Sunday, May 20, 2012

Temples, Shrines, and Buses, Oh My! Crazy Day in Kyoto

So less than a week from now, my role in Japan switches from bewildered student to even-more-bewildered tour guide for my mom and sister. Fun! (Now when I get lost, Julie's going to heckle me haha)

Anyway, with this realization came the realization that I have one solid weekend to get everything I want to done. Considering most of it is done already, I didn't think this to be a problem. However, I still had a sizeable list of temples and shrines to see. I kept thinking, I'll have a free day soon, I can go see a couple then.

Weeeellll if my schedule is correct, this weekend was it. So this put me in a spot. There's so much I wanted to see! The problem with visiting temples and shrines is that 99% of the time they close at or around 5. With a zillion temples/shrines to see, I dragged myself out of bed by the Japan Clause: No sleeping in when I'm in a foreign country. Sigh.

Temples to see! The question answered was how many temples could we see in one day?

Answer? Seven. Let's do this, shall we?

Here's some pictures. The main reason I was able to see so many was because most of them were relatively close to each other, so I had it all planned out to see as many as possible.

First step was go to Kyoto Station, there were 2 temples nearby and I planned to work my way up where the ones I wanted to see were closer together. I lost a bit of time because sneaky sneaky Tambabashi (train station) had more than one kind of train leaving from the platform, and I got on the subway one by accident and overshot the station. (grrrr.)

I have also decided Kyoto Station sucks because its toooo big. I had to walk halfway across the whole thing to get on the right line. Gr. Sooo I finally get to Toji Temple (passed a bookstore by the way gotta stop seeing those) which has the biggest pagoda in Japan. Pretty awesome. I thought it was set up weird, the entrance was the exit and they were on the opposite side of the grounds entrance, but whatever. More walking for me (which I did a lot of yesterday, heckyes).

Did I mention the weather was perfect for picture taking? For the win Japan.

Next, I had to go back to Kyoto Station (joy) to jump on a bus for Sanjuusangendo Temple, which was next on the list. I also had the sideplan to figure out where to get a bus pass at Kyoto Station because I know it's possible and it'll be easier for me to find out without family in tow. Well I couldn't figure it out, and the bus lines were crowded so when I saw the bus I needed I just got in line. From the bus I saw a couple things that looked like ticket counters (the actual info desk was packed and I think that's for formal bus tickets anyway) so that could work. I just took the gamble the bus driver would have one and bought one from him before my bus stop. Win.

So Sanjuusangendo is this really cool temple that has 1001 statues of Buddhas and it was really awesome. Unfortunately, it was extremely strict. We take off our shoes in the beginning (that happens often haha) but usually you can take some pictures before you get to the really holy area. Not so! There were signs everywhere saying don't take pictures! We will check your camera! So I have 3 pictures of Sanjuusangendo's entrance! Yay?

Next I jumped on the bus to head northward to Kodaiji. I honestly had no super desire to go to Kodaiji, but it was literally a neighbor to Ryozen Kannon, so since it was better known, why not? I was pleasantly surprised. There was a lot to do in Kodaiji! There was a pretty rock garden, many pretty regular gardens, buildings, and even bamboo! I was very happy to go there. There was also a nice little marked route, and I love when they have those so I can feel smart.

I could also see Ryozen Kannon through the trees, so I knew where I was going next! Ryozen Kannon is a very pretty temple with a huge Buddha and one of the tombs for the Unknown Soldier. Not only was the Buddha awesome, inside the Buddha were more Buddhas honoring each of the zodiac! I wasn't sure I was going the right direction when I started to climb the stairs to go into the Buddha, but it was alright!

Also, when I went to get my stamp the monk asked where I was from and about America and all sorts of stuff. Very nice, but seriously, next to nothing for three months, and all of a sudden I'm a popular gaijin! They must know my red-headed mother and pale sister are coming ;) (be ready guys)

Also, when I bought my ticket for Kodaiji, I got a free ticket for a little museum, which had cool pottery. It was difficult for me to find though, because the sign pointed to a pile of shops! It was above them, however, so I got it.

This is when I got only a teeny bit lost because of the buses (I've been doing pretty good with the buses!). I got on the correct bus for Heian Shrine, but I was going in the wrong direction. Woops!

Crises quickly averted, I found myself at Heian Shrine, whose grounds were huge. I mean it was pretty and all, but its selling point was its huge gardens. I peeked inside before forking over 600 yen to go in, and all I saw was a big pile of green. I've been fooled by gardens before, and I didn't want to pay for what may or may not be a garden. So I decided to skip it.

What's cool at this point? I filled up my stamp book, yay! But there's more! That means at the next temple, I needed to get a new one! I wanted to get this pretty one at Toji, but that wouldn't make sense because then I would have extra space in the other one still.

And what's the next temple? Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion that isn't actually silver, unlike Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, which is actually gold. Because it is in a very touristy area, it was quite crowded. I was not happy, people were started to bother me with their shenanigans. If it was nice and quiet like the other temples, I might have enjoyed it more. This is not to say I didn't enjoy it, I bought it's book for goodness sake. However, I wish crowded Japan wasn't so crowded, haha.

On the way back past the tourist shops, I got pulled in by one selling delicious mochi desserts. The sign said strawberry chocolate, which is beautiful, but I saw Ramune (popular soda) and peach ones, so I got that instead. So good!

The final stop was Nanzenji Temple, my teacher's favorite temple. I was hellfire bent on getting there, which means I needed to find the right bus. I  knew I was close, but I wasn't positive which one was right. So, not having another penguin aquarium incident, I start asking people immediately. First time, wrong place. So I walk the way as directed, but I wasn't sure which part of the street to be on. So I accidentally asked a gaijin in Japanese which way, and she was confused and it was hilarious. Eventually I found out I was on the wrong side of the street, so I quickly crossed and made it for the proper bus to Nanzenji.

I also was able to accomplish all this because I kept hitting the bus stops at perfect times! Win!

Fun fact: Nanzenji's bus stop is a ten minute walk to the temple area. THANKS BUS STOP. So I fly over there, and it's about 4:15, I made it! What I didn't realize was that Nanzenji isn't one temple, it's a huge area of gardens and temples and tons of stuff. In my haste (and because I was surprised) I missed the main hall, but that's okay. I went to the gardens (which are near an aqueduct what) and climbed a Zen gate that was very pretty (we had to take off our shoes too).

At this point I was so tired. Another reason I could do this? Skipping food. So next on the list was getting home and getting some good dinner (omu rice:an omelette filled with rice. Yum)

Then I came home and fell over. :) The only temple I did not get to is Ryoanji; this is because it is in BFE next to Kinkakuji. No worries, it'll be a quick stop next to Kinkakuji ;)

So this week is exams and a presenation, which I can't muster myself to be worried about, which is concerning. Expect some interesting things once the Tabajs come to Japan!



  1. Light eyes and pale skin... im like a god

  2. What are we The Beverly Hillbillies? LOL Watch out Japan... Here I come!