Tag Archives: Kyoto

Kyoto

untitled-228Kyōto City with a population of over 1.5 million seemed uncrowded. It was the imperial capital of Japan for over a thousand years. It is sometimes referred to as the City of Ten Thousand Shrines. You will know why as soon as you arrive in this bustling city. Our first introduction to the city was via the “shinkansen” into the ultra-modern and stylish, Kyōto-eki, Kyōto Station. This towering building was packed with commuters, diners, shoppers and everyone in- between. Besides being a train station, it also has several floors of restaurants, department stores and shopping malls. On the roof top, the whole of Kyōto is on display. Ours was not as the weather was hazy.

Walking within downtown Kyōto, tiers of pagodas sprout from the glass, concrete and steel surfaces of the urban sprawl. Kyōto Tower raises high into the sky. After dark, the brightly coloured Kyōto Tower is reflected off the glassy surface of the station building.

The local buses, conveniently located at the train station, provided transport to all the major sight-seeing places. A 500¥ two-day pass offered convenience and takes the hassle of payment of fares. Bus drivers are polite, although speak little English, and very helpful. Patience with foreigner’s enquiries is remarkable. At every stop, the driver thanked each and every passenger. No one is rushed or pushed. This is exemplary of the Japanese people.

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By day, we were busy travelling between the numerous sights – temples, restaurants and nearby streets. However, at night, with a much slower pace, the brightly lit neon lights come alive. Street food vendors set up stalls under narrow alleyway, signage and plastic display of dishes sprout at doorways and bright lanterns attract commuters to stop and refuel.

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Loud pounding noises emerged from certain brightly lit premises. This is a national obsession and a gambling game – Pachinko. It is like a pin ball game but uses large quantities of rounded metal balls. It is dizzying, loud and smoky. These parlours can be found throughout Japan. The Japanese Pachinko industry is bigger than the Japanese auto industry. Yearly revenue is around ¥29 trillion (US$378 billion) a year. One in four Japanese spend an average of US$7000 annually!

A major shopping area along Shijo Street is centred on the intersection of Shijo and Kawaramachi streets. Bright lights from department stores offer branded goods. For arts and crafts, it is best to go off streets like Nishiki Markets and around Higasiyama area. Other major areas include the mega – Tokyo Station with its departmental stores and the two narrow Teramachi and Shin-Kyogoku Shopping Arcades adjacent to Nishiki Market. Little shops are dotted around the major tourist spots dealing in gifts and souvenirs.

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Although Kyōto is today a vibrant, crowded and modern city, the old and historic parts of the city provided a sense of serenity and transported to another world. The mixture of these cultural treasures, traditional and modern architecture, exquisite cuisine and history, all mingle seamlessly to form a unique environment.

The old ways are retained and lived every day. The numerous temples and shrines with their beautifully manicured gardens change with the seasons. Kyōto seems to be successful in retaining its past. The traditional way of life, dresses, the kimono, and the old shops houses, “machiya”, still functions in the city’s daily life. The conveniences of commuting around the city surrounded by mountains make it, not only a convenient place to travel, but a delightful one too. This is why we were so intrigued by this delightful and enigmatic city. I was not disappointed and my memories, through school books, of this old capital remained intact.

Kyoto – Nishiki Market

untitled-261Located near Shijo Avenue and Kawaramachi Station is the popular “Nishiki Ichiba”, Nishiki Market. It was originally a wholesale fish market in the 1300. Over time, the wholesale market evolved into a retail market. Today, known as ” Kyōto ‘s Kitchen”, this lively market specializes in a variety of items, particularly food, including delicious mocha of all kinds and styles; fresh vegetables stalls; fresh seafood – fish, squid, scallop; fried tempura – seafood and veg; solid “hanakatsuo”, shaved fish; “wagashi”, Japanese sweets; “yaki senbei”, grilled crackers; dried seaweed,” kombu shinise” and many more. This is a great place to find Kyōto specialties and seasonal foods as most of the products and produce are sourced locally, a fascinating display of artisan produce.

