Japan – Kyoto – Higashiyama Shrines

This was our second trip to Japan. Back in October 2010, we visited many of the biggest cities, including Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima and Tokyo. Highlights included Sapporo and our roadtrip around the northern island of Hokkaido, staying in a Buddhist monastery on the magical Koyasan mountain, completing an epic 72km bike ride across the many bridges and islands of the famous Onomichi Cycling Route, hiking part way up Mt. Fuji and exploring the quaint island of Miyajima.

Perhaps we will include that in a future post. This time round, we would dwell longer to experience Kyoto during the cherry blossoms and explore the south-west island of Kyushu.

Landing in Tokyo from Beijing, we shopped at the locally famous BIC Camera shop to pick up a new camera lens. Many of the best cameras and lens are Japanese, so it is the best opportunity to pick up a great deal. Reacquainting ourselves with the awesome shinkansen (bullet train), we rocketed halfway across Japan’s main island of Honshu to our favourite city of Kyoto.

A geisha whizzing through Gion

A geisha whizzing through Gion

Kyoto (meaning capital city), was Japan’s capital before it moved to Edo in 1868, which in turn got renamed Tokyo (meaning eastern capital). The original city was arranged in accordance with traditional Chinese feng shui, following the model of the ancient Chinese capital of Chang’an (present-day Xi’an).

Japanese culture at its roots in the Higashiyama District of Kyoto

Japanese culture at its roots in the Higashiyama District of Kyoto

The Higashiyama (meaning eastern mountains) has many old-style streets with popular large and also hidden temples and shrines to explore.

Hokan-ji overlooking the Higashiyama District

Hokan-ji overlooking the Higashiyama District

Hokan-ji (ji meaning temple) is a 46m tall wooden tiered pagoda squeezed inside the Higashiyama District. A nice reward for a casual stroll through narrow hilly streets and alleys.

Hokan-ji

Hokan-ji

Conversely, Yasaka Shrine is a massive complex near the Gion District which includes several buildings, gates, a hall and stage. The striking vermillion colour is a trademark of Japanese shrines and torii gates.

Yasaka Shrine entrance

Yasaka Shrine entrance

The shrine’s construction originated in 656 and grew into an important and popular visiting sight for locals and now tourists alike.

Exploring the massive Yasaka Shrine complex

Exploring the massive Yasaka Shrine complex

Sanjusangendo (meaning thirty three ken-length hall). A ken length is a measurement in Japanese architecture for a proportion of intervals between support pillars, historically around 2 metres in length. Hence it has thirty three spaces between its wooden columns.

Sanjusunkendo

Sanjusungendo

It is a Buddhist temple which houses 28 guardian deities in front of a Buddhist Kannon, all having origins in Sanskrit texts of Hinduism. Unfortunately we couldn’t take photos inside, but the incredible amount of detail and care in each of the wooden carvings is impressive and worth a visit. The sight lies opposite the Kyoto National Museum, which was still under construction/restoration at the time. We also passed this little museum nearby.

Fair enough

Fair enough

Chishaku-in is the head temple of the Shingon Buddhism Chizan Sect, founded in the 14th century. The main entrance was filled with cherry blossom trees, just beginning to flower. Around the main building is a cemetery and smaller buildings housing young Buddhist monks, who we saw quietly going about their business.Inari Shrine2Inari Shrine1

And this was only one area of our Kyoto shrine hopping!

Visited 15th to 21st February 2014.

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About starksepicadventure

We are Andrew and Lakshi Starks, young married couple from Melbourne, Australia. We are travelling around the world on our Starks Epic Adventure!
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