Part II – Memoirs of Japan Kyoto – Japan’s Heartland (Day1)

Kyoto is one of my favourite city and the most visited city in Japan and should be included in one’s itinerary. Kyoto is located in the central part of the Island of Honshu. It’s place where you see authentic Japanese traditional culture, ancient temples, colourful shrines and sublime gardens. Kyoto’s is world’s culturally rich and diverse city. It’s one of the busiest destination for international as well as domestic tourists in Japan. Kyoto is packed during Cherry Blossom season and finding accommodation during this time is impossible. I would suggest booking as early as 3-4 months in advance to avoid disappointment. The best times to visit is during Spring to witness the beautiful Cherry Blossoms and during Fall to experience the colourful foliage. Kyoto has a lot to offer and can be done in 2 days, but four to five days  is about perfect amount of time to spend.

Kyoto is on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen line and there are frequent services available on this line. There is no need to book your tickets in advance as there is a Shinkansen (Bullet Train) every 3 -4 minutes. The fastest is the Nozomi with fewer stops and can cost around 13,200 Yen in Reserved car. If you are travelling from Tokyo, try to get a seat on the right side of the train so you can see Mt Fuji from your train window.

The best way to travel around Kyoto is by Kyoto City Bus and one day pass costs 500 yen and can be  boarded or alighted as many times during the day. A single ticket costs 220 yen and is only valid for one journey.

Suggested Itinerary in Kyoto –

Day 1

Kinkaku (The Golden Pavilion) /  Rokuon-ji Temple 

Kinkaku is located in the Kinkakuji Area in Kyoto and is one of the most visited sites. It’s also called The Golden Pavilion as gold foil on lacquer covers the upper two levels of Kinkaku. It is a representation of Muromachi-period architecture. The temple’s main image is a stone statue of the Buddhist deity Fudo-myo-o. The statue is hidden from public view and the image has long been revered for miraculous power.

The easy access to the temple is by Kyoto Bus and can be accessed by various locations throughout central Kyoto. The buses you need to look out are – Kinkakuji-mae (Bus # 12 and 59) Kinkakuji-michi (Bus # 101, 102, 204, 205).

Try the Japanese powdered green tea at the Tea House for 500 yen which comes with a Japanese sweet. It’s worth the experience.

Ryoanji Temple

This temple is located 20-30 minutes by foot from Kinkakuji Temple or if you feel lazy then take the bus either # 12 (5 minutes walk from the bus terminal) or # 59 goes directly to the temple.

This temple was founded in 1450 and the main attraction is the garden arranged in the kare-sansui style (Japanese Rock Garden) or often called as Zen Garden. The garden is meant to be viewed from a seated position on the verandah. It gets very busy and going early in the morning before 10am is advisable. The garden represents an austere collection of 15 rocks, apparently adrift in a sea of sand, is enclosed by an earthen wall. The wall behind the garden is one of the important feature, pay close attention to the wall; it’s made of clay which has been stained by age with subtle brown and orange tones.

 

Daitokuji Temple

Daitokuji Temple is a collection of Zen temples, raked gravel gardens and wandering lanes. The entire complex contains a total of 24 temples. This temple is not usually crowded by tourists, so it’s worth visiting the temple any time during the day. The temple is of interest who have fascination for Japanese Gardens.  The Rock Garden of Daisen-In Temple is located in the temple complex and costs 400 Yen, but worth the experience to witness the peaceful Zen Gardens. The Spirit of Zen is expressed here through the media of only rocks and sand. At the end of the touring the gardens, experience Japanese style tea for 400 yen along with a Japanese sweet (Photography is not allowed inside the Daisen-In Rock Garden).

Daitokuji Temple can be accessed by Kyoto City Bus # 12, 204, 205 and 206.

Well that’s the end of day 1. I will be writing more on Kyoto and Nara in my furture blogs. Stay tuned, until then Sayōnara.

