I’ve found a website that can plan my visit, cleverly called ‘Visitacity’. I programme in my two days and it sorts out an itinerary for me – adding and subtracting is easy, though it does tell me that I will get to some of the sights after closing time. Ah well, we’ll do what we can.
There are several places high on my list: the Golden Temple, the Temple with the thousand torii gates, and the bamboo forest number among them. If we get really lucky staying in Gion, we may even see a Geisha on her way to work. Whatever else we can squeeze in will be a bonus.
So, off we go to the Golden Temple, or Kinkakiju. It’s a beautiful sunny day, and the temple gleams, throwing gilded reflections into the pond. It is hard trying to photograph a subject that everyone else is crowding around, but I do manage… See what you think. Just as I am busy with the temple, a grey heron flies in and lands on one of the trees – beautiful and matches the roof decoration as well!
The grounds are extensive; this used to be the retirement villa of a shogun, who then bequeathed it to the Zen Buddhists in 1408. Unfortunately a mad monk burned it down in 1950, and it has been rebuilt, including the gold leaf covering of the top two floors.
Next we head off to Nijojo, the castle built in 1603.
We need a lunch break, and find a small cafe just across the road; he’s out of rice, so we settle for a hamburger. I find the perfect representation of my stack on the Nozawa snowfields:
The castle was the centre in Kyoto for the first shogun of the Edo period, the main palace divided into separate reception areas with tatami mats and fusuma, beautifully painted sliding doors. The paintings feature tigers, and funnily enough leopards – they were considered to be young tigers with round spots? Symbolically they represented the fearsomeness of the shogun, and as one gets to the inner sanctums, they soften just a little to eagles, mountains and trees. Access to the palace is through a Chinese inspired entry; the Karamon gate.
The gardens are beautiful, and huge, including a pond populated with the ubiquitous large, fat colourful Koi. I’ve fallen in love with Koi – they are a challenge to photograph, but this time I have my polarising filter, and it helps with cutting the glare and reflections.
The grounds are also planted with cherry trees, just getting ready to bloom in the next few weeks, we’ll just miss them, but there is one tree that entrances me:
From here, we make our way to the Imperial Palace, home to the imperial family until it moved to Tokyo in 1868. In the grounds is also the Sento Palace; unfortunately both are closed to visitors, so we only get to walk through the gardens.
Having explored two Kyoto sights, and walked past another two, we are exhausted, and head back for a rest before venturing out for dinner.