An Evening at Tempura Endo, Kyoto, Japan

October 4, 2017

Tempura Endo-291

Tempura Endo is an upscale tempura restaurant where a seat at the bar gets you a front row view of the tempura master in action. However, this sounds more exciting than it really is. Only a few seats are directly in front of the tempura master. We were on the end and there is a large copper back to the deep fryer that hides most of what he does. All the pieces are prepped ahead of time so there isn’t much knife work either. Occasionally he will cut something after it comes out of the deep fryer but mostly not.

Each piece is carefully prepared and individually presented to each diner with instructions (in English for western guests) on which kind of salt, white or green tea, or if sauce, tempura or lemon, would be appropriate.

When we booked our reservation just two days ahead for a Wednesday evening in October we ordered the basic Rukuhara meal. Steep at 10,000 yen a person, this is not a casual night out. This was the tempura-only option without the additional frills of a sashimi bowl and so forth. Watching some of the other diners the more expensive options may get you more tempura too. The basic meal, however, was plenty of food.

Tempura Endo-289

The culinary journey started with a peanut tofu. Served in a broth it was much more flavorful than many tofu dishes we’ve tasted.

Tempura Endo-290

The first tempura taste was their signature dish, a slice off a fresh ear of corn. Coated in a light tempura batter the corn was sweet and barely cooked. Each subsequent course was a delight both visually and on the palate.

Shrimp toast

Tempura Endo-292Shrimp

Tempura Endo-293White fish wrapped in a leaf

 

Tempura Endo-294Shitake mushroom with diced shrimp

Tempura Endo-295Beans stuffed with bean purée

Tempura Endo-296Lake fish

Mushroom

Tempura Endo-297After the last tempura, the conger eel,

Tempura Endo-298you are given a choice of rice dishes – tendon, shrimp tempura on rice; tencha, tempura on rice with hot tea poured over it and a couple other dishes similar in nature, along with a dark brewed miso soup and pickles – all the same excellent quality as the tempura.

Tempura Endo-300Dessert was a lovely grapefruit granite that was full of flavor and not too sweet.

Tempura Endo-299

Around 8PM an elderly Japanese gentleman walked in with a real live geisha in full makeup – white face, ruby lips, pink around the eyes, hair lacquered in the traditional do. She ate and drank with delicate grace paying careful attention to her escort’s every word. Fascinated I couldn’t help but watch. Thankfully she was seated in the same direction from me as the tempura master. There is also a window  behind the bar that reflects the scene so you can discretely watch the other diners.

For the same great experience at a fraction of the cost try the lunch menu.

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Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan

October 2, 2017

Tawaraya Ryokan

On a rainy day in early October we were back in Kyoto. We checked into Tawaraya, one of the city’s top Ryokans and the first place in Japan that actually showed us to our room before 3PM. This place oozes understated elegance. The maze of corridors are graced with pretty nooks and original artwork, despite being rather dark on a rainy day. Service is top notch as you would expect.

Tawaraya Ryokan

 

Our suite had a main room with the eating area, to be turned into the bedroom after dinner, and a study area with a writing table and chair with a well beneath the table to put your feet, a very nice touch.

Tawaraya Ryokan

 

Both the main room and the study area face a small private garden. The room is dead quiet.

Tawaraya Ryokan

They do not have a public bath, but the tub in our private bathing room was already filled and covered to keep warm. Very small tub, but adequate even for Don.

After our return from the Nishiki Market we met our room attendant who would be serving our in-room kaiseki dinner and breakfast the next morning. A quiet gracious young woman who spoke good English.

Dinner began at 6:30 with

Tawaraya Ryokan

sweet fish (this is the fish we saw the cormorants fishing for in Inuyama) with taro and stuffed fried tofu with eggplant. Next soy milk skin in a flavorful broth – a bit slimy but better tasting than it sounds.

Tawaraya Ryokan

The very fresh sashimi course included two types of fish – trout and sea bream (tai) served with two types of soy sauce, wasabi, and flower petals to flavor the soy sauce.

Tawaraya Ryokan

Next came a plate of saba sushi (one of Don’s favorites) and

Tawaraya Ryokan

two tastes of flat fish which were a little dry.

Tawaraya Ryokan

The egg custard (chawan mushi) they did in a radish cup garnished with green beans and floating in a flavorful chicken broth.

Tawaraya Ryokan

Next a conger eel with spinach and shitake mushrooms tied in little bundles with pickles.

