Japan Trip, Exploring the Temples of Kyoto

Originally my friend and I had planned to take it easy this day and visit different temples by bike. But we messed up the date of our concert so it turned out it was taking place on this day. This meant that we had to go to Osaka in the afternoon and visit all the places we wanted before then. The route we planned out was to start at Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) and go through the Philosophers' Walk and Nanzen-ji to end at Kiyomizu-dera.We rented some bicycles in a shop a few streets away from our hotel. On our way to Ginkakuji we had to go uphill first. As Dutch people we are very used to use the bike and felt in our element, because what they say about Dutch people is true; we ride the bike a lot and there are bicycles everywhere. The only problem was the (seeming) lack of rules for bicyclers in Japan and lack of bicycle paths. Most of the time we just rode on the pavement and sometimes on the road. There were a few bicycles paths though. Another problem for us was the humidity and heat, but that was a factor during our whole trip.

So from the bike shop we started cycling towards the Kamo river and made our  way to the North alongside the river which was really relaxing. For some reason walking or biking alongside rivers or the seaside equals vacation in my head so I finally had a feeling of being on vacation at that moment. The rest of the trip was vacation too of course, but sometimes it didn't feel that way with our full schedules and being in the big cities most of the time. I grew up in a small city at the seaside and always went to the beach in the summer and even on vacations abroad with family we would usually go to the beach or a lake and just relax. So that's what vacation is like for me, being near the water. Big cities will never really make me feel that way. But that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy my trips to big cities or places far away from the sea. On the contrary. It is so different from what I'm used to that I almost want to see and do too much in a short amount of time and usually wear myself out, thus not getting the feeling of a 'vacation' but more of an 'exploration'.

There were a lot of people strolling along the river and some other bicyclers too. Some people were fishing and others just sitting and enjoying the view.
Next time that I visit Kyoto I will definitely rent a bicycle again to ride along the Kamo river again and take more time for it. And maybe prepare a picknick too!
After a while we left the river behind to make our way up the hills towards the Silver Pavilion.
We had to search our way through a residential area but we found the pavilion pretty quickly. The entrance tickets for the Silver Pavilion are gorgeous by the way; it is a big piece of paper with gorgeous calligraphy and red stamps.

The pavilion itself is a nice piece of architecture. Sadly it is not covered in silver like the name suggests. Because of delays of the construction during the Onin War it just never happened. But the most impressive part of the pavilion is definitely the garden. When you enter there is a small stroke of  rock/sand zen garden, the rest of the garden is covered with lush green trees and flowers. I think it is the most beautiful Japanese garden we encountered during the trip. I can tell all about it, but I think the pictures will speak for themselves.

When we finished a little photo shoot of the garden of Ginkakuji we continued our trip on the bicycle in the hills of west Kyoto. The Philosophers' Path is near Ginkakuji and I saw some nice photos of it and read about it in a guidebook or online, I can't really remember. We tried to find it but got lost and decided to just make our way to Nanzen-ji. We then encountered the Philosophers' Walk by chance, but weren't aware of it until after a while. I thought it would be a nice path between trees and a small river, which it was, but the canal, not river, was dry and there was a road next to it where we were riding, so it wasn't as ideal as I had pictured it. And the path itself was closed off. So it isn't really worth going all the way there to see it, I don't know why people actually recommend seeing it except when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

Nanzen-ji took a bit of searching before we could find it. It is in a big 'park' with other temples (sub temples I guess). It was nice walking around the park and taking photos of the temples, gates and a such. But honestly, we had no idea which one was Nanzen-ji itself. And we didn't have the time nor need to pay to visits the actual temple grounds, so we just stayed in the park for a short while for some photos and then continued to our final destination; Kiyomizu. That was quite far away and Kiyomizu is high up in the hills so we were getting tired by then. After a while we saw a pagode peeping above the roofs of houses on steep hills and figured that had to be Kiyomizu-dera. The streets around Kiyomizu are quaint little streets with traditional shops and houses, but they are very steep and very busy so we walked the last part with our bicycles at hand.

Cute bird decorations on a fence

Kiyomizu is famous for the wooden balcony and the three water streams. Apparently, the veranda is build out of wooden pillars without using a single nail. With the amount of people that stand on the structure every day that amazes me! From the balcony you have a nice view of the lush hills behind the temple. At this time of the year, June, they were bright green. From the other platform you can see Kyoto city far below. You are up quite high here! Making our way down, the temple is built on different nights of the hills, we could some a little bit more of the nature and small statues with red clothes on. They are statues devoted for miss carriages, children who died and abortions. It is a little bit sad, but I think the clothes the statues wear are cute at least. Once your down it is time to drink from the famous water streams. One stands for wisdom, the other for a long life and another for health. You can only chose to two of the three, otherwise you are too greedy. There is usually a long line to be able to drink from the streams, but we were lucky and the line was really short when we arrived. There is no indication of which stream is which and actually you only drink from one of them, at least that was the case for us, but it's the thought that counts. I have to say, the water was delicious and refreshing. Did you know that you can even buy a bottle of Kiyomizu water?

