Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Kyoto III: gold!

On my third day in Kyoto, it surprises me by being sunny in stark contrast to yesterday. That being said, it's still below zero and windy. Things look nice, but being out of doors is no more fun that it would be in similar weather in the UK. The main difference here is that in the UK, the temperature inside my hotel is often higher than that outside, which doesn't appear to be the case here. As such, huddling in my hostel is not a good option. Moreover, said hostel is far enough from the middle of town that it's really not a good place to return to during the day. Warmth, therefore, can only be found inside buildings you're paying for, which means cafés and restaurants, or a bit of browsing if you're desperate.

Having seen the weather forecast, I planned ahead and decided this was the day to look at temples. You really do need to look at historical things while you're in Kyoto - not least because, to be honest, there isn't very much to do here other than look at temples. Regrettably, Japanese shrines and temples are very much open-air affairs, which makes them a bit less appealing in winter than churches, which do at least tend to keep the wind out!

Having got some breakfast in town, I take a train out to Enmachi to begin with a visit to Kinkakuji. This is one of the "do not miss" sites in Kyoto so I was determined to take the opportunity.

It's a pleasant and mildly interesting place, much more appealing on a warm day, though. I didn't exactly want to dawdle, and it's also a very popular checklist spot (hey, that's why I'm there!) so there are crowds of other people also with cameras. You can't linger here, and basically you just need to walk around the set route and be off.


Another temple! This one is just down the road from Kinkaku-ji, and is known for its famous Zen rock garden, of mysterious origin. Nobody knows the significance of the arrangement of the garden. How intriguing.

This heron reminded me of home. I've spent a lot of time watching them in Oxford.

In Japan, everything does cosplay. Observe this skilful recreation of Five Maids and a Magician, the story of Iago-kun, a feckless twelve-year-old boy who discovers he has inherited his father's sorcerous detective agency. Luckily, the huge house comes with five loyal teenage maids who are determined to lick him into shape, despite a really implausible number of mishaps, misunderstandings and wardrobe malfunctions.

It pleases me that someone thought it worthwhile to make a tiny model of the rock garden about twenty feet away. It's really rather good.

After much consideration, I decided the mini version was actually more interesting than the main thing. Tastes differ, but I don't really understand why this is considered so impressive. I'm afraid that I just see some rocks surrounded by gravel.

These very thin twigs caught the sunlight until they looked like spiderwebs, or the tangled threads some kinds of insects leave in huge clouds in bushes when they're cocooning.

I found one spot where the sun blazed down through thin leaves, showing brilliant copper against the blue sky. Loved it.

Then it was time for a relatively lengthy hike back to another station - railways in Kyoto are a bit of a mess, to be honest, so the temples are only connected with districts further west, rather than to the centre. I had to walk a mile or so to reach the nearest train back to town. Along the way, I spotted one of the very typical Japanese city schools that always look like prisons to me. I think it's the combination of blocky concrete buildings and massive escape-preventing nets.

The streets of Kyoto

After taking the train back to town and getting something resembling food, plus a warming drink, I realised it was about 3pm and there really wasn't time to do much else before dark. Also, I discovered to my annoyance that I'd missed one place I thought of going. The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is quite near the temples I visited in the morning; it's really not worth a second trip out for the short walk I'd get, and the weather's due to be wet again tomorrow, but it's a real shame.

Instead, I wandered back through the streets for a bit before taking the underground home. It was growing dark, and I found a few interesting bits of alleyway along the route.


  1. Damnit, I want to read/watch 'Five Maids and a Magician' now!

  2. Always the eye for great details! Love the Photos of the Temples. Beautiful!

  3. aw the ever famous Kinkaku-Ji, this takes me back to Mishima's novel about a young monk who became obsessed with Kinkaku and ended up burning it down...