Japan 2013 Part 5 : Day 5 – Eikando 永観堂, Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺, Higashiyama District

January 10, 2014 at 11:56 am

The posts and summary for the whole trip, can be found here

♥November 26th Tuesday♥

Daily routine during our visit to Japan was to walk to the train/subway/bus station to get to the destination we wanted to visit. That Tuesday, it was Eikando 永観堂 that we planned to visit.
daily journey to the train station

We gave the girls ¥150 daily as ‘drink money’, so, they would always made a stop at the vending machine, cracked their heads to choose a drink of their choice.
choosing a drink at the vending machine

We took the subway from Gojo Station 五条駅 to Karasuma Oike Station 烏丸御池駅 (Karasuma Line 烏丸線) and then changed train to get to Keage Station 蹴上駅 (Tōzai Line 東西線), the station closest to Eikando 永観堂.

From Japanese Search : At the southern end of the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto, just north of Nanzen-ji, you will find Zenrin-ji. Zenrin-ji was the name given to the temple at its founding in 863. It means “Temple in a calm grove,” but few people use the name any longer. In the 11th century it became known as Eikando (永観堂禅林寺) after a famous head priest named Eikan. Eikan is attributed with acquiring the unusual Amida Buddha statue in the main worship hall. The head is turned sideways, and the legend goes that originally the statue faced forward, but turned to speak to Eikan as he was walking by.

Entrance ticket to the temple is ¥600 for adults and ¥400 for children. It’s one of the best temples to view autumn leaves per a lot of websites. The temple was very crowded the day we were there, but gorgeous indeed. You can see for yourself here.

Eikando garden

Eikando garden

Eikando autumn leaves

Eikando grounds

Eikando grounds

Eikando grounds

Eikando statue

Eikando grounds

Eikando lake

Ducks and Fish at Eikando lake

Autumn in Eikando

Autumn in Eikando

Tea house at Eikando

Tea house at Eikando

Autumn in Eikando

It’s almost like a fairy tale!

After Eikando, we bought some onigiri at the road side as our lunch, and walked to Philosopher’s Walk/Philosopher’s Path 哲学の道. Maybe it was autumn, and there’s no cherry blossoms to view, it wasn’t that pretty. There were a couple of artists selling their art work along the walk.

Artist at Philosopher's Walk

And it’s home for a lot of (fat) cats.
Cat at Philosopher's Walk

Next we took a bus to Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺.

From the website : Located halfway up Otowa Mountain in the eastern part of Kyoto City, Kiyomizu-dera is a historic temple that was established in 778, even before Kyoto became the capital of Japan. Since its foundation, the temple has burned down many times. Most of the current buildings were rebuilt by the third Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu in the early Edo period (1631 to 1633).

From the bus stop, we walked along Higashiyama District, the city’s best preserved historic districts, with ancient streets lined with shops, eateries, to get to the temple; and picked up snack we fancied along the way.
Buns vendor at Higashiyama Street

I think it was a public holiday for Japanese the day we were there, there were so many people on the street, and of course the temple was extremely crowded.

We paid our entrance fee of ¥300 for adult, ¥200 for children, and joined the throng of people.

We went to Jishu Jinja 地主神社, a shrine dedicated to God of love and “good matches”.

Ema (絵馬) or wishing plagues at Kiyomizu-dera

A God at Jinshu Jinja

A lot of couples were there making wishes, or probably pledging undying love for one another.
Couple at Jinshu Jinja

Otowa-no-taki 音羽の滝, the waterfall where visitors drink for health, longevity, and success in studies.
Otowa waterfall

Kiyomizu-dera is best known for its ‘nail-less’ wooden stage (Kiyomizu Stage 清水の舞台) that juts out from its main hall, 13 meters above the hillside below, which gives a magnificent view of the city below. It was so crowded that day, people stood behind one another to get a chance to stand at the edge for photos; but it was worth the wait.

