I had very little time in Kyoto, so I made a bee-line for the Imperial Palace. Unfortunately, the Palace was closed for tours because it is a public holiday, but I got very close to it and was able to tour the gardens.
The bus system in Kyoto is excellent, and I hopped on a bus to head down to the Kyomisu Temple. Something caught my eye and I hopped off a couple of stops early, I’m glad I did because I got a photo op with these lovely ladies!
I was standing outside the gateway to the Chionin Temple. Behind the gateway were a dozen or so shrines. Alongside the shrines were traders selling sweets or sizzling weasels on sticks. At this point, I didn’t really know where I was going but I didn’t care, so I pushed on and found myself in Maruyama Park. Maruyama Park was incredibly photogenic. I’m not entirely sure what the circumstances were, but I guessed that this was some kind of “Dress up nice and we’ll take your photo” package.
There was a professional photographer there. I’m not sure what he said to her to get this reaction, but the timing was perfect.
Maruyama Park wasn’t just a tourist destination. Locals also took the time to chill out in the grounds:
Not caring about where I was going really paid off, taking me through the narrow streets leading to the temple. These streets were Edo Period style, and very unlike the real car-supporting streets of Kyoto proper. Here and there were restaurants or geisha houses. A glimpse through a doorway was rewarded with the sight of a beautifully kept garden. In the streets were geisha:
It was pretty busy leading up to the temple. There were plenty more sizzling weasel on a stick shops, as well as some selling traditional sweets. I went for a roasted green tea ice-cream in a bun. It went everywhere, but was delicious, and just what I needed to finish my ascent to the temple.
Approaching the temple, I passed this bell and took a snap I’m pretty pleased with:
Kiyomizu temple itself had a lot to live up to. I had heard about it from my history books. Hideki Tojo, when deciding whether or not to initiate war with the USA, said, “A man sometimes must dare to leap from the towering stage of Kyomizu Temple”. I asked my new friend Akio if he had heard this phrase, and he told me that this was a common Japanese turn of phrase equivalent to “Jump in with both feet”.
Admission to the temple was a few hundred Yen. Inside the temple was all the usual temple stuff, including the fortune telling by stick, but this time it wasn’t self-service: you had to hand your stick to a man behind a counter who would fetch it from a drawer for you.
The real tourist draw was the view from the terrace (or “towering stage”). The light was fading and I was able to drink in the view of the temple over the valley and across Kyoto itself:
Soon enough, we were being driven out of the grounds by the monks through some tranquil gardens in the valley below Kiyomizu.