Tawaraya Ryokan

The meal ends with rice (which we declined) miso soup and pickles followed by tea and

Tawaraya Ryokan

fig compote for desert, a pretty pealed fig floating in an ice bath.

Everything was exquisitely presented and carefully prepared with quality ingredients, but I can’t say this was one of my favorite meals. The subtly of the flavors is lost on me. Still it was one of the best kaiseki experiences we had in Japan.

Service was very attentive, professional and the meal nicely paced. Took about an hour and half with more spacing between courses than at other ryokans which was much appreciated with so many courses. The house sake was dry and lovely with the meal.

Breakfast – We had a choice of western or Japanese and we opted for one of each. This was one of the nicest breakfasts we have had.

Tawaraya Ryokan

The Japanese breakfast included two small grilled trout accompanied by half a soft boiled egg. Small dishes of spinach with baby sardines, pickled vegies, shredded gobo – burdock root – two large chunks of soft tofu, miso with baby clams and of course rice and tea.

Tawaraya Ryokan

The western breakfast included a choice of egg and choice of breakfast meat, choice of fruit or salad, white bread with butter and jam (a toaster is brought to your room) and juice and coffee.

Overall the quality and elegance of Tawaraya is excellent but I don’t know that it was worth the extra cost. I have now had a number of the kaiseki meals and they are not my favorite dining experience. I’d do it once or twice and more if you love this kind of meal, otherwise there are many great restaurants in larger cities. In smaller cities and in the country there often isn’t another choice.

Comparing Seikoro and Tawaraya – Both ryokan experiences were fabulous. Which ryokan is right for you depends on what you are looking for.

Service – Although both have very attentive service, the service at Seikoro felt more personal. This could have been also because I spent three nights at Seikoro and only one at Tawaraya.

Seikoro Ryokan

Still, chatting with Teiru, our room attendant at Seikoro, was one of the most memorable experiences I had in Japan. Tawaraya has a more hands off feel, which was perfect for Don who doesn’t like too much fuss. They were there when you needed them and not more.

Location – Both have excellent locations. Seikoro is closer to the temples of the southern Higashiyama area and the Keihan train line where as Tawaraya is more centrally located and closer to the subway lines.

Seikoro has a small public bath. Tawaraya only has private baths in the room.

Rooms at Tawaraya are larger and a bit nicer than even the upgraded room at Seikoro. The understated elegance at Tawaraya also gives it a more luxurious feel.

Food – Although both were quite good, Tawaraya wins here. Kaiseki may not be my favorite cuisine but there were no faults with the meals at Tawaraya. Everything was exquisite.

Cost – Tawaraya is generally more expensive but your travel dates can make a big difference in price. Mid-September was less expensive than early October. Also note that standard rooms at Tawaraya are more comparable to the upgraded rooms at Seikoro.

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Seikoro Ryokan, Kyoto, Japan

September 14 – 17, 2017

Sekoro Ryokan - Breakfast

Spending the night in a ryokan, a Japanese style hotel, and enjoying kaiseki cusine, a traditional mulit-course dinner, is a highlight on a visit to Japan. Kyoto offers some of the best ryokan experiences in Japan. We stayed at two top Kyoto ryokans, Seikoro, the topic of this post, and Tawaraya which I will cover in the following post along with a comparison of the two.

Seikoro is on a backstreet just off the river, a 5 minute walk from the Keihan line Kiyomizu Gojo station and about a 10 minute walk to start of the Lonely Planet walking tour of the southern Higashiyama area. There was tour group checking in in front of us when we arrived but it didn’t make a bit of difference. They checked us in straight away, first having us take off our shoes which were whisked off to some secret location.

The receptionist knew without me mentioning that we actually had two reservations. I had changed our reservation at the last minute and had to book a different room. She had an offer ready for us if we wanted to stay in the nicer room for all three nights. It added about $60 a night but in the end it was worth it.

Seikoro Ryokan-14

The ryokan and room are very Japanese. This is a special experience, one you should try at least once on a visit to Japan. The traditional room has a low table in the center with another table near the window with a view of the garden.

Seikoro Ryokan - view from our window

In the evening the main room is converted into the dining room and then into the bedroom.

Seikoro Ryokan-15

Although a traditional public bath is available, the room included a private bathing room with all the amenities.

