Japan: Kyoto: Temples I

Sunday, 6 September 2009

After taking the magnificent shinkansen high speed train from Tokyo, Husband and I arrived in Kyoto just after lunch, having devoured our lunchtime bento on the train.

We zipped in a taxi to the Hyatt Regency (we had wanted to stay in a ryokan but they were all booked out) only five minutes away, to our beautiful room with its stunning outdoor ‘viewing’ area – an enclosed courtyard with raked sand and bansai. The Japanese believe we all need something beautiful to look at. Thankfully, in Japan, beauty is quite simply everywhere.

The bathroom in our room was amazing and was almost as big as the sleeping area. It featured a separate high tech toilet (you could fly these things) and dressing area, and in the washing area, both a shower over the floor and a bath. You take a shower before you bathe, you see – and in Japan it’s absolutely okay to get water all over the floor.

After a delicious breakfast, we took a cab to Ginkakuji temple, one of 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines over the small city of Kyoto.

Our first temple was breathtaking, with endless landscape gardens, forests of bamboo, ponds and streams filled with carp, beautiful established trees and stunning architecture.

We were even approached by some school children who wanted to practise their English.

The children handed us an origami picture as a thank you and it’s still one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. With one flick of the wrist, the picture turns into another.

From Ginkakuji, we walked along the famed Path of Philoshopy which runs down the eastern side of Kyoto at the base of the hills.

This walk is a real treat in spring when it is coated in cherry blossoms.

We saw an artist sketching and stopped at a little café for a coffee before wandering south.

There are many temples along this path and the next we stopped at was Husband’s favourite – Eikan-do temple which was built of the most serene timber, with long sweeping staircases and echoing, perfectly symmetrical rooms.

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