There were two big temples just a few minutes walk away from the hotel, so this morning I headed out on my own for a visit.
First stop was Higashi Honganji, Higashi means 'East'. This was a very pretty temple, though largely was a reconstruction. But then, most things in Japan are reconstructed. Most things are made of wood, and it turns out that throughout history and conflicts wooden things burn down really easily.
It is a short walk from Higashi to the next temple. Just walking around streets in Kyoto is fascinating!
Next stop, just a short walk away, was Nishi Honganji, or the 'West' temple. This was similar to Higashi, but seemed bigger and there were more people around. There were some nice flowers.
I went back to the hotel for lunch via 7-11, picking up some salad with a vinegar dressing (meh) and some of my beloved grilled onigiri. Then we hopped on the subway out to Kitaoji for walk to our next temple. Except we walked the wrong way, so caught a taxi instead. Silly.
Daitoku-ji is a large complex that contains twenty-two sub-temples. It has a famous Hatto building and Sanmon gate. But the main draw has to be wandering around between the various sub-temple grounds. Many of the sub-temples were closed to the public, but we were able to visit two.
The gorgeous Koto-in is a serene moss-covered building, and was pretty much my favourite place of the entire trip. Walking around the cool grounds, you can't help but feeling complete peace and tranquility. I could have stayed here forever, just letting the calm wash over me. If you are anywhere near Kyoto, make sure you visit this place. It will completely enchant you.
We had planned to go and pop into a vegetarian restaurant right next to the temple for a snack, but we couldn't find it! I did however see a pigeon friend, and a delightful cat. Kitty!
We stopped off at Kourin-in as well, another sub-temple, to view the pretty stone garden.
Our next stop was Kiyomizu-Dera, a very famous and beautiful temple. We caught a taxi there, and were a little surprised when we got in the cab at the faint grimace of the taxi driver. We soon understood why. Although not a long trip distance wise, there was a lot of traffic. Then the taxi driver had to drive up a very steep, narrow road leading up to the temple, battling against other cars, pedestrians and giant buses! We were very grateful to have a taxi up there, though, it would have been a steep walk! Even so, when the taxi let us out there was still a steep walk up to the temple itself. Kiyomizu-Zaka is the steep street leading up to the temple. It is full of shops with all sorts of touristy things, and teeming with people.
The big red gates are crowded with lots of tourists and school kids. Then it is a walk up more hills to the beautiful temple itself. The balcony around the temple offers some stunning views across the city and surrounding areas, though it is a bit of a steep drop if you look directly down!
The temple is also home of the Jishu Shrine, dedicated to a god of love and good matches. There are two stones here, and if you can walk between them blindfolded, you will find true love! If you don't make it, then doom awaits. I decided not to tempt fate. ;)
One of the big draws is the Otowa-no-tak. Under the main hall, the Otowa waterfall runs through three channels into a pond below. There is a huge line of people waiting to drink the water, which is meant to help grant wishes.
After our temple visit, we walked back down the steep slope of shops, and I bought some pink glitter Hello Kitty chopsticks, before heading back to the hotel for a rest and a snack. Then we caught the subway to Sanjo Keihan for a walk through Gion. No geisha were sighted, but there were lots of men walking around. We also walked down the Shimbashi, which according to Lonely Planet is one of the most beautiful streets in the world. It was OK.
For dinner it was back to Matsuontoko Cafe.
Dinner this time was a Namban (Southern Barbarian) Burger, which came with fries (OMG, potato, I love you!!) and salad. I'm not really sure what the burger was made from, but it came with a tartare sauce (yum) and did I mention the fries? After eating a lot of rice and a little bit of bread, I was craving potatoes.
For dessert I had to try their pancakes. These were a lot heavier than pancakes I am used to, but they were delicious and sweet and carby.