History, Culture, Religion – Temples and Streets of Kyoto, Japan Part 2

“Music saves the soul.” Play softly while you read.

Kyoto, Japan is one of the most interesting cities in my bucket list waiting to be stricken off, which I finally did last November of 2015. I took the Shinkansen from Odawara (the nearest bullet train station from my hotel in Hakone) and arrived Kyoto late in the afternoon. I reached Heian Shrine after the sundown and waited for my AirBnB host to fetch me. Oh my, was I surprised, my Kyoto AirBnB host, Kimberlye Kowalczyk (with western blood-line but born in Japan), is so pretty. .  Her lovely flat – a traditional Japanese house if I may say – has the smell of wood and tatami mat that made my stay more than comfortable. Check her place out at https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/5785542.

And so I thought it was still too early to go to bed on my first night in Kyoto, I asked Kimberlye for attractions I can visit at night and luckily not all temples are closed after 6PM. In autumn season, some temples with lots of maple trees are illuminated at night hence people can still visit after the sunset. I have not studied my way around Kyoto yet so I asked Kimberlye how to reach destinations on foot on the first night. She lent me a map and told me all places I can visit during my 3 days and 3 nights stay. I got tired of walking on every night I fulfilled my wanderer’s lust for Kyoto but was more than energized and ready for the next day’s roaming. I visited temples and shrines and took lots of photos of the streets and people.

The imperial heart of Japan, with its awe-inspiring gardens and foliage, momentous shrines and temples, salivating food, and friendly people, what’s not to love in Kyoto? In no particular order in my itinerary, here are a few of the interesting spots I visited that will give you a deeper appreciation of Kyoto’s history, culture and religion.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

I have endured a long walk from Heian Shrine to Kiyomizu-dera Temple during my first night in Kyoto. I was excited of the temple illumination plus the vast garden bragging the magnificent foliage in autumn colors. The view of the glimmering city from the hill was also spectacular. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is said to help you grant your wish when you jump off the veranda of the main hall. Sounds easy until you realise that the leap of faith is from a height of 13 meters and of course, your wish will come true when you survive the jump. The historical data of 34 deaths out of 234 believers will make you utter “nope”. A desperate way to seize a yearning, this practice is not allowed anymore. Another interesting fact about this Buddhist site is that the construction of this temple does not make use of a single nail! I’m very much fascinated but not surprised at all as I’ve seen some historical structures that are currently standing strongly and still though they were errected using building blocks which you can never hear being used in modern architecture and civil engineering. Yup, they nailed it! I mean, not. . (corny! hehe.)

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Kodaiji Temple

I have learnt that this temple built in the 15th century is popular for its night time illumination during autumn season hence I scheduled my visit to this temple on my last night in Kyoto. A modest religious site surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens with remarkable stone layouts and bamboo groves similar to that of Arashiyama’s, Kodaiji Temple is an enchanting attraction shouldn’t be missed. I really enjoyed the light show rhythmically dancing with, I guess, traditional Japanese music while the rain was pouring heavily over the historic city.

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Yasaka Shrine

Just in front of the busy Shijo Street, Yasaka shrine is the oldest site in this article built during the Heian period, over a thousand years ago. The shrine is said to be decorated extravagantly on the month of July when the Gion Matsuri Festival is held. Travelers often drop by this shrine when visiting the Gion and/or Higashiyama districts. What interests me most is the delicious Kyoto street food stalls parked within the insides of the shrines. Oishii desu ne!

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7 thoughts on “History, Culture, Religion – Temples and Streets of Kyoto, Japan Part 2

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