Saturday, June 3, 2017

Kyoto by the Thousands

The prefecture of Kyoto is home to over 1600 Buddhist temples (and 400 Shinto shrines) and in Kyoto I saw not 1000 temples (I don't think I'll ever see all of Kyoto's temples in my lifetime!), but saw...

A Thousand People

Kyoto used to be the capital of Japan and, of course, the emperor had a palace. A visit to Kyoto Imperial Palace wasn't in our original plan because we were not able to book a tour online. When we were already in Kyoto, we heard that it was open to the public for the next two days. And so we went. And a thousand or more people went too.

The palace grounds is huge and there were many buildings (though none could be entered). Since there was no tour guide, we just went where the throng of people went. My regret for this tour is that we didn't have a guide who (or at least an audio guide that) could have told us the significance of each structure around the palace.

 Okurumayose, entrance for dignitaries

 Kenshun-mon (gate)

Shunko-den (sacred mirror hall)

Shishin-den (ceremonial hall)

Oikeniwa, pond and garden

Kyoto Imperial Palace
9AM to 4PM (5PM from April to August)
Closed on Mondays
Free admission
Free English guided tours at 10AM and 2PM
Audio guide available for free

We visited Kyoto Imperial Palace on November 2015. Seven months later, on July 26, 2016, Kyoto Imperial Palace permanently opened its doors (or should I say gates?) to the public, no prior booking needed!

Directions to Kyoto Imperial Palace: Take the Karasuma subway line to Imadegawa Station (exit 6). Or take the bus to Karasuma-Imadegawa bus stop.

A Thousand Statues

1001 life-size gilded statues of the goddess of mercy, Kannon, with each statue having 42 arms! Can you say "Awesome"? Awesome indeed. This amazing assemblage is housed in a temple called Sanjusangendo. There are 33 intervals between the temple hall's columns, thus the name 三十三間堂 Sanjusangendo where 三十三 means 33, 間 means ken/gen which is a traditional unit of length, and 堂 means hall.

Sanjusangendo, the hall is 120 meters long and can't fit in the photo!

Taking photos inside the hall is not allowed. I grabbed this from

8AM to 5PM (4PM from November 16 to March 31)
Admission fee: 600 yen

Directions to Sanjusangendo: Take the bus to Hakubutsukan-Sanjusangendo-mae bus stop. Or take the Keihan Line to Shichijo Station (5 minutes walk to Sanjusangendo).

A Thousand Torii

Before the trip, my brain upon hearing the word Kyoto would evoke two images: one dominated with red, the other with green.

First, red, and where else could it be but the thousand vermilion colored torii of Fushimi Inari Taisha.

Fushimi Inari Taisha is a shrine dedicated to Inari, the kami (Shinto god) of rice. Where other shrines have stone lions or dogs standing guard at the entrance, Inari shrines have stone foxes for they are believed to be Inari's messengers.

Before reaching Fushimi Inari Taisha's senbon torii, the iconic parallel tunnels of vermilion torii, we saw its majestic main gate (Romon), main shrine building (Honden), worship hall, and other smaller buildings. We decided to just walk until the end of the parallel torii tunnels though the trail marked by more torii continued to snake toward the summit of the mountain (it would take 2-3 hours to hike to the summit and back).

 Torii and, behind it, Romon (main gate)

Worship hall

Foxes greet you at the entrance of the senbon torii

Fox-shaped ema (wooden plaques to write your prayer or wish on)

Each torii is engraved with the name of the donor

Fushimi Inari Taisha
Open all day, every day
Free admission

Directions to Fushimi Inari Taisha: Take the JR Nara Line to Inari Station (Fushimi Inari Taisha is right next to the station). Or the Keihan Line to Fushimi-Inari Station (5 minutes walk to Fushimi Inari Taisha). Or take the bus to Inari Taisha-mae bus stop (7 minutes walk to Fushimi Inari Taisha).

A Thousand Bamboo

Next: green. We arrived in Arashiyama as the sun was setting and with every step towards Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, the sun inched lower. We reached the bamboo grove empty of people...and bathed in darkness! Haha! (I had to go back to the grove the following year to take a photo in the daylight.)

A year later, in the daylight

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a public path that is open all day, every day.

Directions to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove: Take the JR Sagano Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station. Or take the Keifuku Arashiyama Line to Arashiyama Station. The bamboo grove is a 5-minute walk from either station.

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
Tokyo Accommodation: Shinjuku Airbnb
Tokyo: Memorable Tokyo Eats
Tokyo: Odaiba
Tokyo: Doing Touristy Things in Tokyo
Toyama: A Hamlet Called Ainokura
Kyoto Accommodation: K's House Hostel Kyoto
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Wisdom from the Road: On exits #2
Kyoto: By the Thousands (you're here!)
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Turning Japanese
Kyoto: Braving the Crowds at these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto (Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji)
Hyogo, Japanecdote: If Only I Could Speak Nihongo
Hyogo: Day Trip to Himeji: Himeji Castle and Shoshazan Engyoji Temple
Hyogo, Japanecdote: Am I an Alien?
Hiroshima: Strolling and Snacking in Miyajima
Hiroshima: Remembering the Past in Hiroshima
Osaka, Japanecdote: How to Lose Friends
Osaka Accommodation: Osaka Airbnb
Osaka, Japanecdote: Where is Bentencho Station?
Osaka: Osaka Castle and Tenjinbashisuji Shotengai
Osaka, Japanecdote: Learn From Your Mistakes

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