Kyoto day 1: Kiyozimu temple and Gion suburb
We started our day by walking from Kyoto train station up north toward the Kyoto national museum, and reached the spectacular temple Rengeoin Sanjusangedo on the other side of the street. This historical place was built by the emperor Shirakawa Go in 1164. The main deity of the temple is Sahasrabhuja-arya-avalokiteśvara or the Thousand Armed Kannon. The statue of the main deity was created by the Kamakura sculptor Tankei and is a National Treasure of Japan. The temple also contains one thousand life-size statues of the Thousand Armed Kannon which stand on both the right and left sides of the main statue in 10 rows and 50 columns. Of these, 124 statues are from the original temple, rescued from the fire of 1249, while the remaining 876 statues were constructed in the 13th century. The statues are made of Japanese cypress clad in gold leaf. Around the 1000 Kannon statues stand 28 statues of guardian deities. There are also two famous statues of Fūjin and Raijin.
Kiyomizu-dera temple is placed in the Eastern suburbs of Kyoto just above Gion, it was founded in the 8th century by Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, and its present buildings were constructed in 1633, ordered by the Tokugawa Iemitsu. Tge building is made by complete traditional techniques of joinery without a single nail used in the entire structure. It takes its name from the waterfall within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills. Kiyomizu means clear water, or pure water.
It was originally affiliated with the old and influential Hossō sect dating from Nara times. However, in 1965 iesent custodians call themselves members of the “Kitahossō” sect.
There is a popular expression “to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu” which refers to an Edo period tradition that if one were to survive a 13m jump from the stage, one’s wish would be granted. 234 jumps were recorded in the Edo period and, of those, 85.4% survived. The practice is now prohibited. Around the temple you find two spectacular orange pagodas.
We spotted a beautiful bamboo forest when walking to one of the temples. Big bamboo forests are very common all around Japan:
Gion is ranked as the prettiest street in Japan and I must agree to that. It goes up to the temple and attracts lots of visitors:
Small shops, traditional houses and restaurants. We found this amazing home made food in one of the corners. What may look as a simple ice cream is actually a savoury red beans cream with rice cakes. All the little savoury treats are flavoured with cinamon and other herbs, this is trully a gourmet food. I highly recommend the place:
On the way out from Gion we spotted a very attractive coffee shop, its design looked in harmony with everything around, designed as a state of art picture made by wood and stone. The coffee was American style (i.e. not good) but the tea was amazing. I spoke with the owner and he said that the shop was built by his grandfather 90 years ago, his grandfather was a Haiko master and built the place for tea ceremonies. Each of the two tea rooms was designed according to their traditions, and is kept as it was:
On the way back we took pictures of the Kyoto National Museum as it looks from the side. It was designed in 1895 as the Imperial National Museum.