Thursday, 7 October 2010

Osaka-Nara-Kyoto-Kobe-Okayama-Hiroshima trip – 7 Oct 10

We started our day early today. It's only 6am in the morning and the sky is already so bright. We bought bread for breakfast from a convenience store nearby yesterday. Fredrick's mom bought a box of eggs so we have hard boiled egg for breakfast too.
View of Kyoto tower from the hostel room
Breakfast for the day
Facilities of Capsule Ryokan Kyoto

As Kyoto has a lot of temples to offer, I allocated 4 days in Kyoto alone. However for those who wanted to visit popular temples, 4 days can be temple burn-out. I would recommend to group the attractions together into North, South, East and West to facilitate travelling. It's a pity that it's not autumn foilage yet, otherwise it would be a very beautiful temples hopping experience.

Our first attraction today is Nishi Honganji, which is 10min walk from Capsule Ryokan Kyoto. I thought that the first temple we saw is Nishi Honganji, only to realise later that it's 本山興正寺. 
Such a unique gate
Path leading to Nishi Honganji

Nishi Honganji is further down the path from 本山興正寺. Nishi Honganji 西本願寺 is one of the rare temple in Kyoto which is free admission. Nishi Hongan-ji (Western Temple of the Original Vow) is one of two temple complexes of Jodo Shinshu in Kyoto, the other being Higashi Honganji (The Eastern Temple of the Original Vow). Today it serves as the head temple of the Jodo Shinshu organization.
Nishi Honganji
Devotees praying in the Amidado Hall
Such a huge lamp

I seems to fall in love with the toilets in Japan. I love that everything is automatic! 
There's music in the cubicle
Even the sanitary bin is automatic
Water and soap are automatic

Next, we strolled to Higashi Honganji 東本願寺 which is about 20min from Nishi Honganji temple. Higashi Honganji was established in 1602 by the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu when he split the Shin sect in two (Nishi Honganji being the other) in order to diminish its power.
Founder's Hall gate 
Temizusha 手水舎
Higashi Honganji
Goeido hall
A building under renovation
 These steel are used to support the building while undergoing renovation
Rubber stamping of the attraction
Police station
Bank of Kyoto
Kyoto cab
Hotel Granvia Kyoto
Kyoto station

I purchased the 1 day Kyoto sightseeing card from the subway ticket machine. The sighseeting card comes with 1 day (¥1,200) or 2 days (¥2,000) which allows unlimited usage of Kyoto City Buses, Kyoto Buses and the two subway lines in the city of Kyoto. I also purchased the Kyoto City Bus One Day Card (¥500) to be use in the next 3 days. It comes with unlimited use of Kyoto City Buses in central Kyoto. The area of validity is smaller than that of the Kyoto Sightseeing Card, and doesn't include some of the city's more outlying districts, such as Arashiyama. Kyoto City Bus One Day Card cannot be purchased from the subway ticket machines, I purchased it from the information counter and it comes with a map of Kyoto bus route.
 Kyoto Sightseeing Card
Kyoto City Bus One Day Card

I noticed that there is a machine in the station which allows passenger to top up the fare difference if they have previously purchased a lower fare ticket. I guessed if the passenger didnt top up the fare, he/ she would not be able to exit the station.
Topping up the fare at this machine
Showing the previous, current and next station
Queueing orderly to enter the subway
It's so pack

We took subway from Kyoto station to Karasumaoike station (Karasuma Line) before transferring to the Tozai line which goes to Nijojimae station.   Nijo Castle 二条城 is only 5min walk from the station.  We didnt enter the castle as it was not that spectacular and admission fee is ¥600.

Nijo castle
Entrance to Nijo castle
We then took the subway to Imadegawa Station (Karasuma Line) where Kyoto Imperial Palace is located. I had previously make reservation for English tour at the Imperial Household Agency's website. The English tour is held at 10am and 2pm from Monday - Friday. It's advisable to book in advance due to limited visitors. Advanced applications first become available on the 1st day of the month, 3 months in advance of the preferred touring month at the Imperial Household Agency's website.  Admission and tour is free and the palace can only be visit with guided tour.

