Another chapter from my travel journal and another day of exploring Kyoto. I was nearing the end of my journey and I was starting to miss home and my kids. I had spoken to them a couple of times throughout my trip and they seemed to be coping well. My eldest son decided to stay home on his own and my two younger kids had stayed with my parents at their home. I was sure they were doing fine but there was always that underlying guilt of being away from them. Just as well I had stocked up on lots of presents for them to ease my guilt.
On this day I was heading to an area in Kyoto that was a lot more residential than any area I had explored so far. It was a refreshing change from big cities and the frantic pace. Add to this my intended visit of Chion-in, an impressive Buddhist Temple complex dating back to 1600. Not a disused relic – but still a very active and busy Buddhist complex that seemed to more tolerate tourists as its residents and actual devotees used the site for its intended purposes.
Set atop a hill and surrounded by lush bamboo forests dotted with small winding paths, historic shrines and other smaller temple sites it was quite a site to walk up to. Large timber buildings, temples and pagodas dotted the hillside along with more modern building to hold functions. I even managed to stumble across (not literally) the tomb of a past emperor of Japan. It was a bit of a climb to get to the top but well worth it.
From there I followed a natural flow of down hill paths that lead through the incredible park of Maruyamacho and on to the Yasaka Shrine which dates back to 1350. This areas contained a unique blend temples, gardens, shrines, pathways and also what appeared to be small residential communities in the heart of the gardens. From there I stepped away from the Tori (gate) of Yasaka Shrine and out into the busy and hectic heart of Gion.
23 September 2016
My last full day in Kyoto.
Another early start with a trip by subway to see the Buddhist Temple complex at Yasaka-Jinja. What an impressive and awe inspiring morning. The grounds are incredible combinations of bamboo forest, lakes, ponds giant boulders and hand sculpted gardens. The buildings themselves are incredible and are dotted all over the grounds that spread several kilometres. Again being there early paid off as there was no one there allowing for some uninterrupted shots.
From there I continued my walk through Gion the heart of traditional Kyoto and Japan. A long stretch of eating houses and entertainment houses lined the main street – most of which were not even open at midday. This place comes alive at night.
From there I hit central Kyoto and walked endless shopping malls that were dotted with various small shrines and temples. It seems like there is a temple of some sort on every street in Kyoto. Amazing.
About to dig in to a late lunch.
Hope you are all well.
Gion is a very traditional part of Kyoto that is home to the entertainment district. Within it there are a number of Geisha districts, eatings houses and theatres. You are bound to spot a traditional Geisha on her way to complete errands usually a little later in the day. You will also spot many Japanese people and even some tourists in full Geisha dress and makeup. There are stores here that specialise in taking the time and effort to teach you about the custom and fully dress you up. It is a truly beautiful part of Kyoto and really seemed to appropriately wrap up my morning of strolling among the history of this incredible city.
From here I turned into a very long and crowded shopping plaza that, like many shopping areas in Japan’s big cities, stretched on forever. I did some last minute gift shopping in here and purchased a few more traditional items to take home for family and friends. I also came upon a store that specialised in making stamps and personalised monogram style stamps based on your name. I picked up a couple of Samurai inspired stamps and also had my name turned into a stamp.
After returning to my hotel for a late lunch, a bath and a beer, I walked the streets around Kyoto Station getting some street shots while the delicious golden hour of photography was in full swing. If you are planning on travelling to Japan and Kyoto especially, then I highly recommend you make some plans to visit some of the cultural and historical sites within the city. They are easy to travel to and are so rich in Japanese heritage. Well worth it. Happy shooting.