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There are over hundred vendors along a narrow covered lane just 400m long. Some shops seemed to be less than two meters wide. The aroma and mixed smells floated through the air – sweet, pungent and mouth- watering. There were a few eateries with a few seating. Our first stop was a fast food like restaurant – a café. The morning crowd was lively and business was brisk. We walked down the crowded path looking at products that were unknown to us. Small samples of food were distributed to entice shopper into their stores to explore the variety of culinary delights of Kyōto. Steam rose from a tiny fried tofu shop. Time to indulge again! Stuffed vegetables with fish paste, fried prawns and noodles in a clear soup with a rather large wooden spoon. It was light and tasted wonderful. Navindd and I had inkling towards the pickled vegetables and there were abound here. However, most stalls sold in bulk. Pickled and fermented vegetable, “tsukemono” – were displayed in large wooden barrels fermented in rice bran, “nukazuke” – radish, daikon, aubergine, cucumber, cabbage, turnip, etc.

The origin as a seafood market had not vanished. Seafood, fresh and dried, of all kinds – fish, scallops, octopus, squid, bonito, etc., glistened under artificial light. At one stall, little petite “mochi” were stacked to the brim. We had to get some. There were several types and a myriad of fillings. Lanterns, red and white, hung at the entrances of some retailers gave a traditional atmosphere. I went looking for a knife shop that was popular here in Kyōto, Aritsugu. This business had existed since 1560. They were originally producers of swords for the Imperial House of Japan. Now, they produce hand crafted knifes and cooking utensils. I bought a “santoku”, a chef’s knife. I was pleasantly surprised when they offered to engrave my name on it. Not only for practical use but also as a memento of our Japan journey. The grinding machinist was busy in the background. We had tried “matcha” and “ocha” tea throughout our journey. We chanced upon one here. The smell of roasted leaves was distinct. This would be a great as gifts too. As we were exiting the wonderful pathway, we caught the sight of blowfish, “Fugu” hung from the ceiling. This fish is poisonous but in a skillful chef’s hand, it can be a delicacy. Besides food; items such as traditional ceramic ware, trinkets and stuffed toys, folding fans, traditional Japanese foot wear, a variety of textiles and kimono are available here. At the arcade, I bought a “jinbei”, a Japanese summer wear. Nishiki Market had a pleasant, vibrant but relaxed atmosphere. It is an extraordinary kaleidoscope of Kyōto culture.

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Kyoto – Fushimi Inari Taisha

After a long walking day in Higashiyama Northern and Central regions including the iconic Gion District, we were all a little drained of energy. There are over a thousand temples and shrines distributed around Kyōto and it would be wise to select a few for a dedicated visit. We choose based on each’s unique character – dry garden, Zen tea garden, visual impact and distance. All these are based on literature available prior to travel. Nothing is definite and certain; however, there was a plan! Navindd and Lee Cheng retired to our hostel before dinner. With barely any daylight hours left, I headed to Southern Kyōto, to visit, Fushimi Inari Taisha.

untitled-198This Shinto Shrine, dedicated to the God of Rice,”Inari”, had graced the covers of glossy travel magazines and brochures as an iconic destination in Japan. I arrived here in Fushimi town by JR train. The temple is conveniently located just across the station. The slanted setting sun shined on the giant orange “torii” gates at the entrance. Near a sign post, school girls in navy blue skirts and sailor’s cape with white top read the temple layout map attentively. Beyond this, was the tower gate, “rōmon” and the front view of the “Haiden”, Hall of Worship.

untitled-187 untitled-188 untitled-199This temple was founded in year 711 by HATA-no-Iroko (or, Irogu). There was a small but enthusiastic crowd. The sun was almost touching the western horizon. I hurried up DSC_0409concrete steps past stone statues of foxes, “kitsune”. They are regarded as messengers. It was peculiar, keys, apparently of the rice granary, were kept in their mouth. As I climbed up the hill, I encountered tall stone “torii” entrances. Eventually, I ended in an open intersection with two parallel rows of smaller wooden “torii” tunnels called “Senbon Torii”, Thousands of Torii Gates. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari. The pathway is laid with a concrete pathway with grey pebbles on either side. The orange – vermillion lacquered “torii” gates were lined up closely that it created a tunnel like effect.

