Oh, Edo town – Higashiyama, Kyoto.
Kyoto is pretty. It’s like walking through Oshin or Oh! Edo Towns. We went to Higashiyama yesterday afternoon, for a bit of culture and market snacks.
As we rounded a corner, Niaal suggested I would see a huge fuck-off red gate over my shoulder. Sure enough, there it was. That’s the Heian Shrine – the north reference point for our walk. We’d be heading south along a gauntlet of temples, pretty architecture, park ground and a heavily touristed market strip, towards the Kiyomizudera Temple.
The first attraction we bumped into was the Shoren-in Temple. At least, I think that’s what it is. My photos don’t actually match other people’s shots in Google Maps, but I can’t see what else this place could be on the map.
We sat at the zen garden for a bit. There were no tourists around, save for us and at most a handful of random people passing through. So it was most peaceful. Little pockets of quiet are very welcome on this holiday surrounded by crowds and noise and people. Luckily, Japan has many such pockets.
Apparently this is one of the few temples that let randoms come in and ring the bell at New Year’s.
Further down, we encountered another temple – Chion-in Temple – much larger.
It was quite hard to photograph this temple. It was pretty big, so getting it to fit in the frame with a scale reference was tricky. People kept wandering into the shots too. More tourists here, and the sea of faces would only thicken as we continued on our walk.
Ah, my giant column has arrived.
It’s not obvious in the photo, but these steps were bloody tall. About a third of my leg in height per step.
Don’t judge me. I was very interested in the fungus (lichen?) growing on this tree. For one, it was flappy and very fine looking, like a layer of paint with frayed edges.
When I looked closer, I saw a teeny tiny mushroom, no bigger than a tacking pin, growing out of it.
In this lovely temple, all manner of life are going about their business. :)
Maruyama Park would be next. What a beautiful lake!
Here we encountered a stray cat, who was not happy with the cold weather. But who came out to parlay with this guy who carried a bag of cat food around with him, and an open beer in his jacket pocket.
Continuing to the market strip, we found ourselves surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of junk, snacks, fucking heaps of tourists, and the occasional Japanese person in traditional garb.
I have no idea what this place was called, but as soon as I saw soba noodles with duck, I knew this was where we would have dinner.
Quite fancy, not cheap, but very good. Portions were small, leaving us much room for street snacks.
This small alleyway caught my eye. Beautiful narrow alley, no one in it. A fleeting moment of peace amidst the bustle.
This lovely couple let me take a photo of their outfits. I really like the lady’s kimono. Aaah ^___^ so pretty. I wish it was more normal to wear stuff like this at home.
The one phrase I learned by heart before coming here was, “Is it okay to take a photo?” It’s come in handy a lot. Save for a few “no photos” signs in dodgy-ish shops, and one grumpy shopkeeper, most everyone here seems camera-friendly.
Finally, at the end of the busy market street, we arrived at the Kiyomizudera Temple. No joke, we’re talking doorstep juxtaposition here. If you were to stand side on, you’d have the temple grounds on one side and the market on the other. It was SO COLD.
Despite taking a subway to get within sight of the Heian Shrine, we were able to walk home from this temple. I’m tickled that this city is laid out so orderly, with things close together – but it makes me want to cry that we pay $2.10 to travel 2 blocks by subway when it’s too cold to walk. Arg.
It’s new year’s eve tonight. Apparently Kyoto is a superb place to be for a New Year festival. We spent the afternoon at Nara, and noticed as we were leaving at the end of the day, market stalls were setting up to start their night. How cool, right? Anyway, we’re headed out in a bit to see what’s good. :) Snack time!