The room attendant greeted us and explained the room and the amenities in English, including the proper wearing of the yukata, the Japanese dressing gown worn to the common bath. The left side is on top. We found out later that the right side on top is used for the deceased at funerals.

She served us green tea and a sweet pancake with a sweet bean paste filling. We had the same server all three days and she really made the experience extra special, explaining details of Japanese customs or food items. Although her English was somewhat halting and she often had to search for words this wasn’t a detraction from her charm and graciousness.

Kaiseki Dinner – The multicourse dinner included lots of fish dishes. If you are not a seafood fan this is not the set menu for you. We ordered small bottles of sake with the dinner, trying it both cold and at room temperature.

Seikoro Ryokan

The first course included a variety of small appetizers – fish, pickled veg, and tofu among other things.

Seikoro Ryokan

The sashimi course was one of my favorites, including very fresh , tuna, squid and horse mackerel.

Seikoro Ryokan

Next up was a cooked piece of sea bream served with a scallop and a bowl of light soup with fish and citrus. This course was disappointing as the fish skin was scaly and scallop way overcooked.

Seikoro Ryokan

The following course was a kind of eel and a fish served in a soy sauce.

Seikoro Ryokan

Next was the vinegar course with a small piece of raw fish served in a bowl on vinegary seaweed garnished with goji berries.

Seikoro Ryokan

This was followed by vegetable and fish tempura, freshly fried and beautifully presented with pickled vegetables.

Seikoro Ryokan

For desert, melon severed with a sweet potato mousse. All in all a great experience.  I can’t say it was the most exquisite or amazing food I’ve ever tasted but great fun nonetheless. The meal was served in our room with plenty of photo ops.

Seikoro Ryokan

After dinner we decided to try the common bath. I’ve read and heard about these baths but this was our first experience. We walked to the daiyokujo, public bath, in our yukatas properly tied with the left side on top.

The room was empty, not even an attendant. There are cubby holes for your belongings and 6 washing stations with a low stool, about 8 inches off the ground with a shower wand, a small bucket  and bath products on a low shelf. You wash yourself facing the wall so there is a sense of privacy.

Once you rinse all the soap off you enter the large wooded bath tub just adjacent. Perfect temperature. Would be a bit crowed for six but with just the two of us, my Aunt and myself, it was quite a luxurious thing to do before bed.

Seikoro Ryokan-16

Back in our room our futons were laid out on the floor. Firm but comfy.

Breakfast – During our 3 night stay we tried both the Japanese and western breakfasts, one morning Japanese, one morning western and one morning one of each. The side dishes change each day with a greater variety in the Japanese breakfast.

Sekoro Ryokan - Japanese breakfast

The Japanese breakfast includes a grilled fish, a tofu dish, an egg or custard dish, pickled vegetables, a small bowl of tiny fish (which were smoked one morning) and rice among other things. The Japanese breakfast, however, does not include coffee which is an extra charge. Teiru was nice enough to include an extra-large serving of coffee with the western breakfast with two cups.

 

Seikoro Ryokan-18.jpg

The western breakfast includes a choice of egg, fruit, juice toast, jam and butter and a meat product such as ham or sausage. They are western egg challenged and don’t really understand the concept of over easy. Their fried egg choice is one side or two. One side was a little too runny and two sides was too hard. The second morning the one-side egg was cooked medium which was much nicer.

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Day trip to Nara, Japan

October 3, 2017

Todai-ji

Nara, famed for one of Japan’s largest Buddhas housed in the world’s largest wooded structure, is an easy and worthwhile day trip from Kyoto, just 35 minutes on the express train.

The Kintetsu Line runs express trains from Kyoto station to Nara and back every half hour or so. There is also a regular train than may require a transfer. For the express train you will need a special ticket with a seat reservation. Tickets can be bought at the ticket window in Kyoto or Nara or at a machine, (instructions are given in English), just remember to get  both a regular ticket and an express ticket supplement if you are taking the express train.

LP has a walking tour of Nara’s highlights starting and ending from the train, although their map doesn’t have the sights numbered correctly for #6 Kasuga-taisha and onwards. The Nara koen (park), however, is well signed so you shouldn’t have a problem.

Todai-ji - main gate

At the entrance to Nara koen you are greeted with herds of deer and packs of school children, get used to it. We spent most of the morning surrounded by both until we were close to Kasuga-taisha.

Todai-ji

Nara Koen

No wonder, there are deer cookie stands where you can buy special treats for the deer and the deer know it.

