Paige and I decided to head to Kyoto early and made our first stop in the city at Man in the Moon pub at Kyoto station to visit my friend Kei. Nate and I met Kei last time we were in Kyoto (Nov 2015) when we went to Man in the Moon and another bar he worked at, Jelly Bean Rocket - we've kept in touch on Facebook since. #gottalovetechnology
Since it was Saturday night, the bar was pretty packed, but this led to a fun, festive atmosphere. After catching up with Kei, and meeting his new girlfriend :), we were asked if we didn't mind if some people shared our table due to the crowd. #noproblem #themorethemerrier This led to Paige and I sharing some drinks and laughs with some locals - which is always more fun! We got to try some yummy sparkling sake with one couple, and after they left, another was sat at our table. The guy had pretty prayer bracelets and I commented on them. He said he made them and then gave me one! #what?! #peopleherearesonice! I was surprised and happy, and of course, wore my nice, handmade prayer bracelet the rest of the trip. Finally, around 12, we had to catch the last metro to our hostel and settle in for the night.
The next morning it was drizzling, and Paige and I had to transport our bags from our last minute hostel to the one we'd be staying at the rest of the time in Kyoto.... in the rain #uphillboathways #jk Not super fun but once we were checked in and no longer carrying our monster backpacks, we headed out to go explore some temples.
Our first stop was Kinkakuji (金閣寺), literlaly "Temple of the Golden Pavilion". It is one of the most popular buildings in Japan and one of 17 Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto and a World Heritage Site. This temple dates back to 1397 when Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu used it as a retirement villa. When Yoshimitsu passed away, his son converted it into a Zen temple. Unfortunately, on July 2, 1950, an overzealous monk, 22 year old Hayashi Yoken, burnt down the pavilion and attempted suicide on the hill behind the building. He survived, and served a prison sentence before he was released due to mental illness (#yathink), and died in 1956 from tuberculosis. (A fictionalized version of events is in the book "The Temple of the Golden Pavillion" by Yukio Mishima).
Today, the pavilion is 3 stories high and 12.5 meters (41 feet) in height. The gold-leaf coating is .5 µm (compared to the original .1 µm) , and the gold coating is where the Kinkaku name is derived. The gold was meant to mitigate and purify any pollution or negative thoughts and feelings towards death. The gold also makes the temple quite impressive as it reflects even more off the Kyōko-chi (鏡湖池 Mirror Pond).
Kinkakuji is surrounded by a beautiful Japanese strolling garden (回遊式庭園 kaiyū-shiki-teien)
Part of the shrine where people could pray and present their offerings.
We then hopped on a bus to head over to Ginkakuji temple. Starving, we grabbed a quick lunch at a quaint, little restaurant along the way.
On our walk up to Ginkakuji, Paige and I spotted a photo booth where you could take anime type photos for only 500 yen! #wortheveryyen We got 6 ridiculous photos and got to decorate them with stickers after. We could not stop giggling at how silly they looked but we love them and they were a great momento to bring back!
We finally arrived at Ginkakuji temple, one that Nate and I had visited on our last trip. This felt appropriate since it's known as the "silver pavilion" and we had just visited the "golden pavilion". Ginkakuji (銀閣寺, Silver Pavilion) was built in 1482 by Ashikaga Yoshimasa as his retirement villa (modeled after the Kinkakuji). This retirement villa was also converted to a Zen temple after Yoshimasa's death in 1490.
The pavilion is 2 stories tall and constructed in 2 different architecture styles. It contains a statue of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. The Ginkakuji temple is not silver like the Kinkakuji temple is gold, but it's nickname arose in contrast to the Golden Pavilion and is also explained by the moon light reflecting on the building's dark exterior - giving it a silvery appearance. This building is one of only two buildings in the temple complex that has survived centuries of earthquakes and fires #survivor
The pathway through the temple complex goes around a dry sand garden known as the "Sea of Silver Sand", with a massive sand cone called the "Moon Viewing Platform", and a moss garden with ponds with islands and bridges. The path climbs up a hill and provides beautiful views of the temple grounds and Kyoto city.
