Kyoto Spring 2012: Day 4, Kyomizu, Kinkaku, Bicycles

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Tuesday, May 2, 2012

Aunt Jan and I left the guesthouse around 9:30am via… bicycle. Despite the fact that she had not ridden a bicycle with any regularity for 10 years (am I remembering that right?), I wanted to try it. I had always wanted to bicycle in Kyoto! I have my bike here in Hirosaki and even though it is a simple 1-speed bike, I feel free whenever I ride it. I was convinced that it would be faster to get places if we rented bikes, so Aunt Jan relented.

We started off slow and made our way to Kyomizu-dera (清水寺, Kyomizu Temple). We mistakenly walked our bikes all the way up the hill and then asked where the bicycle parking was once we got to the top. It turned out that there was no designated bicycle parking near the temple complex, but the guard told me where to stash our bikes (off to the side near some public bathrooms in the shade).

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As we were walking up to the temple, we noticed a procession of workers and monks carrying a huge THING wrapped in white sheet-like cloth. TV cameras, crew, reporters, the whole nine yards. Apparently it was a new buddha statue that was being installed in one of the halls. It was a bit of a mess, so it was probably a good thing that we did not enter at that time.

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Instead… I suggested we go down the road a bit and look at shops. I was actually feeling a little hungry from our bike ride and was craving some mochi samples. If you ever want to sample some famous Kyoto Yatsuhashi, Kyomizu Temple is the place to go. There is this one particular shop not far down from the temple that will give you a cup of tea and beckon you inside to try every single thing they sell. And I did. Multiple times. Ahem.

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(Source: shibuya246.com)

Yatsuhashi is Kyoto’s most famous, iconic dessert. They are also called Otabe. They are triangle-shaped and made with glutinous rice flour and sugar. They come in so many flavors that it isn’t even funny.

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Here are just a few of the flavors I tried: Green tea powder, cinnamon, white sesame, black sesame, peach, sakura, apple, orange, chocolate banana, chocolate, chocolate-chocolate, salt, Ramune, plain azuki+plain mochi, plain azuki + green tea mochi, strawberry… Yes. Most al of them were delicious, except I didn’t particularly care for the strawberry, chocolate banana, or Ramune. I could, however, eat the sale, cinnamon, and black sesame all day. Those things are dangerous.

We didn’t see all the shops at that time since we wanted to save them for later and we didn’t want to carry any purchases around the temple.

Buying my Kyomizu Temple entry ticket was a bit of a victory for me. The tickets are season-themed and I have ones from Winter and Summer already.

I got SPRING! 春ゲット!

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When we headed inside, they had already gotten the buddha inside his room and were beginning to unwrap it. It was a little silly watching them do it, but everyone else was waiting to see it too. Case in point:

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They unwrapped the head, but then they put a sheet back over it so they could pull it off at the right moment for the full reveal. It was hard to take a picture from where we were, but we walked around to the other side and I managed to snap one.

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What happened then was something that kind of shocked me. Scared me too.

The buddha’s room was kind of on a wooden platform lifted up from the walking level. You had to step up to go into it. I didn’t need to step on the ledge of the wooden floor to get a good shot of the buddha. However, Aunt Jan was standing next to me and she was leaning forwards, one of her feet on the ledge. Just then, a tall, older Japanese guy came by from behind us, swatted my aunt’s leg with his workman’s gloves, and growled in English: “No!” He then stalked off.

Maybe it was his voice or maybe it was the fact that he had actually hit my aunt (with his gloves)… but I was quite scared. Aunt Jan didn’t seem to be as bothered as I was. I kept hearing his voice saying “No!” in my head. Okay, so maybe he was a temple worker who got really tired of foreigners stepping on the sacred floor of the buddha and “No” is kind of something everyone will understand, but… Still. There were no signs to say no one was supposed to step there. That was uncalled for. I was a bit shaken up for several minutes after that.

We continued to walk around the temple complex, saw the lovers rock, and the beautiful view of Kyoto. Did you know that the stage and main hall were constructed without a single nail? It is very impressive. Aside from Fushimi-inari, Kyomizu is my favorite temple/shrine in Kyoto.

