My very first trip to Japan was many, many years ago. I was there on work assignment to attend a meeting of conservationists. It was a great opportunity to discover this singularly unique land and culture. But at that time, the cost of living in Japan was probably the highest in the world. Furthermore, I had only been working for a couple of years and I soon found out that I could barely afford more than a meal of instant noodles. I certainly could not afford to make the train trip from Tokyo to Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto. It was disappointing to be so close but…….no.
Then in December last year, I finally got to scratch my travel itch by going to Kyoto (only some 20 years late). Over the next couple of weeks, I would like to share some highlights of my trip.
Let me start it off with the stunningly, radiant vision which is Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion.
This beautiful site dates from the 14th century but the pavilion had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1950. There is a saying that “all that glimmers is not gold”. However, in this case, it is! The structure is covered in a thin layer of gold leaf.
We went on a cold December day but the sun came out from behind the clouds and the pavilion seemed to be radiating rays of light. Definitely go when it is sunny for full effect.
I am usually not a fan of ostentatious, gaudy and self indulgent architecture but in this case, it works! The pavilion seemed to naturally belong amongst the tranquillity of the reflecting pond and zen-like gardens. The heron seemed to think so too. Can you see him in the foreground of the picture above?
There was of course a whole gaggle of tourists on that day as well as a number of school groups making a nuisance of themselves. But the magic of the place was still able to give inner peace. If you do plan to visit though, try going on a weekday and as early as possible to avoid the crowd.
This was the first time I had ever seen anybody sweeping the moss! There were a lot of beautiful landscapes in the temple garden with water and moss which as you can see here was lovingly maintained.
One can follow the trail up the hill behind the Golden Pavilion and look back down on the pavilion, the pond and the gardens. There you will find a number of viewing points, a shrine and the unavoidable gift shop. You might also find this charming lady tending to the moss with the pavilion in the background.
Another gem is this tea garden located in amongst the trees. A great place to meditate on the wonders of a warm cup of tea on a cold day. I actually did not stop here for tea but went back to the entrance where we could get Japanese soft serve ice cream. So on that crisp and brisk winter morning, my wife had black sesame and I had green tea ice cream. Very ying and yang.
More of Kyoto to come. Watch this space!