Kami Watch Over Me (Japan Day 21 – Kyoto)

Friday, Nov 11 2022 (Day 21)

Table of Contents

ට  Day 0 – Thursday, Oct 20 2022 to Friday Oct 21 2022 – Flight from Edmonton to Tokyo
ට  Day 1 – Saturday, Oct 22 2022 – Tokyo, Saitama, Ikebukuro
ට  Day 2 – Sunday, Oct 23 2022 – Autumn Reitaisai 9, Shinjuku
ට  Day 3 – Monday, Oct 24 2022 – Akihabara
ට  Day 4 – Tuesday, Oct 25 2022 – Hakone
ට  Day 5 – Wednesday, Oct 26 2022 – Kamakura, Enoshima Island, Enoshima Shrine
ට  Day 6 – Thursday, Oct 27 2022 – Hannō
ට  Day 7 – Friday, Oct 28 2022 – Shinkoiwa
ට  Day 8 – Saturday, Oct 29 2022 – Akihabara, Matsudo City
ට  Day 9 – Sunday, Oct 30 2022 – M3-2022秋, Moto-Yawata
ට  Day 10 – Monday, Oct 31 2022 – Akasaka, Shimokitazawa, Shibuya Halloween
ට  Day 11 – Tuesday, Nov 01 2022 – Shinjuku, Sophia University
ට  Day 12 – Wednesday, Nov 02 2022Sophia University, Kabukichō
ට  Day 13 – Thursday, Nov 03 2022 – Shinjuku Loft
ට  Day 14 – Friday, Nov 04 2022 – Shinjuku, Hanazono/Asakusa Tori no Ichi, Sensōji
ට  Day 15 – Saturday, Nov 05 2022 – Nagano, Zenkōji
ට  Day 16 – Sunday, Nov 06 2022 – Ueda Sanada Matsuri, Ueda City, Sanada Shrine, Nagano
ට  Day 17 – Monday, Nov 07 2022 – Zenkōji, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward
ට  Day 18 – Tuesday, Nov 08 2022 – Otsu, Omi Jingu
ට  Day 19 – Wednesday, Nov 09 2022 – Fushimi Inari, Kasho​ji, Tofukuji, Shōrinji
ට  Day 20 – Thursday, Nov 10 2022 – Ōhara, Sanzenin, Arashiyama
ට  Day 21 – Friday, Nov 11 2022 – Kiyomizu, Ryōzen Kannon, Yasaka Shrine (You are here)

Morning and Seikanji Temple

One thing about staying with Akira in this rural, out of the way Kyoto house of his — it’s too comfortable. Despite coming back fairly early most days, I fell a couple days behind in blog-writing here because it’s so comfortable that I completely caught up on sleep here doing 6-8 hours a night, and also because I’m not dancing solely to my own schedule, and my mornings are taken with breakfast and getting ready to go out. Also, my JR Pass isn’t getting much use because he’s driving me everywhere. It’s not better or worse, but rather it’s different, a different style and experience of vacation and one that I am glad that I got a chance to experience. I am a little worried that this will be like when I met Jah in New Orleans during my USA trip last year around this time though, and how I felt a bit lonely and homesick after parting ways with him.

Also, I forgot to mention this in yesterday’s blog, but it turned out that Akira didn’t go to Ōhara to buy vegetables like I thought he was, but flowers — he bought a bunch of dried flowers, some of which went into a vase by the front door, some of which went into a vase into my room, and who knows where else. How nice of him. He also bought some fresh flowers that went into a vase in the kitchen. He said that the dried flowers only cost a couple hundred yen and would last a full year. I wonder about driving all the way there just to buy some flowers though. Seemed like an excuse to take me to see somewhere strange and new instead! But hey, it was a neat experience, even if I disliked the premium access temples.

Akira drove me to the Fresco supermarket and the nearby bakery once again this morning, for the fourth day in a row. It’s become a firm habit by now. I’ve taken a picture of the outside of the supermarket, and the inside of the bakery, but not the outside of the bakery, so here goes. The name of the bakery is Little Stone, a little franchise that seems to have about half a dozen locations around Kyoto and the Kansai region.

