logotravellove-1-background
Navi-Linie2
Navi-Linie2

Japan - Land of the Rising Sun

Back
Forward

Part 7 - Kobe Day 2 (Kyoto), Japan

0001-Kobe2-Stripe

Part 7 - Kobe Day 2 (Kyoto)

After the eventful day before, we woke up full of anticipation again, as we had planned a tour to Kyoto. Stop, that’s not quite correct. It was Kate, one of the two young ladies from London, who had booked this tour. When we were in touch before the cruise, it turned out that they had planned a tour to Kyoto on the second day in Kobe, and we had planned a tour to Osaka on the first day, so our plans really complemented each other.

At 8.00 am we met in the lobby together with two other couples from Missouri and Arizona before we all got off the ship to meet Ken, our guide for the day, in the terminal.

Ken greeted us warmly in excellent English and called the driver of our van. A few minutes later, we were picked up right at the door by a very spacious and comfortable minivan, which left nothing to be desired. We even had free Wifi on board.

During the approximately one-hour drive to Kyoto, Ken gave us valuable insight into the country, its people and its history but was in turn also very keen to learn what we had to tell from our respective home countries.

So time went by quickly and we soon reached our first destination of the day – Nijo-jo Castle, the more than 400-year-old World Cultural Heritage.

Once again, the castle was another legacy of our old friend shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. He had commissioned its construction in 1601.

001a-Tokugawa Ieyasu

 

In 1603 he first set foot in the castle. Maybe even through the Higashi Ote-mon gate, the eastern gate through which we now entered the castle at the outer moat in bright sunshine some 400 years later.

002-IMG_0309

 

We noticed immediately that here – just like in the other places we had visited the days before – everything seemed very well maintained and newly renovated.

003-IMG_0310

004-IMG_0311

 

And yet we weren’t prepared for the splendor glistening in the sun that awaited us at the entrance gate of Ninomaru Palace in the inner area of the castle. The architecture of the gates represented a certain status at the time, of which the Karamon Gate in Chinese style was the highest possible.

005-IMG_0313

006-IMG_0316

 

As usual, the impressive ornaments and details all had symbolic meanings. Brilliantly painted carvings of cranes, pines, bamboos and plum blossoms stood for longevity. Magnificent lions and tigers guarded the palace.

007-P1020764

008-IMG_0317

 

A good spot for a group photo with Ken, our guide.

009-IMG_E0938

 

We eagerly turned to Ninomaru Palace which consists of six buildings lined up next to one another, all beautifully decorated of course.

010-IMG_0320

011-IMG_0324

012-IMG_0325

 

Before we entered the palace, Ken provided us with further details and facts.

013-IMG_0322

 

Inside the building there were different rooms with different functions: reception rooms, meeting rooms, living quarters of the shogun etc. What they all had in common was beautifully painted paper walls and intricately carved ceiling beams. Unfortunately, photography wasn’t allowed inside, so here are some pictures from the website.

018a-Ninomaru

019-IMG_E0942

 

Outside, the palace was surrounded by a beautifully landscaped, extensive garden with a pond landscape.

015-IMG_0330

016-IMG_0332

017-IMG_E0944

018-P1020773

 

On the side of the building we had the opportunity to look under one of the floor slabs and take a closer look at one particular technical detail. When visiting the rooms in the palace, we were accompanied by a constant squeak of wooden floor panels, which sounded like the chirping of birds. This noise is the reason why those floors are called Uguisu Bari – nightingale floors.

The myth that this was a deliberate design to serve as some kind of alarm system is, unfortunately, wrong. Fact is that due to the movement of the wood, the brackets simply rub on the nails, but that wasn’t intended.

Here we could see these brackets from below.

020-IMG_0943

 

A bridge across the inner moat and a path through another heavy gate connected this side of Ninomaru Palace with the central Honmaru Palace. Which we didn’t visit though.

021-IMG_0333

022-IMG_0335

 

Instead, we returned to the east gate, where our driver picked us up. As it was too early for our lunch, Ken added an impromptu visit of another shrine.

