As I mentioned in my last post, I’ll be in Kyoto for about 11 days in total, so instead of rushing myself and hitting only the heavily advertised spots, I’m taking my time to divide the city into sections and cover everything from famous temples to streets and gardens only the locals know about.
So, today I ventured to the northeast quarter of Kyoto, an area well known for its viewing spots for autumn leaves as well as long walking trails. After a quick bite to eat in a cafe near my hostel, I took a city bus up to the northeast area for my starting point, Ginkaku-ji (the Silver Pavilion Temple).
Ginkaku-ji is locatad at the base of the Higashiyama (Eastern Mountains) of Kyoto, and is one of the many World Heritage sights in Kyoto (I think there are 17). It’s no surprise then that it can get quite crowded, especially with schoolchildren on field trips (seriously, I think they’re following me). The temple, or rather temple complex, contains a Zen garden, several ponds and stone bridges, an observation point overlooking both the complex and parts of Kyoto, and of course the Silver Pavilion (which isn’t really colored silver).
I then exited Ginkaku-ji (after strolling through the well-placed souvenir and tourist-aimed shops) and began walking along the Path of Philosophy (tetsugaku no michi), a tree-covered trail that runs beside a canal. It’s a very pleasant walk, and a nice escape from the glare of the sun.
Along the trail, there are several smaller and less famous, though definitely not less exciting, temples and gardens.
The Path of Philosophy ends near two very large temple complexes – Eikan-do and Nanzen-ji. Both have enormous entrance gateways, and very nice views of eastern Kyoto.
I then backtracked a little bit to walk along another pathway/incline, this time heading back central towards the Heian Shrine. Built at the end of the 19th century as a replica of the former Kyoto Imperial Palace, Heian Shrine is a massive complex that is itself dwarfed by a huge torii gate at its entrance.
The shrine has several buildings, all colored vermilion, and I saw several families here with young children who enjoyed running around across the vast grounds of the complex.
At this point, my legs were starting to put up some resistance after roughly 5 hours of constant walking, so I headed back to my hostel for a short break. After catching dinner, I headed east again (this time only a 20-minute walk from my hostel) towards Shoren-in, a small temple not many tourists know but that has spectacular nighttime illuminations in autumn. See for yourself:
And there you have it. I covered a lot today, but there is still a lot to see in Kyoto, so I will have some busy days ahead! Kyoto is a very pleasant city, and its environment and sheer number of temples (I wouldn’t be surprised if there are several hundred) makes it a world apart from the rest of Japan, and so far edging near the top of my favorite places visited so far on this trip.