Packed, loaded with backpacks, we set off on our journey. One more spot in Kyoto and we headed for a small town called Fujimami in Wakayama Prefecture, where tourists are unlikely to look. But how to be in Japan and not visit family?
More temples in Kyoto: Kiyomizudera and Nanzenji
We left our fantastic Guest House in Kyoto first thing in the morning. This will be one of those accommodations that we will remember very well and recommend to everyone. Unfortunately, nothing good lasts forever, and our Japan trip was coming to an end.
It was our last day in Kyoto, so we decided to make the most of it and see a few more temples we hadn’t managed to get to so far. In order to travel without unnecessary ballast, we first went to the train station to leave our large backpacks in the lockers. We had already practiced this at Yokohama Station, so this time it went more smoothly and quickly.
Wasting no time, we headed straight for the bus stop on our final tour of Kyoto. The weather for the day finally promised to be nice, and there were only single clouds in the sky. We hoped that this would, however, make us remember Kyoto not only through the prism of rain-slicked temples and chrams.
The first point on the map was the Buddhist temple complex of Kiyomizu-dera. Built on a hill, it draws crowds not only because of the buildings here, but also because of the sweeping panorama of all of Kyoto. The point that attracts the most visitors is the wooden platform located just outside the main pavilion, 13 meters above the wooded hill.
Unlike earlier in the day, the weather was even perfect for admiring the city from above.
Kiyomizudera Temple was built in 780, and its name literally means the Temple of Pure Water. It was built on the Otowa hill, next to a waterfall (Otowa-no-taki) with crystal water, to which it owes its name. The current buildings are a reconstruction from 1633, and the complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The complex also features Jizō statues, which we wrote about here.
How to get to Kiyomizu-dera? The best way is by bus line 100 or 206 and get off at the Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi stop. From here you will still have a short walk uphill to reach the temple gate. At first the road is not very interesting, but when you enter Matsubara Dori, a pedestrian-only section, the atmosphere immediately changes.
There are old, low-rise buildings here, and along the road we are tempted by numerous stores and restaurants. On the one hand, it’s more pleasant than walking along narrow sidewalks, but on the other hand, it was another place where we got a full cross-section of Chinese (tfu, Japanese) products. Fact, many are typical, local and we can only hope that some are ‘made in Japan’.
Since we had little time, we covered the stretch between Kiyomizudera Temple and Nanzenji by bus despite the nice weather that encouraged walking. We recommend you take a walking tour, especially through the historic part of Higashiyama.
Nanzenji was built in the mid-13th century and was originally the villa of Emperor Kameyama, and was later changed to a Zen temple. As in Kiyomizudera, the buildings in Nanzen-ji were also destroyed and rebuilt.
The complex is entered through a large wooden Sanmon gate built in 1628 – it is open to visitors who can enjoy the view above the tree tops.
Something that surprised us most at the complex was the brick aqueduct! Built in the 19th-20th centuries, it was used to transport water and goods between Kyoto and Lake Biwa.
Nanzenji Temple is best reached by subway (Tozai line, Keage station) or city bus No. 5 (Nanzenji-Eikando-michi stop).
The real Japan
Although the descriptions of these two temples may seem short to you, it took us half a day to visit them, and we still didn’t see everything! We already had seats booked for a specific train, so unfortunately we couldn’t spend as much time in them as we would have liked.
So we returned to the main station in Kyoto. We had a moment to spare, so we had a quick ramen soup at one of the station’s many bars and then took comfortable seats on the train to Osaka. In Osaka, we changed to a slower train to the town of Fujinami to experience the real Japan, away from white collars and tourists.
The first thing that caught our eye already at the station where we disembarked was the lack of English subtitles. In larger cities, information was also provided in English, here there is only Japanese, so without thinking long we just followed the crowd.
The train station is smaller, less bloated with technology than the ones we saw in Tokyo and Kyoto. Calm, quiet, no one rushes to the train, there are no long queues (yes, there are not even marked lines, where to stand to the various cars ;) ) – one has the impression of being in another Asian country. We saw how life flows outside the metropolises, the buildings, schools, small temples and chrams.
Fortunately, we were no longer alone… We spent the whole evening and the morning of the next day with our family – we will leave this part of the trip just for ourselves :)