Kyoto City, with Kyoto Tower, can be seen clearly on that day.
Sunset at Kiyomizu-dera

Sunset at Kiyomizu Stage

We slowly walked back out.
Higashiyama District

Along the street there were lanterns, indicating there’s special night opening at Kiyomizu-dera, probably to see the autumn light up.
Lanterns at Higashiyama District

Yasaka Pagoda 八坂塔, is one of the most visible and recognizable landmarks in the Higashiyama District.
Yasaka Pagoda

Outside of Kiyomizu-dera, more people were queuing to enter the temple for its night visit.
Crowded Higashiyama District

We came across many non-Japanese ladies (they spoke Chinese or Cantonese) beautifully made up in Kimonos walking around Kiyomizu-dera that day. It seems there are several kimono rental services in that area, starting from ¥3500, you can be a kimono clad Japanese for a day.

These 3 ladies, presumably from Hong Kong (they spoke Cantonese), were giggling, posing in front of a cream puff shop.
Girls in Kimono at Higashiyama District

After the visitors started entering Kiyomizu-dera for their night visit, the streets quietened down slightly.
Yasaka Pagoda

We found a small eatery nearby for dinner, and then headed to Gion 祇園 for shopping.

Supper was at Issen Yoshoku 壹錢洋食, a famous eatery at Gion. The restaurant only serves 1 dish, an Okonomiyaki-liked pancake. At ¥630, it draws a lot of local as well as foreign customers. It’s renowned for its logo, a dog pulling the underwear of a young boy; its unique interior, where kimono-clad mannequins serve as your dining companions/hostesses at every table; and also the wall deco which are actually ‘wishing plagues’ or Ema (絵馬) with sexual content.

Issen Yoshoko

Issen Yoshoko Logo

Issen Yoshoko wall deco

Issen Yoshoko model

Issen Yoshoko food preparation

We only ordered one ‘Okonomikyaki’ to be shared. I didn’t like it, the combination of everything mixed together wasn’t to my liking.
Issen Yoshoko - Okonomiyaki

It was then time to walk to the nearest bus stop to take a bus back to our hotel.
Gion at night

Japan 2013 Part 3 : Day 3 – Arashiyama And Sagano 嵐山嵯峨野

December 27, 2013 at 12:19 am

The posts and summary for the whole trip, can be found here

♥November 24th Sunday♥

Weather forecast for that day was clear and sunny, so we decided to go to Arayashiyama 嵐山, which is another to go places on my list.

We walked to Kyoto Station to take a JR train, and stopped at a Drug Shop to stock up on snack. We just love the drug shops there which sell a wide variety of things.
Shopping at a Drug Shop Japan

Saga-Arashiyama Station 嵯峨嵐山駅 is just 15mins away. Upon arrival, we picked up a map from the JR station which provides walking route options, and what to see on each route (these sort of maps are common at JR stations). This round, we didn’t want to walk with an empty stomach, so we bought our lunch from a nearby Lawson (24hrs convenient shop), before we started our walk.

When we were approaching Daikakuji 大覚寺 (our 1st destination), there were lots of big banners with 大根供養 written on it. I know it has got something to do with daikon or radish, so I went to check further.

Daikakuji Daikon Memorial Festival 大覚寺大根供養

The temple was doing a Daikon-kuyo 大根供養 (Daikon Memorial Festival). From one of the ladies who were serving the daikon, we were told the daikon was offered to Buddha, and after that, they will be cooked and served to the public and those who eat the daikon will be blessed.

The daikon was cooked in these big pots for 3 days.
Daikakuji Daikon Memorial Festival 大覚寺大根供養

We ordered a portion (¥900) from these ladies.
Daikakuji Daikon Memorial Festival 大覚寺大根供養

Daikakuji Daikon Memorial Festival 大覚寺大根供養

They gave us an extra portion when they knew we were foreigners. Oh boy, the daikon was so delicious!! So glad we tried it.
Daikakuji Daikon Memorial Festival 大覚寺大根供養

We were warmly sent off by the ladies after our daikon break. Paid for our tickets (¥500 for adult, and ¥250 for children) and then entered the grounds of Daikakuji 大覚寺.

