Monday, January 17, 2011

Kicking It in Kyoto - December 6, 2010

We arrived in Kyoto on the beautiful and fast shinkansen from Tokyo.  Although our JR Passes did not allow us to take the quickest shinkansen (nozomi),  the one we took, hikari, was still quite fast and sleek looking. (A few days later when we traveled to Okayama and Hiroshima we discovered that all shinkansen are not created equal as we experienced a downgrade to a slower, less comfortable train even though it was still called hikari.  That route is run by JR West whereas Tokyo- Kyoto is run by JR Central, which are different companies.)
Shinkansen 700

The first treat of the train trip was seeing Mt. Fuji from much closer than our hotel in Tokyo.  I got a few good shots and my husband got even better shots.  We had reserved seats in a mostly empty car and the two hour forty minute trip went by quickly.
Mt. Fuji taken from shinkansen

Kyoto station is an amazing architectural feat.  We admired it briefly before we headed to our hotel at the station, the Hotel Granvia Kyoto.  Since we were at the station, we were able to come back frequently to watch the travelers, the Christmas shoppers near the Isetan department store, and the escalators to the sky--about 12 stories worth.  We also discovered the underground Porta mall with our favorite breakfast spot, Starbucks where I ate a small mixed sandwich (egg, potato salad, cheese) every morning with my nonfat latte.
Kyoto station  evening 

In my previous blog, I described our first activity after we checked into the hotel--heading off to Okutan for a terrific tofu lunch.  What I did not tell in that entry was how crabby I was in the taxi on the way to Okutan.  In my mind's eye, Kyoto was a quaint little city with plenty of old buildings and authentic historic sites (like geiko and maiko--after all we all read Memoirs of a Geisha).  In reality, Kyoto is a big city (population is about 1.5 million in about 320 sq. miles) with plenty of uninteresting boxy large buildings from the 1960s and 70s, with pockets of beauty and history.  I looked out of the taxi at a place that seemed to sprawl forever and wondered why I had wanted to spend four days there.

Okutan is across from Nanzin-ji, the head temple of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, so we strolled over there after we had finished eating.  Most of the buildings on the grounds were closing but I was able to hear some beautiful Zen buddhist chanting as we wandered the grounds.  I walked up to and through the Sanmon, away from the Hatto and headed toward a garden that was still open near the Sanmon- the Tenjuan Gardens.
Side hall at Nanzin-ji - chanting inside

Sanmon from within the grounds


Through Sanmon

Sub Temple of Nanzen-ji from Tenjuan Garden
The garden itself erased all my concerns about the urban scene that flooded my taxi ride to Higashiyama.  I could live in this garden.  Every where I turned was another fantastic scene, sublime and balanced. Autumn colors, water, moss, rocks, structures.  Again, I will let the pictures do the talking.

zen rock garden in Tenjuan garden

entry to Tenjuan garden

well in Tenjuan garden

waterfall in Tenjuan garden pond

autumn colors Tenjuan garden

Bamboo in Tenjuan garden

temple seen through Tenjuan garden foliage

Stone walk on pond Tenjuan Garden

stone lantern in pond in Tenjuan garden

Koi in Tenjuan garden

Another view of Tenjuan garden pond

Moss Tenjuan garden

Room in Tenjuan garden with view of autumn colors

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