There was hardly anyone around and walking alone with only narrow shafts of light piercing through the wooded forest was quite eerie. I looked into the forest slopes. The bright red-orange “torii” straddled up the mountain. Stone lanterns and little shrines were scattered around. These “torii” gate had been donated by individuals and business. The larger the donation, the bigger the size of “torii” gate and higher up the mountain. Perhaps to bring good fortune, a harvest! Names of these donors are inscribed at the back of each “torii”. At intersections, hundreds of miniature red “torii” gate were place at the shrines. This is perhaps for those with a very modest budget. The passage uphill looked like eternity.

DSC_0396 The sun’s shafts of light brightened parts of the tunnel leaving the rest darkened. The effect was stunning. Small lanterns hung inside the tunnel intermittently. Stone slab pathway gave way to steps which ascended higher. The “torri” gates were now taller and bigger. Dusk had set in and the tree canopy inhibited the remaining daylight. I decided to retrace my steps back to the entrance. The 4 km trail takes about 2 – 3 hours with over 5000 vibrant red-orange “torii” gates from the base of “Inari-san”, Mt Inari. It was quite exciting and unique experience walking through this ‘tunnel’. These thousands of lacquered gates is one of the most iconic landmarks of Kyōto and a quintessential image of Japan.

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The ever-changing colours on the lacquered “torii”, created by the blazing setting sun, were amazing. Within meters outside the ‘tunnel’, dusk had set in the rather dark, eerie and silent mountain forest. It was a captivating phenomenon.

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Kyoto – Shinbashi Dori and Gion, Higashiyama District

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After a Zen experience at Shoren-in Temple, we returned to the reality of this bustling and lively city at Higashi-oji Dori, the main road at Higashiyama. We stopped at a lovely desert shop to refuel. We walked along a quieter Shinbashi Dori. Within minutes, we seemed to a million miles away from the frantic cityscape as we crossed the Tatsumi Bridge near a row of dark orange hued railings. A small shrine, in the north, with a vermillion gate temple, marked the beginning of this street. This is Shinbash Minami-dōri, a lovely cobbled street densely planted with cherry and weeping willow trees along a canal, “Shirikawa”, White River. This is a very picturesque street, particularly the south bank, with trees overhanging over the river and connected by narrow bridges. Suddenly, we seem to have entered into another world. On either side of the street, rustic double storey merchant houses, mostly converted into high end restaurants, tea houses, “ochaya” and probably a few homesteads. Behind wooden lattice windows, slatted doors and bamboo screens “oisudare”, high paying guests are probably entertained by Geishas’ in the evening. Flowing “noren”, cloths hung above the entrances, identified each establishment. During the cherry blossom season, this street is packed with people. This area is the most scenic and quieter part of Gion. We loved it as it was a reprieve from the heated fumes and bustling traffic.

untitled-183 untitled-181 untitled-180 untitled-178Close to the Tatsumi Bridge, a lovely and traditionally dressed couple, who had just married, were having their pictures taken against the leafy and atmospheric street. The bride wore a beautiful and colourful kimono. Both the couple had his and hers umbrella. With a little smile and “sumimasen”, they allowed me to photograph them. I should have done the same with my opportunity when I encountered the “geiko” and “maiko” in Arashiyama! Through a narrow bridge, we continued our walk towards the heart of old Kyōto in Gion, Hanami- kōji, Flower Town.

Gion, Higashiyama District

untitled-185This is the most popular area in Gion, Hanami-kōji, located between the busy Shijō- dōri and Kenninji Temple. The main street and the side alleys were lined with rustic double storey “Machiya”, town houses which had mainly been converted into restaurants, shops and tea houses. Red lanterns hung at the entrances all along the street. It was lunch time and we wandered on the street looking at the prices quoted at the entrances. This is an exclusive and therefore expensive area for meals. In the evenings’, behind screens and doors, high paying clients wine and dine with the company of the magnificent geishas’ and “maikos”, a “geiko” apprentice. Possibly served the Kyōto style Kaiseki Ryori (elegant Japanese cuisine). This is one of the licensed geisha areas, “hanamachi”. Tourist will never be entertained by a geisha unless they have an introduction and an invitation to a tea house, “ochaya”. Fortunately, there are other avenues to witness Geisha perform. Today, this paved street was crowded the people and traffic. Watching kimono clad women walking daintily along the street was a delightful sight in the late afternoon heat. This is a good place to watch lavishly dressed and beautifully poised geisha make their way to an evening engagement. We headed towards Yasaka Shrine where we finally indulged in some “ramen”, noodles.

