[Travel] A Thousand Steps to Discover Kyoto

1 July 2011

Nowadays, modern convenience and buildings are on the rise in this former capital. Yet Kyoto (京都) still retains its traditional townhouse and buildings. It’s not unusual to find wooden houses, temples, shrines and castles when we’re exploring the city. We decide to stay at this type of wooden house-inn called Yahata Inn.

It’s still very early at the bus station when we arrive from Tokyo with the overnight bus. After a quick bite at McDonalds, we decide to visit Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha). Using the train, JR Nara line, we stop at Inari Station (稲荷駅 Inari Eki).




The red torii entrance to Fushimi Inari Shrine. The day is a lot cloudy than expected.


Rōmon (楼門) gate, donated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣 秀吉)

The shrine is dedicated to Inari Ōkami (稲荷大神), the god of rice. Foxes or kitsune (キツネ) are also prominent feature associate with this god. They act as the messengers for the gods and the people often pray/leave offerings for them as well.

Kitsune guardians usually come in pair, female and male, with their mouth holding precious items such as a key and a jewel, hoshi no tama (ほしのたま, star balls), respectfully. The shrine has many of these guardian fox statues scattered around the shrine and mountain, as said to ward evil. They look fierce yes?

We didn’t go all the way around the hill, just enough to see the shrine’s main building (Honden).



We take a stroll inside Senbon Torii (“thousands of torii gates”), the rows and rows of orange red torii. The humid, a cloudy day and under the shades of dense trees give an eerie atmosphere, as if if we follow the wrong kitsune(!!) we might get lost (to another world). Heh.

The distinctive red torii is identic to Shinto shrines’s entrance. A torii is usually made from wood or stone, but presently can be made from concrete, copper or stainless steel.

An individual or a company can donate a torii if they want (cost a fortune I bet) and have it erected here emblazoned with their company/family name and date.

The colour reddish or bright red vermillion to differentiated from stone gate in Buddhist temple.

Some ajisae in softer colours.

From Fushimi Inari Shrine we go to Kyoto Imperial Palace (京都御所 Kyōto-gosho), a few minutes from Imadegawa subway station, Karasuma subway line.


We’re in luck since we are able to join the palace tour in English by waiting at the Imperial Household Agency building (west of Kyoto Imperial Palace).  The palace was the residence of the Imperial family until the Meiji restoration, when they moved the capital to Tokyo.

The waiting room with a small gift shop.

We have to follow our guide for the tour at that time. But since April 2016, visitors aren’t require to use this option. Our tour guide is very helpful. When it rains, she quickly get an umbrella for each one of us and guide us inside.


Kenshunmon Gate (京都御所建春門)


Shodaibu-no-ma (諸大夫の間), the waiting rooms for the dignitaries to meet with the Emperor. The rooms are arrange according to noble rank, separated with richly decorated  fusuma-e (襖絵, decorative wooden sliding doors). The decoration in the first room is the Sakura-no-ma (cherry blossoms room) for the lowest noble rank. The middle room is decorated with tanchōzuru-no-ma (red crown/Japanese crane room) for the middle rank dignitaries. The highest noble rank may seat in the Tora-no-ma (tiger room), seating on the tatami (畳) with silver brocate edging (heri 縁).


Jōmeimon Gate (承明門), The gate to Shishin-den (紫宸殿, Hall for State Ceremonies). At the time we can’t enter from this gate, not even to the court yard. The hall was used for the enthronement ceremony for Emperor Taisho and Emperor Showa and other important rituals


Shishin-den (紫宸殿, Hall for State Ceremonies)

Our guide lady explain that the roof on most of the buildings are made from layers of Hinoki (檜 or 桧, Japanese Cypress wood). It takes years to completely restore all buildings. By the time they complete the renovation, all the buildings need to be restore again with new woods. Approx. 20 years for every cycle.


The Shunko-den, house of the sacred mirror

Oike-niwa (御池庭) garden and pond


Most of the architecture follow the Heian period style. Almost all the buildings were reconstructed from the 1855 architecture. Above is the entrance to the Emperor’s office Ko-gosho (小御所) for rituals and receiving banner men from the Shogun.

The structure in Seiryo-den (清涼殿, Serene and Cool chamber) is built in a traditional shinden style but the floors are lower than Shishin-den.

