Arriving at Kyoto station bright and early at 9am, I shoved my bag into a locker and went on my merry way. I had made a plan of action the day before of key things I wanted to see, but wasn’t really sure how long everything would take so it was tentative at best.
I got an all-day bus pass for 500yen (remarkably good value at about 4 quid), and headed first to Sanjusangen-do 三十三間堂, literally the hall of thirty three lengths, which Doug had said was must see. Inside were 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy; a giant statue in the centre, surrounded on each side by 500 human sized statues in ten rows. We weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside, but take a look at the google images.
From Sanjusangen-do, it was a 10 minute walk to the foot of a hill, and another 15 minutes up the hill to the famous Kiyomizu-dera temple 清水寺. Built on the site of a waterfall (the literal translation is “pure water temple”), the original temple dates from 798, with the current buildings from the 1600s, and juts out 13m over the hillside. Surviving the 13m jump was said to bring good fortune, but isn’t allowed any more. I was offered a free guided tour by some students from the University of Kyoto, but as I was in a rush (and sadly they probably weren’t) I had to turn them down as it would have eaten into my day.
As such, I had a quick whizz round, took some photos and went back on my way down the hill to the city again. By this point, it was only about half ten, and I had lots of time to spare (I was planning on leaving at around 3 or 4ish), so I added an extra stop to my tour, Ginkaku-ji, or the Silver Temple 銀閣寺. In getting to the Silver Temple, I probably spent more time on the bus than I had in either of the two temples I’d already been to!
Although not actually made of silver, I think it got the name in contrast to the Golden Temple it was modelled on, the Silver Temple was the retirement home of a 15th century shogun. It was a very impressive building located in beautiful gardens, which also included some very nice sand sculptures.
Owing to the time on the bus, it was pushing 12 when I left, so I thought I’d get to my main interest of the day, the Golden Temple, firstly before it got too late and secondly before the battery in my camera ran out. Going from silver to gold was theoretically pretty easy, but in practice a bit less so as the bus unceremoniously stopped and chucked everyone off halfway, so again I must have spent over half an hour getting across town.
Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺, the Golden Temple, was the retirement villa of another 15th century shogun, and its top two levels are completely covered in gold leaf. After paying the entrance fee, it’s thrust upon you over the lake, and it’s a hustle and bustle between the tourists to try and get the best pictures. Again, it was very impressive, I thought it would look incredible in cherry blossom season. The path follows round the back of the temple into the gardens, though these weren’t as impressive as in the Silver Temple. There were the obligatory tat stalls, and then we were shepherded back out into the driveway!
That concluded everything I’d particularly wanted to see in Kyoto, and it was lunchtime, so I thought I’d head back to the station area to get something from there, though that provided challenging in itself, and spent what must have been an hour on the bus trying to get back there!
After a quick bite to eat, my 6 hours in Kyoto were up, and I headed back to Tokyo on the Shinkansen.