Todai-ji, Nara’s Great Buddha

Todai-ji - main gate

Todai-ji - main gate

Todai-ji - main gate

Don’t miss the massive gate at the entrance to the temple with the two Nio guardians, wooden statues. Unfortunately they are very poorly lit.

Todai-jiTodai-ji

We found the hall that houses the Great Buddha more impressive than the Buddha itself. Lonely Planet explains that this rebuilt structure is only two thirds the size of the original. Its massive size diminishes the size of the crowds, but just barely.

Todai-ji

 

Inside is still pretty packed. Photos are allowed and you don’t need to remove your shoes, so I don’t think they really treat this place as a true place of worship anymore.

Todai-ji

The Buddha is impressive, although it’s difficult to show its massive scale in a photo. For a figure that has had various parts destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries he looks pretty good.

Nigatsu-do

Continuing around the on the Lonely Planet walking tour with a stop at Nigatsu-do for the view from its veranda.

Nigatsu-doNigatsu-doNigatsu-doNigatsu-do

Still packs of school children, the air heavy and humid it was not the most pleasant day.

Nara KoenNara Koen

As we headed on past a couple of other temples and shrines the crowds and deer thinned a bit except for along this park.

Kasuga-taisha

Kasuga Taisha

It’s a pleasant forest walk to Kasuga-taisha. At the shrine entrance starts the myriad stone lanterns in various sizes.

Nara Koen

Topped with bright green moss they look like fancy hats.

Kasuga TaishaKasuga TaishaKasuga Taisha

If you like lanterns it’s worth the 500 yen to enter the complex, great rows of lanterns at every turn. Near the end of the route is a dark mirrored room with rows of lanterns. It looks like they go on forever.

Kasuga Taisha

A massive ancient tree in the courtyard dwarfs the structures next to it.

Kasuga Taisha

Wakamiya-jinja

Wakamiya-jinja

Nara Koen

On our way back to the train station more lanterns and deer line the forested path through the Shinto orange gate and on to the Kofuku-ji shrine with a 5 story pagoda, our last stop of the day.

Kofuku-ji

Kofuku-ji

Sticking to the main sights,  we completed the walk in about 3 and half hours.

 

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Nishiki Market, Kyoto, Japan

October 2, 2017

Nishiki Market

On a rainy afternoon we decided to take a quick spin through the covered food market before lounging in our ryokan (Japanese style hotel) for the rest of the day. Seems like everyone else had the same idea, at least about the market. Packed from end to end this was the place to be.

Nishiki Market

The guide books aren’t overhyping when the they go on about the variety of interesting food items – fish, meats, vegetables, octopus and shrimp skewers, all kinds of pickles, sticky rice on sticks, various dumplings and fried croquettes. You could definitely make a meal of it and many do. The market does seem to cater to tourists more than someone shopping to cook dinner at home. Light and vibrant, it’s worth the spin even with the crowds.

Nishiki MarketNishiki MarketNishiki MarketNishiki MarketNishiki MarketNishiki MarketNishiki Market

Nishiki Market

tiny fish

Nishiki Market

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Top Sights of Kyoto, Japan

October 4, 2017

Kinkaku-ji

Kyoto has some of Japan’s most famous sights and the crowds to match. Still, on a beautiful Wednesday in early October we braved the crowds and headed for Fushimi inari, the Arashiyama bamboo forest and the Kinkaku-ji, the golden temple. I had also visited the area on a rainy Saturday in mid-September with my Aunt Jan and will be combining the two visits for this post.

Public transportation to these sights is very manageable. The Keihan train line works best for Fushimi inari but the other two are better by bus. The bus map may looks crazy at first but once you get past the maze of colored lines it’s straight forward and easy to follow. Get a day pass (500 yen) if you are planning on doing more than two bus trips in one day. A transfer counts as a separate trip. You can buy a pass at the Kyoto train station, at some hotels or on the bus; otherwise you need exact change (230 yen).

Fushimi inari

Fushimi inari

Fushimi inari, famed for its orange gates that weave across the hillside to the top of the hill, is Lonely Planet’s top sight in Kyoto and one of my favorites as well.

Fushimi inariFushimi inari

The shrine complex wasn’t too crowded when we arrived at 8am but was a madhouse when we were leaving around 10.

Fushimi inariFushimi inariFushimi inari

It’s really the main complex and the bottom of the pathway that gets so congested.

