Date of Travel: 31/01/2012
I woke up at around 7 am to a bright morning in Kyoto. I was surprised at how energized I felt considering how dead tired we were the night before. Brownie and Jay-C were still asleep, so I decided to let them snooze for a while longer while I freshened up, picked up my camcorder, and went out for a quick stroll down the road. I didn’t have to venture very far, as one of the bridges crossing the Kamo river was located just a minute or two away by foot. It was a beautiful sight, and highly contrasts the concrete jungle of the area around the Kyoto Train Station. After taking in the scenery, I headed back to the hostel to wake up the other two sleepy heads. It was another hour later before we finally headed out to explore the Eastern side of the city.
While researching about Kyoto, I had read on several websites that one of the best ways to go around the city was on bicycles. Luckily our accommodation had some rental bikes for about the same price as a bus pass during winter. We decided to rent a few for the day, and it was well worth it! We biked up north along the eastern side of the Kamo River (stopping by a convenience store to pick up some breakfast along the way) then headed east through Kyoto University before finally arriving at Ginkakuji.
The rental bikes (left), Kyoto University (right)
This was my third time at Ginkakuji, and the walk up the hill past the small restaurants, souvenir and Yatsuhashi stores with the constant chime of “Irashaimase!!!” was very nostalgic. The grounds of Ginkakuji was more beautiful than I had remembered. The moss covering the ground and trees was something I did not see often back in my home country. The sight of the main building surrounded by foliage, a small pond, and a sand garden to its right showed off the simplistic yet beautiful architecture/landscaping which Japan was well known for. Although there was a large crowd, it did not ruin my enjoyment of the temple grounds at all.
After exploring the temple grounds for a good 40-50 minutes, we headed down the slope back towards the shops. We decided to have an early lunch at a small cafe. I had been to this same cafe on my previous two trips, and on both occasions I ordered curry udon. Looking to keep the tradition alive, I went for curry udon once again! After having lunch and purchasing some delicious Yatsuhashi (which we felt obliged to as they had offered us nice warm tea for free) we hopped back on our bikes and went south along the Philosopher’s Path towards Higashiyama. Even though the Sakura trees were completely bare (as it was winter), the bike ride was very pleasant. I could only imagine how beautiful it would have been if it was spring.
A couple of hours later, we finally arrived at Higashiyama. However, we had problems finding a place to leave our bikes. We ended up having to pay 200 yen to leave our bikes at a parking lot down the bottom of the hill. The path back up the hill to Kiyomizudera was once again full of shops and restaurants. However, as it was mid afternoon at that time, the place was packed, and as a result we did not enjoy it as much as the approach to Ginkakuji earlier in the day. Nonetheless, it was still worth exploring. Kiyomizudera was beautiful and had a very good view of the city. However with all the construction work going on, we can’t help but feel that the atmosphere of the temple was ruined somewhat. Still, this was a temple that I had always wanted to visit, and it still surpassed my expectations of it. We also had some fun at the Jitsu Shrine watching people walk from one stone to another without looking (which supposedly brings good fortunes for finding love if one is successful). One lucky guy managed to succeed, though he did trip over the other stone at the end.
Yasaka Shrine was next on our list. Though we had visited it the day before, we wanted to see how it looked like during the daytime. To my surprise, the atmosphere of the shrine was completely different. There were more people around, and the sunlight allowed us to focus more on the architecture of the buildings. The simplicity of the architecture was beautiful. We spent the rest of the day strolling through other parts of Gion we had not been to yet, had dinner in the central city area, then went back to explore the Shirakawa area of Gion. After the stroll, we hopped back on our bikes and cycled back to our accommodation for yet another good night’s rest.
Bike rental from K’s House Kyoto – 500 yen
Bike parking fee at Higashiyama – 200 yen
K’s House Kyoto (Triple private room) – 2,900 yen
Breakfast from Lawson 100 Store (@ Go-jo Dori) – 315 yen [Sausage bun, curry bun and an orange flavoured drink]
Lunch on approach to Ginkakuji – 650 yen [Curry Udon]
Yatsuhashi from approach to Ginkakuji – 350 yen [Green tea flavoured]
Yatsuhashi crepe at Higashiyama – 450 yen
Hot coco from vending machine near Yasaka Shrine – 150 yen
Dinner somewhere along Shi-jo Dori – 1,000 yen [Oyakodon]
Souvenir at Ginkakuji – 400 yen [magnet]
Souvenir at Kiyomizudera – 350 yen [guide book]
TOTAL (cost for whole trip in brackets)
8,165 yen (140,215 yen total)