When we arrived at Kinkaku ji, the sun was shining brightly and we had a beautiful view of the temple. This temple is in the traditional pagoda style and sits in the middle of a small lake with a single bridge connecting land to the temple. The reason it is called the Golden Pavilion is because it is actually plated in real gold! It was build during a very economically prosperous time in Japanese ancient history; during the time of the Shoguns.
It was amazing the way the sun glinted off the gold of the temple and reflected beautifully on the water below. The path for visitors around the pavilion is a nice light gravel walkway around the perimeter of the lake. Tourists cannot walk inside the temple because it is still used by the Buddhist priests that maintain the temple and the grounds. As we were walking along the path, I happened to look down into the water, and there were a ton of coy swimming in the lake. They were bright orange and white and clamoring along the bank of lake. The path goes up a small hill and through some nice trees. Lauren and I were there just as the leaves were beginning to change color, so it was quite pretty to see. Kinkaku ji is one of those places that even the most challenged photographer can get a postcard shot every time. I feel like such a professional taking pictures of this place because it is impossible to get a lousy shot!
Next, we walked back down to the bus stop and hopped a bus to Ginkaku ji (The Silver Pavilion). Yes, this is the opposite side of the spectrum from Kinkaku ji. In all my travels to Japan, I have never seen this temple before and it comes very highly recommended from all my Japanese friends. The story with this temple is that it was built to be in competition with Kinkaku ji. Originally the architect wanted to make a beautiful silver structure that could be revered even more than the Golden one. However, it was coming to the end of Japan’s economic high, so the architect did not have enough money to carry out his original idea. He kept the name however, but made the structure an incredible architectural beauty. It showed his talent and skill rather than the amount of money in his purse, and for this reason, Japanese people love and respect this temple more than the one of gold. I was really excited to see Ginkaku ji because of how highly recommended it had come, but when Lauren and I arrived, we discovered that the roof was being repaired and it had been closed to the public since February! Needless to say, we were very disappointed. We were still able to walk around the grounds and take in the natural beauty of autumn, but all in all, it was a bit of a bust.
After taking the path through the woods, we ventured back down to the main road to see where we could grab some lunch. After all the traffic of that morning it was already about 2pm and we were hungry. We weren’t able to find any lunch places, so we settled for a little coffee shop on a side street and each had a café latte and split a banana cake. After this, we shopped around a little on the side streets to look for souvenirs for family and our schools. It is customary in Japan, that if you tell co-workers you are going away on a short trip or vacation, that you should bring something back to share with everyone. I bought a watch for myself because I really love watches. But also, the watch I wear everyday was starting to show some wear in the wristband; I really love that watch, and I want it to stay nice, so I decided that I needed a new everyday watch that I could wear and save the other watch for nicer occasions.
After our shopping excursion, we hopped on a bus for Kiyomizu; it means “pure water.” This was the worst bus ride of the whole day. The others had been long, but this one was ridiculous. Lauren and I waited for about 30 minutes for the bus to arrive in the first place. The traffic had gone from bad to horrendous because street dancers with portable shrines were dancing through the street. I would have expected that if there was a festival or parade of some sort, that roads would have been purposely closed and the people would have been given a proper path to perform, but no, of course that is not the way it went. The dancers would traipse through the street and then the cars would continue to pass by, and then more dancers, and more cars. Once the bus finally got to the stop, it was very crowed, but Lauren and I piled on anyway, along with about 7 other people. At every stop it seemed as though no one was getting off, but 5 to 7 people were getting on. There was need to hold onto anything, because we were crammed in there so tightly that no one could breathe, let alone move or fall down. This bus ride took us just over an hour. Once we finally got off the bus, we were tired, a bit cranky and really hungry because we had only eaten that banana cake.
The first thing we did was search for a place to have a late lunch. We were at the point that we didn’t really care about eating traditional food from Kyoto, so we just stopped in the first place and it happened to be Italian. So we had pasta in Kyoto; traditional, Japanese/Italian pasta with some salad and bread and fish flakes. It was good and helped us to pull it together to make the loooong trek up the hill to Kiyomizu. This temple sits at the top of a big hill and has fresh spring water, which tourists cleanse themselves with by washing their hands and/or drinking it. The hill up to Kiyomizu has been lined with omiyage (souvenir) shops and little places to buy the traditional Kyoto sweet; it is a rice cake wrapped around red bean paste.
Lauren and I hit the shops on the way down, because we wanted to make it to the top by sunset, for the view of Kyoto in the pink and orange hues. We kind of buzzed right through the “temple” part of Kiyomizu, but Lauren really wanted the pictures, and I had been there twice before, so I wasn’t bothered. We were able to get some nice pictures and despite all the people it was kind of peaceful up there. After the pictures, we jaunted back down the hill and did a bit of shopping. We each bought omiyage for our schools, and then went to catch a bus back to the station to head back to the Mansion.
We waited for a long time at the bust stop, and as we were waiting, a bus – nearly full – stopped and a few people got on, but Lauren and I recognized some JETs on the bus! They noticed us too and we got a phone call inviting us to dinner back at the station. Lauren and I grabbed the next bus and met them for a drink and then caught the train back to Osaka to eat some dinner and crash. The next morning our Osaka/Kyoto adventure was over and we took the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) back to Tokyo and then went our separate ways. It was a really great weekend and I am so happy to have seen some of the more real sides of Osaka rather than the touristy stuff I have always done. I feel very lucky to have gotten to do both in my lifetime though.