We had a little bit of time left so we browsed some of the shops near Kiyomizu before bringing back the bicycles and refreshing ourself for the concert. And then we once again went to Osaka. The metro to Osaka Dome was so busy that this time we were sure that the concert was today ;) The concert we were attending was the 'Seoul Osaka Music of Heart 2011 Fighting Japan'. It was a concert with many different Korean artist to raise money for the victims of the disasters of March 2011. We were barely there or a TV crew came to us and asked us to leave a message for 2PM. We were so taken aback by the sudden approach that we didn't really know what to say. By then we were still not used to the attention for us in Japan. There were different stands where you could buy merchandise. Weirdly enough, a lot of stands were missing. We bought something at the 2NE1 and B2ST stands, but 2PM, MBLAQ and many more didn't have a stand. After buying the merchandise we began searching our seats. And man, the arena was huge! So it wasn't an easy task. When we finally found out seats we discovered that they were very far away from the stage. Normally this wouldn't be a big problem but with an arena this size the artists looked like ants somewhere far away. Very disappointing. Luckily there were big screens and the atmosphere was great and hearing the songs (sort of) live was also really nice. On the screens they would play these really cool introductions of the bands and they also displayed cool backgrounds that changed for each songs. And there was even fireworks, fire and glitter bombs, or whatever you call them.

The artist that played were:

  • T-ARA
  • U-KISS
  • IU
  • F(X)
  • 2NE1
  • 2PM
  • TVXQ
They were all artists that I loved at that time, so I couldn't be more happy. I have followed MBLAQ and BEAST since their debut and they are my favorite boy groups at the moment. 2PM was my favorite back then and I was looking forward to them the most together with 2NE1. 2PM didn't fail me and 2NE1 blew me away, energy level max! The surprise of the evening was U-KISS because they did way better than I had expected. IU is the best singer ever but sadly for her they had some problems starting the music to her song. I am not really into girl groups with 2NE1 as a definite exception, but I do like F(X) too and they had a energetic performance. T-ARA and 4MINUTE have some songs I like, which they performed so I was happy with that. But I don't like their new songs so I don't really listen to them anymore. The same goes for F.T.Island; they have a few nice songs which they luckily played, but the rest of their songs don't really interest me. The big performer of the night was TVXQ, obviously. I have never been a huge fan and after they split into two groups I became even less of a fan, but the duo Changmin and Yunho have some great songs and their performance is top notch. I think 80% of the fans came to the concert for them and almost everyone was wearing TVXQ scarfs and the venue was glowing in red lights, the color of TVQX. 

All in all, it was an awesome concert. Very tiring but we saw many great performers. They emptied the venue section by section so we had to wait very long until our section was allowed to leave. And after a sleepy train ride and cup ramen it was time for a bed.

Notes :3

  • Bicycling in Kyoto is quite a challenge but well worth it
  • Kamo river is the perfect place to spend your free time; stroll, bicycle, picknick, fish or just relax at the riverside.
  • Despite being a big city there is a lot of nature on the hills surrounding Kyoto. The grounds and gardens of temples and castles are also full of greenery, so nature is never far away in Kyoto. 
  • Want some peace and quiet? Go to one of those Japanese gardens.
  • If you have a tight schedule like me; take a breath. Realize that you're on vacation and do something that makes you feel that way. Enjoy and relax!
  • If you're looking for a gorgeous place to photograph or as a backdrop for a photoshoot in Kyoto; go to Ginkakuji/Silve Pavilion! I regret not taking a 'selfie' there. Fushimi Inari Taisha would be another great place
  • The Philosophers' Walk is not really worth visiting except during Cherry Blossom season
  • Nanzen-ji has a nice park with sub-temples. I can't comment on the inner grounds though.
  • Strolling through the cute streets near Kiyomizu-dera is recommended. They are photogenic too.
  • 'Jumping off the balcony at Kiyomizu' is a famous Japanese proverb. Don't do it though, it's really deep!
  • Don't be greedy, drink only water from two of the three streams at Kiyomizu.
  • Don't go to a concert in Osaka Dome unless you have good tickets or enjoy watching the concert on big screens
  • Taking photos at concert in Japan is not allowed (so no photos alas)
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  1. Everybody was riding bicycles when I went to the Netherlands! Great that you managed to find a bit of your own culture in the bikes somewhere so far from home. Looks like you saw some great sights along the way too!

    1. Yes, it was nice to feel in my element in another country. What a simple thing like a bicycle can do! And yes, the sights were definitely something !