This was breakfast. I messed up and ordered a repeat bread even though I was trying not to do so. Akira even warned me about it and I didn’t recognize the repeat bread until I saw pictures while writing the blog later on. This is because I hate bread and refuse to devote any sort of memory storage slot to it, I think. What was I just talking about again?

Today, he had planned out an itinerary for me that started at nearby Kiyomizu Temple, for which he said he’d drive me up to the back door of, but before that he was going to show me where he was going to pick me up at the end of the day, one street over from the end of the famous Nishiki Market, or Nishiki Ichiba, which I had expressed interest in walking down during the day before all the stores closed.

On the way, we passed by this enormous torii gate belonging to the Heian Jingu Shrine.

It stands by Okazaki Park, where a handicrafts market called the Heian Raku Ichi Market was being held. According to the website, it supposedly was a two-day market, and held about 80 vendors today, but would hold about 200 tomorrow, on Saturday. I was originally planning to visit this today, but after talking with Akira, he said he’d bring me here tomorrow before I left for Osaka instead, as my schedule today was already packed on top of there being less vendors today. He still took me by the place to see it though (and make sure it was actually running).

He then took me over to Nishiki Market about a 30 minute ride away from his house, and which was my last stop on today’s walk. He made sure I knew where to meet him at 5:30 pm, and then drove me all the way back to Kiyomizu Temple, which was only about 10 minutes from his house. He dropped me at a back path behind the temple, on its southern end, accessed from the end of a mountainous road with barely any travellers on it at all. However, I felt like this was cheating, again, so once he dropped me and drove off back home, I backtracked a little ways back down the road as I had noticed a small shrine we had passed by along the way. This was Seikanji Temple, and it had a suspicious little forest trail leading up to it.

It wasn’t very long before it turned into a proper set of stairs leading up to the temple though. There was a little donation box at the entrance asking for a 100 yen donation to enter the grounds, and I entered behind another lost Caucasian tourist who had somehow found his way here. He didn’t pay the fee, but I did, somewhat grudgingly, though this also meant that I tossed a measly 10 yen into the prayer box instead of the usual 100 yen afterwards.

I didn’t pick up a goshuin at this temple as I didn’t see one on display and never found any attendant to talk to, though there certainly was someone in the house that was attached to the temple. Instead, I got these pictures:

I’m not sure if Tigey was allowed on this “Stone of the Gods”, or Kanameisi, but all the sign said was to please not stand on it, and while three sides of the stone was fenced off, the fourth wasn’t, so I reasoned that people were allowed to touch it. So Tigey did. I’m sure the temple brochure explained about the shrine and stone and any proper procedures revolving around using it, but that brochure also cost 100 yen and I was unwilling to pay that. If I wasn’t supposed to let Tigey touch the stone, then probably don’t gate that information behind 100 more yen.

Kiyomizu Temple

I then went back up the path that he had driven me, and indeed ended up by a pagoda thing on the back side of Kiyomizu Temple. There was barely anyone else here, which was a surprise. A local secret!

However, from a platform, I and the couple other tourists that had wandered this way could see a throng of people on another platform.

God, so crowded. However, I eventually made my way there and found that, according to voices I heard over a loudspeaker, while a decent portion of the throng were actual tourists, there were a LOT of students from various schools from other parts of Japan, Chiba and Tokyo and elsewhere. I realized that what I was seeing here were students on their field trip to Kyoto. A lot of them were in the temple, some were moving as large groups, others were moving in groups of four or five, and I’d see them all the way down from Kiyomizu to Yasaka and all the parks and streets in between too.

Anyway, I didn’t take a whole ton of other pictures of Kiyomizu as I didn’t stay for too long, there were just too many people overall. There were some interesting things, like a really long line of people queueing up to use long ladles to collect water gushing from a manmade waterfall about three feet past a fence by which they were standing and reaching over, and then using the gathered water to cleanse their hands (and occasionally mouth) in the sacred water. Looked mildly interesting, but I didn’t bother with that long line. I did collect one goshuin from here, from the Honen Sacred Site office or something up near the top of the temple.

