See The Beautiful Sights Of Kyoto From The Port In Osaka
There were two days in Osaka on our cruise in Japan. We had a very long tour day planned from Osaka to see the beautiful sights of Kyoto. We got to see three very distinctive places. Lunch was a traditional Japanese meal. But we were delighted to find a historical temple when we walked the grounds outside the restaurant.
The bus drove us from Osaka to Kyoto. Kyoto used to be the capital. It was chosen because it had the proper feng shui – mountains surrounding the city and water on south side. It was also selected because it was less impacted by natural disasters. As we approached Kyoto we saw the mountains with the tops shrouded in clouds.
Golden Statues At Sanjusangen-do
Our first stop was at Sanjusangen-do. The long temple hall is about 120 metres (394 feet) long and was built in the Japanese Wayo style. There are 33 spaces between the building columns. So the name of the temple means “33 spaces”. The building was originally built in 1164. A fire destroyed it but it was re-constructed in 1266.
We took our shoes off when we entered the temple. We would do that again 2 more times on this tour day. It would have even helpful if we have brought a pair of dark socks to wear as we walked around! There were no pictures allowed inside. But this meant we could give the inside all of our attention.
As we entered the hall we got our first glimpse of the very long building and the rows of 1,001 golden statues of the Buddhist deity Kannon. There were 124 original statues from the 12th century that had been saved from the fire. The other 876 were re-created. In the centre of the temple we saw a large seated statue of Kannon. This statue has 11 faces and 1000 arms.
While the statues look like metal, they are really made from wood (Japanese cypress). They were then lacquered and finally a layer of gold leaf was applied. We understood why so many would be destroyed in a major fire. The eyes in all the statues were crystal. The temple faced east. So it is said that the eyes shine in the morning. I am sure it would be amazing to visit for sunrise.
The long row of golden statues were definitely one of the beautiful sights of Kyoto.
The Golden Statues Were Fronted By A Series Of Large Wooden Statues
In front of the golden statues we found 28 larger wooden statues on raised pedestals. The first one we saw was the Wind God. On the far end was the Thunder God. In front of the Thunder God, there was a sign showing how to pray to him. And many did. If you kneeled you would see the flashing of lightening in the eyes and feel the god’s power. These were important deities to worship since they brought good harvest. The other statues represented other guardian deities. We were fascinated to see many that had originated in India.
We could see some remnants of colour on the walls and ceilings. But much of this has faded over time. The long corridor on the back side provided history and explanations for the temple and its contents.
The fascinating row of deities added another element to the beautiful sights of Kyoto.
We Wandered Around The Outside Of Sanjusangen-do
After we exited, we had a chance to walk around the property. It was easy to see the long length of the temple building as we walked outside.
At the end we saw a bright vermillion structure we had come to recognize on our visit to Japan. Inside was a bell. It reminded us of the big bell at the Zojoji Temple in Tokyo.
As we wandered the site, we found other areas of worship at Sanjusangen-do. The stone statues with the bibs reminded us of the ones we first found in the Zojoji Temple in Tokyo. And found again at Miyajima Island. There was a small garden at the side. It provided a quiet moment for reflection before we headed back to the bus for our next stop. Off in the distance we saw the mountains around Kyoto.
Our visit to Sanjusangen-do was a great way to start our visit to Kyoto. And certainly one of the beautiful sights of Kyoto!
Nijo-Jo Castle – The Castle In Kyoto
Many people who stayed in Osaka on this port visit went to Osaka Castle. The Nijo-Jo Castle was completed in 1603 by one of most powerful shoguns. He ushered in a 260 year rein of peace and prosperity after a long period of civil unrest. The castle was not lived in. But only used as a temporary residence when the shogun visited Kyoto (in the days when this was the Imperial capital). This site was designated as a UNESCO site.
The bus dropped us by the moat. We saw the high walls of the castle. On the corner we saw one of the tall watchtowers that guarded the four corners of the moat. This reminded us very much of the similar watchtowers we saw in Tokyo when we toured the Edo Castle.
Once we were on the palace grounds we entered through the Karamon Gate. Gate architecture used to indicate status. This one represented the highest status. We saw the cusped gable and the use of cypress for the roof (rather than copper or tile). When we looked up we saw the brightly coloured carvings.
Through the gate we got our visit view of the Ninomaru-goten Palace. We again marvelled at the intricate decoration on the doorway and along the roof lines. This was the next stop on our visit to see the beautiful sights of Kyoto.
A Walk Through Ninomaru-goten Palace
We again removed our shoes for our walk through the palace. And again, all photography was forbidden inside. We joined the other large groups that toured the inside and followed our guide.
The first thing we noticed as we walked along was a slight squeaking sound. This sound was romantically called the sound of the Nightingale and the halls were called the “Nightingale Corridor”. A special construction was used to create this effect. It was said that it was to make sure that nobody could sneak up. Even ninjas could not approach unannounced.
The Palace included six different buildings connected by walkways. We went in a large circle that took us around the outside of all of the buildings. Most of the rooms were either waiting rooms or reception rooms. Many of the rooms were decorated with golden paintings of tigers and leopards in bamboo forests. Since there were no tigers and leopards in Japan at the time, the paintings were done as imagined. Pine trees were used in the decoration extensively to represent everlasting prosperity.
