Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kyoto: Without a (live) tour guide

I had been in Kyoto for 5 days by now and was fairly comfortable getting around. It's a surprisingly easy city to navigate.
For day 6 I wanted to keep fairly close to my home base so I could do a little shopping in the morning. I ended up finding a route in this book that ended on the street my apartment was off of. I had no clue that was a route that took in the Kiyomizudera temple complex which was on my mental list of places to go to (which I will blame jetleg for forgetting).

Just behind the park where Virginia and I shared some DELICIOUS takoyaki at the start of my trip was Choaku-ji. It was a small, quiet temple. Backed right against the mountain it felt completely removed from the city.

I got a little turned around trying to follow the directions in the guide book but still wandered by Otani Soboyo.
Otani Soboyo - Kyoto by girl from finito
Otani Soboyo - Kyoto, a photo by girl from finito on Flickr.

One of my favorite finds of my whole trip was finding Yasaka Koshindo, the temple devoted to the three monkeys. You know them, the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil monkeys. If you look carefully you can make them out at the top of the alter stairs. Yasaka Koshindo was a really bright, happy temple. The top most photo is of this temples fabric monkeys and that also function as the temple ema. *

Not far from the monkeys was the former pottery district of Kyoto. It was full of little pottery and gift shops that I happily wandered in and out of.
It was in this area that I first started to notice many more tour groups of students and girls in kimono and yukata.

Also interesting in this area are the 2 year and 6 year hills leading up to the Kiyomizudera temple. It is said that is you slip on one of these hills you will have 2 or 6 years of bad luck... UNLESS... you buy a gourd! amazing! (すごいね!)

I can not recommend Exploring Kyoto highly enough. It's packed with info and amusing stories. The maps are useful and though I did get lost once or twice I still managed to right myself and find everything. Though the route I took eventually led me to one of Kyotos larger temples I got to see and learn about a bunch of smaller, interesting temples along the way. (it's also available on Google books where you can check out a chapter or two!)

I'll finish up with Kiyomizudera in my next post as I want to post quite a few pictures from there.

*Ema are plaques that you can purchase to write wishes and prayers to the temple god. They are gathered up once a year and ceremoniously burned.

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