For a very long period of time, Kyoto served as Japan’s capital city making it really rich with cultural heritage. One of Japan’s largest cities, it is home to a lot of amazing temples and shrines, famous landmarks and other historical structures.
Visiting the different parts of Kyoto, we went to Kinkakuji (Northern Kyoto), Arashiyama (Western Kyoto) and Fushimi Inari Shrine (Southern Kyoto).
Kinkakuji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
From Minami-morimachi train station, we took a bus going to Kinkakuji (around 20 minutes). Entrance fee to the temple is JPY 400. There are actually other temples you can choose to visit within the area. But with our limited time, we chose Kinkakuji because unlike the usual temples, it is made of gold making it quite popular.
Kinkakuji Temple or Temple of the Golden Pavilion is formerly known as Rokuonji Temple. It is a three-storey pavilion capped by a golden phoenix, the first floor being made of wood while the second and third ones are made of gold leaf. The pavilion is surrounded by a large pond making it more scenic. Lovely as it is on the outside, I thought how it looks inside. Unfortunately, entering the pavilion is not allowed.
The Golden Pavilion is the first thing we came across from the entrance. Taking a stroll, we were able to see other parts of the place.
We passed by statues made of stone where people throw coins for luck.
Continuing through the garden, we then reached Sekkatei Teahouse which was built during the Edo period. They say the view of Kinkakuji Temple is much wonderful from where the teahouse is in the late afternoon. Sekkatei actually means Place of Evening Beauty.
Before reaching the exit, we lastly saw Fudo Hall, a small temple where the stone statue of the Buddhist deity, Fudo Myoo is located.
Aside from the garden’s beautiful and historical attractions, there are food and souvenir shops you can visit. Many of the food stalls actually offer free taste of their goods.
Arashiyama’s Togetsukyo Bridge and Oi River
After the Golden Pavilion, we headed our way to Arashiyama. We walked through Arashiyama‘s famed Togetsukyo Bridge (Moon Crossing Bridge) that spans the Oi River. We spent a few windy minutes enjoying the view of the river. From what I heard, you can actually rent boats if you want to go around. There is also a monkey park nearby but time constraint prohibited us from visiting the place.
As we get around Arashiyama, we saw two maiko geisha walking in the streets. Geisha is a traditional Japanese female entertainer and maiko is an apprentice.
Aside from geisha, we saw a number of rickshaws. Rickshaw is Japan’s traditional two-wheel cart hand-pulled by one man which is also popular to tourists.
Arashiyama’s Bamboo Groves
From the bridge, we finally reached Arashiyama‘s Bamboo Groves. This natural wonder is nothing less than captivating. Minus the bunch of tourists, walking through the paths between the bamboo groves will give you a very solemn and refreshing feeling. It is soulfully touching. Probably one of the best leisure walks you can ever have, the bamboo trail literally offers a cool atmosphere that will make you forget of your stressful city life.
There is no fee going to the Bamboo Groves. The best things in life are indeed free! You can also find this old man selling his self-made postcards just near the entrance.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
We visited Fushimi Inari Shrine on the last day of our trip, one of the most popular shrines in Japan. Just like Arashiyama’s Bamboo Groves, this is another best, free thing you can enjoy.
The shrine is situated at the base of Mt. Inari. Behind it are thousands of orange torii gates made of wood that would lead to Mt. Inari. Tourists usually seek a day hike to explore the unique mountain trails. They say you have to spend two to three hours to reach the summit. You will notice statues of foxes all over the place. According to stories, foxes are messengers of Inari, Shinto God of Rice.
There are wooden plates in the shrine where visitors can write their wishes. There is also this fox statue where you can throw a coin and make a wish if you can get the coin pass through the hole between the two foxes.
Due to limited time, we were not able to finish our hike. We just spent a few minutes walking along some of the torii gates. They say there are other miniature shrines and food shops along the way. Aside from these, they also say that there are graveyards as well that can make a late-in-the-afternoon or early-evening climb in the mountain a little strange.
If given another chance to go back to Japan, I won’t definitely think twice to visit Fushimi Inari Shrine again to see whatever mystery lies ahead of the torii gates.