Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Kyoto: Day 4 (the "Philosopher's Path")

On our fourth day in Kyoto, we took a cab from Kyoto station to Sanjusangendo, the "Hall of 1,000 Buddhas." I had heard lots of good reviews about this temple, and my best friend told me that it felt like one of the most spiritual places she'd ever been. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to it. 

Sanjusangendo was founded in 1164 and is filled with 1,000 Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The hall itself is Japan's longest wooden structure. In the middle of all the smaller Kannon, stands a giant 1000-armed Kannon. Pictures are not allowed inside - there were signs saying, "If we see you taking pictures, your camera will be confiscated." So, while I was not able to take pictures, I did find one online to give you an idea of what you'll see inside. This temple was one of my favorite places in Kyoto. The ambiance inside was so serene, and yes, spiritual. The room was dimly lit with filtered light from windows and the glow of candles. There was incense burning throughout. And everyone walked slowly along the wall, admiring the mesmerizing amount of statues. 

The temple hall. The part jutting out on the left is just the middle. Yes, it's LONG. 
More school kids taking pictures.
Purifying herself. (Or, just playing in the water.)
Inside the hall.
Outside the hall were some covered walkways and small gardens.

Back to the fountain for a second round.
4yo tried taking a picture of us. Not too bad!
Daddy and daughter. 
6yo also wanted to try her hand at the camera. It turned out well!
After leaving Sanjusangendo, we headed to the famed "Philosopher's Path" - a scenic walk along a canal at the bottom of the hills of Higashiyama with many temples along the way. During cherry blossom season, this path is lined with gorgeous sakura blossoms.

One of the temples we stopped to visit was Honen-in, which I had read was a hidden gem. It was full of moss-covered rocks, and was simply beautiful nestled among the trees and hills.

The final stop at the of end of the Philosopher's Path was Ginkakuji, the "Silver Pavillion." The street walking up to Ginkakuji was lined with shops and restaurants, so we found a little hole-in-the-wall place for lunch. I got some Japanese comfort food - katsudon - which is a pork cutlet, mixed with gooey egg, on top of rice. Mmmmm!

Ginkakuji was the retirement villa of a shogun (samurai warlord) and was converted into a Zen temple after his death in 1490. The unique dry sand garden is definitely an interesting site, and the grounds are fantastic. The only problem is the huge amount of visitors, which detracts just a bit from its beauty.

The "silver pavilion" is the 2-story structure just to the right of the sand mound. Don't you love the sand designs?

The view from the hill at the back of the grounds. Beautiful! 
Love this forest. 
Simply beautiful.
4yo requested this picture at the ice-cream shop just outside the temple. So kawaii!

After leaving Ginkakuji, we split up from our friends and took a taxi back to the machiya with the girls. At this point in our trip, they were started to get a little templed-out (and let's be honest, so was my husband). We knew they needed a bit of a break, so we took them home for a little R&R while our friends headed out for more sightseeing. 

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