The throne where the Emperor conducted his business. The throne is covered in white silk canopy with red and black linings. Two statues guarding the throne against evil, on the left hand is the koma-inu (dog) and on the right hand is the shishi (lion).

The Emperor may came in and exit from this door to his residence.


Assuming this is the Emperor’s log book(?)


Otsune-Goten (御常御殿), the Emperor’s residence until they moved to Kyoto.


On the roof and some of the decoration have the Imperial Seal of Japan, the Chrysanthemum Seal (菊紋 kikumon) or Chrysanthemum Flower Seal (菊花紋, 菊花紋章, kikukamon). The 16 petals Chrysanthemum is a mon or crest used by members of the Japanese Imperial family.

O-gakumonjo (御学問所), the Emperor’s library


Th The wood buildings are prone to fire so in some area of the garden you can see wells like the olden days and still used until now.

After lunch we went to the Kyoto International Manga Museum (京都国際マンガミュージアム, Kyōto Kokusai Manga Myūjiamu). Just a shy away from Karasuma Oike (烏丸御池駅) subway station.


Kyoto International Manga Museum (京都国際マンガミュージアム Kyōto Kokusai Manga Myūjiamu) entrace is ¥800.

Stationed in an old elementary school building, formery known as Tatsuike Primary School. The Manga Museum hosted thousands of manga, books and manuscripts in Japanese language, English, French, Chinese and even Indonesian. Some of these collections belonged to Mr. Go Matoba of Ohkubo Negishi Bookstore.


At the time we can’t take photos in some rooms because there are some copy-righted items in the “100 Maiko Illustrations” exhibition by 174 manga artists.

Text books in Japanese

The Kyoto Manga museum become a part of the society as the centre of learning, manga museum and library.

2 July 2011

Get ready for 2nd day in Kyoto! There will be long walks as promise. The stairs at the metro train station tickle me. Hope I loose that much weight climbing and walking all those stairs!


Riding the train to Kawaramachi Station (河原町駅, Kawaramachi eki) and stroll along the Shijō Street (四条通 Shijō-dōri), central Kyoto.

Kyoto Minami-za Kabuki Theater.


Nishiki Market (錦市場, Nishiki Ichiba)

Wagashi (和菓子), Japanese traditional sweets.


Roast chestnuts stall

Just a short walkway, we turn to the Hanamachi (花街, flower town), in Gion (祇園, ぎおん) district.

Various okiya (置屋, geisha houses)ochaya (お茶屋, teahouses) and restaurants where the Geisha entertains. Okiya houses in the Machiya (町屋/町家traditional wooden townhouses) style


The red building is the Ichiriki Chaya (一力茶屋, Ichiriki Teahouse), one of the oldest tea house in the district. It is a part of the history and play a central role in Forty-seven Ronin and other political plot. To get in, you will need invitation from one of the patrons, and even then, a night entertainment with a Geisha (芸者) might cost an arm and a leg, and maybe more.


Gion Kobu Kaburenjo theater or Gion Corner. It was closed at that time.


At the end of Hanami street lies Kennin-ji (建仁寺), the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, founded by the priest Myōan Eisai/Yōsai (明菴栄西) in 1202. The Zen principle in Rinzai tradition seek the ideal work and meditation. At the time, much of the garden area are under construction.


The idea of the circle-triangle-square concept is that all things in the universe are represented by these forms.


The Wind, Fūjin (風神) and Thunder Raijin (雷神) Gods -Tawaraya Sōtatsu – Edo period.

The monk Yōsai also credited to bring tea ceremony by bringing green tea from China. Here is a traditional prepared green tea (surprisingly not bitter) and red bean sweets.



The seating room to enjoy the inner garden Cho-on-tei (潮音庭, The Garden of the Sound of the Tide). Next time, I probably come during the autumn where the maple leaves are said to be lovely. The 3 rocks at the centre of the garden representing Buddha and the two monks.



Saw these Ojii-san wearing traditional clothing.

The Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社 Yasaka-jinja), previously Gion Shrine (祇園神社 Gion-jinja). 

