Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Kyoto Day Two: Kiyomizudera, Nanzenji, and the Philosopher's Path

On our second day in Kyoto we woke up bright and early thanks to Julie's jet lag. Out of the hotel by 7:20, we stopped at Lawson for a quick convenience store breakfast and then caught a bus to Kiyomizudera, one of the most famous temples in Kyoto.

From the bus stop it's still a bit of a walk up to Kiyomizudera. There were a few other early risers out with us, but it was a very quiet walk passed many closed shops. We were lucky to have arrived so early because it meant the temple was far less crowded and much more enjoyable. Part of the temple was under construction, and while it looked disappointing from the entrance it actually wasn't a big deal at all. We wound our way through the grounds, enjoying the cherry blossoms as we went. We must have been at a higher elevation because not as many were blooming, but we could tell how incredible it would look in just a couple more days.

When we left Kiyomizudera, the little shopping street was buzzing with activity, and we took our time shopping for souvenirs and snacks. If you see any cucumbers on sticks, be careful - they're delicious but super salty! We also shared some ice cream. Japanese vacation spots always seem to have lots of soft serve - I've come to really associate it with travel. We tried the black sesame, and it was very good. A little bit like peanut butter but with a more roasted flavor.

After plenty of shopping and lunch we took a cab to Nanzenji. I don't splurge on taxis very often, but it's totally worth it to save time and walking if you're going to be on your feet touristing for several days in a row. 

Nanzenji is another temple complex in Kyoto with very elaborate grounds. Our first stop was to go up into the Sanmon gate. The stairs are quite steep, and you have to pay a special admission fee, but it's worth it for the fantastic view. From there we headed on to the huge roman aquaduct. It seemed so out of place, like we had suddenly stumbled into Europe, but it's beautiful to look at. If you climb up to the top you can walk along it for a very peaceful walk along the water.

After Nanzenji we walked along the Philosopher's Path, a stone walkway along a canal that connects Nanzenji temple to Ginkakuji temple. It gets it's name from a famous philosopher who is supposed to have meditated as he walked along this path. The path is lined with cherry trees that were beautifully in bloom, and while it was more crowded than we would have liked it was very nice to walk along. There are a number of shops and cafes that make for nice stops if you're tired and need a little break.

Our last stop was a little temple just off the path that a friend had recommended - Honen-in. Honen-in is known for it's sand garden where different patterns and designs are raked into raised beds of sand. After this final temple we caught a bus back to Kyoto station, and this was by far the worst part of our trip. The bus was more crowded than any rush hour train I have ever ridden, and because of heavy tourist traffic took far longer than scheduled to return to the station. If I can offer one piece of advice for visiting Kyoto during a peak season it would be to plan an itinerary that relies on subways, walking, and taxis as much as possible, and avoid buses at peak times of day to the greatest extent possible.

That evening we were exhausted from our early start and our long day of exploring, so we ate dinner at one of the many restaurants at Kyoto Station, rather than venturing out to a more exciting neighborhood with bars, and then went to bed early.


The sakura are just a couple days from blooming

Isn't she so cute?

Seriously, so cute!
The aquaduct at Nanzenji
Walking along the aquaduct

On The Philosopher's Path 
The sand garden at Honen-in

Read about the rest of our trip:
Arashiyama and Kawaramachi
Fushimi Inari

Places we visited:
The Philosopher's Path

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