A July 2004 trip
to Kyoto by Shannon Schiner
Quote: As one of Japan's original capital cities, Kyoto offers many fascinating temples, shrines and sites.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 19, 2004
New Miyako Hotel
HACHIJO GUCHI KYOTO STATION
Attraction | "Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)"
The history of the land winds through many fascinating people. Including the third Ashikaga shogun, who left a will stating that after his death the land would become a temple.
The gardens serve a purpose of reflecting the Buddhist view of the surrounding world. The famous golden pagoda was built to house the sacred relics of the Buddha. Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion) was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
Kinkaku-ji is a very popular tourist destination and it is reasonable to expect to see several other visitors around the temple and wandering along the garden paths.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 18, 2004
Kinkaku-ji/Temple of The Golden Pavilion
1 Kinkakuji-cho Kita-ku
Kyoto, Japan 603-8361
+81 (75) 461 0013
Upon approaching the shrine you will first see the main gate or "Torii"; however, when I was visiting the shrine the gate was being renovated and was therefore covered. The next most obvious feature before entering the shrine is a trough of running water surrounded by wooden dippers and covered by a roof. This trough is for purification, one is supposed to cleanse both hands and their mouth before entering the shrine.
As a traditional shrine, it has all of the traditional features. A shimenawa is a rope with strips of paper that marks the area of something sacred. You walk under this to enter the sacred area of the Heian Shrine. Once inside the main area there is a large open space in front of the main and offering hall, it is used for festivals. On the approach to the main building of the shrine look to the left to see a tree filled with omikuji, the fortune telling papers from the shrine. There is a tradition of tying your fortune to the branches of the tree after you read it, a good fortune will come true or a bad fortune will go away. Near the tree is a small shed filled with wooden plaques containing handwritten wishes.
The offering hall of the shrine is an important area, where the Shinto gods can be summoned. From here you can view the main hall, which contains the sacred objects that represent the gods, these are deep inside the innermost chamber and cannot be seen.
After visiting the shrine, do not miss the gardens. A small entrance fee applies, but it is well worth it! The gardens at this shrine are particularly beautiful, filled with many types of flowering trees and plants as well as several ponds of quoi.
Shrines are a popular place for special events. It is not uncommon to see a newborn baby being brought in for their first visit just a few days after birth. It is also very common to see weddings at the shrines on the weekends.
The easiest way to get to the shrine is by taking the Tozai Line of the subway to Higashiyama Station and then a short 10-minute walk.
As the plaza in front of the shrine is a wide open space covered in white gravel, it becomes VERY hot in the summer. If you are visiting in the summer be sure to either visit the shrine early in the day or bring a hat to shade yourself.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 18, 2004
Kyoto, Japan 606-8341
+81 (0)75 761 0221
The main palace is located after the Kara Mon and consists of a total of 5 buildings. The magnificence of the colorful entryway carries on into the structure with glorious decorations in 33 tatami-lined rooms. Although the building and surrounding gardens are intended more for beauty than protection, the shogun did take some interesting measures. The most obvious of these is noticed immediately upon stepping into the first hallway, a "nightingale" floor squeaks with even the lightest step.
In addition to the amazing palace, do not leave without visiting the garden. It is filled with plants that bloom at all times of the year, in addition to having a really spectacular pond.
Nishi Nijojo Nijohorikawa Nakagyo-ku
Kyoto, Japan 604-8235
+81 075 841 0096
Attraction | "Ryoanji Temple and Zen Rock Garden"
Continuing along the pathway and then up some stairs, you reach the actual building that has the garden. Built in the 15th century, the garden consists only of walls, raked gravel and 15 medium-to-large rocks. It seems quite small, only 30 meters long and maybe 10 meters across. A fascinating aspect is that no matter which angle you view the garden from, you can only see 14 rocks. There are a variety of theories regarding why the garden is so simple, one of the main theories says that it was influenced by the tea ceremony, which also relies on simplicity.
Leaving the rock garden and going out on to a covered walkway, the next most striking feature is a stone water basin that is very low to the ground. It is surrounded by a series of Japanese characters, which essentially refer to knowledge, an important concept of Zen. This temple is extremely pleasant to visit, even in the heat of the summer, because the trees offer plenty of shade.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 19, 2004
Ryoanji (Ryōan-ji Temple)
13 Goryonoshita-cho Ryoanji Ukyo-ku
Kyoto, Japan 616-8001
+81 075 463 2216
The ceremony is from the 16th century and it serves mainly as a way to exhibit good hospitality. At the beginning of the ceremony, one girl enters the rooms and takes a seat near a kettle, which is boiling over some type of fire. Before she prepares the tea she explains the meaning of the ceremony and the history of the tea house. As she is doing this, another girl comes around serving an item from the bakery, usually something sweet made from rice and bean paste.
Next, one girl begins serving bowls of tea. There is a whole procedure to drinking the tea, first you have to acknowledge your neighbor and then you pick up the cup in your right hand and place it in your left hand. Finally you rotate the cup before drinking the tea. Much to my surprise, the tea had a very strong and bitter taste. One important thing that all guests should remember is to remove their shoes before going into the tea room.