Kyoto Imperial Palace 京都御所 used to be the residence of Japan's Imperial Family until 1868, when the emperor and capital were moved from Kyoto to Tokyo.
Entrance to Kyoto Imperial Palace
Anyone knows why the road is covered with stones?
Listening to our guide before the tour
Chrysanthemum symbol is the imperial seal of Japanese

Shodaibunoma was used as a waiting room for officials visit to the palace. The officials were ushered to different room according to their rank. The highest rank is ushered to the room with tiger painting and the lowest rank is ushered to the room with the painting with cherry blossom.
Shishinden hall is where the Chrysanthemum throne is kept. It was used for important ceremonies such as the coronation of an Emperor and installation of a Crown Prince. The enthronement ceremonies of Emperors Taisho and Showa were still held in the palace's main hall, but the present Emperor's ceremony took place at the Tokyo Imperial Palace.
Shishinden main hall 紫宸殿
Tachibana orange tree (symbolising longevity)
Cherry blossom tree
The roof is make from cypress tree
Kenreimon Gate 建礼門
The edges are painted to prevent termites

Shunkoden is used to store the sacred mirror used on the occasion of the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Taisho. It's one of the ugliest building in the palace.
Shunkoden (春興殿)
Beware of your head

Seiryoden (清涼殿) was the residence of the Emperor until the 11th century. A canal was built around Seiryoden as the water is used to cool the hot weather during the summer. The guide told us that as Kyoto is surrounded by mountains, the weather can get very hot during summer.
This canal is purposely built
Oike-niwa (御池庭)
The doors are swing upward to allow full circulation of air
This was the imperial kitchen previously but was burnt in a fire

The tour  finished in an hour and we head for Nishiki market. The nearest subway station is Shijo station on the Karasuma line. Nishiki market is about 10min walk from the Shijo station.
Direction to Nishiki market
Walking towards Nishiki market
This restaurant has a European feel

Nishiki market 錦市場 is known as "Kyoto's Kitchen". Nishiki Market has a history of several centuries and many stores have been operated by the same families for generations. Various kinds of fresh and processed foods including many Kyoto specialties, such as pickles, Japanese sweets, dried food, sushi, fresh seafood and vegetables are sold here.
Entrance of Nishiki market
Nishiki market
Not sure what this is but looks tasty
招财猫 sweets
Such a huge fish roe

Katsuobushi (Japanese fish flakes)

We bought some food for dinner and had our lunch at one of the restaurant in Nishiki market. I ordered soba noodle with fish which cost ¥630 ~ S$10.
Soba noodle

On the way to the subway station, I bought a packet of fruit juice from a convenience store as I havent had fruits for the past few days. This is the cheapest fruit juice which I can find in the convenience store ¥74 ~ S$1.20.
Vegetable juice

We took the subway back to Kyoto station and take bus to Sanjusangendo. Fredrick's mom and relatives return back to the hostel as they are tired while we continued.

One special feature about the bus in Kyoto is that passenger board the bus from the rear door and alight at the front door. The bus even have notes changing machine beside the driver.
Kyoto bus

For those who purchased the city bus one day card, you need to slot it into the machine beside the driver before alighting for the first ride. The date of travel will be printed on the card. Then for subsequent ride, just show it to the bus driver.
 Left is for sloting of the one day bus card, right is for changing notes to coins 
Inside the bus
Bus bell

We alighted at Kakubutsukan Sanjusangendo-mae.  Sanjusangendo 三十三間堂 is famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The temple hall is 120m long and is Japan's longest wooden structure. The name Sanjusangendo (literally "33 intervals") derives from the number of intervals between the building's support columns, a traditional method of measuring the size of a building. Opening hours: 8am - 5pm and Admission: ¥600. No photo taking is allowed inside.
 Entrance of Sanjusangendo
Try your fortune here
From Sanjusangendo, we took bus 100 or 206 to Gion, our last attraction for the day. We went to Yasaka Shrine which can be seen from Gion bus stop. Yasaka Shrine 八坂神社 is also known as Gion shrine 梅宮神社.
 Entrance to Yasaka Shrine
Main hall

The many lanterns that decorate the shrine's stage are lit after dark and bear the names of their sponsors, mostly Kyoto businesses.

From Yasaku shrine, we walked to Gion. Along the way, there are many shops selling souvenirs. I saw quite a lot of people dressing in kimono and it's possible for tourist to rent kimono and walked around in Gion.
I'm wondered if they are Japanese or tourist?

Gion is Kyoto most famous geisha district. A lot of tourists came here to catch a glimpse of geisha. We were too early and didnt saw any geisha as they usually appear in the evening when they are on their way to or from an engagement at an ochaya.
Traditional wooden michiya house

We took bus back to Kyoto station before changing another bus to our hostel. I found that some of Kyoto bus stop and the bus terminal at Kyoto station has those indication on the arrival of bus. This is much more useful than the bus arrival time in Singapore which in fact is not accurate at all. The bus indication here will show whether the bus is stopping at the 3 previous bus stops hence the arrival time is more accurate.
Dinner for the day

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