today, along with day 8, has the most photos to sort through compare to the other days spent in Japan.
today, we — surprisingly — woke up early, had small breakfast in our room and left the ryokan around 9-ish. today’s destination is Nanzen-ji, one of the temple complex on Higashiyama area. we took the bus to get to the temple and we’re pretty snap-happy on the way here. we passed the large Higashi-Honganji, a large temple built by the Tokugawa located within walking distance from our ryokan. we’ve always wanted to visit the temple but ended up never did… we happened to pass by it every day, though…
the bus dropped us off in a remote area on the bottom of Higashiyama. we and around 6 other Japanese tourists were quite lost for a while… we’re busy with our maps and guide books until 15-20 minutes later, we all finally reached the gate of the temple. there were a group of school girls with their tour guide (whom always have a small flag in hand) exiting the temple complex.
the size of the complex was a little overwhelming. but soon we noticed a huuuge building, which was the Sanmon Gate… so we headed there. the Sanmon gate has two floors. in order to enter the second floor, you have to pay a few hundreds yen of admission fee. we didn’t go in, but supposedly you can see Kyoto city from up there, and there are collections of Buddha paintings.
it started to snow as we walked towards the main building, which we couldn’t enter. there is a small window open where tourists (including us) peeked in and took pictures of the interior.
we walked further to another sub-temple, the Nanzen-in, where we passed a red-brick aquaduct with surrounded by tall trees with red bark. interesting view… the arched aquaduct, along with the snow, makes it feel like we’re in Europe.
the Nanzen-in was surrounded with pretty garden with Koi pond and small waterfall. but since it was winter, the trees are, once again, leafless and the Koi fish gathered on one corner of the pond, sleeping motionless… they look cold and seem to huddle to warm themselves. i would love to come back and see them in spring…
we brought an English guidebook with us, and according to the guidebook, the best place in Nanzen-ji complex is a small shrine within the forest behind the main area. supposedly, the small shrine, Nanzen-ji Okuno-in, is located next to a beautiful waterfall, where pilgrims pray under the waterfall in the middle of winter. whoa… we might’ve seen something like that in the National Geographic channel… so we followed the guidebook… passed the aquaduct, walk on the left of Koutoku-an, follow the small path up the hill… etc.
the flurries was getting heavier and the weather got very cold all the sudden. we passed by a creepy cemetery before walking up the steep path climbing up the mountain. an old man, who’s in the middle of sweeping the cemetery, gave us a smile as we passed by. the stairs got steeper and steeper. we finally reached the first shrine with bright red bridge leading into the next, even steeper and narrower, path up to the mountain. a few people were praying in the shrine.
according to the guidebook, we should passed several bright colored torii (the shrine gate), but so far, we haven’t seen any. there is a path of a steep river next to the shrine, but river was dry. that means, this little shrine is not Nanzen-ji Okuno-in. i was cold and my feet started giving me pain. if we haven’t passed any torii, and if we should be passing a few of them, the shrine that we’re looking for may be even further into the woods and up the mountain…. well, i didn’t really want to climb up the mountain in this snowy weather and painful feet. i was worried about the way back. ari agreed that we should give up. maybe on the next visit, we should consider going during spring or fall season.
on the way down, we passed a few Japanese pilgrims on their way up to the mountain. we also passed two American tourist on the way up. they’re holding the same guidebook as we have. the guy said, “this is the aquaduct. we should follow that road on the left…”
ari and i looked at each other and wish them luck silently. their shoes look much more comfortable than my boots, though… so they may make it.
so we went to the easier option: the Hojo garden and Dai-hojo building. it is located right behind the main building of Nanzen-ji and it’s actually where the monks live. there are a few Zen gardens (this is probably my first time seeing a real zen garden) with combination with the regular gardens. they are very pretty and well-kept. within the hall of the Dai-hojo building, there are many many sliding doors with incredible artworks on it. too bad we were not allowed to take pictures of them.
on the way to the train station to take us back to Kyoto, we met an old man on a bike asking us if we want to be drawn by him. a strange request… and we politely declined. the old man was very friendly and told us to go to the temple, which entrance is right behind us. he said it’s worth to see and very pretty. so we went in. it was Konchi-in, another sub-temple of Nanzen-ji. the main temple is under construction and the whole building was covered with white cloth. but the garden around the building is totally worth to see. they’re so green despite the winter weather. we passed a few smaller shrines and a cemetery in the complex.
the road to the Keage train station was full of large Japanese houses that looks like a villa with vast gardens. most of them have elaborate and beautiful gardens. at the end of the road, we saw the water-gate of the aquaduct. there are huge pipes running down into the valley into the Kyoto city. we took more pictures before continue searching for the train station. fortunately, we bumped into the same old man on the bike, who showed us where the Keage train station located… what a nice old man!!
we took the train to the city back to the city.
photo album: Japan Trip: Day 4 (27 December 2005).