It’s funny, because I was walking in from the back door of the temple, I was walking “against the flow” of the people for most of my journey through Kiyomizu, and for a temple themed after water (mizu), it was interesting to be against the flow like this. I eventually hit a part of the temple that required some sort of an admission ticket to enter though, so I skipped past that part and joined a crowd headed back to the front of the temple. And here’s a small, general gallery of the busy part of the temple, and then the streets leading away from it, which were very nice (and also packed with students and tourists).

Ryōzen Kannon

My pre-planned route took me from Kiyomizu Temple to the nearby Yasaka Shrine, about a 15 minute walk away. Both of which were incredibly crowded, not to mention the quaint little streets and parks between them. This was one of the prime tourist areas in Kyoto, after all, with maps showing nearby tourist attractions mounted on signboards here and there. Craving some silence, I went a little bit out of the way, and came across this little scene.

Now that’s a statue! That definitely enticed me in, especially once I found out that this shrine, the Ryōzen Kannon, was dedicated to Kwanyin, the (Chinese) Goddess of Mercy that my parents follows (and I highly respect, even if I don’t completely follow, or know what it means to follow). There was apparently also a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier sort of memorial to World War 2 victims here, although I didn’t actually find it (the link above has pictures, though).

This entrance fee was 300 yen, but came with some incense sticks to make a prayer with at a large prayer bowl on the shrine grounds, and the entire place was not only photo-friendly but also apparently touch-friendly, so I did pay the fee and enter this one.

Among other things, there was a giant ball that you could make a wish upon, then circle it three times with your hand on the ball to make your wish come true, and also a ladder leading up to a passageway inside that giant Buddha with thirteen or fourteen more statues/guardian angels inside. There was a main shrine inside where I got another goshuin from, and a room with artifacts that was marked Buddhists Only — I’m not sure if that was actually monks-only, or if that included Buddhist visitors too, but I didn’t think that I would count for that either way so I did not enter it. Could see most of it from the outside, anyway. There was also a giant slab of stone with the image and impression of the Buddha’s footprints on it, and prior visitors had placed 100 yen coins where some of the toes were, likely as a form of prayer. It was a very neat and serene shrine.

Yasaka Shrine

My last shrine/temple (I’m still not fully aware of the difference) of the day was Yasaka Shrine, and this was a significant shrine because it’s where the lucky protection charm on my bag, which my sister had gotten for me when she returned to Edmonton from Japan a couple years ago, was from. Apparently these are supposed to be renewed once a year or so, with the old one brought back to the temple to be discarded and replaced with a new one (in exchange for some $$ of course). I did not believe in getting rid of the old charm though, but I certainly did go there with the intention of getting a new charm. And a goshuin.

But first, there was a park I had to cross, and a bridge leading over a pond where a nice heron was posing on a rock for the grateful onlookers to snap pictures of it (or snap pictures of people snapping pictures of it).

I then arrived at the shrine, which was a large, open-air area with three long lines of worshippers leading to what I can only call a really long money trough of an altar. This was a significant waypoint on my journey, however, so I joined the line and made a donation and wish, ringing the bell and rope to summon the kami before bowing and clapping.

There was also a large stage area, similar to what I had seen in Fushimi Inari, and a couple of buildings on the side of the temple grounds — I found one window with an attendant to get my goshuin at, and another to buy the protective charms from. I found the exact same pink styled one that I had already, but I opted for a green one this time to differentiate it. I then attached both to my main travel bag later that night.

There were also, surprisingly, a couple of festival-like food stalls nestled up against Yasaka Shrine. I grabbed a Curry Cheese Chikuwa from one of the trucks for 300 yen. It was… interesting.

Lunch/Dinner

My next stop after Yasaka Temple was Gion, basically a quaint, traditional neighbourhood of interesting shops and roads that took up several city blocks west of Yasaka and east of the Kamo(gawa) River. I had lunch here in a cute little restaurant named Issen Youshoku, with a risque little mannequin scene by the front door and geisha mannequins seated at each table.

Obviously I couldn’t pass up a Tigey shot here.