Fushimi inariFushimi inari

Past the first section of gates the crowds thin out and continue to thin as you climb.

Fushimi inari

Fushimi inari

It’s not a difficult climb if you are in reasonable shape. Websites vary on how long the hike is, generally stating from 4 – 6 kilometers with around a 200 meter change in elevation. There are plenty of opportunities to rest at shrines along the way or at tea houses or snack shops for that matter.

Fushimi inari

The top section is the prettiest. Even if it has fewer gates there are larger open sections of green forest between the gates. You also pass more elaborate shrines.

Fushimi inariFushimi inari

Fushimi inari

The fox is the icon of choice with representations at nearly every shrine. The top itself isn’t that different from the other stone shrines along the way.

Fushimi inariFushimi inari

On the way back you have your choice of taking a detour back down to the main gate that bypasses the masses. I took this detour with my Aunt on the first visit, but with Don decided to brave the crowds back through the gates.

Fushimi inari

To our surprise a young man was setting up a camera on a gorilla-pod in the middle of the pathway and plopped down on one knee to propose to his beloved. A touching moment that stopped traffic in both directions.

Fushimi inari

The street from the shrine to the train station is lined with street food vendors, shops and restaurants.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Crossing to the northwest corner of the Kyoto is where you will find Arashiyama, that lovely spot of bamboo forest graced by a dry grass border. You know the photo. Unfortunately so does everyone else.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

You’ll have to get here early if you want a chance at getting that shot without the crowds or just your special someone, otherwise this place is a zoo.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Fortunately the bamboo dwarfs the tourists and you can still get a feel for the majesty of the soaring canes.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

I visited the area twice, once on a rainy day in mid-September and again on a pretty day in early October. Although the light on the rainy day was very, very dim I love the photos with the umbrellas. I would also note that the rain, it rained all day, did not discourage the tourists. There were as many people on the rainy day as there were on the clear one.

Okochi Sanso Gardens

Okochi Sanso Gardens

At the end of the bamboo path is the Okochi Sanso Gardens, once the home of a samurai film actor who died in the 60s.

Okochi Sanso GardensOkochi Sanso GardensOkochi Sanso Gardens

A meandering path winds through a small manicured garden with viewpoints overlooking the mountains and city.

Okochi Sanso GardensOkochi Sanso GardensOkochi Sanso Gardens

On the rainy day the saturated greens were magical while on the sunny day the shadows formed intricate patterns on the moss floor.

Macha green tea and a sweet are served at the end with the “green tea ticket” given at the entrance with your admission. At 1000/person it’s more expensive than some gardens but worth the price for the seclusion and quality of the gardens.

Tenryu-ji

Tenryu-ji

The Tenryu-ji temple, located just off the bamboo path, can be toured garden-only for 600 yen or including the temple buildings for an additional 300 yen. We chose just the gardens after visiting several temples the day before.

Tenryu-ji

The gardens are beautiful but were packed, even on a rainy Saturday. The paths that wind around the complex buildings and the mossy forest just adjacent thin the crowd, making the walk quite pleasant. Plants are labeled in several languages.

The higher paths through the azaleas were less busy. This place must be amazing in the spring with an entire hillside of blooming azaleas. The garden also borders the bamboo forest.

 

 

Tenryu-jiTenryu-jiTenryu-ji

The crowds congregate at the pond with good reason. With the leaves just starting to turn it was one of the prettiest settings we’ve seen in Kyoto. For photographers the pond is best visited on a rainy day or in the morning light.

Kinkaku-ji

Kinkaku-ji

 

Many consider Kinkaku-ji, the majestic golden temple that glitters in the sunlight, one of the top sights in Kyoto. Lonely Planet doesn’t mention it as a top sight but simply remarks in its description of the temple that it is “one of Japan’s best-known sights”.

From Arashiyama to Kinkaku-ji  take the number 11 bus to the end of the line and change to the number 59.

Kinkaku-ji

We tried to end up here later in the day to avoid some of the crowds. I don’t know if there were any fewer people at 3pm but I don’t see how there could be many more. This was the most tourists we had seen anywhere, so many it was almost comical and worth the trip just to see so many people packed around one temple.

Kinkaku-ji

 

There is only one path that goes around three sides of the temple then up and over a hillside and out the exit. The views of the golden temple with its reflection in the water are stunning. You can get a good shot if you wait a little for your turn at the railing. It’s harder, however, to get a shot of yourself or your special someone with so many others trying to do the same thing.

