[The Shikoku Pilgrimage – Break] Day 13: Playing Tour Guide


Sometimes, I enjoy reading and posting on Reddit. When I found myself in Kyoto with not much to keep me occupied, I posted on the Japan Travel subreddit, asking if anyone would like to hang out or see some sights (even though I had already seen the major ones). To my surprise, one person answered and we agreed to meet up at Ginkakuji, or the Silver Pavilion (which isn’t even silver; it was meant to be coated in silver to contrast the nearby Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji, but due to wars and the original owner’s death, it was continually delayed and then dropped altogether). He mentioned that he was still feeling a little overwhelmed by all there was to see in Japan and would appreciate someone to help him out.

So, I started my day extra early to make it there by 8:30am so we could get in as much sightseeing as we wanted. It would also give me time to get to the post office to send off some of the souvenirs I had bought.

My Internet friend was a bit delayed, though, so we didn’t actually get into Ginkakuji until 9am or so. To my surprise, the guy walking up the hill was someone I had met in our hostel the previous night! We laughed at the coincidence.

Ginkakuji was exactly as I had remembered it, and I always love it for its extensive gardens and its viewpoint overlooking the city. It was quite a rainy and cold morning, though, so it was slippery in parts.

After Ginkakuji, we took a walk down the Philosopher’s Path. There was hardly anyone else there, but in a few weeks, it’ll be overrun with tourists because it is a popular spot for enjoying cherry blossoms. For now, most of the cherry blossom trees are bare, still hibernating from the cold.

We walked all the way to Nanzenji. There are a few other temples along the way but I didn’t feel they were anything particularly unique or special, so we skipped them. But I did like Nanzenji for its unique acqueducts. The rock garden and head priest’s former living quarters were beautiful to look at, too.

After Nanzenji, we floundered a bit as to what to do. Directly south of Nanzenji was the main area of Higashiyama, including Kiyomizudera, but my partner had already seen that area. Still, we needed to find a 7-Eleven to withdraw some money. We eventually found the one right beside Heian Shrine and, after getting some cash, we decided to check out Heian Shrine, which I had never actually been to before. The tori gate is absolutely huge, but beyond that, it was basically like any other shrine out there.

As we left, my Reddit friend then asked me about Sanjusangendo and I told him that it wasn’t too far away, just south of Higashiyama. However, it was still a little over 3km away and my knee was beginning to act up again, as I hadn’t taken any medicine for it. It was also rainy and quite cold, even for me! So we decided take a bus there, as there was a line that actually connected Heian Shrine and Sanjusangendo – how convenient!

Sanjusangendo was another favourite spot of mine and, as it is indoors, it was nice to get out of the wind and rain for a bit. On the temple’s grounds outside, there were some early cherry blossoms in bloom already, as well as some camellia flowers.

By the time we finished with Sanjusangendo, it was a little after noon, so we decided to stop for lunch. We ended up walking west then north, as we wanted to get to Nijo Castle afterwards.We ended up at a little hole-in-the-wall place that was literally just a counter and some stools. Still, the food was delicious and I managed to get my unagi-don…finally!

With food in our stomachs, we continued northwest. It was quite windy and cold, and my knee was paining me more and more. Just before we got to the castle, I relented and took some ibuprofen.

Like the other sights I had seen that day, Nijo Castle was still beautiful. The main entrance was under construction/renovation, although the interior of the main palace was the same, and that was the important part. It was lovely walking inside there again, seeing all the paintings and hearing the soft chirps of the Nightingale Floor.

We wandered around the gardens for a little while after because, well, why not? We visited the plum tree orchard, where the plum blossoms were well in bloom. Plum blossoms are one of my favourite flowers, especially since they are hardier than cherry blossoms and stick around longer! We were also experiencing sun showers, so there was a big, full rainbow overhead, which sorta made up for the cold, windy, rainy weather we were getting.

By the time we finished, it was almost 5pm, so we decided to head back to the hostel. By that point, the ibuprofen had kicked in and I wasn’t limping as much. At the hostel, we parted ways and I took about 15 minutes to lay in my bed and rest. It had been a long day but it wasn’t over yet. I had to get to the ost office and send off my souvenirs!

So, I forced myself out of bed, got my stuff organized, and brought everything to the post office. Unfortunately, it was a bit more difficult than yesterday because the staff on today didn’t speak much more than basic English. I also had many more items, and I found out *after* packing everything that I was not allowed to ship any precious metals, and one of the hair pins I had bought was made of real silver. Oops. So, I had to open up the box, take out the one hair pin, re-tape it together, and write out a new shipping label. Sigh. At one point, as well, the poor post office staff had to call for a translator to ask me about the contents of my package to ensure it didn’t break any customs laws (like, no organic matter). It was great to know they had a translation service, but I felt bad for the post office staff that I was inconveniencing them so much. Regardless, we got everything done and labelled properly!

Next, I had to figure out dinner. Luckily, I was already in a department store, so I made my way to the basement, which was the food floor. I walked around and ended up buying a bento box (that even included vegetables, which I was sorely missing) and a pair of sakura mochi, which I had been wanting to try for a while.

I brought it all back to the hostel’s common room and ate, chatted with the other travelers there, and did some laundry. I asked the hostel staff member at the front desk to make a reservation for me at the inn near Temple 20 on Shikoku, which she kindly did. And thank goodness I had asked and she agreed because it ended up not being a quick, simple reservation! If I ended up sharing a room, the price was a bit lower, but if it didn’t get filled, then I would be charged the price of a private room. Also, apparently there is a festival going on there, so the bus stop is in a slightly different spot! So, thank goodness I had someone call for me. My Japanese is definitely not good enough to make out any of that!

So, tomorrow, I return to Shikoku. I won’t lie, I’m a bit nervous about my knee, but I hope it will hold up enough to get through the next stage of the pilgrimage.


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