Thursday, October 19, 2017

Kansai Diaries, Day 8: Last Day in Kyoto

November 30, 2016

It is my last day in Kyoto and I really don't have any planned route. All I know is that I want to visit Shosei-en Garden next to where I am staying, and the Honganji Temples.

It is not even 7am yet and I am ready to go. Shosei-en Garden is still closed (it opens at 9am) and I decide to head west to Nishi Honganji Temple and drop by the garden on my way back to the guesthouse to pick up my luggage.


As I near Nishi Honganji on Horikawa Street, I spot a quiet temple (quiet probably because it is too early) and step through the gate to take a look around. I breathe in the cool quite morning scene. Nothing is astir. After a few clicks of my camera, I leave Koshoji and go next door.

March, April, September, October 530AM to 530PM
May to August 530AM to 6PM
November to February 530AM to 5PM

Nishi Honganji or West Honganji, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built in 1591. The first thing I do as I enter Nishi Hongaji's gate is to turn left, where the ground near the bell tower is blanketed in bright yellow ginkgo leaves. Ahh, autumn. How I love autumn. But this morning is cold. Too cold. I go to the rest area near the gate and find something warm to drink from the vending machine. Once my fingers and my stomach thaw, I look inside the two large wooden halls (Goeido Hall is dedicated to the sect's founder; Amidado Hall is dedicated to Amida Buddha), and explore the temple grounds where I find some small buildings, two large ginkgo trees, and an intricately designed gate (Karamon Gate, designated as a national treasure). I mentally check Nishi Honganji off my UNESCO to-visit list.

Nishi Honganji

Inside Nishi Honganji's Goeido Hall

Details on the Karamon Gate

I love autumn!

March to October 550AM to 530PM
November to February 620AM to 430PM

Wondering what's the difference between the two Honganji temples, I visit Higashi Honganji or East Honganji next. I learn Higashi Honganji was built 11 years after Nishi Honganji. Both temples have a Goeido Hall and an Amidado Hall. Higashi Honganji's Goeido Hall is said to be Kyoto's largest wooden structure.

Higashi Honganji's Goeido Hall

The dragons of the east are associated with water,
while western ones are associated with fire

418 Gojo-dori, Karasuma Higashiirimachuya-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
Open 24 hours daily

My stomach is rumbling. I need breakfast. I command my feet to go in the direction of my guesthouse and, after a few blocks, find myself in a familiar area—it's the street where my friends had rented a kimono the year before! I remember we ate at a fastfood place near a station exit and I go there. Hello, food! (I can't read the name of the restaurant. It looks different. But I am sure this is the same spot.)

Yum, karaage set!

After breakfast, I wander farther along the road and stumble upon a 100-yen shop. I buy some snacks and bitty things before heading back to the guesthouse to drop off my goodies. Shosei-en Garden is still closed: it's not yet 9am. Now where should I go? I decide to visit my favorite area in Kyoto.


I love Higashiyama District with its old-town feel. I am glad it's still early and there are not too many tourists around. I admire the houses, I check out the shop displays, and I watch the people. I count one, two, seven people in traditional garb. Ahhh, Kyoto! But soon I find myself at the northern limits of the area, and I rack my brain for another destination.


Well, why not visit Gion? Yes, I have been to Gion. Twice. First was the year before (I don't think I wrote about it, but we visited quite late at night and didn't see much but old buildings in shadow), second was just two nights ago when I joined a night walking tour. Go a third time? Yes, I reason with myself: this time it'll be in the daytime. And so I go. I visit the places I have been to before. Tea houses are still closed. I don't see any geisha or maiko, but I see a newly wed couple having their photos taken, the bride in a very pretty white kimono and the groom in a hakama and haori.

8AM to 5PM
Admission fee: 500 yen (800 yen during special openings of the pagoda)

Where to next? There is another UNESCO World Heritage Site just southwest of Kyoto Station: Toji Temple. I would have thought by now I'd be up to my ears in temples, but no. I am determined to cross off one more. But this, I promise, will be the last UNESCO site I visit. On this trip.

According to the brochure, when the capital of Japan was transferred from Nara to Kyoto in 794, guardian temples were built on the east (Toji or East Temple) and on the west (the temple on the west no longer exists). Toji Temple was given to the monk Kukai (or Kobo Daishi) in 823. Kukai? Sounds familiar. He established a monastery in Koyasan, the first place I visited on this trip!

Like other temples, Toji also has several halls: Kondo (Main Hall), Kodo (Lecture Hall), Miedo (Residence of Kukai), and a pagoda. Toji is known for its five-storied pagoda, measuring 55m (187 feet)—the tallest pagoda in Japan.

I am glad I decided to go to Toji. There is something about the place that I really like. (I guess it also helps that there are only a few visitors here.)

Nishiki Ichiba

I have a few more hours to kill and Nishiki Market comes to mind. I know I am all over the place (remember, I did not plan my route today), but I think it's too early to go back to the guesthouse. I have not been to a Japanese market anyway. In Nishiki Market, I find a variety of edibles on display: fresh vegetables, fresh seafood, pickled stuff, dried stuff, candies, and a growling stomach.

598 Uraderacho Higashiiru Takoyakushidori Nakagyo-ku Kyoto
Open 24 hours daily

I stumble out of Nishiki Market with a growling stomach, and boom, I see Ichiran. The ubiquitous Ichiran—it is scattered all over Japan (and has even found its way to other countries). Lucky me, this Ichiran has no long line of hungry customers (it is already 2pm). So I go in, place my order on the machine, get my ticket, and venture further in to look for a table. Only to find a long line inside. Ugh. No choice but to wait and find out why a lot of people are raving about this ramen. And I do find out. It's because you can choose the strength of the flavor, the noodle texture, etc. If you don't like your ramen, then blame it on yourself.

I walk out of the shop not wowed, but full, and I go back to the guesthouse with a plan to stop by Shosei-en Garden. But by the time I arrive at the garden it is almost closing time and they are not accepting guests anymore. I enjoyed my last day in Kyoto so much that I did not notice the time!

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

Kansai Diaries (2016)
9D/9N | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Osaka: Day 0: Arrival
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado
Wakayama: Day 1: Going to, Sleeping in, and Eating in Koyasan
Wakayama: Day 1.5: West Side of Koya Town
Wakayama: Koyasan Sidewalk Shorts
Wakayama: Days 1.75~2: Okunoin, Three Times
Nara: Sleep, Eat, and Explore Nara City
Nara: Day 3: Horyuji, Hokkiji, and some Japanecdotes in Ikaruga Town
Nara: Day 3.5: Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, and Heijo Palace Site in Nara City
Nara: Day 4: Early Morning at Nara Park
Nara: Day 4.25: Naramachi Walking Tour
Nara: Day 4.5: Yoshiki-en, Todaiji, and Kofukuji in Nara Park
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Kyoto: Day 5: Rainy Day in Uji City
Kyoto: Day 5.5: Tofukuji, Kawai Jinja, Shimogamo Jinja
Kyoto: Day 6: Ginkakuji, Ryoanji, Ninnaji
Kyoto: Day 6.75: Gion Night Walking Tour
Kyoto: Day 7: All Day in Arashiyama
Kyoto: Day 8: Last Day in Kyoto (you're here!)
Osaka: Day 8.75: Dizzying Dotonbori
Osaka: Day 9: Osaka, Over and Out

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