About two weeks ago (March 5th) I got another opportunity to make my way to Osaka. The grounds for this opportunity came in the form of a seminar, to be given by Professor Hans-Peter Deurr, a noted German physicist in many fields, including “quantum physics, elementary particles and gravitation, epistemology, and philosophy. He has also been an advocate for responsible scientific and energy policies,” which was the purpose for mine and my sensei’s trip to Osaka University. However, during his talk he decided to speak more about philosophical matters rather than the planned discussion on sustainable city development. It was indeed interesting, however given the mainly Japanese audience, I almost certain they had practically no idea what he was talking about… Here’s a shot of the University’s engineering building-
Anyway, at least this seminar gave Kagawa University a good reason to send me to Osaka and pay for my hotel room. So after the seminar and a night out on the town in search of good food and a couple beers,
I went back to my room to sleep and rest up for my upcoming adventure to Kyoto!
Early the following morning, I woke up and found a nice bakery full of delicious looking goods. It was hard to decide which ones to pick…
After picking out a few I made my way to the train station, only a few minute’s walk, and hopped on a train bound for Kyoto. The awesome thing about my “expenses-paid trip” to Osaka is that it paid for most of the trip to Kyoto as well. From Osaka, Kyoto is only a ¥390, hour-long train ride away! Making it to Kyoto by around 9:00am or so, the tourist center was not yet open, and so without any pre-made plans, I set off at a brisk walk in any direction where I could see trees in the distance. It just so happens that my instincts were correct. Within 15 minutes or so I found myself at a famous shinto shrine known as Yasaka jinja.
As a quick side note, here are a few words/suffixes that will be helpful when reading the following names:
The word jinja means shrine, the word koen means park, and the suffixes ji, tera, or dera, indicate temple.
If you want to track my walking (and bussing) journey through Kyoto, here is a link to a map I made that shows my path. It will be better too if you view it via satellite mode 😉
My exploration of that shrine was brief, but thorough. Behind that shrine I found another cool place, which I later discovered is called Maruyama Koen.
As I was exploring this park I realized that it was sloping upwards. Due to my past experiences I have learned at least one thing about cool temples and shrines; and that is that most of coolest ones are located on the slope of a hill or mountain. Additionally, I realized that the further I went, the less people I saw, tourists and natives alike, which is another fact that I was happy to embrace. Soon enough, I came across this cool, old-style looking cemetery, through which the path kept climbing, until it reached a temple called Anyōji. There was no one there. I removed my shoes (happily) and entered the dark and cool temple. It was so quiet that all I could hear were the sounds of nature drifting in from outside. After taking my time to look around the small place, I continued on my way.
The next destination that my wandering feet led me to was another temple, called Shorakuji. There was nobody at this temple either, which made the temple affect that much more powerful. In the rear of the courtyard, nearly 30 feet in the air, was a wooden chute down which a small stream of water was running, and at the bottom of the water’s path was a wooden bucket. The sound had a wonderful calming effect on this courtyard.
After some time spent in the courtyard, I noticed a small, overgrown path leading around back of the temple and further up the slope, so I followed it in hope that it would lead a decent ways up the mountain. What I discovered further up the path was not what I was hoping for, but nevertheless, worthwhile.
Realizing that I could make it no farther, I turned back, eager to get to my next destination, whatever that may be.
Well, you may or may not be surprised to hear this but, my next destination was in fact, (drumroll please…) another temple. Shocking, I know! Who would’ve thought there’d be so many temples in Kyoto? Anyways, this one is called Hayashiji. This one was actually slightly populated. It seemed the further along the mountain’s slope I traversed, the more people I began to encounter.
Adjacent to this temple was a massive cemetery named Higashiōtani bochi.
I was going to climb to its peak, however soon after I began to climb it, I realized that it would probably not be worth it. At this point I was beginning to think that maybe I don’t have to climb everything that leads up. If I did, I would never get to where I was going, which I still didn’t know at the time. So I continued onward. After descending from the hillside, I found a cool stone-paved street with lots of pricey shops and restaurants.
I kept walking and as I continued, I noticed more and more people crowding the streets until eventually, I realized there was a flow, almost as if there was some sort of shared destination. Not usually one to follow the crowd, I decided that this one time couldn’t hurt. It paid off in the end. As I thought, there was a shared destination, that being one of the most famous temples in Kyoto, Kiyomizudera!
It really was quite a sight. There were also lots of people. As I passed through the temple and began my walk along what was soon to be a path full of cherry blossoms, I ran into a large group of female college students from Tokyo University. I had asked them if all these trees were indeed cherry blossom trees, and to my amazement they answered, “Yes.” There must’ve been hundreds of them. I was then that I felt slightly disappointed that the research seminar couldn’t have happened sometime later in the spring.
The girls, eager to chat with a foreigner who could converse in Japanese, stuck around for a while and we walked together until we reached the end of the path. I said farewell, and headed off in search of some much needed sustenance. I walked until I found a main road, where I then hopped on a bus that was at least heading in what I presumed was the right direction (as it was my goal to head back to where I began in order to visit the tourist center). To my luck and surprise, I soon saw Yasaka jinja to my right, and furthermore, the bus turned down the road back to the main station where I had arrived 3 hours earlier! I had come full circle!
My feet eager for a rest, reluctantly carried me a little further until I found the tourist center. I asked the lady for a map and recommendation for a place to eat. When she began spouting off way too many places for me to make an educated decision with, I refined my search by adding a “good beer selection” criteria. After that there was only one option that she gave, and it happened to be only a 5 minute walk down the street. Perfect!
Once I had a pale ale on my table and an order placed for a steak, I then asked one of the servers for some advice. My question was, if you only had 8 hours to spend in Kyoto, where would you go. It didn’t take him long to point out a place on the map, Kinkakuji, The Golden Pavilion Temple. So that’s where I went!
It took about 25 minutes by bus, but I finally made it, and o’ what a place. It was no wonder to me as to why this location was such an attraction.
After making my way around Kinkakuji, I began walking around again, attempting to locate another one of the temples that I saw on my map. But, after about 20 minutes of walking and with no luck and with a bus stop in sight, my feet once again began to rebel against me and tried (successfully) to coerce me to their will. Soon enough, I was sitting at the bus stop with thoughts of home swirling around in my head. I had had enough adventure for one day. After wandering Kyoto for about 7 hours with my travel pack on and another 5 hours of travel time ahead of me, the decision to head back to Takamatsu was not a difficult one. Now the only thing left to do was to ride 25 minutes by bus back to the center of Kyoto, ride a train for an hour back to Osaka, take another bus for about 3.5 hours back to Takamatsu, and then another train for about 25 minutes back to Yashima, and finally my bike about 5 minutes back to my dormitory, and then 4 flights of stairs by foot back to my room, and 5 steps to my bed…
Until next time!