Japan

金閣寺 - The Golden Temple, Kyoto 金閣寺 - The Golden Temple, Kyoto

金閣寺 – Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto

Posted by on Feb 3, 2018 in Japan, Photography, Travel

Kyoto is brimming with temples of all shapes and sizes but one of the visual stand-outs is Kinkaku-ji, also known as The Golden Temple. The official name is Rokuon-ji  (‘ji’ Means temple) but hardly anyone calls it that. ‘Kinkaku-Ji’ translates directly as ‘Golden Temple’ and once you’ve visited it’s easy to see why the name sticks.

It’s a Buddhist Temple situated in fabulous gardens with sculpted paths and traditional gardens. You could easily be stepping back in time as you walk through the grounds and, as is usual for a temple, there’s a great feeling of serenity and peace about the place that gradually seeps into your bones as you stroll around.

There’s a lot of history to the main golden pavilion – it dates from before 1400 and survived intact until it 1950 when it was burnt to the ground by a monk. It was rebuilt (obviously) but the episode shocked Japan and was explored by Yukio Mishima in his novel ‘金閣寺’….. which is usually translated as ‘The Temple of the Golden Pavilion’. (See Note 1 below).

Back to The Temple…..

I got there very late in the day and just managed to squeeze in before the gates closed at 17:00.  I was pushed for time getting there so took a taxi as the temple itself isn’t very close to any of the metro stations. There are good bus connections – but i can recommend taking a taxi there to save energy and stress then simply taking a bus  or metro home  – especially on a hot humid day in summer when you really want to conserve energy in getting to where you want to be.

 

Kinkaku-ji, The Golden Temple

Kinkaku-ji, The Golden Temple

When you arrive and get through the paying gates you’re quickly presented with the Temple in all its glory. It sits to one side of a central lake known as Kyōko-chi (鏡湖池) – or ‘Mirror Lake’.

I figure i wasn’t there at the best time for photography since the view across the lake at this late hour now took in the setting sun and blew the sky out considerably. I guess if i had a tripod i could have used a reduced exposure on one frame to then brush in later. Tripods are not allowed here though…. and these pictures are single exposures with very little post production.

The Temple looks surreal enough as it is without some kind of hideous HDR treatment … and foliage never responds well to high dynamic ranges. In short  the pictures look surreal enough without any processing so here is The Temple and the Grounds in all its single exposure glory.

Kinkakuji - The Golden Temple

Kinkakuji – The Golden Temple

Admission is 400 Yen  (about £2.50 ) which is very reasonable when compared to similar attractions in Europe and especially The UK where the National Trust charges an arm and a leg to visit old country houses just so its directors can fly around in helicopters, take first class trains tickets and eat croissant all day.

Back to Japan….. Getting to the Temple from Kyoto Centre is not rocket science  – From the main Kyoto Rail Station there are plenty of well sign-posted buses that will bring you here. Kyoto is surrounded on all sides by large hills / mountains and Kinkaku-ji Temple grounds and gardens are placed right at the edge of the north west of the city where it borders the mountains.

Metro stations ‘Kitano Hakubai-Cho’, ‘Tojiin’, and  ‘Omuro Ninnaji’ are are all walkable and all on the same line – the Green ‘Keifuku Dentetsu-Kitano’ Line. You can get to one of these stations via metro and either walk or hail a taxi to the Temple. Every taxi driver knows the big sights of Kyoto and will take you to Kinkaku-ji with ease.

In High season though it can get pretty busy as with many of the main attractions the place is popular with every nationality as well as Japanese folk. In particular you can expect to be competing for a view with coach loads of Chinese tourists hell-bent on the perfect selfie with the Temple in the background. My advice is to let the coach party pass and then stroll  around at your own pace in the gap between large tourists parties. After all being part of a massive throng is not conducive to that feeling of Buddhist serenity and peace you are hoping to experience.

金閣寺 - Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple, Kyoto

金閣寺 – Kinkaku-ji

Walking by the side of the lake and up to the rear of the Temple Pavilion you get a closer view. As you can see here the sun is still strong and in the west  and blowing out the sky. It’s also lighting up the temple pretty spectacularly.

