Tuesday 18th April 2017 – Kyoto
Today we were back to good weather – hurrah! And headed off by bus to Kinkaku-ji known as Golden Pavilion. It’s probably one of my favourite places so far – built as a retirement villa for shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1397, his son converted it into a temple which in 1950 a young monk, who was obsessed with the temple, burnt it to the ground.
The building itself is covered in gold leaf and sits on a green lake that reflects its image perfectly, but for me it was the gardens and the setting that really made it special. The Japanese have perfected the art of taking a tree and training it, just so… so that branches drape artistically, or sit in perfect symmetrical layers, or frame a view… so I’ll let the photos show how stunning it was.
Our next stop was another garden, this time the famous rock garden at Ryoan-ji. This is a walled oblong with 15 carefully placed rocks, sitting in sand, which is carefully combed to give the appearance that the rocks are sitting in a sea. Supposedly it isn’t ever possible to see all 15 rocks in one go from any angle adding to the Zen idea that everyone experiences everything from their own perspective.
Lunch – very excitingly was at a restaurant that served sushi via a sushi train. You could either take items off the conveyor belt as they trundled past, or you could use screen above the table to order specific items, that once cooked came whizzing out on a second conveyor belt above the train stopping at the right table apparently by magic. Awesome!
After lunch the group split up, and a small number of us headed out to the Arasahiyama Bamboo Grove. It’s an other worldly experience, with a path that leads through a dense bamboo grove, lined with giant bamboos that must be 15 cm in diameter and at least 8m or 10m high. The path slopes gently up, and when you look back, the different greens are really striking. To get a clear photo you need to be there at first light so ours have a few tourists and even the odd chap dresses as a geisha but it’s a stunning place even with all the people.
We decided to take a bit of a walk further up the hills to see some of the other temples hidden in the greenery, and walked for about an hour through quiet little villages until we got to the Otagi Nenbutsuji temple. The grounds of this temple are filled with thousands of stone images, all different and is something to do with the spirits of paupers without kin who were buried here. They are so expressive, some are funny, others are cross, and some have been covered with moss, or have moss adding to the decoration. Somewhere supposedly amongst the 8000 here is one little fella who is upside down, but I couldn’t find him.
We headed back into town to meet the others, and headed back to Nishiki market and a restaurant serving a buffet of lots of local dishes. A great way to feed a big group with lots of different dietary requirements!