A Travellerspoint blog

Kyoto in the Fall: Part One

Temples, gardens, cartoons and donuts

sunny 72 °F
View Japan on BryanG's travel map.

I know these are old photos - taken during our trip to Japan last October - but I wanted to do them justice and upload them with proper descriptions - enjoy!

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A host of Anime characters welcome you to Kyoto on a large poster outside the brand-new Kyoto station

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After a wonderful few days in Hakone, we boarded a Shinkansen (bullet-train) for Kyoto, and in just a couple of hours, rolled into the large and ultra modern Kyoto Station. Although you wouldn't know it from the station, Kyoto is an ancient city and a well preserved cultural treasure. Established in 794, and before Tokyo (Edo) became the Capital in 1868, Kyoto itself was the Imperial Center of Japan. Kyoto is so well preserved because of the careful stewardship of the Japanese people, but also because it was one of the few cities in Japan that was not bombed in 1944-1945. For comparison purposes, military historians estimate that more than 50% of Tokyo was totally destroyed by U.S. bombing, and in one raid alone on March 10th, 1945, more than 100,000 civilians lost their lives in the bombing and ensuing conflagration.

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A temple and shrine map of Kyoto - note the -ji suffix denotes temple or shrine

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As you can see from the map above, the city is surrounded by hills and filled with temples and shrines. Granted, every Japanese city has its fair share of temples and shrines, but nothing like we saw in Kyoto. One is tempted to thing - oh, how many temples can you really visit? I mean, won't they all start to look alike? The answer, even for two sometimes jaded travelers, is a resounding NO! Hilary and I were amazed at how unique and interesting the sites in Kyoto were - each temple more beautiful than the last.

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Hilary poses out front of the Sanmon, or gateway to the Nanen-ji temple at the beginning of the famous "Philosopher's Walk"

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A map of Kyoto that highlights subway lines and other attractions in addition to the many shrines and temples

The city itself is very manageable, and is great for walking. We stayed in an ultra-modern hotel - the Granvia attached to Kyoto Station - but you can find charming traditional Ryokans throughout the city. Also, no surprise, we also ate well during our visit!

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Bryan out front of Nanzen-Ji

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Sanmon Gate at Nanzen-ji temple detail

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A glimpse of the interior of the Nanzen-in, or sub-temple that occupies the former location of Emperor Kameyama's Villa

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A statue at Ginkaku-ji

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A wood gong at Honen-in, a tiny little Jodo-sect temple up a steep hill off the "Philosopher's Walk"

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Also located at the Honen-in, an impressive Buddhist stone marker

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The Ginkaku-Ji, or "Silver Pavilion" was originally the mountain retreat of the Shogun Yoshimasa (1358-1408), and is considered a masterpiece of landscape design by those who know about such things. Hilary and I were most intrigued by the fact that the gardeners were sweeping the ground so that no single leaf was out of place

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A view of Kyoto from the hill above Ginkaku-ji

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Another view of Hilary at the Sanmon at Nanzen-ji - notice the Fall foliage just starting to change in late October

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While Hilary and I were oohing and ahhhing over all the fabulous Japanese Temple Architecture, most of the Japanese tourists were snapping photos of this aquaduct. Built in 1890, it was one of Meiji Japan's first wester water projects.

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More Japanese cartoon cuteness! Ka wa ee desu ne!

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Another view of the aquaduct

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One of our favorites, the Eikan-do temple houses a huge Buddha statue, and has beautiful wooden pathways and staircases

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A view of Kyoto from the pagoda at the top of the stairs of Eikan-do

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Ginkaku-ji entrance

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Part of the gardens at Ginkaku-ji

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A view of the huge and puzzling modern atrium of Kyoto Station

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More Cartoons!

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At the end of the station is a donut shop called "Mister Donut". Hands down, the best donuts I have ever had in my life. Yeah, I know, a bold statement...

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AND, the week we were there all donuts were on sale! Seriously, best donuts EVER!

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One of the cool parts of Eikan-do, made all the cooler by the fact that we had to take our shoes off and shuffle along in borrowed slippers

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Hilary pauses on a bridge in the Nanzen-in garden

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Another view of the interior space of the Nanzen-in

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Hilary does love Chickens...

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Eikan-ji Koi pond

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These carefully constructed sand structures in many of the temples were beautiful - all the more amazing that some of them were tiered and rose up a few feet above the pathways

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Next to the Eikan-ji was this lovely little Kindergarten filled with children playing. We peeked through the fence and chatted with some of them, but even though they were adorable, we didn't think it was appropriate to photograph them

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After a long day of Temple viewing, we retired to our hotel at Kyoto Station - very civilized...

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Good morning! Yep, a few more days in Kyoto, and we only scratched the surface in this blog posting - more to come!

Posted by BryanG 16:30 Archived in Japan Tagged tourist_sites

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