Day trip to Kyoto(2)-Ginjkaku-Ji and Kinkaku-ji(+a bit of Fushimi Inari)

Before I talk about those two confusing name temples, I want to talk about one of the most special and unique foods in Kyoto.

After my sister and I finished touring Kiyomizu-dera, we headed to Gion to look for lunch place. Then, we found a restaurant with people queuing outside of the restaurant. We thought it would be a good place since there were some locals taking out their foods from the restaurant. The name of the restaurant is Izuju and this place is famous for mackerel sushi(Saba sushi), one of the special dishes in Kyoto. Izuju is one of the oldest sushi places in Kyoto. After half an hour waiting, we finally got inside of the restaurant.

You know, when you think of mackerel, it’s kind of a fish that has likes and dislikes especially in Western countries. It smells stronger than many fishes.We were thinking it’s quite adventurous to try it at first so we ordered mixture boxed sushi(hako sushi), Inari sushi(Fried tofu sushi) and Saba sushi.


sushiSaba sushi has a think layer of mackerel on top rolled with kelp to keep it fresh. When it comes to eating mackerel, I always grilled or steamed mackerel and it’s really the first time to try raw mackerel.  When I tried it, I regretted that I should have ordered more of it. Mackerel sushi has a rich and unique flavor that I’ve never experienced before. The think texture accentuated this unique flavor.

We walked along Gion street for a while and then we took a bus to go Ginkakuji-temple.


The path on the way to the temple is called “Philosopher’s path”. philisopher

Since it’s January, only barren trees welcomed visitors. It was one of the moments that we thought it would be really beautiful when cherry blossoms bloom in spring.

I found this photo from Japan Guide website. Isn’t this beautiful!

The route is so-named because the influential 20th-century Japanese philosopher and Kyoto University professor Nishida Kitaro is thought to have used it for daily meditation. It was more quite than Sannen-zaka and Ninnen-zaka with less souvenir stores. Although it became a bit more touristy than the time when prof. Kitaro enjoying taking walk along this way, I would love to take a walk at least several times a week around here.

After half an hour walk along this path, we got to Ginkakuji-temple



japanese garden



Entering the temple, the quintessential  Japanese Garden was waiting for visitors. I thought it was more like Buddhist temple but I felt it would be a good place to meditate walking through this garden.  In fact, Ginkakuji-temple(“Temple of the Silver Pavilion”) is more Zen temple. Ginkaku-ji was originally built to serve as a place of rest and solitude for the Shogun. During his reign as Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa inspired a new outpouring of traditional culture, which came to be known as Higashiyama Bunka (the Culture of the Eastern Mountain). Having retired to the villa, it is said Yoshimasa sat in the pavilion, contemplating the calm and beauty of the gardens.



Even these simple strokes depicting a mountain is quintessentially Eastern.


Behind the garden, there is a small hill. On the way to the top of the hill, you can see this cute waterfall in a pond. Japanese garden often describes the miniature of nature and it’s the perfect example.


There were a lot of tall bamboo tress as well. My sister and I were thinking “well, maybe we can skip Arashi-yama” after watching this.

ginkakuji view

It’s the view from the top of the hill. As you can see, Kyoto is surrounded with layers of mountain and it’s hard to spot tall buildings. As Kyoto is symbol of traditional city in Japan, Japanese people don’t build skyscrapers in this city.


Actually, these trees are relatively short ones. Using different angles, it looks like bushy forest with full of moss. Moss is usually overlooked grass for most of the people, but I think Japanese people know how to appreciate the small beauty of moss that they smartly used moss to decorate as a background.

After looking around, we checked the time. It was around 3:45. Most of famous spots closes around 5 and we wanted to see one more in Kyoto. We heard Kinkaju doesn’t take a long time to look around and it’s not very far from where we were so our next destination was Kinkaku- ji.


I know it sounds really similar with Ginkaku-ji but it means different. Ginkaku-ji means “Temple of the Silver Pavilion” and Kinkaku-ji is “Temple of the Golden Pavilion”. When I was in high school, one of my classmates told me “Kinkaku-ki” is kind of so-so and not many things to look around. As some Japanese novelists appreciate the beauty of Kinkaku-ji, I was curious and wanted to see it in person. Unlike Ginkaku-ji, the way to the temple wasn’t really long at all. The photos of Kinkaku-ji often have more reputation as Japanese architects than other temples so it was quite crowded with people from many parts of the world.

Kikaku ji

Yup, this is it! When we got there, the weather became cloudy but you can see the golden temple is quite shiny. Like Ginkaku-ji, Kinkaku-ji was also the retirement villa of the shogun in 1397. It’s different shoguns, by the way. But Ashikaga family must have loved retirement villa with trees. Plus, it’s interesting to see personal taste of the villa.