(Per Japan-Gude: Daikakuji was originally built in the early 800s as the detached palace of Emperor Saga, who thoroughly enjoyed spending time in this calm area on the outskirts of Kyoto. Thirty years after the emperor’s death, the palace was converted into a temple and has since been one of the highest ranked temples of Shingon Buddhism.)

We found a spot at the garden, and had our picnic lunch while the hubs went to take shots of the Osawa Pond (the oldest man made pond in Japan).

Dried lotus plants in the Osawa Pond

Duck in the Osawa Pond

Osawa Pond

After lunch (and waiting 30mins for the hubs to finish his photo shooting), we went into the Temple which is made up of several buildings connected by elevated wooden walkways.

As a security measure, the covered corridors has low ceilings so that no one can swing swords or spears, and the floor is uguisu-bari (nightingale floor) which squeaked quietly as you walk over them ensuring none could sneak through the corridors undetected.

Monks at Daikakuji

Chokushi-mon or The Gate of Imperial Messenger

Tablets for the death at Daikakuji

The temple is beautifully landscaped with some nice autumn leave viewing spot.
Daikakuji Autumn Leaves

Berry Plant at Daikakuji

Autumn Leaves View at Daikakuji

After Daikakuji, we went to Adashino Nenbutsuji 化野念仏寺 to view thousands of stone Buddhist images and stone pagodas. (¥500 for adult, and ¥250 for children)

Taken from Secred Destination: From the Heian (794-1185) to Edo (1603-1868) periods, the destitute of the Adashino area brought their dead to this hill, leaving the bodies exposed to the elements. Receiving no tombstone or proper burial, their souls were honored by stone Buddhas.

The place is so beautiful with autumn leaves scattered on the mossy ground and the mysterious looking roughly cut stone Buddhas every where.
Autumn at Adashino Nenbutsuji

Autumn at Adashino Nenbutsuji

Autumn at Adashino Nenbutsuji

Autumn at Adashino Nenbutsuji

Autumn at Adashino Nenbutsuji

Exiting Adashino Nenbutsuji, we walked through an old street where the buildings are traditional machiya (“town houses”) that served as private residences but are now converted to shops and restaurants.

Old Street at Arashiyama

Souvenir sold at Arashiyama

Since there was still some sunlight (although it was soon getting dark), we made a quick stop at Gioji Temple 祗王寺 (¥300 for adult, and ¥150 for children), a nunnery with a small thatched building and an equally small moss garden.

Giouji Temnple

Giouji Temnple

Giouji Temnple

Giouji Temnple

The temple was so small, we covered it in about 15mins.

We walked back to the town area of Arashiyama. I do like this town as there are lots of beautiful houses, and little temples here and there (not mentioned in the guide or the JR map).
Decoration at road side

Temple At Arashiyama

We made a stop at Bruce 2 as my guidebook has recommended the shop to get hand made little ‘man’ pencil case.
Inside Bruce 2 Arashiyama I bought myself one as a souvenir.

Not knowingly we reached the Arashiyama Station (Keifuku Line), where a bust of activities were going on. Tenryuji 天龍寺 temple was having autumn light up (i.e. the temple garden got lit up to highlight the autumn colours in the night), there was a counter selling some packages, ie. train ticket + ticket to view the autumn light up, and people were queuing up to buy them. We joined the crowd as well. Got our tickets, had a simple dinner at the station, and then walked to Tenryuji to view the light up.

It was an extremely cold night and the place was packed; although the crowd was orderly, I didn’t enjoy myself at all.

Tenryuji Autumn Light Up

Tenryuji Autumn Light Up

Tenryuji Autumn Light Up

After this, we took the train and headed back to Kyoto. It was a long day, and we walked a lot and I was again amazed with the girls’ stamina and ability especially in this cold weather.

Japan 2013 Part 2 : Day 2 – Takao 高雄

December 19, 2013 at 6:28 pm

The posts and summary for the whole trip, can be found here

♥November 23rd Saturday♥

A year ago, I saw a Hong Kong friend posted his beautiful Kansai photos (during autumn season) on FB and one of the places he went to was Takao 高雄. Some research later, we found that Takao is one of the best places to view autumn leaves, so it was on our to-go list.

