Saturday, January 13, 2007

Japan 2006 - Part 5 - Himeji Castle and Kyoto Temples

Oct 5, 2006

Plan: Himeji Castle in the Morning, UNESCO World Heritage temples in the afternoon, Gion District at night.

Up early at 7:00 AM. Took down laundry, washed, packed, and out the door at 7:30. Arrived at station about 7:45 and got reservations on the 8:22 to Himeji and back to Kyoto on the 11:02. Stopped by the bus station and bought 2 1-day passes for 500 Yen each. Picked up breakfast: Iced coffee, Iced Cappuccino, 4 pastries. Excellent - from Boulangerie Café near station for 1155.

The Hikari bullet train took less than one hour to Himeji plus a 20 minute walk to the castle. Paid 550 admission each and did the fast one hour self-guided tour and back to the station just in time for the 11:02.

Himeji Castel is one of the few original wood construction castles to survive WWII. It’s a usual 15th-16th century castle with slots for gun, ramparts, lots of gates, and the highlight is the 6-story wooden tower (see photo) built out of many large wooden beams. There were many western tourists. Maybe they are all visiting from China like us. ;-)

The wooden tower of Himeji Castle.
Himeji Castle

Here’s some video of us boarding the bullet train in Himeji Station.

After returning to Kyoto we rode the local bus to NW to visit Ryoanji Temple with its famous Zen Garden – not crowded and cool. Sun-Ling wants me to construct a Zen Garden for her one day. Ha! Off with the shoes and up on the wooden viewing platform. There are 15 rocks but you can only see 14 of them at one time.
Ryoanji Zen Garden

Also had fun with the carved stone that has a riddle. If you read Chinese you may figure it out.

Next, a short walk/bus Kinkauji Temple with famous Golden Pavilion - crowded and over-rated, or maybe not up to expectations.
Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) Zen temple

Then over to the east side of town to the Sanjusangendo Hall of 1001 Buddhas and the longest wooden building in Japan. Not crowded and cool. Impressive. Once a year they have archery contests out back. It's the home of 2812 national treasures.
Sanjusangendo Hall  - 1001 Buddhas - Kyoto

And then Kiyomizu Temple (Clear Water Temple) complex which was crowded and interesting. Good but not great views back to Kyoto. School children (and adults) were lined up to get a chance to drink the spring water using a cup on the end of a long pole. See video below. Lots of fun.

Then to Gion District. It was raining again. We wondered around and saw 5 geisha, complete with umbrella and low-necked back collar. Sun-Ling was surprised to actually see them. No photos.

Then we wandered again in the rain searching for dinner. Finally found a local snack joint just across the River from Gion. Great atmosphere – 10 seats at the bar, five tables and 3 young ladies working there with just enough English. I think we must have skipped lunch as I was very hungry.
Dinner: 2 Asahi Drafts, Deep fry tofu, fried veggies, and soba noodle stir-fry. All for 2600 Yen.

Home. Rode 2 bus stops and then a short walk back to the Yuhara. For a nice private bath. The private is a Japanese style bath. They draw water in a big stainless steel tub and then call you down. Slippers, Robes. You sit a wash yourself first – soap and shampoo - then into the tub for a nice soak.

SLHOTD: Zen Garden.

To see all the photos from Oct 5, click here.,

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