Kinkaku-ji

As far as crowd control, I don’t know if arriving at 9am when they open would be much better. Most sights have been busy pretty early so 9 may not be early enough. I also don’t know how the light is in the morning. Late afternoon on a sunny day in early October was close to perfect light.

Kinkaku-ji

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LP Walking Tour of Southern Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan

September 15, 2017

Kiyomizu-dera

Everyone I talked to before our visit to Japan, or even travelers I met in Japan for that matter, raved about Kyoto as an absolute must see for its quaint streets and serene temples. The former capital of Japan (794 to 1868) is all that, but these days you will be enjoying the main sights with all the other foreign travelers and Japanese who also love Kyoto. That said, it is still possible to find quiet moments earlier in the morning or at lesser known temples.

Kiyomizu-dera

I visited Kyoto twice during my seven weeks in Japan, once with my Aunt Jan in the middle of September and again with Don the first week in October. For the blog I will be combining the two trips by destination rather than posting them chronologically.

Otani Cemetery

I’ll begin these posts with the Lonely Planet walking tour I did with Jan our first morning in Kyoto. A nice introduction to what Kyoto has to offer.

Kiyomizu-dera

The start of the southern Higashiyama walking tour, the corner of Higashioji-dori and Gojo-dori,  was just a ten minute walk from the Seikoro ryokan where we were staying. We arrived at the Kiyomizu-dera temple at around 9:30. The bright orange complex was already buzzing with visitors on a Friday morning.

Kiyomizu-dera

Some of the buildings were covered in scaffolding and construction cloth diminishing the overall spectacle of the place.

Kiyomizu-dera

The guide book recommends it for the views overlooking the hills and city and the variety of activities such as drinking from a sacred pool and walking stepping stones to find your true love.

Kiyomizu-dera

For garden lovers, though, the hillside temple doesn’t have the impressive grounds that some of the other temples do.

Matsubara dori shopping street

The next part of the walking tour is through the area’s shopping streets. The streets closest to the temple were packed with tourists and school groups but once we reached

Sannen-zakaNinen-zaka

Sannen zaka the crowds quickly diminished and Ishibei-koji alley was virtually empty. This narrow lane is considered to be one of the loveliest in Kyoto.

Ishibei-koji

It’s beautiful in its simplicity; old style Japanese homes with elegant entrances donned with only a few plants and so forth. I realized halfway into the walk that there were signs posted prohibiting photos. Overhearing a local guide we discovered that it gets quite busy at tea time.

Kodai-ji

A flight of stone stairs leads to Kodai-ji temple. Much less crowed than Kiyomizu-dera, the interiors of the new section were adorned with the works of a contemporary artist who has a relationship with one of the temple directors.

Kodai-ji

Flashy in bright primary colors the artwork is in sharp contrast to the traditional temple’s structures. One the curators commented that the locals find the placement of the works here controversial.

Kodai-jiKodai-ji

The surrounding gardens are quite pretty and peaceful despite a rather murky pond. Be sure to check out the stunning interiors of some of the older temples. Unfortunately no photo are allowed in them.

nearing Maruyama park

Maruyama Park

Next we headed to Maruyama Park stopping at the Otani cemetery.

Otani Cemetery

Otani Cemetery

You are not allowed into the section of individual graves sites but it is an impressive sight from the gate. With the markers crowded together up the hillside, it was one of my favorites of the day.

Otani Cemetery

The Otani tomb located next to the cemetery is open to the public, but for me not as interesting and the individual graves.

For lunch we stopped at an udon noodle place near the Yasaka shrine for a relaxing bowl of noodle soup and a beer. Hit the spot after a long morning’s walk. LP suggests you can do this walk in four hours, but only if you don’t spend much time at the temples. We still had a couple more to go after lunch.

Shoren-inShoren-in

We decided to continue north past the park to Shoren-in. A very picturesque and worthwhile stop.

Shoren-in

Walked around the inside of the temple and then back to the front to collect our shoes for a loop around the garden and pond.

Shoren-in

I especially liked the walk up to the hilltop shrine and back through the bamboo grove.

Chion-in

Nearing 4pm, we didn’t have much time for Chion-in, just enough to walk through the enormous gate to a temple set in the trees just past the steep stairs beyond the gate.

Chion-in

At this late hour the tour groups had gone home leaving the grounds quite peaceful. The temple visit is free. A fee is charged at the entrance to the gardens.

 

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