Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Japan Day 3: (Eastern Kyoto) Kiyomizudera

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Less than an hour's journey from our base of Osaka, the city of Kyoto is a must-visit for anybody traveling in Kansai. Once the political capital of Japan, Kyoto is now the nation's undisputed cultural capital. Sightseeing in Kyoto is also a richly rewarding experience, with 17 properties listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Among the many beautiful places we visited in Kyoto, I found Southern Higashiyama to be one of the most lovely sightseeing district in Kyoto. It contains everything from dazzling temples, to preserved lanes, to the city’s main geisha district.

Our Day 3 adventure started when we left our hotel at around 9am, and got to Kyoto station at nearly 11am. Inspite of my best-laid plans to leave the hotel as early as possible, I am also a mom who finds it hard to wake up my kids when they look like they are still in deep sleep. It says in my itinerary wake-up time is 7:30, but everyday, the kids and husband woke up around 8:30 ish.

Kyoto station is a behemoth beauty. I love the ceiling and find it an artwork unto itself.

Kiyomizudera can be reached from Kyoto Station by bus number 100 or 206 (the ride is about 15 minutes and costs around 220 yen). Get off at Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi bus stop, from where it is a ten minute uphill walk to the temple.

We queue up for bus 206 and asked to be dropped at Kiyomizu-Michi or Gojo-zaka.

Half of the fun of traveling is getting there.  So instead of heading straight to the temple, we went down the Kiyomizu-michi stop so we can walk the historical path of the Higashiyama preserved district twice. If you want to go straight to Kiyomizu-dera, then you can ask to be dropped off at Gojo-zaka.  You can still walk the Kiyomizu-michi after you exit the temple.

At the entrance of Kiyomizudera, you will be greeted by this vermilion-colored structure.

Kiyomizudera is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. It was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites in 1994, it is best known for its wooden stage that juts out from its main hall. The stage affords visitors a nice view of the numerous cherry and maple trees below that erupt in a sea of pink in spring and orange during fall.  Too bad the extended winter in Japan also delayed their sakura season by two weeks, so when we got to Higashiyama, there there were not much cherry blossoms in bloom yet.
I first visited Kiyomizudera when I was in my teens, as a foreign exchange student in Japan. Even as a teen who was generally unimpressed with cultural landmarks at that time, the memory of the dramatic verandah is still very vivid in my mind.

Inspite of the rain, we went around the temple and enjoyed looking around.

Devotees write down their special prayer request on these wooden plaques.
Unfortunately for us, it rained the whole time we were there. Japan is a country of such meticulous precision that even the weather forecast is accurate up to the hour.  When the forecast says whole day rain, then it's whole day! As such, my picture taking opportunities were hampered.

Nice-looking and well-composed photographs help us preserve the memories of the trip in our minds. Because what is there to look back to, but the pictures. Having said that, my DSLR and I could not be stopped.:) But of course, my view was obstructed by the multitudes of umbrellas, if not the splatter of mist as the rain drops roll off my umbrella and splash to my camera lens.

The rain won't stop us from taking photos... umbrella on one hand, phone cam on the other.

Interesting fact:  Did you know that the pillars of the temple were assembled without using a single nail?

The Otowa waterfall, located at the base of Kiyomizu-Dera, is where people line up to take the ladle and sip the spring water with a promise of love, longevity and wisdom. Its waters are divided into three separate streams, and visitors use cups attached to long poles to drink from them.
On our way out of the temple, we pass by the long queue of people waiting for their turn at the fountain. When I told B to line up and wish for good grades, she disagrees after seeing the long line, "it's easier to just study hard to get good grades!."

We exit the temple and head out to the preserved historic streets of Southern Higashiyama.

Hours: 6:00 to 18:00
Closed: No closing days
Admission: 300 yen

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