This Open Road

A season walking southbound on the Appalachian Trail

Return to Kyoto

After my first trip to Kyoto, I knew I’d have to go back. I had too much planned on that initial trip and felt rushed trying to see everything I wanted to see. On my way home, I marked out a couple possible weekends on my calendar for a return trip, but didn’t set a definite time. The weeks started to roll by, things got busy, I got a cold, the weather started getting raining and chilly, and I wondered if I’d make it back to Kyoto.

Then, during my run last Saturday, I realized it was going to be a beautiful fall day. So, on a whim, I decided to go to Kyoto.

I came home and sketched out a plan, noted the places that were a priority, packed up my daypack and went to Nagoya Station to get my shinkansen ticket.

My ride.

My ride: the Nozomi Super Express.

 

Kyoto is known for its many shrines and temples. These places can be crowded on most weekends, but they are overwhelmed on pristine days such as this November day on which I visited. At first I was dissuaded. It seemed everywhere I went people were jostling for picture-taking spots and moving en masse to the next viewing spot. But this being Japan, it was the organized chaos I’ve grown accustomed to. Everyone was pleasant, accommodating and having a good time. Japanese people know how to move easily in a pack and once I adjusted my pace to this movement, I was able to zigzag through the throngs.

I didn't notice this sweet couple until I downloaded my pics. Perfect!

I didn’t notice this sweet couple until I downloaded my pictures. Perfect!

 

My first stop was Tofuku-ji, a temple that was established in 1236.

Tofuku-ji.

Tofuku-ji.

 

There are 24 subtemples, although there used to be 53.

05-Kyoto 154

The Sam-mon (main gate) is the largest and oldest Zen temple gate in Japan.

The Sanmon (main gate) is the largest and oldest Zen temple gate in Japan.

 

Later, as I made my way toward another temple, I walked into this area (or maybe I was carried along by the masses, my feet not touching the ground, I’m not sure) where the colors were astounding. Seems everyone thought so.

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I’ve never seen such vivid fall colors.

 

I continued on to the iconic Fushimi-Inari Shrine. This shrine is famous for its thousands of torii gates that wind up the mountain. The shrine complex was dedicated to the gods of rice and sake in the 8th century. It’s the main shrine for 30,000 Inari shrines scattered throughout Japan.

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Entrance to the Fushimi-Inari Shrine.

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Some people were really dressed up to see the fall colors.

Some people were really dressed up to see the fall colors.

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The torii gates are donations by individuals and companies. Their names and dates of donation are inscribed on the torii.

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Senbon Torii.

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A trail leads up from the gates to the top of the mountain. As crowded as it was, no one seemed interested in venturing beyond the famous gates. I started walking up this mountain path and after 10 minutes I was practically alone. I continued to walk for another 45 minutes or so.

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This trail led through a forest of cedar and bamboo trees.

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A side trail led to this collection of mini-shrines and torii.

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Path leading away from the thousand torii gates.

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Leaving the Fushimi-Inari Shrine complex.

 

I caught the train back to Kyoto Station where I got on a bus that took me to the Path of Philosophy – a peaceful walkway along a small canal connecting two shrines. The pathway was named after a 20th century philosopher – Nishida Kitaro  – who used to walk here.

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View along the path.

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The trail led to another famous site, Ginkaku-ji, or the Silver Pavilion. Built in 1482, the pavilion was never covered in silver as the shogun of the time intended, but the name stuck.

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The shrine has a sand garden with a sand cone called the “Moon Viewing Platform.” The garden is supposed to represent a lake and a mountain.

 

A trail winds through the grounds which goes up a hillside, offering views of the shrine and Kyoto.

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View of the shrine.

 

There are shrines everywhere. Famous ones and unnamed ones. As I left Ginkaku-ji, I came upon this small shrine. Only two other people were enjoying the quiet evening here. It was a welcome respite to walk in the waning light at this tranquil spot.

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Just like my last visit to Kyoto, I was exhausted at the end of the day. And like last time, I got a little turned around, walked more and stayed later than I intended, and left feeling a little deprived. There is more here that I want to explore.

The masses persisted and every bus I saw going to Kyoto Station was full. But the traffic was also heavy and as I walked in the general direction of the station, I passed those trapped buses. I took side roads and once found myself walking past the Ritz-Carlton. For a brief and flirty second I thought, “Wouldn’t that be nice…?”, but continued on. For all of my simplistic and minimalistic inclinations, my guilty pleasure is fancy hotels. (Not that I’ve stayed in many of them, but the few I’ve experienced have left a strong impression.)

Finally, I found a subway station and made a beeline for Kyoto Station. I was back in my tiny cozy apartment in just over an hour later.

I hope I’ll be back to Kyoto. As with any destination, there are multiple layers to a city like this and I’ve just seen the surface.

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11 responses to “Return to Kyoto

  1. Jamie Jarvis December 3, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    This may seem strange to you, but this is the 1st place I’ve seen of your Japan journey that calls to melovely!

    When are you back state-side and for how long?

    xo

  2. Mom December 2, 2013 at 2:34 am

    I just showed Kendall the photo of the little Japanese girl in the kimono. So very cute. Isn’t it interesting that the child is in traditional dress and the older woman is in Western dress.

  3. Judy December 1, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Just exquisite to see the beautiful shrines and temples with the fall color! Thanks so much for sharing your impressions.

  4. Gus December 1, 2013 at 6:49 am

    You have done it again. Fantastic writing. Wonderfully expressed, it felt as if I was in your shoes.
    Beautiful photo’s. WOW. You invoke the travel urge that lies dormant within me again. Cheers from DOWNUNDER.

  5. Mom December 1, 2013 at 3:49 am

    So glad you went back to Kyoto. Thanks for a great read and wonderful photos. Much love from all of us!

  6. Uncle Dan December 1, 2013 at 2:05 am

    Really cool. The colors are as good as Maine when we were there about six weeks ago.

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