Temples in Kyoto, Japan

We started today by moving to our second hotel in Kyoto, Hotel Mume (shout out to Perry’s brother Matt and his fiancé Blair for the recommendation/booking!). Since we are close to the eastern side of Kyoto now, we thought today would be the best to see most of the temples which line Kyoto.


We began at the Chion-in Temple, to the east of our hotel. We were able to see several buildings and walk through a reconstruction area before walking into a main sanctuary, where a service was occurring. It was amazing to see so many people dressed in traditional worship dress and practicing a clearly ages-old ceremony. The music and chanting were really compelling; we later read up about Shinto and realized that often practitioners and viewers aren’t invited to see these ceremonies.


Next, we walked south through the Maruyama Park to the Yasaka-Jinja Shrine. The park was beautiful, and we are able to see a gorgeous blue heron on the lake while we were at it. Parks seem to be a big priority here;  especially in Kyoto, people seem to care a significant amount about aesthetics and display.


This shrine was especially beautiful with a bright pagoda, and lots of people milling around.


Then, we continued south, ending up at the Kodaiji Temple, which I think was one of the most interesting places of the entire day.


Unfortunately my pictures didn’t upload in the same order that I took them, so some of these may be out of order. But this shrine made up the majority of the photos I took today, so hopefully most of these are of the correct site (sorry!).


Of course, one of the those buildings was a Japanese tea house, which would have been amazing to see during the time it was in use. Next, we wandered more through the side streets of Kyoto, which were teeming with people, especially young people dressed in traditional Japanese attire (we couldn’t figure out if this was similar to Korea, where you people dressed in traditional attire could get a discounted entrance fee to the sites).


We tried then to find the Water Shrine, Kiyomixu-dera, but ended up seeing several other shines and enjoying some snacks on the way.


Of the snacks that we had, I most enjoyed my traditional Kyoto cinnamon cookie and “soybean flour” ice cream, while the Kobe beef croquette and sesame bun were slightly less appealing.


As we walked towards the water temple, we were able to see part of the Yasaka Pagoda, before finally spotting the water temple in the distance (and subsequently walking to it!).


The Kiyomizu-dera was beautiful; the colors, the temple structure, and the worship chamber were incredible.


After seeing the water temple, we headed back to the hotel to properly check in, and then immediately headed to a sushi restaurant for lunch, where we tried a variety of sushi. I had the avocado and tuna, the salmon, a Philadelphia roll, and a geoduck special (it was actually pretty good, it tastes like clam, but is much thicker feeling, like a muscle of some kind). Perry had a seared trio, as well as a tuna special plate which included a tuna maki roll and several other fresh preparations of tuna. The fun part was watching the sushi go by the on the conveyor belt and pulling off whichever rolls we wanted to eat.


After lunch, we decided that we wanted to see at least one more temple area today, so we decided to head to Fushimi-Inari Taisha, which is located several subway stops away from Kyoto. The walk to the subway was filled with wildlife; it seems like Japan has a myriad of beautiful creatures just begging tourists to stop on the street and take pictures of them. Of course, our friend the heron was around, as was a very… eccentric looking white bird.


They had just lit up the shrine near our hotel on our walk (Kyoto, honestly, is just a pretty picture-perfect place).


As we were walking to the temple, we happened to pause when I saw the sign I have been waiting for the entire time we’ve been in Japan: directions to a cat cafe. Of course, we had to go.


The cat cafe was easily the best $6 I’ve spent in Asia, especially since all the kitties are very friendly and willing to be loved by people in the cafe. They had about seven cats, all of whom were surprisingly interested in cat toys despite being played with all day, every day by people (seriously, I can’t get my cat Spreighley to even feign interest in a toy). However, like typical cats, they only wanted love on their terms, so most of my affection was wasted.


This was a great way to recharge and feel somewhat loved by felines before heading to the temple. The temple itself was great; fortunately, Kyoto keeps all of the shines illuminated at night, although this particular one probably would have been more spectacular during the day. It’s a compelling mix of Shinto gates, which loop all around the mountain. We unfortunately didn’t go up the mountain, but we did get to experience a couple of the areas with many gates.


After this temple, we headed back to Kyoto and to dinner- a famous ramen bar off of a side street across the river. The ramen was fantastic, as were the gyoza.


Overall, it was a great day in Kyoto. Tomorrow, we’ll be heading south for some sightseeing, before spending another night in Kyoto. Then, on to the beautiful Nara!

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