Friday, November 1, 2013

Kyoto Day Two - Arashiyama, Kinkaku-ji, and Gion

One of the things we had been most looking forward to on the trip was visiting a bamboo forest in Kyoto.

We trekked out to Arashiyama for it, and the forest did not disappoint.

It was an absolutely stunning and serene place unlike anything we had ever seen.

Near the end of the bamboo forest we happened upon Okochi Sanso Villa, the former villa of actor Okochi Denjiro who was famous for his samurai films.

I'm so glad we decided to duck in here, since the garden was a perfect zen stroll.

There were great views toward the mountains and the fog-covered Kyoto.

Our tickets provided us with matcha tea and a tiny sweet at the end, and it was the perfect finish.

We next hiked up the ritzy neighborhoods of Arashiyama to get to Adashino Nembutsu-ji.

The temple has a cemetery which houses 8,000 stone Buddhas honoring the nameless dead who were burned in mass pyres in pre-Edo Japan.  It was a bit haunting.

The temple also had a small bamboo grove where we were finally able to get someone to take a photo of the two of us together.

We had a couple of temple snacks from the various food vendors and then visited Kinkaku-ji.

Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, is perhaps the most famous of all Kyoto's temples.  The place was packed with school groups and tourists.

The temple was originally a retirement cottage built by Shogan Yoshimitsu Ashikaga and was turned into a temple upon his death.  The current temple is a 1955 reconstruction, as an obsessed monk set fire to the original temple in 1950.  (!!!)

John and I have a very memorable evening in Gion that started with seeing three authentic geishas (one's ornate hairstyle pictured above).

We know they were real geishas because they not only looked the part, but also went right into the Ichiriki Tea House (above), the most famous tea house in Gion.  The tea house is famous to Westerners from Memoirs of a Geisha (which I just re-read), and is still an invitation-only tea house where geishas entertain.  The geishas were being photographed by paparazzi-like tourists surrounding the tea house; it was quite a scene.

John and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time to see the geishas, since we had 6:00 PM reservations down the street at an incredible sushi restaurant.

It was the type of restaurant where the chef chooses everything you will eat ahead of time and serves you an elaborate multi-course meal.  We had all kinds of fish as well as sea urchin, eel, and roasted chestnuts.  It was unforgettable.