Sightseeing in Kyoto (Part Two) – Just my Travel Notes

Our plan to explore Kyoto was to use the Kyoto City Bus today. If you are planning on using the bus a fair bit you can purchase a one-day pass for 600 yen that allows unlimited rides on the City Bus and Kyoto Bus. Check out the map on the Kyoto City Travel Guide to see where it covers. Most of the main tourist spots are usually covered by one or more bus routes.

To get our first bus and to purchase our one-day pass we headed back down to the Kyoto JR Train station.

Kyoto Train Station

The imposing steel beams and unique design of the JR Kyoto Station. You can’t miss this (well partly because you are likely to arrive here on the Shinkansen)

I know you are thinking – a train station can’t be a tourist destination! can it? Well kind of yes. The current structure of the Kyoto station was only opened in 1997 and is an architectural marvel that is in quite a contrast to the image of traditional Kyoto that most travellers have.

If you are into angles and interesting design elements this is the building for you. Walkways and escalators seem to be going everywhere and nowhere all at the same time.

It was designed by the Japanese architect Hara Hiroshi who also designed the iconic Umeda Sky Building in Osaka. It is 15 levels high and is full of shops, restaurants, a theatre, museum, and a sky-garden.

If you have missed out on enough exercise in Japan thus far, skip leg-day at the gym and work your way up all these stairs to the rooftop sky-garden. It is only 15 floors up.

It also serves as the key transit destination for the Shinkansen as well as other JR lines, also the main bus terminal to pick up the buses to explore around Kyoto.

I couldn’t resist this image – this is the aply named “Happy Terrace” in the Sky-Garden on the roof of the Kyoto Station. As a luck of timing this gentleman doesn’t seem to be enjoying the happy terrace as much as he should be.

I am not suggesting that you spend a whole lot of time here but it is certainly worth exploring as you are passing through. The sky-garden is an interesting addition and seemed to be popular with staff who work in one of the many shopping centres within the station.

The sky-garden doesn’t have bad views, it is just that they are obscured through quite thick glass. There isn’t a real “observation deck” here so you have to just accept viewing through the glass.

Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)

Probably one of the most iconic images of Kyoto – the stunning Kinkakuji Temple shines in gold against the reflections of the mirror pond.

In the northern quarter of Kyoto stands the famous and imposing Kinkakuji Temple. Also known as the Golden Pavilion. Look at almost any tourist photograph from Kyoto and you are certain to see this Golden Pavilion. It is an icon of Kyoto and Japan.

Take some time to wander the grounds and explore this stunning serene temple. From all angles it is a spectacular view.

The building was originally a residence for the retiring Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in around 1409. The temple burned down in 1950 and was rebuilt in 1955. The Golden Pavilion sits on the edge of the Kyokochi (the mirror pond).

Make sure you don’t rush yourself – yes the amazing Golden Pavilion is worth a look but there are plenty of other lovely temple buildings to check out.

Entrance to the temple is 600 Yen for adults. As a word of warning it can get very busy – very busy – just check out the size of the bus carpark to get a picture of the volume of people that pass through here each day. Try to time your run either early morning (opens at 9:00am) or later in the afternoon (closes at 5:00pm).

I can never pass an opportunity to light a candle to assist in granting me a prayer. Plenty of options to chose from here depending on what you need assistance with in life.

The Philosopher’s Path (Tetsugaku no michi)

Located in the northern part of the Higashiyama district, along a canal lined by hundreds of cherry trees is the Philosopher’s Path. Named after the influential Japanese philosopher and Kyoto University professor Nishida Kitaro – who is said to have regularly used this pathway for his daily meditations.

Can’t help but feel philosophical in The Philosopher’s path in Kyoto, as said by Nishida Kitaro – “If my heart can become pure and simple, like that of a child, I think there probably can be no greater happiness than this.”

The path is roughly two kilometers long and begins around the Ginakakuji Temple and ends in the Nanzenji neighbourhood. The path only takes about 20-30minutes if you walk it briskly, but that would be somewhat taking away from it’s purpose of allowing you to philosophise about all the natures of life….or so I suppose.

Don’t rush in Kyoto, enjoy moments of solitude away from the crash of tourists seeking the essential “Selfie” – enjoy your walks.

There are many restaurants, cafes, and shops along the walkway so you can easily stretch out your walk. Likewise there are numerous temples along the way worth your time.

This pathway is particularly popular (and busy) during the Cheery Blossom season, when the pathway is bathed in the stunning sight of hundreds of cherry blossom trees in full bloom.

Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)

Ginkakuji – Not actually a “silver” pavilion, it more got it’s name as a nod to the shogun’s grandfather who designed the Golden Pavilion.

The Ginkakuji was built on the grounds of the retirement villa of shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, modelled after the Golden Pavilion built by his grandfather. On his death it became a Zen temple.

Plenty to explore in the Ginkakuji complex. As I have said before – don’t just rush through taking the “must take” photo then leaving. Spend time enjoying the nature – plus that way you will avoid the crowds.

The Ginkakuji consists of a silver pavilion (not covered in silver as you would have perhaps expected) as well as a half-dozen other temple buildings.

The temple complex dates back to the time of the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1436-1490)

There is also a lovely circular route around the grounds which provide a lovely view of the buildings and surrounding neighbourhood.

The view from the top of the grounds – affords a stunning view of the buildings and surrounding areas.

You will also pass by the meticulously maintained dry sand garden known as the “Sea of Silver Sand” – there is also a massive sand cone named “Moon Viewing Platform”.

The sand garden – I always try to look for an interesting perspective to shoot images. I liked this one with the tourists in the background.

Entry is only 600 Yen again so well worth a look – again as this is another popular heritage sight in Kyoto it is likely to be busy in peak periods. We were here just after lunchtime so wasn’t too bad and managed to get photos without too much trouble.

Another view of the sand garden – amazing detail and the sand dome was incredible – at first I thought it must have been cast concrete but it is actually sand.

I have managed to keep it hidden all this time – but I was slightly addicted to Japanese Soft Serve Ice Cream. Every town and city had their own version and I couldn’t resist it after a day of exploring temples and walking.

Way too much to cover in Kyoto in just one blog post so please stay tuned for a few more as we are not done yet. Thanks as always to those of you who have made it this far in the post – are you still with me? Leave me a comment below with what you thought of today’s post? Have you been to Kyoto? And I presume you also went to the Golden Pavilion? What was your favourite part of Kyoto? How amazing was the icecream?

A big thanks as always to my Just My Travel Blog followers – I really appreciate your support and your comments on my travel posts. I started this page for myself but I do enjoy hearing from you as well. Thanks again and see you tomorrow.