02 Jun Walking from Kiyomizudera to Ginkakuji
On our third day in Kyoto we would be walking from Kiyomizudera to Ginkakuji. Through Kyoto’s streets, past temples and along the Philosopher’s Path.
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We left our hotel (Citadines) around 9am and walked to Kiyomizudera Temple in about 25 minutes. The temple is set atop a hill, so there’s an uphill walk to the entrance. This means it offers a fantastic view out over Kyoto. We had brought the stroller along as we had planned to also walk from Kiyomizudera to Ginkakuji. We folded it up and put Fletcher in the carrier upon arriving at the steep steps leading to Kiyomizudera.
Our celebrity toddler
So, by this stage of our holiday, little Mr “shy” had worked out that acting this way actually got him more attention, and he played on it. While I was paying for our entry tickets, a group of school girls had gathered around Fletcher. He was burying his head into Tim and smiling everytime they went “aww”, “kawaii”. Clearly loving the girls attention.
We stepped onto the wooden stage of the main hall. Both were built without using any nails, which is quite remarkable when seeing the structure. We were enjoying the view from the main stage when we were approached by a small group of school children that were part of a larger group. They “interviewed” us, asking some questions in English and then I had to sign their workbook. The kids all gathered around us and their teacher took a photo. I wish we’d asked for one for ourselves.
Kiyomizudera in English means Pure Water Temple. It got its name due to being founded on the site of Kyoto’s Otowa waterfall. The water flows into three streams bellow the main hall. Visitors can use cups with long handles to catch and drink the water. Each stream is said to grant the drinker a different benefit, it’s considered greedy to drink from all three streams.
In the photo above, the renovations that were taking place are visible. Kiyomizudera is being renovated in stages and this is what was happening during our visit in late 2013. We were still able to walk around to the hall that was being renovated, so we could view the main hall and stage, together with a view out over Kyoto.
We followed a path that took us down to the waterfall and looped back around to the entrance. Coming across some little rocks on the ground along the way, that had what looked like red bibs tied around them. I believe red is the colour used to rid demons and illness…if anyone knows anymore let me know, I’d love to find out the true symbolism.
We left Kiyomizudera and wandered down the hill we had come up. The street is lined with little stores. A lot of them sell sweets and cakes. I popped into one and bought a green tea cake to take back to the hotel.
Walking from Kiyomizudera to Ginkakuji
We wanted to walk along the Philosphers path and decided to actually walk the entire way from Kiyomizudera to Ginkakuji. The walking distance between the two is 5.3km. We entered the directions into google maps as well as making up our own way here and there. We walked down narrow residential back streets as well as main roads and loved it. Walking around is always a great way to view a new place.
Strolling Kyoto’s streets
Soon after exiting Maruyama Park we came across the large Sanmon Gate at the entrance of Chionin Temple, a large buddhist complex. The main gate of Chionin is the largest wooden gate in Japan and it is very impressive. We continued walking, heading towards Nanzenji Temple as it’s situated at one end of the Philosphers path.
Along the way, we passed the old rail road of Keage Incline. The rail road was once used to connect channels. These days it is a popular cherry blossom viewing spot in Kyoto, due to the trees lining the tracks. During spring, many people walk along the tracks enjoying the Sakura.
We made it to Nanzenji Temple and after entering and walking to the left, we came across the large brick aqueduct that was built to carry goods and water between lake Biwa and Kyoto. We didn’t enter any of Nanzenji Temple’s buildings, opting to just walk around the free grounds. Upon exiting the grounds we came across the large Sanmon entrance gate. I’m not sure why we didn’t actually come to the entrance gate first, we obviously entered the wrong way. You can pay a fee to enter the gate and go up to the balcony, but we were happy just viewing it from the ground.
After leaving Nanzenji and walking a little bit, we saw an entance gate where people were taking photo’s of the early autumn colours. We popped in for a look. I think it was an entrance to Eikando Temple, though I’m not sure.
The Philosopher’s Path
We were then at the start (or end) of the Philosopher’s path, a narrow stone foot path following a canal. From here it was about a 2 km walk to Ginkakuji. The path was named after one of Japan’s famous philosopher’s followed it daily on his way to Kyoto University. It is said that he would practise meditation during his walk along the path. At the beginning of our walk we were taken past the back of properties and in this area we saw a lot of cats.
The Philosopher’s path is at its best during spring time when cherry blossom trees lining the canal and path are blooming. To be honest we didn’t find it worth the time and preferred the streets lined with things to look at, maybe we just aren’t philosophical enough.
However, the path was a great place to let Fletcher roam free. Along the way he played peek-a-boo through the trees with a friendly woman walking on the other side. He also came across bright orange cones that we counted as he ran along touching each one.
Once Fletcher had worn off enough energy we put him back in the stroller, which was now a lot harder to push as the path had turned to loose gravel. We decided we wouldn’t be missing much by getting off the path, so we walked along the parallel street.
We enjoyed looking at the houses and found it interesting to see the different cars. Most people in Japan drive small or even micro cars due to the narrow roads and limited space. While walking we noticed a few larger cars that didn’t fit in the garage. We found found it amusing to see how some people had closed the garage door down to the car boot and stuffed blankets in between for protection.
Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)
We arrived at Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion), which despite its name is not actually silver. It was built as a retirement villa by a shogun whose grandfather’s retirement villa was Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion). After the shogun’s death, the villa became a zen temple. The path at Ginkakuji takes you in a loop from the entrance, uphill to a view point and then downhill to the exit. From the top you get a great view of the grounds with the city behind it.
Getting a bus from Ginkakuji to Kyoto
This was our first time catching a bus in Kyoto and we had no idea what we were doing. There was a bus stop marked on our map from Ginkakuji but we couldn’t find it. We searched for what number bus we needed and tried using google maps to locate the bus stop but weren’t successful. We eventually came to a bus stop that listed Kyoto Station, but the number of the bus never stopped there. A very kind lady, who must have noticed our clueless-ness, came and asked us in broken English where we wanted to go. I replied Kyoto station and she pointed at a bus stop on the other side of the road and told me the number.
How did we not notice the buses were going in the wrong direction. Our bus arrived in about 10 minutes and took us to Kyoto station. We probably could have gotten a bus to the door of the Citadines, but like I said we were clueless.
Kyoto bus tip: get a bus map from the info centre at Kyoto Station.
Green tea cake
We ate the Kyo-Machiya cake I bought earlier for afternoon tea. It had layers of cake, a black bean ganache and I’m not sure what the chewy layers were, maybe mochi. Each layer had flavours of Matcha.
End to a great day in Kyoto
That night I made use of the kitchenette in our Citadines room and cooked dinner. We walked to a nearby Fresco and bought prawns, noodles and veggies for a stir-fry. We also got bananas, drinks and bread to toast for breakfast. Fletcher talked to his grandparents on skype while I prepared our meal.
We had a great day out and were able to see a lot of Kyoto by walking from Kiyomizudera to Ginkakuji. Fletcher had enjoyed running along the path and picking up stones, the simple things that entertain a one and a half year old. I ended the day with a matcha Kit Kat.
On our return trip to Kyoto we explored more of the Higashiyama area.