Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wednesday and Thursday in Kyoto

First stop on Wednesday was Sanjusangendo. Sanjusangendo literally means hall with 33 rooms, but it is most famous for it's 1001 statues of Kannon. Unfortunately, there are no photos allowed in the sanctuary so I can't show you what it looked like inside, but if you're curious, it seems many other people broke that rule. Sanjusangendo was probably the most expencive temple I visited, at 600 Yen, but it's easy to guess why the price is so high when you have to figure in the maitanance of over a 1000 historic statues.

I hopped on the bus for about two stops before getting out and walking up the hill to Kiyomizu-dera. I opted not to pay to go in the sanctuary here, but I'm fine with that decision. You're free to walk around the outside without paying and it's quite spectacular. This pagoda was really something else.

I walked away from the main tourist area down a little side path in Kiyomizu-dera and found this lovely bunch of stone statues. I think they are called dosojin (if you have any details about these things, please post them here! I really want to know what the deal is with these guys). There were no tourists at all down here so I spent a while photographing them from different angles.

I walked along some of the side streets unknowingly finding myself on a well beaten tourist path lined with cute little botiques and restaurants.

I was happy to find a Miyazaki store and spent a little time wandering around in there but too reluctant to buy anything because it's all so expencive!

I passed by Krozen Kwannon Temple. Though I didn't stop here, there was a great view of the giant Kannon from the outside.

Next I found myself at Kodaiji Temple and I entered. I got a 100 yen discount here on the entrance with my subway pass.

Here was another zen garden and some rather lovely old temple buildings.

Here is the cemetery at what I believe is Higashi Otani Mausoleum. This place was quite nice because there were very few tourist around. I'm not sure why that is, since it was on the main path, but anyway, I always love visiting cemeteries for some reason. They always look really beautiful to me. When I arrived here, though, I realized that I had lost my map and kind of freaked out because I had written all the bus numbers that I needed on there and didn't really know where I was. I was really frustrated so I just walked out of the temple area (I was coming to the end anyway) and wandered into town looking for a subway that would take me to Kyoto station where I knew there was a tourist information center with free maps.

As I was leaving the temple area, though, I stumbled across one last shrine; Yasaka-jinja shrine. Here, they were starting to get ready for the new years celebrations. There were closed stalls set up everywhere that I wished would open up because they looked really interesting.

Then I wondered around town for a while looking for food and a subway. I found the Gion Post Office. I thought it looked cool.

Here is the Kamo-Gawa River which goes through the center of Kyoto.

I stumbled into this shopping area and finally found myself some reasonably priced udon for lunch. I continued wandering until I found the right subway to get to Kyoto station. I got there, wondered all around forever looking for the tourist info place. Found it, and got directions to the Funaoka Public Bath since I heard it was famous.

I noticed that on the way to the public bath was the Nijojo castle. I think that I had read somewhere that it was closed for the holiday, but maybe in my rather frustrated mind after having lost my map and wandered around lost for a long time trying to get to Kyoto station and feeling as though I had rather wasted my time I decided I would stop there and hope that I could get there before closing time. I hopped off the bus, walked 15 minutes from the bus station (it looked much closer on the map) only to find out it was closed for the holiday. I walked dejectedly back to the bus stop and headed back to find the public bath.

Being a "tourist destination" I expected it to be on a main street, maybe really big and impressive. I was not expecting the unassuming location on a small side street that didn't even have a sidewalk. After  a bit of reading later, after the fact, I learned that the bath was built in 1923 and is one of the few public baths that have not been updated or changed much over the years. Coming from Korea, it's hard to scoff at it's simplicity compared to even the simplest Korean jjimjilbang. But, I think here, it's more about the historic nature of the location more than the amenities.

As you go in, you'll see these shoe lockers. Those who have spent time in Korea will recognise these easily, but the key is wooden. I wouldn't be surprised if they dated back to the foundation of the bath house. The fee to use the bath is incredibly low. I don't remember how much but it was less than 500 yen. I didn't have a towel, but they gave me one for free and let me buy soap for 30 yen or something like that. I only wished I had planned ahead and had brought my shampoo...

From there you can go into the changing room, get naked and head into the baths. Just like Korea, shower off before getting into the baths. There were a total of 7 or 8 baths. One was blood red, I wish I knew what it was, but I sat in there for a while. Others were nice, one was an extra hot one, another had massage jets, another pine. My favorite was the outdoor bath. It wasn't really outdoor-outdoor where people could see you, but it was built with an open roof. It was also a useful place to splash cold water on myself every time I went into the (only) sauna which was very hot and made me feel lightheaded every time I went in for more than 2 minutes. But, after the baths and the one sauna.. that was it. I was a little sad since I'm used to more luxury from Korean public baths, but I tried to appreciate it for what it was. After that I headed back to the couch surfer's house for a feast for dinner and sleep early to leave for Kobe in the morning.

Before getting on the subway the next morning I stopped by Heian-Jingu Shrine which was only 10 minutes walk from the couchsurfer's house. It was early in the morning and there was no one around.

It was not huge, but it was quite beautiful and photogenic with so few people around. From here I caught the train to Kobe and that will be the last segement of my Japan story. Stay tuned!


  1. dosojin are a couple of a man and a woman as fertility gods... that is the jizo, they scoulpters of babys that died before reaching age 7, even misscarege.. it a part of a ritual to come down their spirit so they wont come to hunt the mother