Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Kansai Diaries, Day 5.5: Tofukuji, Kawai Jinja, Shimogamo Jinja

November 27, 2016
Afternoon, still raining

I have left Uji and I am on the JR Line back to Kyoto. It's grey, raining, and getting a bit dark, but it's actually still early in the afternoon. I have plenty of time. I decide to make a stop at Tofuku-ji, a temple a friend had recommended for its autumn leaves.

April to October 9AM to 430PM
November to early December 830AM to 430PM
Early December to March 9AM to 5PM
Admission fees:
Tsutenkyo Bridge and Kaisando Hall 400 yen
Hojo and gardens 400 yen

Nearest Station: 10-minute walk from Tofukuji Station (JR Nara Line or Keihan Main Line)

From Tofukuji Station I get confused at the crossroads and ask the traffic guy for directions. He points me the way and I find many people going in the same direction. How wrong I was to think that because it's raining there would be few visitors. Tofuku-ji is a popular destination for koyo (autumn leaves) viewing after all.

I obtain a 400-yen ticket for access to Tsutenkyo Bridge and Kaisando Hall, then follow the umbrella wielding horde along the established route through a garden of maple trees. The maple trees are a splatter of green, yellow, orange, and red, and the ground is a carpet of orange leaves and green moss. The colors made more vibrant by the rain.


A carpet of maple leaves and moss

Autumn rain

The path leads to Tsutenkyo Bridge, a very popular area (a lot of foot traffic and no stopping for photos allowed signs) because it provides a view of the maple grove we had just walked through. It is the end of November and most of the trees are going bald, but the view itself is still worth the rainy walk amidst the crowd.

Walking towards Tsutenkyo Bridge

The ticket includes a visit to Kaisando Hall. I am swept along on the appointed path along the left side of Kaisando Hall. Each of us visitors take a peek inside the hall and pause a second or two before moving towards the stone path that separates the rock garden from the pond garden. The pond garden is dotted with round-trimmed bushes and I scurry to the side, away from everyone else, to admire the the hall and the garden without holding up the queue of people.

Tofukuji has another paid area with a garden, but I don't go there, instead I spend a few more minutes in the admission-free temple grounds, checking out the Main Hall and the Sanmon Gate.

Tofukuji's Sanmon Gate

I want to make the most of my gloomy and rainy day and decide to squeeze in one more destination: Shimogamo Jinja, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (yes, I am giving myself a World Heritage Site overdose) just five stops from Tofukuji Station.

Walking from Demachayanagi Station, the closest station on the Keihan Main Line to Shimogamo Jinja, I see a shrine gate. I peek through the gate and see there are visitors inside. I wonder if this is Shimogamo Jinja, but it looks too small to be it.

Kawai Jinja
630AM to 7PM
No admission fee

Nearest Station: 8-minute walk from Demachiyanagi Station (Keihan Main Line)

I pop in for a bit and find two interesting things in the shrine: a small hut (what could this be?), and hand-mirror shaped ema which has faces drawn on them. People have drawn hair, eyelashes, red lips, blushing cheeks, etc on the ema. This is not Shimogamo Jinja, but Kawai Jinja, a shrine where women prayed for beauty.

This shrine gate piqued my interest. Or maybe I just wanted a bit of respite from the rain.

 Kawai Jinja

 The hut in Kawai Jinja

Faces on the ema

From Kawai Jinja, a four-minute walk through Tadasu no Mori, a forest of trees as old as 600 years takes me to Shimogamo Jinja (Lower Kamo Shrine).

Summer 530AM to 6PM
Winter 630AM to 5PM
No admission fee

Nearest Station: 15-minute walk from Demachiyanagi Station (Keihan Main Line)

I know I am near when I spot a tree stump with a necklace of lightning-shaped papers. Sure enough, up ahead looms a large vermilion torii.

Shimogamo Jinja's large vermilion torii

The shrine grounds, which actually includes Kawai Jinja and the forest, is vast, and a hundred meters from the torii I finally reach the shrine's Romon Gate. Beyond the gate are halls and small shrines. There are small shrines for each zodiac sign, but I can't read kanji, so I just observe the people praying.


Zodiac shrines

On the eastern portion of the shrine grounds there is a roped off vermilion bridge over a small stream, and at the end of this stream is another shrine. Near the bridge a couple in traditional wedding garb catches my eye.

Shimogamo Jinja (Lower Kamo Shrine) along with Kamigamo Jinja (Upper Kamo Shrine) are two of Kyoto's oldest shrines. Kamigamo Jinja is located 3.5 kilometers from Shimogamo Jinja, but time and my wet shoes prompt me to call it a day.

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 (you're here!)
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
Osaka: Day 8.75: Dizzying Dotonbori
Osaka: Day 9: Osaka, Over and Out

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