Very cute, Tigey, very cute. This shop served exactly one food item, an okonomiyaki-like dish named Issen Youshoku, and it apparently is at least mildly famous, judging by the number of Google hits for it. It was a mishmash of different ingredients but tasted quite good.

They also had “sweet sauce”, “hot sauce”, and “very hot sauce”, but even the very hot one basically did nothing for me, I could feel the smallest of tingles on the tongue and that was it.

I was thankful for this store though, as most of the other food shops in the area were comparatively pricey. I continued walking through Gion after this, then headed west of the river toward Nishiki Market.

I reached Nishiki Market at around 3:00 pm, though by this point it was somewhat ho-hum to me, I’d already been there three times, although far more stores were still open now than the previous two times that I had been here. Still though, there weren’t as many vendor stalls open and selling fresh food to passersby as I had hoped, and the food was kind of pricey, on top of everything else. I bought a couple things, including these yummy fried butter scallops for a whopping 500 yen:

And, later on, these strawberry koshian, two of the red things on the near side of the middle shelf here, to share with Akira, for 250 yen a piece:

I wasn’t really in a mood for more overpriced street food though, so I wandered off, touring the surrounding area and wondering if anyone would ever take a haircut in a hairdresser’s shop called Oops!

I entered a second hand/specialty clothes shop and ended up picking up a nice sweater and a nice reusable bag for just under 4500 yen, then hung around a bit until Akira came by to pick me up.

He wanted to pick me up early today because he also wanted to check out the second basement level of the department store, where he had directed me the previous day to look for cheap food, to see with his own two eyes that cheap sushi was nowhere to be found. We parked at JR Kyoto Isetan’s carpark (on the fourth level, in parking lot 471, I remember this because the number is mildly significant to me), and we checked out the sushi section of the department store as well as the small one on the deli side. But, nothing.

He went up to buy $50 worth of sake so that his parking would become free, while I stayed down there to monitor the chefs going around, and I noted that they did put “100 yen off” and “200 yen off” stickers on various sushi bento boxes ranging from about 800 yen up till about 1500 yen in price or so, but those were often snapped up pretty quickly by other people. There were some items that didn’t sell as quickly, but they didn’t ever lower the price any lower that we saw. We stayed around there from about 5:50 pm to about 6:30 pm, before agreeing that sushi bento boxes for that low of a discount wasn’t really worth it, and that it wasn’t going to get any better, so at this point I just went to buy more bento sides from yet another little store in the deli half of the second basement. Things like this caused my Kyoto food intake to end up being just varieties of bento boxes for something like 10/15 of my meals in the city, but oh well.

Shinkansen Running Total

I have a 21-day JR Pass that kicked in on Nov 05 and should last until the end of my trip on Nov 25. It cost $568 CAD, which cost around 61,769.08 yen, as per Google as of the first writing of this section. So I was curious and wanted to keep a running total — was this thing actually worth it?

That’s what I hope to find out with this section. For the full explanation blurb on this, check this corresponding section of the Day 15 blog post.

Trips

ට  Nov 05 2022 – Asama 611 (Tokyo to Nagano) – U: 7810, R: 8340
ට  Nov 06 2022 – Hakutaka 556 (Nagano to Ueda) – U: 1470, R: 2790
ට  Nov 06 2022 – Asama 615 (Ueda to Nagano) – U: 1470, R: 2790
ට  Nov 07 2022 – Kagayaki 509 (Nagano to Kanazawa) – 8920 (reserved seats only)
ට  Nov 07 2022 – Thunderbird 24 (Kanazawa to Kyoto) – U: 6490, R: 6820
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Kosei Line (Kyoto to Otsukyo) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Kosei Line (Otsukyo to Kyoto) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Nara Line (Kyoto to Inari) – 150 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Nara Line (Inari to Kyoto) – 150 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 09 2022 – JR Nara Line (Tofukuji to Kyoto) – 150 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 10 2022 – JR Sanin/Sagano Line (Saga-Arashiyama to Kyoto) – 240 (unreserved seats only)

Running Total

Unreserved: 27,330 yen
Reserved: 30,830 yen

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