Japan: Temples of Kyoto

The final stop in our honeymoon was the traditional Kyoto. In fact our itinerary was circular, so we started in the buzzing Tokyo, moved (drastically) to the country in Ainokura, then we visited the temples in Kyoto (and the beautiful city!) and finally we went back again to the big city of Tokyo for the final two days of our stay.

When selecting the pictures of Kyoto we realized that it was so difficult because there were two separated parts, equally beautiful, and we did not want to choose more pictures from one than the other. Finally, we decided to split it into two different posts: this first one would be about the temples of Kyoto while the other one will be more about the city of Kyoto itself.

Kyoto has to be the city in Japan with more temples; there are several routes exclusive for temple visitings and because each one has its particularity it is worth the visit of mostly all of them. We dedicated a whole day for the north route which starts in the Ninna-ji temple and ends in the Ginkaku-ji with the Philosophers’ path to walk back to the center of city. Kyoto is quite a big city with a bus network as its main transportation system, so to go to every spot in the city we always took the bus. Take into account that you pay for each ride on the bus and it is paid at the time you get off, so you better keep the amount already in your hand. We had a bus stop (with the most important lines!) 5 minutes away from our lovely Mume hotel in Gion (more on the hotel in the next post, do not miss it!), which was very convenient.

With the 59 bus we arrived to the Omuro Ninna-ji stop, walking a few minutes you find the grounds of the temple. This is not a very impressive temple but it is a good place to start the route. If you are there at the first hour of the morning you will be able to explore the gardens and its ancient pagoda all by yourself. The next stop of the route was the famous zen garden temple called Ryoan-ji. We misunderstood from our guides that there was a cute path across all the temples to walk from one to another; that was not the case :) We had to walk by the roadside, which is far from being ideal.

After that, we visited the impressive Kinkaku-ji, called the Golden temple for obvious reasons :) Visits inside the temple are not allowed but the circular path around the temple and its gardens are a must! Finally, we finished our route in the Kinkaku-ji, the twin temple to the Ginkaku-ji, called the Silver temple. We found that the temple is not as attractive as its twin, but sure its grounds are breathless with its vegetation plus the zen garden. I guess the name of the temple (silver) comes from the sand of the zen garden and not for the color of the temple itself (which was the case of the Golden temple). We came back to the city center by a fabulous path that goes along a small stream called the philosopher’s path, we met some feline friends in one of the most wonderful walks we had in Japan.

A part from the north temple route we visited the three most famous temples & shrines of the city: Kiyomizu-dera, Heian and the Fushimini Inari.

The Kiyomizu-dera is a buddhist temple on top of a hill, it is one of the temples with most pilgrimage so when we arrived at the first opening hours it was already full. To get there you can choose the main street or the cemetery entrance. We chose the latter because it was better to visit the streets when the souvenirs shops were already opened. The way up through the cemetery gate is amazing, the views are spectacular and at the same time the feeling makes you shudder. I could not imagine a best way to enter into a temple with that needed serenity.

The most representative thing in the Kyomizu-dera are the large wooden pillars supporting the verandas that give the illusion of the temple suspended in the top of the mountain. Kyomizu-dera stands for “clear water” because the legends say that the purest water in Japan runs from those hills. That’s why the purification process here really stands out: to take the water that is falling from the mountain, you have to use a large pot and try to score, which believe me was not as simple as it looks :)

Heian is a shinto shrine that we knew of for one of our favorite movies: Lost in translation (again our obsessions revealed). In a certain part of the movie Charlotte goes with the Shinkansen train to Kyoto (the city is never mentioned) to spend a day, and she jumps in some rounded rocks in what looks like a pond (what a horrible description, sorry guys!). Well, that place is Heian. We searched for information and pictures and it looked lovely, so it became a must in our visit in Kyoto. The shrine itself due to its intense orange color and the large esplanade makes it worth, but the gardens also have their charm. There is a large part of the park with cherry trees, so during autumn it was a bit deserted (which was quite disappointing!); I believe the gardens have to be more beautiful in Spring. Nevertheless, we had fun taking the pictures jumping the rocks and having some time for just relax.

