Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Images of Kyoto

Tuesday was our last day in Kyoto. We had hired a guide and met her – Setsuko – at 9:00 and headed off for the Golden Pavilion in the northwest part of the city. This is one of Kyoto’s most famous tourist attractions, and we experienced our greatest crowds yet, though it wasn’t mobbed by any means. There were lots of school kids on field trips, some of them in dressed in kimonos.

The place was originally constructed as an aristocrat’s home and used by a shogun as a summer residence. After his death, in accordance with his wishes, his son turned it into a Buddhist temple and had the gold leaf applied to the exterior of the upper two floors which had been added on top of the house.

The morning sun reflected off the lake and made the eaves of the temple shimmer.

Setsuko and Mark

From the Golden Pavilion, we headed next to Nijo Castle in the center of Kyoto. This was one of the highlights of our trip so far. Quoting from the brochure:  The castle was originally built in 1603 as the official Kyoto residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu ... It is one of the finest examples of early Edo period and Momoyama culture in Japan." It was originally intended to be a fortified castle, but after one of the towers was struck by lightning and burned, a decision was made to build a palace instead.

Detail of the restored main gate

Internet picture of the Ninomaru Palace

The palace consists of a series of reception rooms that grow more elaborate as one advances to the shogun's private quarters. In one of the rooms, the shogunate effectively ended as the last shogun informed his liege lords that the samurai system was coming to an end and power was being turned over to the emperor. The following pictures from the Internet depict this scene (photographs inside the palace were forbidden):

Special pins account for the "Nightingale Floor" which was designed to alert palace officials
to the presence of persons by making the sound of a nightingale. Even after hundreds of years, it still works.

Picture of us on the grounds of the palace

Corner of the moated castle

It was then off to Teramachi Street to see the famed arcaded shopping area. We had some lunch here, as well as found a couple of "recycled" yukatas for Mark and me. These are essentially cotton house coats that are provided for guests' use at most inns in Japan. In Tokyo, they were limited to use in our room, but in Hakone and again here in Kyoto, guests are welcome to wear them to dinner, breakfast and around the inn.

After lunch, we walked through Gion, the area of Kyoto where the houses are the oldest, passing shops that are more than 200 years ago (indicated by the presence of a special lantern having over the door). Thence to the geisha district, and on to a Zen temple.


Names of Geishas and their trainees over a door

Meditation cushions in Zen temple building

Setsuko and me looking at the temple's rock garden

Ceiling of Zen Temple
It had been a long day. We left our inn at 7:30 and got back at 5:30. That evening, we had a Japanese calligraphy class in the lobby of the inn. The teacher despaired of me, but tried to put a good face on it. We are off to Koyasan today.

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