Oh, Edo town – Higashiyama, Kyoto.

street view of Higashiyama

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.

canal that runs through town

beans and nuts in a local shop

Heian Shrine from a distance

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.

Japanese style roof

leaves, stones, bitumen, phone lines - old style, new style

quaint shopfront along our walk

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.

outside the Shoren-in Temple grounds

Shoren-in Temple gate

painted sign on gate doorway

temple grounds

handwash station in Shoren-in Temple

one of several temple buildings

zen garden at Shoren-in Temple

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.

circles in zen garden sand

miniature temple statue in zen garden

rock centrepiece in zen garden

rock border in zen garden

Shoren-in Temple garden grounds

small temple building out the back

garden grounds

garden path

bell and ringer

Apparently this is one of the few temples that let randoms come in and ring the bell at New Year’s.

giant bell of the temple

roof architecture

Further down, we encountered another temple – Chion-in Temple – much larger.

Chion-in Temple front

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.

size reference for front door

me and a giant columnal structure

Ah, my giant column has arrived.

giant steps

It’s not obvious in the photo, but these steps were bloody tall. About a third of my leg in height per step.

a Chion-in Temple building

another smaller temple building (still quite big)

handwash station at Chion-in Temple

lichen growing on tree

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.

tiny mushroom growing on lichen

When I looked closer, I saw a teeny tiny mushroom, no bigger than a tacking pin, growing out of it.

tiny mushroom from another view

In this lovely temple, all manner of life are going about their business. :)

gentle walkway leaving temple

tall rock with inscription

large rock with inscription

Maruyama Park would be next. What a beautiful lake!

Maruyama Park, lake

bridge over lake in Maruyama Park

house on the lake, Maruyama park

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.

man with cat food and beer

stray cat

stray cat sniffs ground

stray cat approaches food

stray cat eats food

stray cat eating food, tries to ignore people

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.

a building along the market strip

couple in traditional clothing, walking from market strip

Japanese architecture on fence

souvenir shop

souvenir trinkets

cute box of colourful paper

colourful souvenirs in a shop

snack biscuits in a shop, made fresh on premises

snack craftsman

cat trinkets

cute cat trinket

shop full of cute cat trinkets and yummy fresh biscuit snacks

waiting for a snack

approaching the busy part of town

or is the busy part of town approaching us?

the noodle restaurant where we stopped for dinner

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.

girls wearing kimono in market street

matcha daifuku snack

shop in market street

goldfish pond


quietest street on the market

This small alleyway caught my eye. Beautiful narrow alley, no one in it. A fleeting moment of peace amidst the bustle.

looking down the path we came from

couple who let me take a photo of their lovely outfits

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.

cute sign by a door

little bonsai shop or someone's epic house

myo pottery shop

novelty robe for sale

small shop crammed with trinkets

busy market street at dusk

end of the market street

Kiyomizudera Temple at dusk

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.

up some steps at the temple ground

a tall pagoda

temple gate against the backdrop of Kyoto city

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!