The Fushimi Inari is a shinto shrine located outside Kyoto (the train ride is about 10 minutes, JR line to Inari Station) in a mountain with the same name. The Fushimi Inari is a very different type of shrine; here you can find several small bunsha shrines in the middle of an impressive walk of thousands of torii. Nothing is comparable to this long walk across the mountain. Each one of the torii is a donation from a family with a craving containing a wish. As it is a hike of 2 or 3 hours the visitors can stop and go back at any time. We walked up until the first crossroad at Inariyamakanyuchi. I would highly recommend our itinerary because it allows both enjoy the solitude of the mountain (the views and the pictures!), and at the same time is not too physical consuming. Most visitors only walk the first stretch which is more popular but also thousands of times more crowded.

One curious thing that happened in our Funshimi Inari visit is that during the walk (and in the lower crowded part) we found a fellow Mume guest; there are only 7 rooms at the Mume so it was quite a coincidence! In case you are wondering, the Fushimi Inari is the famous torii path that appears in a famous scene of the movie Memoirs of a Geisha :)

Hope you enjoy visiting the temples with us through the pictures!

Clear umbrella - the cat you and us Dani temple stairs - the cat you and us Temple entrance - the cat you and us Temple stairs - the cat you and us Dani - the cat you and us Japanese students bags - the cat you and us

A huge number of students in Japan wear uniforms. They are usually the same for everyone, even the bag must be the same. So they personalize them by hanging lots of kawaii stuff. It was fun to discover their style and interest by looking at the bags :)

Maps - the cat you and us

Maps are always oriented in the direction you are looking at them, which sometimes can be confusing as here in Barcelona we normally have them always pointing north.

Ninnaji - the cat you and us Pagoda - the cat you and us Pagoda bottom - the cat you and us Ryoan-ji - the cat you and us Ryoan-ji building - the cat you and us hot lemonade - the cat you and us

Vending machines have both cold and hot beverages in the same machine, here is a hot lemonade (which was so yummy!). Can you read the hiragana & katakana text saying “Hot lemonade”?

Kinkaku-ji - the cat you and us

The reflection in the water of the Golden temple is a perfect postal from Japan.

Kinkaku-ji - the cat you and us Ginkaku-ji - the cat you and us Ginkaku-ji - the cat you and us Ginkaku-ji sand detail - the cat you and us

How would they keep such a perfection in the sand grooves?

Hello Kitty - the cat you and us

My maneki-neko pal while eating another sauvory japanese snack.

Philosopher's path - the cat you and us cat at the philosopher's path - the cat you and us cat at the philosopher's path - the cat you and us Dani japanese sign - the cat you and us

Japanese use lots of signs we did not know about. My sign on the bottom picture means “oshii” (delicious) and it is used usually only by women, Dani on top is doing a sign that two little girls performed at seeing us and which we are still clueless about its meaning; Maybe foreigner? moustache people? :) who knows!

Damaris oishii - the cat you and us Kyomizu-dera cementery - the cat you and us Kyomizu-dera students - the cat you and us Kyomizu-dera - the cat you and us

Can you spot a red vest?

Dani Kyomizu-dera - the cat you and us Kyomizu-dera purification - the cat you and us Love temple - the cat you and us

There is a part of the temple dedicated to love. The love rocks were very popular among the students, and was too funny to see them!. The two rocks are separated a few hundreds of feet, you must touch one, then with your eyes closed, walk in line to touch the other one. If you score on the rock it will give good luck to your love life.