Fushimi Inari Shrine


Unlike many destinations in Kyoto, the shrine is located the south of Kyoto central station. We headed back to Kyoto station from Kinkaku-ji and the bus was completely packed. It was lucky for us to get seats in the bus for 30 minutes. It is very similar what I saw in Seoul during rush hour.

Anyway, in order to go to the shrine, you should take the Nara line toward Joyo and took off at Fushimi Inari station. It only takes two stations.

From our plan, we left this place as the last destinations in Kyoto as it opens 24 hour. But it wasn’t crowded as it’s very dark outside.

fushimi inari

<Small temple near the entrance of the shrine> 

When you get there, you will see many fox statues. In Japanese indigenous religion, fox is a messenger.

fushimi inari night

<The shrine at night>

Plus, it was really scary for me that my phone suddenly turned off because of the low battery and my sister’s phone was running out of battery as well so we didn’t spend here for a long time. This red structure(torii) continues to the top of the mountain and it takes two hours to the mountain according to the information from the shrine. Family name and the time they built torii are carved for each torii.

There only a few people on the way in the dark and this place gave atmosphere as if there are many spirits wandering around.It was a little scary reminding of haunting Japanese movie but it was also a good chance to enjoy this place without surrounding with other tourists.  I imagined it would be perfect when we visit here during sunset. After walking a little bit, we went down to go back to Kyoto station.

It’s dinner time and we were hungry after walking whole day. It’s time to say good bye to Kyoto. Kyoto for day trip was short but we are happy that we managed to see almost all the tourist attraction that we wanted to go. Besides going to the sightseeing place, Kyoto is a place where walking random streets are another joy.


Day trip in Kyoto(1)-Kiyomizu-dera

If you want to experience Old Japan atmosphere, Kyoto is the best fit for you! My sister and I went to Osaka & Kyoto from January 6th and January 10th this year. As my sister wants to see more cosmopolitan atmosphere in Japan, she wasn’t interested in visiting Kyoto as much as I was. However, after this day trip, she also fell in love with Kyoto.

I recommend to spend at least one night. There are many attractions that Kyoto offers! Kyoto would be beautiful in any season but I wish I could visit there again in Spring when there are a lot of cherry blossoms.

As we planned a day trip, we had to be efficient as possible. So we left our airbnb place in Osaka around 7am. We took the train from Shin Osaka station for about one hour. It was not bullet train so it was a good chance to see suburban area around Osaka and Kyoto. After arriving at Kyoto Central station, we got Kyoto bus pass for one day and it costs Y500. In Kyoto, although there’s a subway, the most convenient way to explore is taking bus. Our first destination is Kiyoumizu-dera and the bus heading there was really crowded with tourists.


We took the bus for 15 minutes and got to the street heading to the destination. You have to walk a bit to go to the Kiyomizu-dera temple. The old streets to Kiyomizudera are called Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka. 


<Sannen-zaka-there are a lot of souvenir shops and snack bars>


<Random streets along the way>

Sannen-zaka and ninnen-zaka are full of shops with pretty Japanese souvenirs and snacks and it was so tempting that we wanted to get all the stuffs!

Then, we got to Kiyomizu-dera!


This would be one of the first buildings that you will encounter after you passed the entrance. It’s quite interesting to see the way they painted the temple buildings. Usually, Koreans don’t paint wooden part of the building in buddiest temple in this orage-ish color. It was a little strange for me but it also very distinctive, or different from other countries in East Asia.


On the side part of the temple, you can also see there are some indigenous Japanese culture ingrained with Buddhist culture. In the first picture,  you can see traditional Japanese shrine entrance. In the second picture, there is a small spot that you can pray for your well-being and there are two foxes instead of buddism statue.

kiyo3This is inside of the main hall in the temple. It might be the oldest architect in the temple. So, I was curious how old Kiyomizu-dera is. What I found about it is that Kiyomizu-dera is about 1,200 years old! According to what I googledKiyomizu-dera was founded in the early Heian period in 778 and its present buildings were constructed in 1633, ordered bythe third shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty. Believe it or not,there is not a single nail used in the entire structure. It takes its name from the waterfall within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills. Kiyomizu means clear water, or pure water.

In Kiyomizu-dera, there were a lot of young Japanese people wearing Kimono,traditional Japanese garment. I used to have Korean traditional outfit when I was really young but now I don’t have it. Someday, I would wanna walk around old part of Seoul wearing the traditional outfit.


This is how main building looks like. There is an interesting story about this building. The popular expression “to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu” is the Japanese equivalent of the English expression “to take the plunge”.This refers to an Edo period tradition that held that, if one were to survive a 13m jump from the stage, one’s wish would be granted. 234 jumps were recorded in the Edo period and, of those, 85.4% survived. I was a little bit tempted to try to make my wishes come true but the practice is now prohibited.



