Kyoto, Saturday 29-Oct

Another day of temples for us, in addition to getting more familiar with the Kyoto bus system. And even though we were there when we arrived in the city, we went back to Kyoto station to check out the architecture.

The day started as a normal morning for us, going down to eat breakfast, then going back to the room to get ready for the day. This hostel, however, has us taking shoes on and off more than in the other places we've been, where you just take your shoes off at the front door.

Now seems as good a time as any to talk about shoes in Japan. If you do travel to Japan, be prepared to remove your shoes several times a day. Where we've stayed, there have been no-shoe zones (so the previous hostels have been completely shoe-free). Where we're staying now, only the common area with the kitchen and our room are shoe-free, but we did bring along slippers which we use between the two.

Shrines and temples have you remove your shoes, and most provide cubbies for you to store them, but others give you bags to carry them. Usually, that's only for the places where they worship, but some have a larger area where they ask you to not wear shoes.

The Kanjiro house had you remove shoes at the ticket desk. They provided slippers for most of the tour, but when you went onto the gravel to see the kiln, you switched to outside slippers, then back to finish looking at the house.

Once we were done with the morning breakfast, we put our shoes on and headed to Kyoto station to get a day pass for the bus (which cost a bit more than two bus rides, but we were going to take at least four). In addition to having lots of trains, Kyoto Station also has many bus stops; we found ours, got into line (there are marks on the ground to indicate how the line should go), and rode to the north.

Daisen-in Temple

Our first destination was the Daisen-in Temple, which is one of over twenty sub-temples of Daitoku-ji Temple. It's known for its rock garden. It's almost 500 years old, and the area for the dry gardens is very small, so they were very creative in how they fit everything in.

We wandered around the grounds a bit on the way to the next bus, which took us to the next temple.

Kinkaku-ji Temple

The best-known of this temple is Kinkaku, the Golden Pavilion. Its actual name is Rokuon-ji Temple but is commonly referred to as Kinkaku-Ji Temple. There were quite a few people going into the entrance, and there wassomeone guiding traffic so people first went over to see the Golden Pavilion across the pond of Kyoko-chi. We then followed the signs all around the temple, and there was definitely a desired route.

When you purchase tickets for something, the ticket itself is meant to be kept as a souvenir. This one was the most elaborate, looking like a piece of paper with calligraphy drawn on it.

Ryoaun-ji

A short bus ride got us to the final temple of the day, Ryoaun-ji. It's well-known for a huge rock garden, about 30×75 feet. It has fifteen rocks artfully placed, and since the benches were along one of the long edges, lots of people were able to sit and look at the garden. There was also a miniature of the garden inside, and the ticket was a representation of the garden.

Another interesting item at Ryoanji was Tsukubai, the stone wash basin for the tea house. Its inscription means, “I learn only to be contented.”

Kyoto Station

We caught a bus to Kyoto Station, but as it ends up, the bus didn't do what we thought it would. It started out fine, but at some point, we must have hit the end of the line, since it started going back the other way. We got off, and since it was already quite a bit past lunchtime, we looked for a place to eat. After going past a place that looked like a French bakery, we stepped in. You pick up a tray and a pair of tongs, then pick out various pastries, sandwiches, and whatever else you want, putting them onto your tray. You take that to the cashier, pay for the food, and they put it into a basket for you to take to a table (you need to also buy a drink if you dine in the café). A pretty neat idea and execution, and the food tasted pretty good, too.

Trying again with the bus, we hopped on another one which ended at Kyoto Station. Since we were there, we decided to check out the building a bit. While not as bustling as Shinjuku or Tokyo Station, it's got its share of traffic, and the building itself is massive. A lot of it is also open air, which gives the architecture a very interesting look. We took a series of escalators to the top floor to look out over the city, then started heading back down. One of the escalators had stopped, so a station officer was there to have us wait until they got things going again, which was less than a minute. Looking around, the only other option for us would have been to go back up to the next level, then go down the other side. Fortunately, that wasn't necessary.

By now, you can probably repeat with me what we did next. Back to the room, rest a bit, go out to get groceries, back for dinner (yakitori chicken, roasted vegetables, and rice), and settled in for the evening.