The shrine also pay respect to Susanoo-no-mikoto (須佐之男 (スサノオ), Kushiinada-hime-no-mikoto (櫛名田比売) and Yahashira-no-mikogami. Susanoo and Kushiinada are the heroes feature in the the famous story of Yamata no Orochi (八岐の大蛇, l8-branched giant snake).

Performance stage. When the festivals are on, various folklore artefacts placed inside. One of the prominent festival like Gion Matsuri (祇園祭).


From the shrine through the Rōmon (楼門) Gate,  continued the journey along the preserved historical street.

In Higashiyama district (東山区 Higashiyama-ku), the government removed all telephone poles and wires to preserve the traditional ambience. Imagine the samurai and the ladies in Kimono walk along these paths.


In several streets and toward  Nene no Michi (ねねの道) street, (named after the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi), scattered representations of Buddha statues. Like treasure hunting, we can try to find them all and rub their heads for good fortune. Above is Hotei (布袋), one of the seven gods of fortune.

The history in this spot explain about the Shinsengumi (新選組, the new squad) vs. Goryo Eji Tonsho (御陵衛士屯所跡, Guardians of the Imperial Tomb).

The park entrance near Kodaiji temple


Prayer wheel (Tibetan: འཁོར་) with Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ (Sanskrit: ओं मणिपद्मे हूं) written in Sanskrit. The Japanese words are: オーム・マニ・パドメー・フーム (Ōmu Mani Padomē Fūmu).


The shōrō (鐘楼 lit. bell tower) at Kodaiji Temple

Taking a breather, I have some desserts,Matcha Zenzai (抹茶ぜんざい), Green tea based soup with mochi,  in a tea houses with the red umbrella while looking at the many, many Tanabata (七夕) ornaments.


Kakigōri (かき氷), shaved ice with yuzu (ユズ, citrus)

Continue the walk to Ninenzaka (二年坂, Two-Year Hill) & Sannenzaka  (三年坂, Three-Year Hill). The street is filled with old wooden houses, traditional shops, tea houses and traditional/modern food.

A cold coke and yuzu (ユズ, citrus) mochi (餅, もち, rice cake).

There are many steps. So be careful. If you stumble, you’ll get bad luck. Or so they said.

A lot to the trinkets and snacks here are cheaper than anywhere else in Kyoto. I can’t resist buying a yukata (浴衣), complete with the obi. Tried it at the store and decide to walk around wearing one in the spirit of the Tanabata Festival (and my inner cosplay of course!) The store ladies are pretty excited to dress me up to their exclamation ‘kawaii~~’ when it’s done (=o_O=!). I think it’s because I wear shoes instead of the Geta (下駄, Japanese Footwear) with the Yukata.


 Of course I’m not the only one… There are some girls/women that are either the real deal or cosplaying as Maiko (舞妓).

 Apparently you can rent a complete Maiko/Geisha kimono costume for a day, complete with make-up!

The niōmon (仁王門 lit. Niō gate), the Entrance of the Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺) 


Alas, my feet is dying, I don’t think I can climb up to the Kiyomizu-dera temple. The views are still good though.


Can still see the Kyoto city from up here.

After the long walk, I have dinner with Ochazuke (お茶漬け), rice, vegetables and plum soaked in tea. This conclude my journey exploring and discovering Kyoto.

3 July 2011

Nara Trip

After coming back from Nara, I have a big bite of Vanilla Ice Cream puff pastry and a cold glass of milk. Forgot which cafe is this in Kyoto.


On the bus station, I get to try a cold ice lemon tea, prepared with a hot tea pot with a timer and additional ice. Cute.

This conclude day 3 of Kyoto  – Nara trip. Off, back to Tokyo.

Japan Trip 2011:


Buddha – The Story in Manga and Art at Tokyo National Museum

Japan Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Art at Tokyo National Museum

The Pleasure of Tokyo Streets


Pilgrimage at Kamakura


Relax, Soak, Eat at Hakone


A Thousand Steps to Discover Kyoto


Oh deer! Nara anyone?


Above the Cloud, Yokohama 

source: Travelwiki, Tripadvisor, Inside Kyoto, Kyoto Imperial Palace, Nenzaka


8 Comments Add yours

  1. this is one of the places in Japan that I would like to visit : -)

    1. Kyoto is amazing! If I can go there again, I would! Maybe spend more than two days because there’s so much to see. :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s