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Part 1 – Memoirs of Japan

Konnichiwa (Hello)

 

Japan is often called The Land of Rising Sun.  To me it is not just that, but a well-organised country with rich history, traditional architecture and culture and most importantly, punctuality. Time is very precious in this country and everything runs on time, to be even a second late is considered disrespectful. When we arrived into Kansai Airport from Sapporo we were a few minutes late; precisely 2 minutes, the captain apologized many times, and then a crew member apologized personally to every passenger on the way out of the plane.

Japan is a wonderful country and a place everyone should visit at least once in their  lifetime; it’s land of beautiful landscapes, old and new architecture, lush green mountains, beautiful temples and vibrant cities. Japan is a land of modern technology and one to has to be there to experience it. In this modern-day and age the Japanese people are very polite and gentle. They respect each other’s personal space, the best time to experience this is to take the subway during the peak times, you will find it quiet inside the train carriage, and you don’t hear people chatting nor speaking on their mobile phone nor watching videos on WhatsApp or You Tube without a headphones. If you watch closely you will see people reading a book but they don’t disclose what they are reading as it’s nicely wrapped in a plain brown paper cover.

During my last trip to Tokyo my travel companion Johnathon and I were trying to get to the Imperial Palace gardens and couldn’t find our way from Ginza. I politely asked a lady who was passing by but unfortunately she couldn’t speak a word of English and instead replied to us in Japanese and walked away. We were quite puzzled as what she meant, we anxiously waited at the same spot hoping that we could find someone who spoke English. We stood waiting at the same spot for more than 5 minutes and then suddenly the same lady we had spoken to appeared accompanied by another Japanese person who spoke fluent English. We learned that the lady actually tried to tell us that she was going to look around for someone who spoke English and help us with the directions to the Imperial Palace gardens. The Japanese people are not only known for their hard work but they are most courteous and extremely helpful.

The first part of the Memoirs of Japan will take you to an amazing UNESCO World Heritage site, Kamakura which is located nearby Tokyo.

Kamakura is an ancient city located 60 minutes from Tokyo Station on the JR Yokosuka line. A ticket costs 780 Yen from Tokyo Station to Kamakura Station. The main sights in Kamakura are easily accessible on foot or a short trip by local buses from Kamakura Station. I prefer walking as you can experience the hustle and bustle of the small town . Not to be missed is the shopping, the busiest is on Komach-dori street. You should avoid going there on Sundays as Kamakura gets busy. The best way to get acquainted with the sights around Kamakura is to ask a volunteer guide outside the train station located next to the clock tower, as an added bonus they speak English.

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The closest site near the train station is Tsurugaoka Hachiman gu shrine , located just 10 minutes from the train station on foot. If you ascend the steps of the shrine, you will have a full view of the beautiful city of Kamakura.

Kamakura is also renowned for the famous Daibutsu , which means Great Buddha. This site can be reached either by a bus to Daibutsu or by catching a local train to Hase Station from Kamakura Station. The Buddha Statue was made in 1252. It’s height including the plinth is 13.35m and it weighs 121 tons. It is a beautiful statue, not only for its size but also has retained its appearance since it was  originally cast. At first, it was housed inside a building, but the building was washed away by a great tsunami at the end of the 15th century, and since then it has remained outside.

Another temple not to be missed is Hase-dera Temple, located few minutes by foot from Daibutsu. The historical Hase-dera Temple was built-in 736 AD. It’s  a great spot to visit during Fall to enjoy its lovely Autumn foliage. The Temple is situated on a hill and has a lovely view of the sea. It’s garden is worth a visit in any season for its beautiful flowers, seasonal plants and beautifully raked Zen garden.

It’s almost the end of the day,  and nice way to finish the day is to relax in Kaikoan Restaurant. Don’t forget to try powdered green Japanese tea, also worth a try are delicious Rice balls dipped in sweet syrup. There are also vegetarian options available in this restaurant. It’s time to start the journey back to Tokyo. A short 15-20 minutes easy stroll through the streets of Kamakura will take you to the train station or there are buses every 5 minutes to the train station.

Sayōnara (Bye)