I flew into Kyoto airport and took a bus to Kyoto station arriving at lunchtime. As I was really hungry I found a little restaurant for a rice bowl lunch before heading off to find my hotel.
Since my room wasn’t ready, I decided to visit the Fushimi-Inari shrine, this meant tackling the metro system. It was a little confusing at first, however some friendly students were very happy to help me get on the right train and then helped me to top up my Japanese Oyster card, they insisted on a selfie at the end.
I took a south bound train at Shichijo station to Fushimi Inari station where I followed the hordes of people up the hill past lots of little stalls selling snacks.
Fushimi-Inari shrine is set on a hillside with a curved path running through lots of red Torii (shrine gates). The shrine has lots of fox statues, the fox is the messenger of Inari, the god of cereals, some of the foxes have keys to the rice granary in their mouths.
After checking into my hotel and unpacking, I jumped on the subway and went up to Gion, the traditional geisha district and wandered around. There were no geishas, in fact I think the only ones I saw were Chinese tourists who hire a costume to take their souvenir photos.
The next day, I took a taxi to Kiyomizu dera temple which has a large collection of shrines and temples set in beautiful hills. Hiking away from the crowds it was a very peaceful place. I went down the steps into totally darkness in Tainai-megiri, holding a rope you shuffle forward in pitch black until you encounter the Daizuigu Bosatsu stone which will grant your wish.
I observed the locals queuing up at kiosks and being curious I joined the queue and started collecting the red temple stamps in my Goshuinchou book. This book is to collect all stamps from each temple you visit on a pilgrimage. At each temple there's a calligraphy master who will write the date and place of your visit.
I walked down through the pedestrianised streets of Sannen-zaka hill which are lined with shops and restaurants in traditional style Japanese houses.
On the way, I stopped to look in at Kodai-ji temple where there is a bull with a bib, if you rub the part of his body where you have pain with both hands and then touch your body it will cure the pain, apparently.
I took a detour through Maruyama park, which was very peaceful with some lovely lily ponds and large carp. I encountered a very pretty tourist in her rented kimono.
The next temple was Chion-in temple, which has a large hall and lovely gardens
Shoren-in temple had a stunningly designed garden, inside the tea house were beautifully painted screens of traditional scenes.
Next the train from Higashiiyamito to Kyoto Shiyakushoman station to walk through the shopping arcade to Nishki market, which sold unusual foods.
Close by is the very imposing Higashi-hongan-ji temple, this is the gate:
Nearby is the Shosei-en garden, a very peaceful little oasis in the city.
Nijo castle has a very impressive golden gate and floors that squeaked like grasshoppers when you walked across them.
Tofaku-ji temple, this was possibly my favourite temple, it had such beautiful tranquil gardens
I walked along the Philosophers path with it’s cats to
Ginkaku-ji temple with it’s beautiful sand sculptures and gardens
On my last day in Kyoto, I visited a gold leaf master, he showed us how he makes the patterns with gold leaf and then weaves the strands of paper to make obi sashes for kimonos
Then it was time to take the bullet train to Tokyo
It has been a memorable trip to Kyoto, I have seen so many incredible temples, shrines and gardens and my goshuinchou book has filled up and met some lovely people.
If you've enjoyed this diary, then read Part 2: Tokyo