After checking the weather forecast in the morning, reporting clear and sunny weather, we decided to go that day. We took a bus near Sakura, stopped a few stops away to change bus, got lost looking for the bus stop to take the bus bound for Takao (it was our 2nd day in Kyoto, still not familiar with bus system, but after taking the bus a couple of times, with the bus map on hand, it wasn’t that difficult to map out route and know what bus to take etc), thank goodness for kind Japanese, we managed to find the bus stop, and even got prompted to board the bus when it arrived.

50 minutes later, we reached Takao at lunch time.

We saw some stalls selling roasted sweet potato, mochi, and this, deep fried maple leaves. We didn’t know what they would taste like, but you can’t go wrong with anything deep fried right? So we just bought a pack to snack on.
Fried Maple Leaves

¥500 for a pack, not cheap, but it was good. Its batter is sweetened, and mixed with some sesame seeds, crunchy, sweetish, they were really delicious.
Fried Maple Leaves

Since we spotted these stalls, we thought it was going to be like Nara, with shops lined streets along the way. We bought a couple mochi, a roast potato, and thought we’ll snack on these, do some walking first, and then have late lunch.

With no map to guide us (1st time), we didn’t know we actually went on the Tokai Nature Trail 東海自然步道, as there were lots of people heading there, we just followed the crowd, not knowing we would be embarking on a 4.5hrs walk covering almost 8km with no proper lunch!

The consolation is, the view we got on this walk, was spectacular!

Autumn colours at its bestTakao Autumn Leaves

Takao Autumn Leaves

This part of the Tokai Nature Trail 東海自然步道 is along the Kiyotakigawa 清滝川 (Kiyotaki River), and at the banks of certain part of the river, people stopped to have picnics, sip tea, while enjoying nature. There were some tea shops set up next to the river too at the beginning of the trail.
Takao Kiyotaki River

Zaria disrupted the tranquility by tossing pebbles into the river.
Picnic at Takao Kiyotaki River

This was the last restaurant we saw on the trail, and because they were charging a lot for lunch, we thought we would push on.
Entrance of a Restaurant at Takao

From then on, it was just a walking trail with stunning view.
Takao Forest along Tokai Nature Trail

Takao Kiyotaki River

Takao Autumn Leaves

We came across a wide open space. A big group was there having a hot pot lunch. We only had some Kit Kat (since that was the only thing we brought along and some water). Bad planning on our part (but none of my guidebooks nor Japan Guide talked about this trail!).
Takao Tokai Nature Trail picnic spot

Some part of the trail is a bit tougher, but Zaria enjoyed these the most, taking the lead all the time.
Takao Tokai Nature Trail

Most part of the trail is easy and runs parallel to the river, probably because it was a weekend, lots of elderly people were walking on this trail too.
Takao Tokai Nature Trail along Kiyotaki River

The water from Kiyotakigawa was blue and clear.
Clear water of Kiyotakigawa

There were sign boards along the trails, stating the distant to the next main stop, and we were heading to Kiyotaki 清滝.
Sign Board along Tokai Nature Trail Takao

Arriving at Kiyotaki, a small village, we thought we could find a place to eat, but there was nothing near the trail.
Kiyotaki Tokai Nature Trail


We saw more people having picnics or just a rest next to the river.
Kiyotaki Tokai Nature Trail

Checking some signboards posted at Kiyotaki, reading words in Kanji, I managed to decipher the notices (or so I thought). I discussed with the hubs that we could either take a bus from Kiyotaki 清滝 to Arashiyama 嵐山, then back to Kyoto or continue walking to Saga Toriimoto 嵯峨鳥居本 to take the bus.

We decided to go to Saga Toriimoto.
(I think we took the wrong way). After walking about 0.5km, we couldn’t see any sign boards pointing to Torrimoto, so we walked back to Kiyotaki again to reread the notice. It was mentioned in the map that there’s a view point at Ochiai 落合. We decided to walk to Ochiai just to check out the view point, and if we couldn’t find Torrimoto, we would walk back to Kiyotaki to take the bus.

