heading to the famous Kyomizu Dera, we paid a short visit to Yasaka shrine. Located in Gion district, Yasaka shrine is also known as Gion shire. We didn’t spend long time here then we just headed to Kyomizu Dera which also located around this neighborhood. Kyomizu Dera (清水寺) literary means clear/pure water temple, takes its name from the waterfall at nearby hills. This huge Buddhist temple complex is situated in a top of mountain which famous for its large veranda overlooking Kyoto skyline. Its wooden big hall is believed was constructed in 1633 without a single nail in use. The situation around this temple was so green and beautiful with its hilly area, huge well preserved forest and garden. To enter the big hall and its veranda, you have to pay around 400 yen.
Along the 20 minutes walk between Kyomizu Dera and main street of Kyoto, you will find various japanese traditional stores which offer many type of souvenir, food and drinks. It you got some extra time and cash, maybe good to try one of fine Japanese restaurant here which looked so exclusive and authentic (I am just guessing, didn’t try 🙂 ).
Shortly, after feel a bit tired walking up and down in the middle of the crowd between Kyomizu Dera and back to downtown Kyoto, we decided to just skip Kinkaku-ji and Arashi-yama forest. But before we headed back to Osaka, suddenly we decided to take a glance look around Gion district. I remember vividly that Gion district was said as a famous old-town Kyoto which still preserves its heritage to be a real authentic Japanese entertainment district. And of course if you heard about traditional Japanese entertainment, your mind would instantly remind something about its famous female entertainer or commonly called by Geisha. Because we were so curious about this and me, personally, really want to see what is the real Geisha is look like, so we headed to Gion.
Gion, located in the middle of touristic – shopping area of Kyoto, but once you step in, you will feel something different about this place. Especially during our visit, it was late afternoon, this area was considerably silent and not-as-crowded as the other area that we just visited. A series of traditional Japanese drink house are started to greet its first costumer, although I am not quite sure whether they already opened at that time because the building appearance is unusual: not even a single window exposed on the street side facade, and their sliding doors are still closed but I guess its unlocked. The one and only thing that I can sure is, it looks really exclusive.
After strolling around the area, we found something interesting. We found a traditional theater called Gion corner. The theater offers a series of traditional Japanese performances including: tea ceremony, flower arrangement, Gagaku court music and dance, Kyogen theater, Bunraku puppet theater and Maiko (Geisha apprentice) dance. It costs a little bit high actually, but as once in a lifetime event, I think this kind a worth to try. You may check here for further details info of Gion Corner.
Afterwards, we decided to go back to Osaka and left Kyoto with quite a good memory. Just a quick tips if you plan to visit Kyoto, please be prepare for a long walk and crowd, even though maybe you won’t meet a huge crowd as I had during golden week, but somebody said that Kyoto is always packed with tourist. Also, please keep in mind that you cannot visit Kyoto’s many places in one day! Kyoto is big, you have to cross the entire city to visit all of them. Maybe 3 day is quite sufficient to do all of it.
Thanks for reading and see you on the next adventures!