Love temple - the cat you and us

The boys had always their eyes closed shut, and never landed in the rock. On the other hand, girls opened their eyes a little in the middle to straighten and touch the rock :)

Love temple - the cat you and us Love temple - the cat you and us Love temple - the cat you and us Love temple - the cat you and us Traditional Japanese kimono - the cat you and us love lucky charms - the cat you and us

Japanese temple lucky charms only dedicated to love.

buddhist statues - the cat you and us

Buddhist statues sometimes wear this kind of clothes as to protect them from cold weather.

traditional japanese street - the cat you and us Souvenirs - the cat you and us

Renovated (with solar energy) manekineko-ish souvenirs. Here a sumo wrestler, a sushi chef and cats.

Traditional girls - the cat you and us Kyoto streets - the cat you and us Damaris eating - the cat you and us Geishas back - the cat you and us

The backs of the Geishas are amazing, the painting in the back of the neck leaving a part with their natural skin is so delicate!

Geishas front - the cat you and us Heian bridge - the cat you and us

This is a LC-A+ picture using a slide film.

Heian shrine - the cat you and us

LC-A+ Vs Digital battle.

Heian little girl - the cat you and us

Lots of little kids with traditional costumes, I think there was some kind of celebration for kids in the shrine that day. Love how proud her grandma looks at her.

Heian garden rocks - the cat you and us Heian garden rocks Heian garden rocks - the cat you and us

The rocks remind me of the “zamburguesas” in the japanese show “humor amarillo” (Takeshi’s Castle) :)

Heian garden rocks - the cat you and us Heian shrine orange door - the cat you and us Dani Fushimi Inari - the cat you and us Fushimi Inari wishes - the cat you and us Fushimi Inari - the cat you and us Fushimi Inari - the cat you and us Fushimi Inari kitsune - the cat you and us

The fox is the symbol of Fushimi Inari, you could draw you own fox face in the wish.

Fushimi Inari entrance - the cat you and us
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  1. Gosh I LOVE all these photos!

    Nadia from The Life In A Year

    16th July 2013
  2. Fiona ADDS...

    you take the prettiest photos, I love reading your story too :)

    17th July 2013
  3. Jane Y. ADDS...

    your pictures are beautiful. i took japanese for 6 years and am so glad that i actually can still read and make out hot lemon! :) my husband and i hope to take a trip to japan next year. will definitely keep this blog post in mind for when we are nitty gritty planning!

    18th July 2013
    • We reply...

      ありがとう! So glad our Japan posts may help you planning your trip. Japan is an amazing place, we were blowned away :)

  4. hena tayeb ADDS...

    Absolutely gorgeous photographs.

    18th July 2013
  5. Irela ADDS...

    These lovely pictures bring back so many memories for me! My boyfriend and I were in Japan last year and when we visited Kyoto we pretty much saw the exact same things you guys did. It’s so beautiful isn’t it? It looks like you had better luck with the weather though. The entire week we were there rained, it certainly made the trip…interesting lol Did you get to have melon soda? I became OBSESSED with it, I’m waiting to go back just so I can indulge once more!

    Do you have Bloglovin? I love your blog, and I would like a chance to follow along.

    – Irela ♥

    19th July 2013
    • We reply...

      Thanks Irela!!! Here you can follow us on bloglovin!

      When did you guys were there? We visited it in autumn and although we had to carry all the time the umbrella with us, luckily we avoid it in Kyoto. The heaviest rain was the first day in Ainokura.

      Oh, we missed melon soda!!! It is a pity because it sounds delicious!!! Hope we have another chance to try it :) We found grape soda which was also good!

  6. you have the cutest style! love your tights.

    9th August 2013
    • We reply...

      I wear them all the time in autumn, winter even spring :) always a part of my outfit, glad that you like it!! :)

  7. Steve ADDS...

    Amazing photos, what camera are you using? Also which garden has the stepping stones across the water, I want to be sure to visit in Nov.

    20th May 2014
    • We reply...

      Thanks Steve! The garden is in Heian shrine, it’s the one in Lost in Translation as well :) We have a 5d Mark ii with a 50mm 1.4.

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