We knew we were on the right track when we arrived at Ochiai tunnel 落合隧道.
Ochiai Tunnel

After the tunnel it was the viewpoint, from which we could see the Hozukyo Gorge 保津峡.
Hozukyo Toroko or Gorge

Hozukyo Toroko or Gorge

We saw some boats were sailing by, and realised later that this is the Hozugawa-Kudari 保津川下り or Huzugawa boat ride, a world famous sightseeing experience which covers a 16km boat journey from Tanba-Kameoka to Arashiyama.

We couldn’t find any more walking trail after this point, but just a tar road, with occasional cars or cyclist going passed.

It was then decision time again, to walk back to Kiyotaki, or continue walking on the tar road? But to where? There was no signage.

We then saw 2 Caucasian men coming out from the tunnel, walking towards us. We asked them where they were going, and one of them said to a JR station. We couldn’t believe there’s a JR station out in this wilderness. The man said we could decide to walk to the JR station, or go back to Kiyotaki to take the bus, but JR train would be more frequent than bus, and also it would be tar road leading all the way to the station.

Since they knew exactly what they were doing, we followed them.

Walking along Hozukyo Toroko or Gorge

And yes, half an hour of walking later, we saw the station, i.e. JR Hozukyo Station JR保津峡.
JR Hozukyo JR Station

One last look at the view, before we finally got to rest our butts on the train and headed towards Kyoto.
Hozukyo Toroko from JR Hozukyo Station

That day, we walked for 4.5hrs from 12:30pm to 5pm(with lots of photo stops), covering more than 7km with no lunch!; The distance of the trails :
from Takao 高雄 to Kiyotaki 清淹 (3.8km);
then from Kiyotaki to Ochiai 落合 (~2km);
and then to JR Hozukyo Station JR 保津峡 (~1.5km).

This was what we covered.

Walking path - Takao to JR Hozukyo StationView Takao to JR Hozukyo Walking Trail in a larger map

We were truly amazed with the girls! They just walked on and on! There were times when Zaria complained about being tired, but when she saw another rough and tough path, she would brighten and then take the lead going through those sections first. Zara would occasionally mentioned she’s really hungry, and I would whip out another Kit Kat to fuel her. They really did well.

When we arrived back at Kyoto Station, it was rush hour at full swing!
Kyoto Station Rush Hour

We were all so keen in having something hot to eat, we chose the restaurant at the station with the shortest waiting queue!

Japan 2013 Part 1 : Day 1 – Nara 奈良

December 13, 2013 at 11:19 am

The posts and summary for the whole trip, can be found here.

♥November 22nd♥

We arrived in Kansai International Airport the morning. Following the advice from our hotel in Kyoto, we bought a 1 day JR Kansai Area Pass for ¥2,000 (Children half price).

At the JR ticket office, the girls experienced their first (kind) hospitality shown by Japanese. We were just commenting on the origami on the table of the ticket agent, and while we waited for our credit card transaction to go through, the ticket agent went to the back (office area) and took 2 origami cranes out for the girls!

We found rubber stamps for visitors too at the JR ticket office. After visiting a few JR stations, we realised this ‘facility’ is common; most popular JR stations and other tourist attraction have unique rubber stamps for visitors to make use of. The girls started their ‘stamping’ journey, looking out for rubber stamps at all the other stations, which they used to stamp on a notebook they carried along.
JR Station Stamps

We arrived at our ryokan Kyomachiya Ryokan Sakura at about 11am. Sakura is not cheap, especially when we wanted to have 4 in a room. We selected it because it’s located about 10mins walk from Kyoto Station, 5mins from Gojo Station (五条駅) on the Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line, and there is a bus stop (Nishi Hoganji Mae 西本願寺前) 2mins walk away; making it a good base to explore Kyoto and the surrounding area.

As it was too early to check it, we left our bags there, and left for Nara (奈良), since the train fare there is covered by the JR Kansai Area Pass. Lunch was onigiri (the girls’ staple 1st few days of our holidays until they got sick of them) and buns from Kyoto station which we ate on the train.

Nara, a beautiful town, is 45mins train ride from Kyoto. Upon arrival, we walked towards Nara Park to find the famous Nara deer. Quaint and lovely shops lined the street.