Paige and I then took a chilly stroll along the Path of Philosophy (Tetsugaku-no-Michi), which is a pedestrian path that runs along a canal, lined with temples, approximately 2km long. It takes its name from one of it's most famous strollers, 20th century philosopher Nishida Kitaro.
Paige and I were pretty cold after walking around on a drizzly, chilly, February day, so we headed to a public onsen our guesthouse had told us about. To be honest, we weren't really prepared properly for the onsen but checked it out anyways. First, there are two different types of onsen, an onsen 温泉 (hot water spring) is a natural hot spring bath, while a sento, is an indoor public bathhouse supplied by ordinary heated water. Onsens located throughout Japan can be quite beautiful and it's still on my Japan bucketlist to try one, but the sentos are everyday bathhouses of ordinary Japanese people, which made it quite an interesting experience for Paige and I.
This particular bathhouse we went to was Nishiki-yu, one of the older bath houses in Kyoto and has remained very true to it's original state. When we first walked in, we saw half-length curtains at the entrance; red means women; blue means men. So we entered the red curtains on the left, paid around 400 yen, took off our shoes and put them in a locker, and received a key for a locker for our clothes. We were able to get tiny towels from the man at the front desk since we didn't bring any.
So there are a few rules when using onsens (the same for both onsen and sento). First, no bathing suits allowed; Paige and I had to strip down in order to enter. The room for the sento that we were at was literally separated from the entrance by a tiny curtain, so right away when we walked in, we knew what we were in for! #bringiton #birthdaysuitsonly When Paige and I entered, it was us, and about 3-4 Japanese women around the age of 70+......so yea.. we fit right in... ;) #notatall The dressing room was lined with wooden lockers that were installed when this bath was built and the ceiling was decorated in traditional Kyoto style.
After you strip down, you need to wash yourself before you bath in the baths, in order to keep the water as clean as possible. We entered the tile covered room and saw about 4-5 baths/tiled tubs lined against the wall and multiple faucets on the other end of the room. We must have had the 'deer in the headlight' look because these old Japanese women (around 70-80 years old) already in there became our sento sensei's (teacher) for our public bathhouse experience #thankyou Even though they didn't speak English, they helped guide us. They first pointed to their plastic stools and plastic buckets and then back out the door - indicating we should grab one so we could wash before we entered the bath. Most the time soap, shampoo, and conditioner are provided but not at this one, so we scrubbed ourselves as best we could with our towels and hot water. You're expected to sit down on the plastic stools provided while you wash, so you don't stand up and possibly splash people next to you. Also a few no-no's: you should always put your hair up so it doesn't touch the water and contaminate it for others. And second, you should not have any tattoos since in Japan they're associated with the yakuza (organized crime, 'Japanese mafia'). Tattoos are normally banned and silly me, I completely forgot about this and went in without covering my two small ones - like I said - we were not prepared. Lucky for us, the Japanese women did not seem to mind. #againsorryJapan #badmanners
After our 'wash' (if you could call it that.... #badmanners #sorryJapan #wasnotprepared), we looked at our Japanese sento sensei. They then pointed to a bubbly, green tinged tub against the far end of the wall. Paige and I looked quizzically at each other and then back at our sensei. Were they for real? This looked like a crazy bath, and we saw no one else in it and didn't know if they were messing with us. But they seemed adamant and continued to point, so we continued down the rabbit hole and plopped into the tiny built in, tiled Jacuzzi with the weird colored water. It had a slight smell, but a good smell, so we went with it. After chilling in the weird tub for a bit, we got up to go into another one of the built in tubs. We again, looked at our old Japanese sensei, and they pointed to another bath, so we climbed on in. The bath water was pretty hot, so we warmed up quickly, and after about only 10 minutes of sitting in the water, we were ready to head out. During our time in the water, we saw other people enter the bubbly, green tinted water so we felt good that we hadn't been tricked about going in there.
