08 Sep Walking around Higashiyama
Higashiyama is one of the eleven wards or districts of Kyoto. Lying to the East of Kyoto station, Higashiyama sits between the Kamo river and the Higashiyama mountain range. It is a great area to experience traditional Kyoto and Japanese culture. Along with well-known shrines and temples the area also has preserved historic streets.
Having spent the first part of the day in Nara, we returned to the hotel for a short rest. We chose to spend the rest of the afternoon in the Higashiyama area. I looked up the bus route from the Citadines to Kiyomizudera on Google maps but was skeptical of the information. Once everyone was ready, we headed down to reception where they confirmed the information was incorrect. They handed us a printed map, marked with the nearby bus stop and bus number for Kiyomizudera.
For those that like walking, Kiyomizudera is 2.4km from the Citadines. We walked the distance during our 2013 Kyoto trip. We also continued walking onto Ginkakuji. Read about that day here.
After getting on the bus, Declan started to squirm and was soon screaming. I was glad to hear the stop for Kiyomizudera was approaching. Tim said our directions stated we didn’t get off until the next stop, I didn’t care. I had a wriggling, screaming baby on a crowded bus and I knew this stop would get us to the temple. I told everyone I was getting off here,lined up at the door, scanned my card and got off. They all followed me. Declan settled once outside, he just didn’t like the crowded bus.
After crossing the road, we started our approach up Gojo-zaka and then turned right onto Shimizu New Way Chawan-zaka. At the end of the street are mountains and the pagoda of Kiyomizudera is visible. The bright orange standing out against the green trees. We strolled along, looking in some of the shops. I had promised Fletcher he could have ‘a green ice-cream’ but had held off on it as motivation to keep him walking up hill. We came to a little shop and bought three matcha soft-serves. My parents got one to share, Tim and I got one to share and Fletcher got one to himself which he ate half of and then passed the rest on to me. I had to stop at the entrance of the temple grounds and finish it as no food is allowed.
My parents bought tickets and entered the temple with Fletcher. Tim and I decided not to. The temple is under ongoing reconstruction and we had visited in 2013. Declan was asleep on me in the Ergo and I didn’t want the crowd to disturb him. While they were seeing the main hall and the waterfall, we walked around the area outside of the paid area. I really enjoyed being able to take time to view the other features on the temple grounds. Things we probably rushed past last time. We sat on the steps for a rest and had a little chat with a friendly lady who cooed over our now peaceful baby.
People watching here was very intriguing as there were many people dressed up in traditional clothing. There seemed to be a lot more than there were 3 years prior, maybe because it was the start of summer. There also seemed to be many more foreign tourists in the area and Kyoto in general than what we had seen during our first trip. Tim and I both felt that English was much more prevalent since our last visit but maybe we were just more confident to speak.
Losing our way
Once we met the others upon their exiting, we made our way down Matsubara Dori, a narrow street lined with stores. The plan was to first head down the steps of Sannenzaka and then Ninenzaka. Caught up with looking at the stores, we walked past the street we were meant to turn right into. We were quite far past the turn when Tim looked at his phone and called out our mistake. After turning back we headed down the first street on the left. Following the street around a corner, we came out a little further down from the bottom of Sannenzaka’s steps.
Streets of old Kyoto
We strolled along the path we would have been on, had we taken the stairs. The paved narrow streets are pedistrianised and have been beautifully preserved. Traditional stores, housed in wooden buildings transport you back to old Kyoto. A street sign pointed us towards the stairs of Ninenzaka. The historic paved street continued, lined with gorgeous Japanese style buildings. As we neared the end of the street, people were gathered around, taking photo’s and laughing at something. Getting closer I could see a man with a corgi dog on a lead and the main attraction, a lady was holding a lead attached to a large cat.
Reaching the end of the street, we turned left, heading back to the road where we had got off the bus. This area was still very traditional. A row of narrow, two-storied wooden buildings was first to greet us. We passed a large wooden gate, old houses and tiny stores before getting to the busy road.
The bus stops had queues of people waiting and the buses were full to capacity. We weren’t sure what bus stop would get us back to our stop near the Citadines. The drizzling rain was getting heavier and end of the day tensions higher. Tim and I thought about walking back but Fletcher was already complaining of tired legs and my Dad was fair from keen. Dad wanted to try to get a taxi but it was peak hour. All the buses passing us were heading to Kyoto station so I suggested we just line up and take one, then make our way to the hotel.
During the journey, Tim and Dad studied the bus routes and what number we had to take the next day. The bus pulled up outside the station and we decided to walk back to the hotel as the subway would most likely be crowded.
Walking around the Higashiyama area was a great experience. Although Tim and I had already visited the area, we hadn’t walked along Ninenzaka. This is a wonderful spot to view traditional Japanese buildings and get a feel for old Kyoto. The pedestrianised street makes it great for walking with kids.
Learn from our mistakes: Make an effort to call into the information centre at Kyoto Station and pick up a bus map.