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Back to Kyoto

What a relief to finally not be on the move! We continued our tour of Kyoto to our first stop in Higashiyama-ku.

The Higashiyama District along the lower slopes of Kyoto's eastern mountains is one of the city's best preserved historic districts. It is a great place to experience traditional old Kyoto where the narrow lanes, wooden buildings and traditional merchant shops invoke a feeling of the old capital city. The streets in Higashiyama are lined by small shops, cafes and restaurants which have been catering to tourists and pilgrims for centuries. These businesses retain their traditional design, although many have been renovated through the years, and they continue to serve customers today, selling local specialties such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets, pickles, crafts and other souvenirs.

We made our way to the Kiyomizudera Temple, best known for its wooden stage that juts out from its main hall, 13 meters above the hillside below. The stage affords visitors a nice view of the numerous cherry and maple trees below that erupt in a sea of color in spring and fall, as well as of the city of Kyoto in the distance. The most well-known aspect of Kiyomizu-dera is the huge veranda of the main hall. It juts out on wooden pillars and is an impressive site. In addition to the veranda and for health reasons, Kiyomizudera Temple brings in visitors hoping for luck in love. The sub-temple, Jishu-jinja, has two love stones (Mekura-ishi; Blind Stones) placed roughly 20 meters apart. If you can manage to walk between with the stones (eyes closed) you will find love -- or so the faithful believe.

All of my friends tried it and succeeded, so hopefully something happens.

Kyoto has flourished by Nishijin textile and kimono. Although the number of people wearing kimono has decreased significantly, the traditional skill of weaving textiles has flourished. At the Nishijin Textile Center, we were given a small tour and able to purchase a few of their items. We were taken to the top floor to watch a kimono fashion show, which I thought was interesting. I ended up purchasing a few scarves for myself and the wife. Let's just say that they ended up saving me from getting sick throughout this entire trip.

We went to Arashiyama for lunch and to visit the Tenryuji Temple where we got a glimpse of traditional Zen landscape garden design.

It’s filled with temples and shrines, but the main attraction is the famed Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. The grove runs from outside the north gate of Tenryu-ji to just below Okochi-Sanso village. Really impressive when you walk through it. Lots of tourists, so you'll definitely have to fight for space if you plan to walk through this path.

After this, we headed for the Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) covered with 18 carat gold leaves. This three story structure was originally built by the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1397. It is so picturesque that you can spend hours just walking around taking photos from different angles. Absolutely worth the visit if you're in the Kyoto area.

At the end of the day, we explored Gion, a traditional entertainment district lying north and south of Shijo Street, and stretching from the Kamo-gawa River in the west, as far as Yasaka-jinja Shrine in the east. Originally, this shrine was called Gion Shrine, and the entertainment area developed here to service its many pilgrims with food and drink.

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