However, the visit of the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine was anything but a stopgap. For over 1000 years, the scholar Sugawara no Michizane has been worshipped here. Even today, pupils and students pray for better grades and the passing of exams.

We entered the complex through the impressive two-story gate. The inscription on the sign above the gate reads “To the Founder of Learning and Poetry”.

023-IMG_0338

024-IMG_0339

 

One path led through the Sankomon gate, also known as Middle Gate.

027-P1020781

028-IMG_0350

 

At the side of the path we saw more small shrines, sculptures and buildings.

032-IMG_0346

033-IMG_0348

035-IMG_0351

 

This one was dedicated to the “God of Thunder”, as Sugawara was also called at times.

034-IMG_0357

 

Through this gate we reached the large courtyard in front of the entrance hall of the actual shrine.

036-P1020786

 

In the meantime, the restaurant where Ken had booked us for lunch had opened. Here we took a well-deserved break and enjoyed a delicious Japanese meal.

038-IMG_1483

040-IMG_E0950

 

From the restaurant we could walk directly to our next destination. We didn’t know then that the impressions we’d take away from there would still be “images of Japan” in our minds today.

Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion, is located in the northwest of Kyoto and describes a pavilion covered in gold leaf. It was built in 1397 by shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu as part of the construction of a lavish temple and residential complex. Originally it served as a relics hall. After Yoshimitu’s death the pavilion was turned into a Zen temple. Its official name is Rojion-ji (“Doe Garden Temple”), but it is better known as the Golden Pavilion.

Through yet another gate (it should actually be called: Japan - land of the gates), we reached the complex and a very beautiful garden in its outer area.

043-P1020796

045-IMG_0953

 

When the wooded garden opened, we were presented with a breathtakingly beautiful view. A large lake with deep green water reflecting a golden pavilion built on the opposite shore.

046-IMG_0955

 

Discreetly embedded in its natural environment on purpose, the pavilion, despite its splendor, doesn’t glaringly stand out but nestles discreetly in the natural landscape. This corresponds to the aesthetic sense of the time, according to which gardens and temples should blend into their natural environment with as little contrast as possible and thus create a harmonious relationship between nature and man.

048-P1020799

 

We rounded the lake and approached the pavilion.

The building’s architecture was characterized by various Japanese and Chinese architectural styles. The pavilion is made up of three floors framed by balconies.

050-P1020805

055-IMG_0962

 

The trees on the little islands in the lake seemed to have copied the pavilion and grew in terraces.

060-P1020818

 

The former residential buildings of the temple’s high priest were located at the side of the lake.

057-P1020814

058a-P1020806

 

Behind the temple, a narrow path led up the hill and past a little spring. They say that this is where the water for the tea ceremony was collected at the time.

062-IMG_0971

 

On top of the hill we reached another small lake. A couple in colorful traditional clothes formed a nice contrast to the green of nature.

064-P1020826

063-IMG_E0975

 

At the end of this path Ken showed us an old tea house, which was preserved near a smaller shrine and some souvenir shops.

066-P1020827

067-P1020828

 

Our next destination was Ryoanji temple. Originally built as a country house of a wealthy family, the grounds were acquired by a civil servant around 1450, who founded a Zen temple there.

The area includes another extensive park and a big lake.

070-IMG_0361

071-IMG_0387

 

A small bridge and a path led to one of three little islands that hosted a small shrine.

072-IMG_0388

073-IMG_0362

074-IMG_0364

076-IMG_0368

 

Ryoanji temple is one of the largest schools of Rinzai-Zen. It is mainly visited for its Zen garden (kare sansui), which is one of the most famous of its kind. The garden consists only of stones in various sizes – no water, no plants. Lost in the symbolic infinity of the sea of white pebbles, it is adorned by a total of fifteen little islands of basalt stones.

077-P1020834

078-IMG_0376

079-IMG_1490

 

There is no place from where all fifteen stones can be seen at once. They are arranged so that the visitor can see a maximum of fourteen at a time.

You can see the garden from the Hojo, the residential building of the high priest. Again, the rooms of the Hojo and their painted sliding doors could only be viewed from the outside.

