While we had originally only planned on staying one night, we decided to extend our stay in Kyoto another night. Even though it was Silver Week, and most places were fully booked, Annin was friends with the hostel staff so we got to stay in the same “share house” (guest house) for the same rate as the night before. And we also had a room to ourselves. It pays to know people 🙂
In any case, this meant we could have a bit of a lazy morning on Sunday before hitting up a few more tourist must-sees around the city.
We decided to check out the closest attraction first, and walked over to Kiyomizu-dera, which sits on top of a large hill.
By the time we reached the top we were a bit tired, but the temple was amazing.
We walked around the grounds and took a short hike to a less-visited temple on the grounds, where we got a lovely view of Kyoto and a quiet moment to ourselves. It was really pretty.
On the way out we walked past a famous feature of the temple – the massive fountain.
Cleansing oneself is a major part of Japanese religion, and as such there is always a fountain and ladles to wash your hands with before entering the complex. They’ll also be placed near the entrance to any smaller shrines or temples on the complex. Though I wanted to try my hand at this fountain as well, the line wrapped around the corner and looked like it would take at least an hour, so I decided to pass.
We took a last look around and made our way to the next destination. Along the way we stopped in some cute shops and passed by a few smaller temples, and it was nice to get a feel for the city.
Finally we made it to Ginkaku-Ji, or the Silver Pavilion. It was meant to emulate the golden pavilion, and in the original design it was supposed to be covered in silver leaf. For some reason this never happened, and the temple remained as pictured. While the building itself was not as striking as its golden counterpart, the gardens were amazing. Sadly I wasn’t able to get any pictures, since we went at exactly the wrong time of day and all of my pictures are too dark to see much of anything. But I assure you, it was beautiful. Japanese gardens in Kyoto are so amazingly lush and green, and even though the temple was crowded, walking through the gardens was a very peaceful experience, the trees seemed to soak up the excess sound.
At the end of the day we walked around the Gion area (busy shopping/dining/bar district) looking for dinner and ended up in a small donburi restaurant, where we ate “oyakodon.” “Don” is a rice bowl, and oyakodon is rice with chicken, onions, and a raw egg. They serve the bowl really hot, so by the time it gets to the customer it’s already a little bit cooked. Actually, you can eat a lot of raw dishes in Japan that you would never want to try elsewhere. Miyazaki is known for a raw chicken dish that I’m wary of, but my coworkers and friends assure me it’s salmonella-free, somehow. Anyway, the name “oyakodon,” the dish I was eating on this particular day, is a bit strange. It literally means “mother and child” (chicken and egg), which seems decidedly un-kosher, but I suppose that’s never stopped me before.
After dinner we wandered the shops again before going back to the hostel. On the way back we passed a bright purple search light and decided to investigate. It turns out Kiyomizu-dera was having a “light up” that night, in honor of silver week. We were tired and our feet hurt, but we decided to suck it up and see what this was all about.
Oh man, I’m so glad we went. The temple was lit up, as promised, but in a very subtle, pretty way. There were very few people around, and it was amazing to have the massive temple to ourselves. The fountain I had passed on earlier was still open, and there were barely any people in line. It was a fantastic night.
The next day it was time to leave Kyoto, and I’ll tell you all about our last day there as well as my time in Kobe and Himeji in part 3!