On the last day of our three-day Kyoto trip from Tabee Japan, we decided to take it easy and head for just two of Kyoto’s many famous sightseeing spots — Kinkakuji or the Golden Pavilion, and Ryoanji and its famous zen rock garden. Inspite of the overcast skies, Kinkakuji shone like a beacon of light. The temple’s golden walls were reflected from the surrounding pond, while Japanese cranes flitted from rock to rock. It was nearly impossible to take a bad photo, and if you did then it’s your own damn fault.
Much like Kiyomizudera, Kinkakuji had its own rest stops adorned with red umbrellas. We decided it was as good a place as any for a quick snack, so we popped a squat under one of their outdoor seats for some green tea and wagashi sweets. Chowing down is turning out to be a temple ritual for us, so we tucked in without any reservations.
Before exiting the temple complex, we chanced upon a row of omikuji or Japanese fortunes in vending machine form. This was pretty awesome since the fortunes were dispensed automatically, without having to use a shaker box. Also, the fortunes dispensed came in a variety of other languages besides Japanese — there were separate machines for fortunes in English, Chinese, and Korean. Progress!
After Kinkakuji, it was a quick five minute bus ride (or a twenty minute walk mostly uphill) to Ryoanji to visit their famous karesansui or rock garden. At Ryoanji, we were delighted to find out that the (relatively) warm weather had encouraged some of their sakura trees to start blooming. However, it was just a preview of things to come, as apparently the temple is a prime viewing spot when sakura season arrives in Kyoto.
According to Zen Buddhism, only the truly enlightened can see all fifteen stones of the rock garden from a single spot. I am apparently not as enlightened as I wish to be as I counted only fourteen from where I was seated on the garden’s veranda. I consoled myself by shopping for omamori and other trinkets from the temple store — Ryoanji offers some of the more affordable omamori in Kyoto, as well as a more varied line of votive souvenirs including patterned handkerchiefs and lovely Buddhist prayer books.
We finished the day with a leisurely bus ride back to our hotel to claim our suitcases, have one last bowl of Kyoto’s famous udon, and catch our Nozomi Shinkansen for Tokyo. As the train pulled out of the station, we were already planning our next trip. Kyoto is always a joy, and we always find something astonishing and new with every visit.