083-IMG_0380

 

There is another garden on the other side of the Hojo. With its green, dense plants it forms a nice counterpart to the barren but no less beautiful rock garden.

081-IMG_0372

082-IMG_0379

080-IMG_0377

 

We left the temple via a footpath. A small path branched off from it towards a restaurant known for a popular Kyoto tofu specialty. Ken took us along that path to show us the beautiful gardens in which the restaurant was located.

086-IMG_0383

 

At the exit of the temple we were greeted by many colorful shops. You could buy anything from colorful kimonos to all sorts of green matcha products.

090-IMG_1500

089-IMG_0390

 

To return to the parking lot, where our driver was waiting for us, we strolled along the “Philosopher’s Path” which is said to be one of the most beautiful places during the cherry blossom season.

091-IMG_0389

 

We didn’t think that the day could hold any more highlights for us, but Ken upped the ante by taking us to Ginkaku-ji temple. The complex is called “Silver Pavilion”. It was originally built in 1482 as a retirement home by the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa – in reference to the “Golden Pavilion” of his grandfather. After his death it was converted into a Zen temple in 1490.

093-P1020839

 

The pavilion itself, as opposed to its name, is by no means decorated with silver. They say it got its nickname because the originally black lacquered buildings appeared like silver in the moonlight.

096-IMG_0397

098-IMG_E0985

115-IMG_0431

 

In front of the Silver Pavilion lies a perfectly maintained sand garden, known as “Sea of Silver Sand” with a large sand cone called “Moon Viewing Platform”.

103-IMG_0411

104-P1020843

105-IMG_0396

 

But the sand garden wasn’t the only garden. A beautiful landscape of lakes, streams, Japanese pieris, trees and palm trees spread out between the buildings and stirred the blood of any garden aficionado.

106-IMG_0418

116-IMG_1563

108-IMG_0420

114-P1020845

111-IMG_0425

 

We took one of the garden paths to climb the side of a hill to a viewpoint from where we could overlook the complex.

113-IMG_0986

 

On the way to our final destination we made a quick photo stop in front of the big portal of the Chion-in Temple, one of the film locations from the movie “The Last Samurai” with Tom Cruise.

117-IMG_E0990

 

Our actual destination was the Gion district. For many centuries, the district had become the largest, most prominent and distinguished center of Japanese geisha culture. A geisha (here also called geiko or, if in training, maiko) has to master traditional Japanese arts such as calligraphy and playing several Japanese instruments. She must be skilled in the art of conversation, a perfect hostess and she must master song, dance and the art of the tea ceremony.

In the traditional buildings of the neighborhood you can still be entertained by geishas today. However, non-tourist functions will be rather high-priced events.

Ken walked us through a part of the neighborhood with its old wooden houses.

125-IMG_0440

126-IMG_0996

122-P1020848

 

The neighborhood is also popular with the Japanese, who come here to celebrate weddings or enjoy it from a rickshaw.

123-IMG_0443

124-IMG_0436

 

They say that if you are lucky, you might also meet a geisha and can (respectfully) take a photo of her. We were lucky and were able to photograph a geisha, or in this case a maiko. A final highlight.

121-P1020846

118-IMG_0435

 

After our return to Kobe, we had a drink on the deck of the Sunset Bar, which was truly living up to its name.

128-IMG_0445

 

After dinner at around 9.30 pm, it was time to leave and the Millennium set sail. Even at this time there were many onlookers on the terrace of the terminal waving us a friendly goodbye.

130-IMG_1003

131-IMG_1008

 

By now it was official: Japan was deeply locked in our hearts. And Ken, our guide, had done a lot to contribute to it.

1-IMG_E1001

Browse Back
Book
Browse Forward
redline

www.travellove.one • www.thecruise.report • www.travelandcruise.net

© 2018 Die Rechte an Texten, Fotos und Videos liegen beim Autor der Webseite. Die Nutzung ist nur nach ausdrücklicher Freigabe erlaubt.

Join our Travellove Facebook-Group
YouTube-25px
Kommentare