The last time we were in Japan we ended a long hot day of a fantastic river trip in this little town which we saw a bit of and then hopped the train back to Kyoto. All we had seen that time was a pretty place of tourist shops—and we were quite tired!
Searching for a final day’s excursion we decided to give Arashiyama another try. I swore I had seen enough temples for a lifetime, that they were all beginning to run together, but we didn’t have a better idea so hopped on the train and 15 minutes later were there. After reinterpreting the tourist map near the station, which of course had North pointing down, we started in on a recommended walking tour. The first stop was Tenryo-ji and paid the $8 to see both the temple and the garden, an extremely famous and popular spot that was, for an off season Saturday, full of tourists. Let’s see why it is so popular:
I could call this “suggested wallpaper/screen savers” and I suspect David and I will be rotating several of these for just that. While we were there we saw gardeners working, sitting or kneeling pulling up the tiniest weeds and raking up, with mini-bamboo rakes, the smallest leaves. Their care certainly shows. The north exit of the temple takes you right into the famous Bamboo Grove, which is pretty cool but was also filled with visitors taking pictures. We walked through but kept going, and as the route goes gently uphill, and the day was cool and a little drizzly, we were rewarded for our energy by ever dwindling fellow visitors.
We walked slowly up and up, peering into a few temples but moving on until we arrived at Jojakko-ji. This one made my top 5 or 6 of the trip. So quiet, with beautiful views back toward the city of Kyoto, a truly gorgeous main temple with stunning gold Buddhas, a mysterious-feeling cemetery and a bonus as we left (see video below the photos).
In the long view picture above, Kyoto Tower (a block from our hotel) is peeking up, but the misty day makes it impossible to see here–it is in that loop of branches right in the middle of the photo. I just loved this place–it was a little hard to leave and move on. And here was the completely unexpected surprise we came upon as we were walking out:
We were getting hungry and voila, an inexpensive noodle shop popped up a little way further up the hill and we ducked in for a bowl. Yummy, quick, and we were off.
The weather slowly improved as we decided to trek on to Adashino Nenbutsu-ji, almost to the top of the hill. The guidebook called this “rather unusual” and where the abandoned bones of paupers and 8000 stone images (which had been uncovered about 100 years ago, having been discarded or buried, unclear) were dedicated to their spirits. Lonely Planet said “not a must see” but “interesting.” We beg to differ on the category. This was one of the most moving, beautiful, holy places we have visited anywhere, with powerful and intense spirits.
We stayed for a while, then wandered down to the train station where we passed the unnamed, unremarkable shrine in the photos below, about a block before we found the station entrance.
So, who had the fantastic idea of going to Arashiyama? It was a magical, peaceful day and suitable end to our stay in Kyoto (end except for our third sushi engorgement…).