Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,

Japan: Kyoto day 3 (East Kyoto)

(Written Wednesday night, posted Thursday morning.)

Lots of cool stuff, but a very long day in which my inner two-year-old kept wanting to throw a temper tantrum (being insufficiently recovered from yesterday). So I will attempt brevity.

Today was the northern half of East Kyoto. We started with Konchi-in Temple, which appears to be somewhat lesser-known. Though small, it's excellent. The "Crane and Turtle" Garden of trees and rocks is apparently one of the few authenticated designs by the famous Kobori Enshu and is really neat. (The part of the garden with a pond had a live and very insistent turtle that stuck its head out of the water when I approached and just kept staring at me, as I waited in a shady spot for a special tour. Clearly it expected to be fed and was willing to wait quite a long time for that expectation to be fulfilled. (I'm used, now, to koi following us around, but this was the first time a turtle had done so.))

The temple also has a set of rooms that are shown for an extra fee by a very nice older woman with a Japanese-English dictionary and a lot of good will. There is an apparently-famous eight-windowed tea room (into which everyone but the shogun had to crawl through a small low door), and several cool paintings. Two or three were of crows (one of them, she told me, was of "Korean crows." While in China crows are apparently happy birds (she'd gotten out the dictionary initially to tell us that the crows in the first painting were "threatening"), she didn't mention how they're seen in Korea.). One was a painting of a monkey reaching for the reflection of the moon in the water, which was particularly good; I saved one of our tickets, which has a color reproduction, and will see about maybe scanning it if the Internet doesn't already have a copy. (I'm writing these offline, hence the lack of helpful links. Your search engine of choice is your friend.)

Another side-ish stop, the garden at Tenjuan. (There are buildings, which did not seem to be open.) Most of the garden is built around two ponds and is beautiful.

Then Nanzenji Temple (the prior two are, I believe, actually subordinate temples of this one, but they give out separate brochures and charge separate admission fees). This is a complex of several buildings, a Meiji-era aqueduct, and of course very pretty gardens, including a famous Zen one. The main building has a number of sliding-door paintings, including some fabulous tigers.

Then we had lunch at Okutan, which specializes in vegetarian Buddhist cuisine, mostly tofu. Here I discovered that sesame tofu is not as I expected, being apparently soaked through and through with sesame oil or some such (my verdict: yuck); and when sitting on the floor, I can sit on my heels, but only for a couple of minutes, and otherwise can only stick my legs straight out.

Chad had a set meal, and some of the tofu dishes in that weren't yuck, including grilled with some green gel-like substance brushed on the top, and boiled and mixed with sauce and spices.

(For baseline, I'm really not a fan of Japanese cuisine; many of the flavors (like, err, soy sauce) and textures aren't to my taste. I've been trying to be good and try new things, but so far the new stuff is at best "oh, that's okay" rather than "oooh, more please.")

After lunch, we went to Eikando Zenrin-ji Temple, which also has an excellent tiger sliding-door painting and Zen gardens. It's famous for its backward-looking Buddha statue, the legend behind which the brochure gives as:

"In the early hours of February 15, 1082, in the freezing cold of the morning, the then chief priest of Eikando, the Abbot Eikan (1033-1111), while intoning the Nembutsu ["Praise to Amida Buddha"], was walking around a statue of Amida.

" . . . as the dawn was breaking[,] Amida came down from his pedestal, and began walking away, beckoning to Eikan. Eikdan could do nothing but stare, speechless and unmoving. Then Amida looked back at Eikan and called to him in a soft voice, 'Eikan! Come with me!'"

Eikan then commissioned this statue, according to the story, though one of our guidebooks says that art historians disagree.

From there we walked up the Path of Philosophy (usually translated as Philosopher's Walk, but we don't like that as much), a pretty canal-side path. There are lots of temples, restaurants, and shops off it, but we didn't stop because we saw some ominous-looking clouds up ahead. (The storm ended up breaking just as we got back to the hotel.)

We ended up at Ginkakuji Temple, the Silver Pavilion, which is not silver and which we couldn't go into. But it didn't matter, because the grounds were, once again, very beautiful. There are big sand structures, which are impressive in their own way, but I was completely captivated by the path that winds up and down the side of a forested hill. There's something about bamboo forests, and to a lesser extent really old pine forests; and lower down, there was a combination of slim green-leaved trees and a stream-bed that made me stop and say, "It looks like an Alan Lee painting."

On the way down from Ginkakuji are a bunch of little shops and restaurants. I tried triangular mochi, as rachelmanija had suggested, and bought a box of strawberry as a safe thing to bring to work. We also had rice crackers, which I found unexpectedly hard. (Both of these fall into my "oh, that was okay" category.)

Then we turned onto Kaguraoka, because the tourist map/brochure showed it running alongside a park and we thought that would be scenic. I mention it only because it doesn't, so don't rely on that part of the map.

We stopped very briefly at Shinnyo-do Temple because it was visible from the street we were on. It didn't appear to be open and doesn't get a mention in our guidebooks; it has a big bronze Buddha statue outside. Then through stone paths and back streets, finally ending up on Marutamachi-dori, where we caught a train.

I fail at brevity, but that's okay--I foolishly drank tea at lunch, which triggered my acid reflux, so I should have remained upright for a good while after dinner anyway.

And tomorrow I am taking the afternoon off to prop up my sore feet and read the history that I should've before we came (or, possibly, fictional fluff. But I'll try to read history.).

ETA: pictures from this day at http://pics.livejournal.com/kate_nepveu/gallery/0003871g
ETA2: Chad's full Flickr set for this day at http://www.flickr.com/photos/11070535@N08/sets/72157601955029164/

Oh, and Chad is also doing travel updates in the Japan category of his blog.
Tags: japan 2007, trips

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