Before leaving, we gave our Japanese sensei a big thank you and bow before heading out. We would have been lost without then and I will always been indebted to them for helping guide us through our first onsen/sento experience #thankyoukindoldJapaneseladies #notallheroswearcapes #somewearbirthdaysuits All in all, a definite memorable experience and one that still brings a giggle when I think about it. I'm glad I got to experience it with my old friend Paige ;)
Located just around the corner from the sento was Nishiki Market, aka "Kyoto's Kitchen". It was opened as a simple fish market in 1310 but has expanded over hundred of years and now is one of the best spots for seafood, produce, and local street food in Kyoto. The market is a tiny alley, 5 blocks long , with over 150 stalls containing anything and everything including some traditional delicacies like freshly pounded mochi Japanese pickles, and Kyoto's famous tofu. Paige and I were overwhelmed by the variety of sites and smells as we walked through this vibrant market.
Located at the end of Nishiki Market is Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine; easily spotted by the white Japanese lanterns hanging down in front of the entrance. It was originally established in 1003 in south Kyoto, but was moved to the center of Kyoto in 1587. The shrine is dedicated to the scholar, poet, and politician, Sugawara no Michizane, now known as the deity of learning, which has led many students and tourists to visit to get luck in their studies. There is a large gold bull located near the front of the shrine. Bulls are thought to be the messengers of Michiane, so it's believed that you will become smarter by rubbing the bulls head. #yeswedidthis #pleasemakemesmarter This shrine also has a fresh water well, with the water being referred to as "Nishiki Water" by the locals.
I then guided Paige over to the historic alleyway of Ponto-cho (a narrow alley running from Sanjo-dori to Shijo-dori. It's one of Kyoto's 5 geisha districts and is lined by traditional wooden buildings and hanging lanterns, creating a magical atmosphere at night. There are also many restaurants and bars lining the street, so it was the perfect spot for us to enjoy dinner.
We found a yummy little spot with an English menu, that offered lots of little skewered food (yakitori). We ordered pan fried dumplings, beef, bacon wrapped mushrooms, grilled peppers, and butter garlic scallops. We rounded off our meal with a matcha tiramasu. It was delicious and hit the spot! #lovethefoodofJapan
If you followed along with Nate and my trip to Kyoto last November, then you may remember the crazy nights we spent at Jelly Beans Rocket with one of our favorite bar owners, Takaji. So obviously, Paige and I had to make a stop during our time in Kyoto. His bar did not disappoint, and I'm glad I got to bring Paige there and visit one last time to a tiny, basement watering hole full of fun locals :)
Follow in our Footsteps:
Guest House SENDO
25-1 Mibusennencho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto Kyoto-fu 604-8854
Khaosan Kyoto Guesthouse
568 Nakanocho Bukkoji-agaru, Kyoto, Kyoto-fu, 600-8032 Japan
Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)
Japan, 〒603-8361 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Kita Ward, Kinkakujicho, １
Hours: 9am - 5pm
Fee: 400 yen
Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)
Japan, 〒606-8402 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Sakyo Ward, Ginkakujicho, ２
Hours: 8:30am - 5pm (Mar - Nov); 8:30am - 4:30pm (Dec - Feb)
Fee: 500 yen
Starts just north of Eikan-do ( Japan, 〒606-8445 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Sakyo Ward, Eikandocho, 48 ) and ends at Ginkakuji
Open 24 hours
Nishiki-yu (public bathhouse)
Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, Yaoyacho (Sakaimachidori) 535
Hours: 4pm - 12am
Fee: 430 yen
Japan, 〒604-8054 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 富小路通四条上る西大文字町609番地
Hours: 9:30am - 6pm (closed Sundays)
Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine
Japan, 〒604-8042 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 新京極通り四条上る中之町537番地
Japan, 〒604-8016 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, 中京区下樵木町１９６−１
Jelly Beans Rocket
Japan, 〒600-8012 京都府京都市下京区木屋町通四条下る斎藤町123 西石垣会館サクラビル木屋町Ⅱ B1F
+81 75-352-7207Kyoto, Nakagyō Ward, Yaoyacho (Sakaimachidori) 535
Megan Bond - AUTHOR
Just a girl raised in California and loved exploring Southeast Asia with my husband! We're back in the States but still exploring the world as much as we can!