Kyoto – Shōren-in Temple 2

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We dragged ourselves out of this relaxing Kacho-den Hall to the next building, Kagosho, connected by narrow wooden walkways.  It has a few tatami-matted rooms separated by “fusuma”, sliding doors. At one end of this hall is a typical image; a framed view of a low branching either a maple or cherry with young shoots emerging. The contrast of the darkened interior by dark wood refracted exterior light and the lime green leaves of the tree created a delightful view. “Fusuma” walls were painted with pines and birds. The whole room was sparsely decorated with items. This is something that I liked; uncluttered, simplicity at its best. The building has a veranda on all three sides, and with a great view. I loved the idea of a veranda surrounded by nature. The “Ryujin-no Ike”, Dragon Heart’s Pond, lies just beside on one side. A little stream gently flows by. Through another narrow wooden corridor, we passed an almost rectangular raised “tsukubai”, stone water basin. This one has a name, Ichimonji Chozubachi – symbolized valiance. It is said to have been donated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi during the Momoyama Period [1573- 1603].

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The Shidoko-do Hall houses the temple’s main objects of worship, two paintings – a Mandala (not commonly displayed) and a replica drawing of Fudo Myo-o, a fearsome deity of wisdom who is surrounded by flames and holds a sword. The view of Kogosho and the “Ryujin-no Ike”, Dragon Heart’s Pond, with the backdrop of the Higashiyama Mountains is enchanting. This picture is complete with a “tsukiyama”, artificial hill, a thirteen-story stone pagoda, pond and mindfully selected plants – combines palms, pines, shrubs, evergreens and deciduous trees, flowering plants, etc. A large stone, “Koryu-no-hashi” in the pond is supposed to remind one of the back of a dragon bathing in the pond. A stone bridge connected the two banks. On the right of the pond, is the Garden of Omori Yuhi, along the slopes. This is one of the most beautiful Japanese gardens that I had seen that effectively utilizes its surrounding natural beauty.

untitled-164Behind the pond, on the slopes is the Garden of Kirishima, planted with “Kirishima”, azaleas. A path leads towards the barely visible tea house, Kobun-tei. This is a strolling garden with paths meandering through. The next building is the Shinden. A large palanquin with the imperial chrysanthemum crest on it was displayed. Behind, on the white “fusuma” walls were painted with storks amongst pines and cherry trees. In another room is a large painting of a beech and pine tree by Sumi Yoshi. In the courtyard, there is a great view of one of the ancient camphor trees.

Shōren-in Temple had been a wonderful experience. Perhaps its original design as an imperial palace; three different but wonderfully landscaped gardens utilising the natural surrounding hills or perhaps there were few distractions, people. This is now one of my favourite places.

Kyoto – Shōren-in Temple

untitled-156 untitled-158We wandered the secluded streets from Chion-in Temple to Shōren-in. It front of us were two majestic and ancient looking “kusunoki”, camphor trees with the Nagaya-mon building elevated on a slope. The trees are said to be 800 years old and were planted by Shinran. The sun was already setting and the wide tree canopy cast a dark shadow. Buttress roots protruded above a beautiful velvety moss surface. We followed the stone pathway towards another gate, Yakuimon Gate. This brought us to the inner temple. It was founded in the 9th century as a retirement palace for the emperor and is sometimes known as the Awata Palace. The retired Emperor Toba (1097- 1155) named the temple Shōren-in and eventually, his son Prince Kakukai- shin’no (1134- 1181), became the head priest. Since then, until the Meiji- era (1868- 1912), each head priest of Shoren- in was from the imperial family or the regent family. In 1788, a great fire broke out in Kyōto and the Imperial Palace was reduced to ashes. Shōren- in became the temporary Imperial Palace.

