Eastern Kyoto and Higashiyama

October 1, 2014

This day marked my first full day in Kyoto. After turning in late last night due to my late arrival at my hotel, I woke up at around 9AM, which is actually just 8AM Manila time. Japan is ahead by an hour. After freshening up, I set out to find a place to have breakfast. Apparently, most restaurants open just before lunch. Most places where you can have breakfast are either fast food (McDonald’s), coffee shops (Starbucks) or convenience stores. I ended up at Delífrance located just behind my hotel. There’s an Ogawa Coffee Shop just beside my hotel but I somehow didn’t fancy their breakfast menu. At that time at least.

After breakfast I went back to my hotel for a quick change and headed to Kyoto Station across the street to take the bus to my first stop. I had planned ahead and reserved this day to explore the eastern part of Kyoto which generally covers the Higashiyama district.

I Started off at Ginkakuji (Bus #100 from Kyoto Station: 35 minutes) on one end and walked all the way to Kiyomizu-dera Temple on the other end and continued walking to Gion district early in the evening. I basically followed the route below:

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Ginkakuji > Nanzen-ji

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Heian Shrine > Kiyomizu-dera > Gion

The above route allowed me to visit some major site in Kyoto. Some of the highlights that I liked:

Philosopher’s Path – This roughly 2km long path is most popular during the Cherry Blossom season. Despite being the off season, it was still a lovely walk along the canal. The neighborhoods you pass along the way also gives you a glimpse of their way of living.

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Philosopher’s Path

Eikando (Zenrinji) Temple – Beautiful Gardens and a lookout point with a nice view of Kyoto. It also helped that it wasn’t crowded and there were only a few visitors around compared to the other sites. This allowed me to appreciate the temple grounds and soak in the serene atmosphere.

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Beautiful Gardens of Eikando (Zenrinji)

Nanzenji Temple – Imposing wooden gate structure.

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Nanzenji Wooden Gate

Ninen-zaka/Sannen-zaka Stairs – Beautiful and well-preserved historic neighborhood lined with lots of quaint shops. If you’re lucky, you also get to see Geishas. Sadly, most of them seem to be tourists.

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Ninen-zaka / Sannen-zaka Steps

Kiyomizu-dera Temple – This is undoubtedly one of Kyoto’s top draws judging by the sheer size of the crowds that start building up as you approach the temple. The slope approaching the temple is an attraction in itself with lots of shops selling food and souvenirs. Apart from the crowd which can be quite overwhelming, the temple is also undergoing extensive renovations that would last until 2019. That added a bit of disappointment since some of the structures are covered in scaffolding. It was still worth it though if just to see the wooden stage and views of the city.

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Kiyomizu-dera renovation

It was quite a long and tiring walk but still worth it. Instead of commuting from one place to the other, walking allowed me to explore some neighborhoods and and have a glimpse of local life. To put things into perspective, the entire route was roughly 7.2 kms long. That didn’t include walking around the sites and climbing a lot of slopes, hills and stairs. I started at Ginkakuji Temple at around 11AM and left Gion district shortly after 8PM. Even if I wanted to stay longer, My feet was already killing me. It was a 7.6km walk in total. I boarded Bus #100 at Gion and headed back to Kyoto Station in time for dinner.

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Gion

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