Thankfully, it stopped raining today, although most of the day, the skies were still overcast. I am still suffering from this cold but it seems like the worst of it is over. I don’t feel like death when I wake up in the morning anymore.
Anyway, the itinerary for today was the eastern section of Kyoto, which is almost as picturesque as the western part (Arashiyama). We also decided to see a tea ceremony!
We started with Ginkakuji, or the Silver Pavilion, in northeastern part of the city. Unlike the aptly-named Golden Pavilion, Ginkakuji is not covered in silver. Wikipedia tells me that it was originally supposed to be silver to emulate Kinkakuji, but this obviously did not happen.
Regardless, it also featured a very beautiful garden and pond, plus an interesting white sand garden and Mt Fuji-shaped mound. As you walk along the path, it goes up a little to give you a great view of the city. While we were there, a white heron(?) came to visit and hung out on one of the roofs for a while.
After, we walked along the Philospher’s Path, a cherry tree-lined path along a little creek. Most of the cherry trees still haven’t blossomed yet, but we did see a couple of trees with flowers. Nevertheless, it was a nice walk. As an added bonus, we saw cats!
Eventually, we reached Nanzenji Temple. There are a number of smaller buildings within this temple, many of which have separate entrance fees.
We chose to see just the small pond garden, which was small enough that there weren’t many other tourists there, allowing us to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. Apparently, there is also an interesting rock garden, but I think we are reaching the point where we have seen so many shrines, temples, and gardens that they are starting to feel the same!
Another interesting part of this temple was the European-like aqueducts. Also in this area was a woman who had dressed up her pet corgi in a kimono-like outfit. She allowed us to take pictures while the dog ate. Adorable!!
We then had lunch at a small restaurant on a quiet side street. I had “kitsune-soba”, or soba noodles with seasoned fried tofu in soup. It was delicious and just what I needed for this cold.
We did some more walking, stopping quickly for some Japanese sweets (mochi and dango) sold by a street vendor and then a couple of quick photos on the edge of Maruyama Park. We then stopped to see Yasaka Shrine, a colourful shrine with many lanterns. It also seems like there will be a festival soon, as there were many stalls in the process of being set up.
We had some time to kill afterwards before our tea ceremony experience, so we browsed the surrounding neighbourhood, which happened to be the edge of Gion (famous for being the geisha quarter of Kyoto). We stopped for some coffee and snacks at a tiny cafe. I also had Ramune-flavoured ice cream! (Ramune being a kind of soda in Japan, known for its unique way of opening it; you’ll have to Google it because I can’t explain it, but it involves popping a marble from the bottle’s mouth)
At 5:00 p.m. we went to see a tea ceremony. This place was geared towards tourists, so everything was in English with explanations on the purpose, symbolism, etc. of the ceremony. Also, due to time constraints, they only demonstrated the most basic form of tea ceremony. The most formal and complex one is some 4 hours long! Even the short one we saw was very peaceful, and our host was so graceful!
We then got to try a sweet typically eaten during a tea ceremony and tried making and drinking tea ourselves, which was fun!
After that, we would have explored a bit more but, as the sun set, it was getting a bit cold so we finished the day with a quick dinner at Matsuya and returned to the hostel.