untitled-162 DSC_0333After the reception, having removed our footwear, we entered a large tatami floor room, “Kacho- den”, drawing room. There are not many colours used in temple buildings but here in the room, all the “fusuma”, paper sliding doors had beautiful lotus flower painting by Kimura Hideki. Above the doors, 36 framed pictures with poems were hung on the wall. The portraits are of monks, aristocracies and politicians. Through each open “fusuma”, a delightful view was framed. Either, the exterior garden or colourful lotus flowers decorated with dragonflies, frogs and tortoises. These doors also help create ‘rooms’ merely by shutting and opening these “fusuma” and “shoiji”, rice paper sliding doors. Then we entered a wide tatami room – delightfully named – garden viewing room, with a lovely veranda. Light beamed into this room with unobstructed views of the garden.

untitled-171 untitled-169A few magnificent Japanese Red Pines with lovely lime green needles, was the focal point, surrounded by shrub topiaries, maples and cherry trees. Further down, a pond surrounded with artistically and ecstatically planted trees, mixed plants and natural stones created an appealing sight. Beyond that, the natural surrounding hills. This garden is attributed to Soami, and is called “Soami-no- niwa”, Soami’s Garden. A stone water basin, “tsukubai”, was placed at the edge of the veranda. This is one of the most beautiful gardens I had seen.

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There were only a few visitors today. Thus, this hall was quiet. Sounds of birds chirping and rustling leaves in the gentle breeze accentuated the tranquil feeling. We, like others, sat on the mats and admired the magnetic views in silence. Sitting on a raised building with no barriers to the garden gave me almost a levitated feeling. I was floating in an oasis, a Garden of Eden. Even the creaking sounds of people walking barefoot on the wooden boards on the adjoining veranda became faint. Such is the intoxicating appeal of these surroundings, particularly the gardens.

There were only a few visitors today. Thus, this hall was quiet. Sounds of birds chirping and rustling leaves in the gentle breeze accentuated the tranquil feeling. We, like others, sat on the mats and admired the magnetic views in silence. Sitting on a raised building with no barriers to the garden gave me almost a levitated feeling. I was floating in an oasis, a Garden of Eden. Even the creaking sounds of people walking barefoot on the wooden boards on the adjoining veranda became faint. Such is the intoxicating appeal of these surroundings, particularly the gardens.

Shōren-in is not a place to hurry. Just take a place on the edge of the room on the tatami mats. Perhaps have some tea. Then, gaze through the sculptured branches, clipped shrubs, easing towards the pond and beyond it, the rolling densely vegetated hills. The trees and shrubs are intentionally pruned to abstract and accentuate the best views. The eyes, like the meandering paths, encourages one to explore all corners of this magnificent garden.

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Kyoto – Kōdai-ji Temple

untitled-135Kōdai-ji Temple, a Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism, is located at the foot of Higashiyama Ryozen Mountains. It is officially called Kodaiji- jushozenji Temple. The temple was established in 1606 by Kita-no-Mandokoro or simply known as Nene in the memory of her husband, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. We entered through the main building and entered a beautifully landscaped “tsukiyama”, traditional style garden featuring a pond, man- made hills, decorative rocks and beautiful pine and maple trees. The maples were just turning colour. The landscape was designed by Kobori Enshū, an aristocrat and tea ceremony master.

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Oddly and regrettably, we failed to enter the main hall, “hondo”. Thus, we missed the large “karesansui”, dry garden and its impressive gilded interior. We, in fact, sat on the exterior of the hall and viewed the traditional garden only. Beyond this impressive garden, is the “Kaisan-dō”, Founders Hall, and on the left is a small and narrow raised wooden platform with four pillars, “Kangetsu-dai”, Moon Viewing Pavilion, designed to view the moon reflected on the surface of the man-made pond. Beyond that, on the right of Kaisan-dō, the pointed thatched roof of “Otama- ya”, Sanctuary, on a mountain is visible. There was a great sense of space, between the building, which was mostly hidden behind the wonderfully landscaped garden and the natural greenery of the hills and mountains. Furthermore, unlike in Kiyomizu- dera, the crowds here were minimal. This certainly allowed for a tranquil stroll, unhurried. Yes, there are hundreds of temples within Kyōto, but all seem to give an opportunity to individuals’ solitude, to slow down and just be in the present. Simply, to see and absorb the simple pleasures of the surroundings! Walking a few meters, the perspective of the views changed. The powers of a Zen Garden I suppose.

