Kyoto is flooded with UNESCO world heritage sites (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). We went to about a billion of them, and if you ever go to Kyoto, you’re going to see one. Also, a lot of these are very old. Most have been rebuilt around the 1600’s due to fire. But some are still standing and have been since 700s CE.
The first thing we did when we got off the dizzying and tiring metro was to head to the Silver Pavilion (also known as Ginkaku-ji Temple, or Higshiyama Jisho-ji, or Jishō-ji). It is considered a distant cousin of the Golden Pavilion which is covered in small gold plates. Though the Silver Pavilion isn’t actually covered in silver, theories suggest that the Shoganate (a military leader that wasn’t actually the emperor but played the emperor as a puppet) wanted to coat the building with silver leaf but ran out of funds to do it. At the beginning of the Silver Pavilion, we saw some Zen gardens. It is a style of garden where they rake lines to create certain patterns. I enjoy that style a lot and I did a project in school about it once. After that we took a walk. It was much more crowded than I expected, but still gorgeous. Alex told us about bonsai, and how he thought that the garden was almost like a very well kept bonsai.
After exiting the famous Silver Pavilion, we walked along the beautiful Philosopher’s Path (or Tetsugaku-no-Michi). The Philosopher’s Path is known for its cherry blossoms, and during cherry blossom season the path bursts with beauty. Sadly, we didn’t go during cherry blossom season so it was not as beautiful as it was two weeks ago. There are lots of artists along the path who paint incredible drawings. One artist had these pictures with little dots, and each dot added so much and intrigued customers, so I thought to myself, a dot for a ¥en. The reason why it’s called Philospher’s Path is because a famous philosopher at Kyoto University, one of the better universities in Japan, was said to have meditated while walking on that path. Since then many philosophers have walked on that path for inspiration.
Along the path, we went to a less viewed and more quiet temple called the Honen-in Temple. It was almost completely empty and I’m guessing that is usual. Because of that, it felt very peaceful and quiet. It appears they also used a very neat technique to make the roots sprawl out to make it look prettier. They first put down a stone slab, then put a thin layer of dirt, then plant the trees. Since the tree roots don’t want to grow into the stone, the roots sprawl over the thin layer of dirt.
Then I also got scared of the “Beware of Monkeys!!” signs. This was the first time I saw the sign and it said that they could bite! I quickly got over the fear and never even saw a monkey in Kyoto.
We reached our second to last temple right before sunset. The Kiyomizudera Temple. Also known as the pure water temple, it is one of the most famous temples we went to. We ran quickly to catch the sunset, and when we got to the the top, the building was in renovation. Just recently in 2017, they started to renovate the building. The roof was not in good shape, and it is big, so it is going to be a three year project. We still got a nice view but all without the famous temple. Though sadly we came a little late, so we were also kind of on short time.
The area we were in was the Higashiyama District (or “Old Kyoto”). It is full of tourists and very crowded. You could rent kimonos everywhere, so you saw a lot of fancy women wearing kimonos. When you walk in that area, you hear a lot of noise and there are small little shops cramped in every possible spot. From cookies to shampoo, and octopus balls to souvenirs, there was nothing you couldn’t find.
Our last and final stop was Fushimi Inari. It was built for communcation to the gods of sake and rice. There are fox statues everywhere, and it is said that the foxes deliver messages from the gods. We first thought they were dogs, and I suspect that the cats think otherwise. There are feral cats everywhere, in between torii gates outside of gift shops, in the middle of the path, or anywhere else! I read that why there are so many cats is because they think that the statues of foxes are of them and this shrine worships them. The Fushimi Inari Shrine also has 1000’s of torii gates in rows (classic shinto gates) which form tunnels. On each gate is a name carved in black calligraphy saying a name of an orginization or a person who helped or funded money for the shrine.
Below: The Philosopher’s Walk
Below: The Silver Pavillion and gardens
Below: Other shrines
Below: Golden Week in Japan
Below: Kiyomizudera Temple
Below: Fushimi Inari