Deco placed outside of an organic clothing shop. I should have gotten something for myself, but because we just arrived, I didn’t want to start shopping immediately. REGRET!Organic Clothing Shop Deco

Sugitama (杉玉), gathered leaves of Japanese cedars, traditionally hung at the roof of a sake brewery to thank the God of Sake. Seeing the change of colour from fresh green (from the start), the age of the sake brewed can also be gauged.Good luck deco in shops

We have to stop at almost every shop! How can we not, every shop is interesting!Shopping at Nara

Nara Pickles (奈良漬) is famous, but no, we didn’t get any.Nara Pickle shop

This shop, Nakatanidou (中谷堂) was drawing a crowd. It’s a shop famous for mochi, made on the spot (the dough making was supposed to be quite dramatic, but we missed it, as they’d finished making the dough when we arrived) using the best ingredient. They were so fresh, they were still warm when we bought them! Delicious.
Famous Mochi Shop at Nara

The hubs was walking with us through the town, until, we first sighted autumn colours! He was lost in the beauty (and we lost him!) and took his time (sometimes too long) to photograph them!
Beautiful Nara

The first temple we came across on this trip was Kofukuji Temple (興福寺), a part of it was undergoing renovation.

The girls tried to ‘bath the Buddha’ by following what others did before them.
Bathing the Buddha

The Kofukuji pagoda (五重塔) is almost 1200 years old.Kofukuji pagoda (五重塔)

Ema (絵馬) or wishing plagues that were hanging on the temple boardWishes Board

And then we spotted them! The deer!
Deer at Nara Park

Zaria was caught trying to train one of those deer. “Come here boy!”
Zaria training a deer at Nara Park

Don’t let these deer with bambi eyes fool you. Yes, they are tame. Yes, some allow you to touch or pat them. But a couple of them can turn aggressive when food is involved.
Deer at Nara Park

One tore off a page from my travel guide, when it discovered I didn’t have any deer food on me! Some went to sniff our bags to check for food.
Deers at Nara Park

I bought 2 stacks of deer biscuit from vendors at the park. Once these deer knew we had something, they started following us, nudging us for those biscuits.
Deers at Nara Park

FEED US NOW!Deers at Nara Park

An aggressive one actually nudged Zaria, then stood up and pushed Zaria with its front hooves, scratching her eyes! That was when we tossed all the biscuits to the ground, and had enough!

We were meant to visit the Todaiji (東大寺) Temple, where the main hall, Daibutsuden (大仏殿), is the world’s largest wooden building. Unfortunately, due to hubs spending too much time taking photos of the park (have to admit the park is beautiful!), we arrived just when they closed, i.e. 4:30pm.
Beautiful Nara Park

It got dark pretty quickly after that, so we have to head back to the station.

Deer even roamed near shops, as though they were shopping.Deer shopping at Nara Park

We chose a small home style restaurant (we were told later, they have been operating for 60years) for dinner. Food was quite good, at a very reasonable price, set meals for ¥650~¥750 (rice + soba/udon + tempura). Their menus are little drawings pasted on the wall.
Creative dinner menu

After dinner, we spotted a cafe which served green tea dessert. The cafe, Kyousyouan (京匠庵), had nice little potted bonsai plant as table decoration. This is real plant, and we were worried Zaria would pull of the little apple like fruit dangling from the plant!
Miniature bonsai

We ordered 3 items, a matcha pudding, a hot matcha with glutinous rice balls, and the girls shared a matcha parfait. All of our orders came out great, all packed with fragrant matcha.
Kyousyouan Green tea parfait

After dessert, we walked toward the JR station, and passed by more shops.
Souvenir At Nara

Shopping At Nara

Nice shop signboard At Nara

Nice shop At Nara

Nara is a pretty nice town, with lots of arty farty shops, trendy and traditional restaurants. Would love to come back to this place again.

Back in Kyoto, we walked back to Sakura from Kyoto Station. During our stay in Kyoto, the Kyoto Tower would be our beacon to find our way back to Sakura.
Kyoto Tower

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