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Beside Kaisan-dō, trees lean towards Garyo-chi pond. The maples were just beginning to change into the majestic reddish and yellowish colours. We were just early about two weeks perhaps. I can only imagine the riot of colours in these mountains.

Pines, both tall and small, added appeal with their structural shapes. The garden – cut, clipped, pared, cropped, shaped and trimmed were absolutely pleasing and superb. A narrow wooden passageway with tiled roof, “Garyo- ro”, Lying dragon corridor, connected Kaisan-dō and Otamaya. Hereon, it was a slow uphill walk on steps towards the top of the hill. The impressive exterior of Otamaya Hall was intricately crafted with gilded lacquer work, mainly gold and blue. The roof was made from thatched grass. Similar work continued in the interior. This hall is a mausoleum for Hideyoshi and Nene. Continuing on, we reached a couple of wooden buildings, tea houses, Shower Hut, “Shigure-tei”, a unique two storied tea ceremony house and “Kasa- tei”, Umbrella Hut, both designed by the master, Sen no Rikyu. The outer fringe of this Zen temple complex is a path through dense thickets of tall lime green bamboo groove.

Back at the entrance, Ryozen-Kannon, a huge white Buddha statue and the towering Hokanji Pagoda with a greenish- bluish roof, can be viewed. We descended on stone steps, Daidokoro- zaka, that connected Nene-no- Michi Street and Kodai- ji. There we visited a newer complex, Kodaiji Sho Museum and a small shrine. It was late afternoon. We continued our walk on enchanting flagstone Nene- no-Michi path, towards Maruyama Park and Yasaka Shrine.

Kyoto – Sannenzaka Steps and Ninenzaka Steps

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These two paved pedestrian only streets are preserved historic streets located between Kiyomizudera and Kodai-ji Temples in Higashiyama. The narrow streets are reached via steep steps and are lined with some of the best restored traditional wooden houses in Kyōto. Nowadays, most are restaurants, souvenir shops, cafe, inns and cosy tea shops. Therefore it can be touristy and crowded. Surprisingly, it looked deserted this afternoon. Perhaps due to the cloudy day! Legend said that, if you fall at Ninen- zaka, you will die within two years. If you fall at Sannen- zaka, you will die within three years? Best not to run in these streets, be mindful!

Our approach to firstly, Sannen-zaka was via the crowded Kiyomizu-zaka. A signage led us to a descending flight of concrete steps. The myriad of shops on the main street continued here as well. An aged cherry tree on an elevated corner leaned towards these steps. The restored wooden houses with clay tiles were charming. This is a shopper’s paradise. A variety of items were sold here – lanterns, umbrellas, ceramics and pottery including tea cups and bowls, bamboo baskets, novelty shops with musical instruments and weaved baskets and pretty fluffy dolls including cats to name a few. Then, there were all the eating shops – local specialities included, from “ramen” and “sushi”, ice cream and “gohei”, “sanbei” to nice cosy cafe. As we walked down the street, vendors called out to give away samples. The food here are mostly local specialities and homemade. I can’t resist the varieties of “mochi” on offer. The sweet smell of green tea, “ocha” and the stronger “macha” wafted through in some areas. At one corner, Yasaka Pagoda, Ho-kanji Temple established in 589, towered above these neat streets and tiled roofs. This is the oldest pagoda in Kyōto. We arrived at Nene-zaka, another flight of steps. These pedestrians only paved streets made walking pleasant. The crowds added colour and sometimes a spectacle. Kimono clad women in dainty footwear added beauty to this unique bygone atmosphere.