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After seeing the sights, we went back to get our bikes. It was pretty hot that day. We walked our bikes down the long road and found the actual bicycle parking. We parked, then went back up the hill to do some actual shopping. And more yatsuhashi sampling. Yum yum.

Aunt Jan ended up purchasing a few things and I bought a bunch of yatsuhashi to give as souvenirs to people back in Hirosaki. We went back to our bikes and decided to head for Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion), because it would be a shame if we left Kyoto without seeing it one more time.

But getting there was an adventure.

There’s just something about Kinkaku-ji, I guess. I think this deserves a little backstory, though.

When Sam, Zandra, and I were in Kyoto in February 2008, it was COLD. So cold. Much colder than where I was living in Tokyo. I was primarily the navigator on this trip, so they trusted me to get them places. I decided that it would not be such a bad idea to walk from the guesthouse (near Gojo-Karasuma) to Kinkaku-ji. And so we did.

So we walked… and we walked… and we walked…

It was taking forever. I had known that it was a long walk, but this was getting ridiculous. It was cold and the weather was pretty miserable, but I kept on encouraging my friends to push onward.

Finally we got hungry enough to stop for lunch. We had to re-fuel before carrying on up the mighty hill to Kinkaku-ji, but we got there eventually. I don’t think my friends will ever forget that walk.

But now, in 2012, I had a bicycle. Kyomizu to Kinkaku-ji was a little far, but we could do it, right? Well, let me say that the ride was just a little bit stressful, long, and… I’m sure my aunt hated me just a little bit too. ^^;; Ahem.

The same statement applies here: “We got there eventually.”

I think I could have gone either way on seeing Kinkaku-ji again, but once we got there and saw it, I was really glad that we did. It was beautiful and shining, even on an overcast day.

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Thankfully, the road home was entirely downhill and it was smooth-sailing. Or should I said, smooth riding. We wanted to try to go to the ikebana shop/gallery downtown, but when we went by there it was closed. Darn. Instead, we forged our way to the washi paper shop that Aunt Jan’s guidebook highly recommended. And it was wonderful! Things were a bit more expensive than at the shop in Arashiyama, but they had a gazillion different kinds of paper. It wasn’t hard to find something you liked.

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We were there until they closed and decided to find some dinner. Coco Ichiban-ya Curry was close (and close to home), so we chose there because it was super-easy. Relaxing, delicious, and quick. Cocoichi is my favorite Japanese curry restaurant (since they have an allergy-people-friendly curry made from veggie stock, not animal stock), so I had wanted to take Aunt Jan there at least once while we were in Japan. The meal did not disappoint!

After that I escorted my aunt back to the guesthouse and then ventured out on my own for a couple hours while things were still open.

I rode my rental bike back up to Shijo and Teramachi, where all the shopping was. I ended up buying a couple more yatsuhashi packages for souvenirs for friends and walked around. I went to the rather large Uniqlo (kind of like Old Navy/Gap, but Japanese and more fashionable I think. Around the same price point, though.) and ended up buying myself a couple new polo shirts for work since they were on sale. I left the store at 9pm when they were closing and felt kind of sad. Soon I would be going back to Hirosaki, where the shopping is… okay, but not great. And they definitely don’t have a LOFT (one of my favorite stores, not to be confused with America’s Ann Taylor LOFT).

But that was that and it was time for me to return to the guesthouse. What a day!

One day left in Kyoto…

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5 Responses to “Kyoto Spring 2012: Day 4, Kyomizu, Kinkaku, Bicycles”

  1. ….”we got there eventually…” too funny! My your friends and your Aunt must think you are quite the adventurous one! Good for you, Stacy! And to have ventured back out for more shopping after you dropped Aunt Jan at the guesthouse! Now that’s my kind of daughter!

  2. That was some day!Heard some of it from AJ especially the
    bike riding and some pictures.the pictures of the Golden Temple
    were just lovely Love-Nana

  3. You look so pretty! And those trees are so green *v*

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