Today was our first full day exploring in Kyoto. I’d read about some “famous” zen rock garden at the Ryoanji Temple that was the thing to see. Wanting to get there before zen rock garden-loving crowds arrived, we made it our first stop (well, second if you are counting Starbucks).
Once we figured our the bus routes (Kyoto is more of a bus than metro town), we hopped a bus to the closest stop and then walked from there. When we finally got to the temple grounds, took off our shoes, and paid the entrance fee, we were ready to rock it (If you liked that pun, just keep reading, I’m on a roll)! Unfortunately, Tim was left feeling rather underwhelmed by the whole thing. He said he’ll stick to regular, green gardens.
Following the rocky start, we headed back down the hill to explore other temples around Kyoto. I know it seems like that is all we do in Japan (and it kinda is), but when you are in Kyoto it is an absolute must to visit the temples. So, we were going to do our best to see them all, leaving no stone un-turned.
At some point we wandered into an entire walled complex of temples. We entered, not paying much attention to the twists and turns we were making as Tim was too focused on cheering on the local baseball team making its laps through the temple grounds. I’m not kidding, he shouted “Allez! Allez! Allez!” and high-five’d one after another, encouraging them to catch up to the others who’d already gone by. I was too amused at my American husband shouting words of encouragement in French at the Japanese baseball players to who were running around Buddhist temples to take a picture. Nonetheless, I definitely say that counts as another MadLibs moment for us.
After a while we were ready to leave the temple complex, but it wasn’t ready for us to leave. We wandered down one lane and up another looking for an exit, striking out right and left. Naturally, we did make it out, and just in time as we were considering scaling one of the walls.
Afterwards, we grabbed a street coffee (my term for the vending machine coffee), kicked our feet up for a bit, and then headed across town to walk the “Philosopher’s Path.” But before that, we had to see some more temples (and rocks), of course. One of the things I learned about the temples is that in some temples, as in the Zuiho-in Temple featured below, the entrance is staged over 3 areas. First, I walked through a garden who’s path made 3 turns before reaching the door. It is done this way to heighten the transition from the outside world to the inside of the temple, “thus aiding in your inner, spiritual transition.”
Finally, we made it to the Philosopher’s Path, which turned out not to be as impressive as the Philosopher’s Way in Heidelberg, Germany, but what it lacked in general beauty, it made up for with a cool second-hand kimono shop.
We wrapped up the day by taking a walk through one of the more commercial areas where I was excited to see girls in kimonos everywhere, and decently priced kimono shops too! Turns out they were kimono rental shops, hence the cheap prices and throngs of people donning the traditional garb.