untitled-125 untitled-124 untitled-129 untitled-126There are numerous side streets originating from the main street. The sight of these rustic wooden building, some established over a thousand years ago, gave a genuine opportunity to appreciate the life of a past era. Ryokans, inns, upmarket restaurants, shrines and homes of the locals inter- mingled with the gift shops, eateries, and tour groups with flag waving leader, pull- rickshaws with red blankets, melodious call to buy and sample local delicacies and flowing “noren” inviting visitors. This is definitely a great place to people watch – bowing, low tone talking, nimble walking, picture-taking, local etiquettes and mannerism, flowing silk kimono and modern style, etc. The ambiance of old Kyōto is quite visible here, whilst touristy. With cherry, “sakura” and maple, “momiji” trees; sprouting pagodas and quaint houses – this is one of the best walking and atmospheric streets we had experienced. Here, the culmination of the arts, cultures and traditions (new and old) are explicitly and wonderfully exposed. This is a rare brief glimpse into the past. We continued on the unique street and finally reached Kodaji Temple. This flagstone path, Nene-no- michi street, lined with tea houses and restaurants, led to Yasaka Shrine, the heart of old Higashiyama.

Kimono

untitled-131One of Japan’s iconic images is the beautiful free-flowing kimono. They are not cheap or as simple as it looks. Sometimes in layers with undergarments, mainly silk or cotton, mostly floral with a few colours and at occasions, like those worn by geisha are very colourful. There are many styles, designs and attachments. I don’t know or want to attempt to describe all these. All I know is that they are beautiful, feminine, and atmospheric and just catches the eye on any street or place. Based on Wikipedia, here are some terms for further reading:-

women’s kimono style……………….Furisode; Hmongi; Iromuji; Komon; Edo komon; Mofuku; Irotomesode;

parts of a kimono……………………..Dura ; Fuki; Sode; Obi ; Maemigoro ; Miyatsukuchi; Okumi; Sode; Sodeguchi; Sodetsuke; Susomawashi

Accessories and related garment……Datejime; Eri- sugata; Geta; Hakama; Haori; Haori-himo; Hiyoku; Nagajuban; Kanzashi; kimono surippu; Koshihimo; Obi; Susoyoke; Tabi; Zori

Kyoto – Kiyomezu-dera Temple2

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Along a narrow and crowded corridor, as on one side, a major construction work was on-going, a long flight of steps descended downhill towards Otowa Falls, “Otowa-no-taki”, the namesake of Kiyomizu- dera. The water from the fall is segmented into three and drops into a pond below. A large crowd of visitors queued to get into the pavilion. With a ladle on a long stick, they tried to catch the falling water and drinking it afterwards. It is believed that this act grants wishes, good health, longitivity, success in education and love, etc. I did not wait around for the crowd to thin out. My future, it seems, is firmly on my own shoulders.

“Take the plunge at Kiyomizudera” is similar to “Go jump off a cliff “. This saying refers to the hanging platform – the veranda above the mountain where the temple is located. It doesn’t literally mean that one should jump off the platform, but instead, one should be true to their convictions “- a popular Japanese saying

“Zen is not just about religion – it is in fact about everything – breathing, walking, working, family, farming, etc. Everything or activity that we do can be Zen. Being mindful and doing things consciously. This is greatly reflected here in Japan – the gardens, pagodas and even in their everyday lives”

” Kachou Fuusetsu” literally means Flower, Bird, Wind, Moon – experience the beauties of nature and in doing so learn about yourself”.

untitled-120We continued to walk higher up. The views of the “hanging stage” are clearly visible from here with its wood work underneath. From these Eastern Mountains, magnificent views of sprawling Kyōto is clearly visible. The nearby reddish Koyasu Pagoda was also under construction. We retraced our steps back towards the entrance of this massive temple complex via Todoroki-mon Gate and eventually through the West Gate ,”Seimon”. A steady stream of people continuously flowed through the entrance. We re- entered the bustling streets once again. Kiyomizu- dera is a very impressive temple complex indeed surrounded by greenery and wonderful views. However, here on the concrete paved streets, I was distracted by “mochi” and kimono clad women.