Friday, October 13, 2017

Kansai Diaries, Day 6: Ginkakuji, Ryoanji, Ninnaji

November 28, 2016

Today is reserved for visiting three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the northern area of Kyoto City. I start my day as early as I can. As usual.

I sit on the back of the bus and observe people of all ages pile in, get off, pile in. Soon all the seats on the bus are taken. An old lady gets on and proceeds to the front, but there aren't any vacant seats. The highschool kid sitting in front of me gets up and goes to the lady to offer her his seat. Ah, what a polite kid!

I get off at the stop for Ginkakuji and the kid with his three friends get off too. The kid goes 'ohayo gozaimasu' (good morning) to everyone he meets. He stops and says 'sumimasen' (excuse me) before asking a road worker for directions. He is mindful of the people around him, moving out of the way and telling his friends to move out of the way too to let people pass; 'gomenasai' (sorry) after taking pictures and noticing that everyone had stopped so as not to be in his photos. All this politeness displayed on the short walk to Ginakakuji. I silently applaud his parents for raising such a good kid!

The very polite kid with the brown backpack

Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion/Jisho-ji)
March to November 830AM to 5PM
December to February 9AM to 430PM
Admission fee: 500 yen

Kinkakuji or Golden Pavilion is all gold. I know. I had seen it with my own eyes last year. Did I then expect a temple called Ginkakuji or Silver Pavilion to be all silver? I wish it were so. But silver it is only in name.

The temple grounds of Ginkakuji has some buildings, a moss garden, and a sand garden. Two of the buildings are designated as national treasures: the Kannon-den (Ginkaku), dedicated to Kannonbosatsu, the Goddess of Mercy; and the Togu-do. None of them are silver. None of them can be entered. Oh well. I wander through the gardens—the soft green of the moss makes me want to run my palm over them, and the gray waves and the gray Mount Fuji of the sand garden make me want to mess it all up. Just kidding. The gardens are really pretty. I follow the path leading to an elevated area and I am rewarded with a view of the temple grounds and the city stretching towards infinity.

I leave Ginkakuji with a sense of calm but with no idea why it's called Silver Pavilion.


Sand garden representing waves and Mount Fuji


March to November 8AM to 5PM
December to February 830AM to 430PM
Admission fee: 500 yen

From a moss garden and a sand garden, next on my list is a rock garden. Ryoanji, a bus ride west of Ginkakuji, is famous for its rock garden. The rock garden can be observed from the head priest's former residence called Hojo (where one can also check out paintings on the fusuma or sliding doors). The rock garden, measuring 25 meters by 10 meters, is small with 15 rocks in seemingly random groups. It is said that the garden is designed so that wherever you look, at least one of the rocks is always hidden. I try to view the garden from different areas, but it is an obstacle course of visitors.

I give up trying to find a good vantage point and trying to find the meaning of these rocks.

Half of Ryoanji's rock garden (I don't have a wide angle lens)

Paintings on the fusuma

March to November 9AM to 5PM
December to February 9AM to 430PM
Admission fees:
Goten (Palace and Gardens) 500 yen
Reiho-kan (Museum) 500 yen (open only on April, May, October, November)

Ninnaji is a short 10-minute walk from Ryoanji, and my third and last UNESCO World Heritage stop for the day.

What's interesting about Ninnaji is that it was founded by Japan's 58th emperor, Emperor Koko, in the year 888. Over many centuries and until the Meiji Restoration in 1868, a member of the Imperial Family served as Ninnaji's head priest. The temple then was also called the Omuro Imperial Palace.

Visitors are free to roam the northern grounds of Ninnaji where the Kon-do (Main Hall), a national treasure, and the five-storied pagoda are located. From Nio-mon Gate, which is the main entrance of Ninnaji, I don't go straight to the free area. Instead I make my way to one of the two paid areas in Ninnaji: the Goten (the other paid area is the Reiho-kan, a museum). The Goten is comprised of five interconnected buildings (Entry Hall, Shiro-shoin, Shinden, Kuro-shoin, and Reimeiden), a pond garden, and a sand garden.

Upon seeing the large and simple sand garden, with little clusters of trees and the old Chokushi-mon Gate, I turn into an emoji with heart eyes. So pretty. I could sit here all day.

This morning turned out to be all about gardens.

Entry Hall and Imperial Gate of the Goten

Ikebana and painted fusuma inside the Shiro-shoin


View of the rock garden from the Goten (former residence of the head priest)

The rock garden and the Chokushi-mon Gate

Pond garden

Ninnaji's five-storied pagoda

Kon-do (Main Hall), a national treasure

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 (you're here!)
Kyoto: Day 6.75: Gion Night Walking Tour
Kyoto: Day 7: All Day in Arashiyama
Kyoto: Day 8: Last Day in Kyoto
Osaka: Day 8.75: Dizzying Dotonbori
Osaka: Day 9: Osaka, Over and Out

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