In one room we saw beautiful murals and carvings in Japanese Cypress on the walls. The peacocks depicted power. In another room there was a raised floor ( the Great Hall of Audience Chamber). A series of monks were depicted praying in this room.
It was fascinating to walk from room to room and see the beautifully decorated walls. Since nobody lived here, there was really no furniture in the Palace. But there was so much to see. Another great addition to the beautiful sights of Kyoto.
Finish With A Walk In The Ninomaru Garden
We had a short walk through the Ninomaru Garden. We were warned not to cross the moat that took us to the Honomaru Palace and gardens. That would take us another 2 hours and we did not have that time on this tour. The Ninomaru Garden is much smaller and sat right beside the Ninomaru-goten Palace.
The garden was a classical Shoin-zukuri with a large Horai-jima island in the middle. This island symbolizes Paradise. There were very small islands on both sides of this main island. These crane and turtle islands both represented longevity.
It would have been great to have time to relax in the garden. Or to go further into the other gardens. But not on this visit. This garden tease added to the beautiful sights of Kyoto.
A Traditional Japanese Lunch
Our stop for lunch was at a restaurant right outside the castle walls. We took off our shoes and sat at low tables. The lunch plate held a wide variety of different things to try. It was similar to the local lunch we had when we toured from Shimizu.
There was a beautiful copper relief piece of art on the walls. It showed life from long ago beside the Nijo-jo Castle.
Our guide gave us a long lunch break so we went out to explore when we finished eating. A small building with an outdoor patio sat by the restaurant. From the side it looked a bit like a boat. Complete with a dragon’s head at the front.
A Walk Around The Historic Shinsenen Temple
As we walked around the small pond we found one of oldest shrines. Shinsenen was the place where people prayed for water. A bright orange arched bridge led to the shrine. On one side we found the now familiar place where people hung their prayer cards. We first saw the use of colourful prayer cards when we visited the Fujisan Hongu Sengen Shrine under Mt Fuji.
When we kept walking around the lake we came to a dark wooden altar. And then another bright orange shrine. It was fascinating to find these beautiful sights tucked in behind the restaurant. And very strange that our guide did not mention it at all.
As we walked around the lake we could just see the very beginnings of the fall change of colours in the trees. It got me excited. And a bit nostalgic about missing the colourful fall season at home. We were very glad we wandered after lunch. It would have been sad to miss the shrine. Yet another of the beautiful sights of Kyoto.
Our Final Stop At The Kinkaku Golden Pavilion
We were excited as we headed to the final of the beautiful sights of Kyoto. And another UNESCO site. The Kinkaku Golden Pavillion is one of the most popular tourist spots. It was built in 1307 and survived the bombing in WWII. However, it was burned down by a monk with some mental problems and re-built in 1955. At that time there was no money to restore the gold foil to the building. It was not until the 1980’s when Japan’s economy was doing well that the gold foil was added to the lacquer on the Golden Pavillion.
The Golden Pavillion (Kinkaku) is a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha (a shariden). The garden and buildings were said to represent the Pure Land of Buddha in this world. The building is not open for tourist. Only VIPs have been invited inside. So we did not need to go inside to see the stunning beauty.
We entered through the gate and found the large building that was the priest’s living quarters. This was an interesting building. But we quickly walked past.
We were all excited to move on to find even more beautiful sights of Kyoto.
Reflections On The Golden Pavilion
We walked through a smaller gate and could just see the pond of Kyoto-Chi. But it was the sight of the Golden Pavillion shining in the sunlight and blue skies that drew us in. We moved from spot to spot and captured one after another beautiful sights of Kyoto.
The sight of a group of people dressed in traditional kimonos captivated us. We saw this first when we visited the Asakusa area in Tokyo. They were really good sports about posing for pictures for all the tourists when they stopped to get their own group pictures.
We walked in a large circle around the property. Gardens and waterfalls made the gentle walk refreshing. Several times we stopped to capture small shrines or areas of worship. There were more of the prayer cards for sale. It was clear that these cards were customized for each site. Some were even comical.
Before we headed back down the steep steps to the main gate, we passed a large number of vendors selling a little bit of everything.
We had certainly saved the best of the beautiful sights of Kyoto for the last. It was a captivating image that I would never forget.
So Saw So Many Beautiful sights of Kyoto
We saw so many of the beautiful sights of Kyoto on our visit from Osaka. We started with great long halls of statues at the Sanjusangen-do. And then saw room after room of beautiful decorated walls at the Nijo-jo Castle. Lunch held a great surprise shrine. But the best was certainly left for last. The Golden Palace was truly one of the most beautiful sights of Kyoto.
It was about 90 minutes each way from Osaka to Kyoto. Even with a full day planned, we were really squeezed for time to see all the beautiful sights of Kyoto. I felt rushed at ever stop we made. Kyoto is definitely worth a return visit. And maybe that will be me in the kimono that everyone takes a picture of!
What was your favourite of the beautiful sights of Kyoto that we saw? Did we miss something on our visit to Kyoto?
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