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Japan, March 2018


On the second day in Kyoto we have arranged a local tour guide with us for a day, Ms Toyama.

She took us to catch the bus for the 30 minutes trip the city centre to Kinkaku-Ji, The Golden Pavilion. This is the must see sight in Kyoto or indeed Japan. It is stunning and magical. The pavilion rests beautifully and peacefully on the lake surrounded by forests and gardens. It is a picture of beauty, spirituality and tranquillity. The second must-see sight in Kyoto is Ryoan-ji, the famous Zen garden. The design of this rock garden in a sea of gravel is world famous for its simplicity, tranquillity and spiritual atmosphere. Visitors sit silently along the edge of the walkway to admire this masterpiece. No one knows how it is done without leaving foot prints on the gravel. It is mysterious as it looks.

We got the bus down to visit Nijo-jo castle. A super palace surrounded by beautiful gardens. Afterwards we visited Nishiki market for our lunch. This is a very busy market for shops and restaurants. The rain came today especially after lunch. We lost our hotel umbrellas this morning in visiting the Zen Gardens because some other tourist just took it from the public shoes and umbrella racks. We brought replacements in the Nishiki market in time for a wet afternoon tour in Fushimi Inari Taisha. The most stunning feature in this shrine is the endless arcade of vermilion tori spread across the path through uphill woodland. We would have done the walk up hill to the mountain except it was a rainy afternoon with a wet and muddy path all the way.

Next day the weather improved and instead of our original plan to take a day trip to Nara, a UNESCO world heritage site, we wanted to spent another day visiting more of the sights of Kyoto. We moved the trip to Nara a few days later, as it is as easy to get to Nara from Osake as from Kyoto. Today we first visited Kenninn-ji. This is the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto and is also well known for its peaceful dry landscape gardens and the twin dragon painting on the ceiling . There is an inner courtyard garden between rooms with rocks and trees and also the outdoor gardens with white gravel and large stones laid out immaculately like a beautiful sculpture. You can spend a long time sitting here and perhaps meditating. I noticed that very few visitors talk but simply admired and observed silently and calmly.

We left Kenninn-ji temple with lingering happy thoughts. I would say this is the best temple visit for our whole Japan trip. We walked to the two famous streets of Ninen-zaka & Sannen-zaka lined with old wooden houses. There are also traditional shops and restaurants and many visitors crowding the neighbourhood. There are also other temples in the area plus two pagodas. From here we walked to visit Kiyomizu-dera. This temple is on the hill with good view of Kyoto. This is a popular temple with many visitors and activities.

If you want to see beautiful and colourful temples and dry landscape Zen gardens for their tranquillity and beauty Kyoto is a must-visit place for any Japan trip.

Next day we left Kyoto by the fast and efficient bullet train with our JR passes.

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