My 2016 Japan travelogue so far:
Osaka Day 1: Ana Crowne Plaza & Sennichimae Doguyasuji
Osaka Day 2: Osaka Station, Kuromon Market & Dotonbori
Nara Day 3: Todai-ji, Cheeky Deer & Fall Foliage
Osaka + Kyoto Day 4: Nishiki Market & Len Kyoto Kawaramachi
I woke up to a beautiful Kyoto on day 5 at 6.20am.
Breakfast at common room of Len Kyoto Kawaramachi. I ate tuna and egg sandwich again with a cup of green tea. So good! Sandwich cost 220 yen from Daily Yamazaki.
Lovely decorations at the common room.
Today is all about visiting the Higashiyama area (Eastern Kyoto) particularly the temples and autumn foliage. Major walking exercise ahead!
We left the hostel at 9.10am. Our first destination is Kiyomizu-dera. To go there from our hostel, Len Kyoto… walk all the way on Matsubara Dori 松原通 (Matsubara Street) to the staircase of Kiyomizu-dera.
I encountered quite many of this berry plant along Matsubara Dori and later at the temples and other streets. Besides purple, I also saw red and yellow. Took me quite a while to search for the name of this plant. It’s called berries Of Nandina Domestica and it’s poisonous for cats and other animals. Argghh, luckily I didn’t pick it.
This is Matsubara Dori and we’re only 3/4 of our way after 25 minutes of walking. We’re supposed to reach Kiyomizu-dera already according to Google Maps. Haha I guess because we are a bunch of slow coaches. LOL. Also the street ascends to the temple which made it harder to walk. Btw, we didn’t see many tourist walking here.
We reached an area for toilet break (very near to Yojiya) at Matsubara Dori. It was here I saw these nuts. I first suspected it was hazelnuts. This Instagram post told me it’s acorns.
From Len Kyoto to Kiyomizu-dera, it took us about 40 minutes on foot. If you’re a fast walker and have good stamina, you can get to the temple even faster.
Do you know what’s so special about Kiyomizu-dera? Read on to find out.
Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera or more commonly known as Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺 is a temple where the Eleven-headed Thousand-armed Kannon Bodhisattva is worshipped. If I’m not mistaken, Kannon is Guan Yin. The temple is situated at the slope of Mount Otowa of Higashiyama Mountain range and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
If anyone needs toilet break, there’s one near the pagoda… just before ticket booth.
Our entrance tickets for Kiyomizu-dera @ 400 yen pax. I read somewhere that the design of the entrance ticket changes every season. For this one it’s showing autumnal views of Sanju-no-to 三重塔 (refer two photos up) and Hondō 本堂 (Main Hall) with the wooden stage.
Fall foliage at Kiyomizu-dera grounds are so lovely. However, we noticed that it has passed its peak color period. We visited on 25th November. Nevertheless the temple was still a beautiful sight to behold.
In this photo, I’m at the Hondō 本堂 (Main Hall) and the wooden stage ahead of me is called Kiyomizu Stage, where both are the most famous structures of Kiyomizu-dera because they were built without nails! How is that possible? Using the traditional construction method, of course. The stage slants downward, so standing there was a bit scary. And yes, the stage boosts stunning views of the temple grounds, mountains and Kyoto. Just look at that colorful jungle out there during autumn. The best place to take a picture of this stunning structure is not by standing on it but from afar which I’ll show you later.
Kiyomizu-dera looks stunning during fall (koyo) and cherry blossom (sakura) seasons, but I bet summer and winter seasons are equally spectacular too.
We stopped by an area for toilet break and snack break. This is yatsuhasi (made from glutinous rice flour, sugar and cinnamon) which I bought from Nishiki market the previous day. Yum-yum!
This is Otowa-no-taki 音羽の滝 (Otowa Waterfall) where Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera was named after. A dream to find ‘crystal spring up north’ led Kenshin (a monk) to this waterfall and later when Sakanoue-no-Tamuramaro built a temple to enshrine the Kannon deity, he named it Kiyomizu which means pure water, after the waterfall.
Now that explains why so many people are lining up to drink from the waterfall, which will purifies your senses and grants you good health and wishes. I did not line up because the queue was really long.
Fyi, there are only one entrance and one exit point for this temple, so you don’t have to worry whether you will miss any of the views as you will be following a one way route. Just make sure you enjoy each location as much as you can as the temple area is huge. You don’t wanna hike back up.
Somewhere along the road in Kiyomizu-dera, we chanced upon 忠僕茶屋 Chubokuchaya, a small restaurant serving tea, wagashi and noodles. We ordered warabimochi that comes with two cups of tea (cost 500 yen) and sat alfresco enjoying the autumn leaves and people passing by. Haha And when the wind blows, we were showered with maple leaves. What a beautiful experience! The warabimochi though was just so-so.
Overall, we spent 2 hours in Kiyomizu-dera. I highly recommend this temple. The crowds was not bad in the morning. There are many people but all the places are still walkable. The temple opens at 6am. Closing time depends on season. During spring and autumn, there will be night illumination where the trees and temple are light up. I did not visit the temple for the night illumination because number 1: need to budget (yes, you need to pay for the admission again), number 2: lack of time, number 3: I’m not really a night light girl.
When we got back at Matsubara Dori, there are so many people there. Thankfully we have visited the shops earlier so were able to move to our next agenda.
This is Sannen-zaka 三年坂 (literally translated as three year slope) at 12.45pm. It’s located very near to Kiyomizu-dera, hence the staircase and is one of the two popular streets near the temple. That is a bald weeping cherry blossom tree.
There are shops and restaurants here that I’m sure will spark anyone’s interest. If not, a stroll here is pleasant too since the traditional wooden buildings are sweet treats for the eyes and soul.
Then we came to the next famous street called Ninen-zaka 二年坂 (literally translated as two year slope). Those are just tourist in kimono… not real geisha or maiko. There are lots of kimono rental place in the Higashiyama area.
I missed the opportunity to visit Gojo-zaka which is a street famous for Kiyomizu pottery. Next time then!
A little tip:
When you’re visiting Kiyomizu-dera, I suggest you visit the temple first early in the morning but not too early if you plan to visit Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka as they open around 9am-10am (depending on individual shops). Then you can descend to Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka. If you do it the other way around, you would need to climb the stairs at Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka and visit the temple later which by that time might have larger crowds.
So that’s it for my day 5, part 1 post. There will be part 2 coming shortly.