Kyoto, Japan and the Golden Temple

The Golden Temples from across the lake

The golden temple from across the lake

Trip Taken: 2007

This entry is actually going to be part one of a very long day in Kyoto. The city of Kyoto is littered with literally a dozen plus UNESCO World Heritage sites and I was going to try to see as many as I could in one day.

There were a lot of places to go. Since I was going to be taking the bus a lot during that day, I opted to buy an City All-Day Pass. It costs 500 yen at the time and I bought it at a bus stop with a ticket station. I believe there are ticket stations at most bus stops, so there is no worry about trying to find them. It is a pretty good deal considering that just one bus ticket is 220 yen.

Kinkaku-ji: The Golden Temple

After the Kiyomizu temple complex, the golden temple in the norhwestern part of Kyoto is one of the most photographed sights in the city. The entire building is built on an island in a lake and the entire outside of it is covered with gold foil. I bet that must be extremely expensive to maintain. It is a nice little place if it was so heavily crowded. The zen-like peace is broken every other second from some chatter you here from the tour groups that want to take pictures with it. I also bumped into a very rude Chinese couple on holiday. I was getting my picture taken when they just got in my shot and got up in my personal space. I could tell they were mainland Chinese from their accent and from their clothes. How to spot a Chinese tourist? The clothes are the most telling as most of the nouveau rich wear ill-fitting suits. Rich enough to go on a vacation but too cheap to buy clothes with good fit or tailoring.

Nijo-jo: The Nightingale Castle

And on the bus to the next destination in southwest Tokyo. Castle is a loose term when it comes to describing Nijo. It is more like a palace complex behind some wall fortifications. When I think of a Japanese castle, the castles of Osaka and Himeji come to mind. In any case, it is one of the coolest places to visit. Like all attractions in Kyoto, there is a zen like peace to everything here. But that isn’t what makes it stand out. One of the emperor’s was so paranoid about his safety that he built in nightingale floors. Floors that squeak and make noise with every move you make inside the castle. I tried to be sneaky like a ninja and shift my weight from foot to foot. That wasn’t enough to trick the floors.

Tenryu-ji: The Dragon Dream

And off to the outskirts near Arashiyama and Sagano. Tenryu-ji is a major zen temple that was built to appease an emperor’s uneasy spirit. This temple was really not noteworthy for me because I didn’t feel excited about the history of the place and my appreciation of the zen of it all was waning. One neat thing about the area around the temple is that there is a lot of wooded areas for walking. There is also a cool place where you can watch cormorants fish out of the river.

By this point it was getting close to lunch time and I had no idea what to do for lunch. Good thing one restaurant around the temple was still open and serving Katsu-don. I took the bus again but you’ll have to wait until the next part of my Kyoto trip.

Parting Words

Kinkaku-ji is worth it just for the sheer speactacle of a building covered entirely in gold foil. Nijo-jo is a great little relief from all the crowds you find at all the major sites in Kyoto. Tenryu-ji, for me, didn’t offer anything special but the area around it is incredible just to soak in some Japanese atmosphere that is outside of the city.

Picture Gallery

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About the Author

John is always trying to find his way back to the road. He has an affinity for Germany due to his three years studying German at Cal, and a year working as an intern in the Stuttgart area. He also likes chocolate cake and good cheese.