And here is the picture taken in November from Wikipedia. Maple trees really go well with this building! Unluckily, this perfect spot is now under construction so I had to take the picture of it in different angle.


from below

On the way down back to Sannen-zaka and Ninnen-zaka, you can see how building were able to be constructed without single nails.



Along the way down, there was a water fountain. A lot of people from many parts of the world were queuing to drink some sips of this water.  You know, who doesn’t want to be lucky? I guess that is one of the most universal aspects.



Then, my sister and I met these three cute stone family with cute red aprons. And the middle one got a red hat,too! What a fashionista 🙂

We arrived back to Sannen-zaka and Ninnen-zaka and we had some souvenir shopping time. Afterward, we headed to Gion street for lunch.


[To be continued]

Osaka castle and the turning point

On early January in 2017, my sister and I went to short trip to Osaka and Kyoto. One of the most tourist spots I wanted to visit in the trip was Osaka castle because I really like reading war history novels like Sanguo(korean:Sam Kuk Ji, Japanese: Sankoku) and Sengoku era history novels.My favorite Japanese novel is ‘Tokugawa Ieyasu’ by Yamaoka Sohochi. The book entails Tokugawa Ieyasu’s life and other Daimyō(Japanese feudal lords) during Sengoku era when Japan was in turmoil with a lot of wars among Daimyō.

Here is a bit of history about the castle and it’s part of the story in the novel. Oda Nobunaga rose as the most powerful Daimyō in the late 16th century and his ambition was unifying Japan under his rule. However, before he accomplished his dream, his general rebelled against him and eventually he killed himself in Honno-Ji. Toyotomi Hideyoshi was also one of Oda’s generals seeking vengeance for the death of his beloved lord and he eventually succeeded Oda after he got rid of the rebel against his lord in 1582. In 1583, he built Osaka castle and the castle was invincible with two layer moats.

So my sister and I got to the nearest subway station and walked to the castle for 20 minutes. The castle is located on the higher part of the land so you have to climb a little bit.


This is the inner moat that still has water in it. From reading the book, it emphasized that how moats were well built against invasion and now I can see it!


While we were walking up to the castle, we also saw this big tree and decoration. The weather was rainy so it looks kind of desolate in the picture.


And here we are. Korea doesn’t have this multi-story castles at all and this one is at least five-story-castle. The castle looks clean so I guess it was renovated.

Inside of the museum was actually like museum about Sengoku era ,some Samurai armors, swords and folding screen arts.

top castle

It’s the view when you got to the highest floor in the castle. Now there are a lot of tall buildings but it must have been a lot of traditional Japanese houses and farms when the castle was just built. When there was a war against Tokugawa Ieyasu, Toyotomi’s clan could have seen cruel scene of wars where a lot of people were killed.


As I mentioned earlier, there were some exhibitions about Osaka castle. This one is about Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 which is a major turning point in Japanese history. Tokogawa Ieyasu won over the son of Hideyoshi and eventually opened his era, “Edo period(Edo jidai)”

This is the most featured folding screen paintings in the castle. We can see it’s pretty universal that the most affected war victims are not soldiers but ordinary people. Especially for women, it was likely to get raped in that circumstance.

In 1614,the Toyotomi clan rebuilt the castle and it is said that the clan wished them prosperous and cursed Tokugawa. It meant treachery against the shogunate, Tokugawa. Tokugawa attacked Toyotomi in the winter, starting the Seige of Osaka from 1614 and 1615. Although the Toyotomi forces were outnumbered approximately two to one, they managed to fight off Tokugawa’s 200,000-man army and protect the castle’s outer walls. Although Tokugawa won but he felt he needed to stop the war for a while since it’s winter and they were running out of food.Ieyasu had the castle’s outer moat filled by negotiation that he won’t invade the castle for a while.

In April 1615, Ieyasu received word that Toyotomi Hideyori (son of Hideyoshi) was gathering even more troops than in the previous November, and that he was trying to stop the filling of the moat.In the end, Tokugawa won and he got rid of all Toyotomi’s clan. Now the center of Japan became compeltely Tokyo, not Osaka &Kyoto area anymore.

After touring the castle, I was wondering what if the son of Hideoyoshi didn’t agree to fill the moat?  What if  Hideyori just obeyed Tokugawa and satisfied with lower status? What if Tokugawa lost in Battle of Sekigahara? What if Hideyoushi didn’t have a son? There were a lot of “what-if” questions emerged in my brain. Every choice can make differences. In this case, it became the turning point of Japanese history.

Either way, the history has always been written by the winner.