From here you walk through winding gravel paths that snake through the temple complex to reveal a variety of statues, steps, and smaller temples.

Buddhist Offerings

Buddhist Offerings

Coins litter the ground here in an offering to Buddha. There are many smaller such statues and a number of different viewpoints that take in the central lake. The paths and gardens are designed in such a way that new sights are offered up at intervals and the gardens reveal themselves to you gradually as you walk through them.

Steps lead the way

Steps lead the way

A Smaller Temple at Kinkaku-ji

A Smaller Temple at Kinkaku-ji

I was there at a late hour so the smaller temples were closed off – usually you can walk around the Temple pictured above and make an offering. In some ways it’s good to be there at closing time because it does calm down as people exit the complex… however it’s at the cost of some areas being shut. For my 400 Yen though the gardens and Main Temple were more than enough value.

White Snake Pagoda

White Snake Pagoda

Turn a corner and at the centre of the tranquility pond (Anmintaku), and framed by foliage, the stone White Snake Pagoda is revealed. It’s a shrine dedicated to ‘Hakuja’, (白蛇) the White Snake who controls the waters of the complex. At the base of the Pagoda there are four Buddhas – each carved into a face of the square – you can just about make them out here.

Gardens at Kinkakuji - The Golden Temple

Gardens at Kinkaku-ji (金閣) – The Golden Temple

gentle steps

Yet more gentle steps

Walking through the shaded woodland is a real treat, especially early morning or late afternoon when the heat of the day has subsided. Cicadas buzz incessantly here and the humidity makes your clothes stick to your body….this is something photographs can never capture. As a rule Japan is best to visit ‘between the extremes of high summer and deep winter, but whatever time of year you choose – it’s just a matter of adapting your timing to fit the weather. In summer, although the temperature really doesn’t drop too far in the night, it’s still cooler in the mornings, and you can get a lot of walking in before things really heat up.

Lantern Stone at Kinkaku-ji

Lantern Stone

The exit of the temple gardens is an obvious place for Taxi drivers to pick up fares… and you can find a taxi at the exit pretty easily. jump in a cab and make your way back to the centre of town. Kyoto is flanked on both sides (East & West) by rivers; Kamo Gawa (鴨川) to the East and  the broader, less channelled,  Katsura Gawa (桂川) to the West.

I find that that Kamo Gawa and its bridges makes for a great reference point and I often ask to be dropped at a bridge from where i can stroll back downtown along the path that follows the banks of the river. On a hot summers eve you can dip your toes in the cooling waters and folks often have barbecues and picnics here. I can’t think of a better (or cheaper) way to end a day in Kyoto than by dangling your feet in the water and watching the world go by.

鴨川

Kamo River, 鴨川 – Kyoto

If the idea of The Golden temple interests you, there’s a live Picture feed here.

 

 

Notes

1 – Mishima was an interesting guy….. a bit of a hangover from a feudal / warrior  way of thinking with some major hang-ups…. but then who’s perfect? He wrote a gazillion books and plays but I can easily recommend ‘The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea’ – it’s as fresh today as it was when first written and knocks the socks off some modern authors. If you think Ian McEwan invented a style – think again because Mishima was there 50 years before him. You may on the other hand find Mishimas masterpice tetralogy ‘Sea of Fertility’  to be heavy going…..

At least Mishima had the good grace to commit Seppuku after he thought he’d written everything he had to say….. instead of bothering us with crap novels and appearing on late night chat shows.

Tori Gates at the Inari Shrine, Kyoto Torii Gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto (Photo: Grant Pollard)

Hike up Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

Posted by on Sep 3, 2016 in Japan, Photography, Travel

Tori Gate at the Romon Gateway Entrance to the Inari Shrine

Entrance to the Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)
(Photo Grant Pollard)

One of those ‘must see’ sights in Kyoto is the walk (or hike) that takes in The Fushimi Inari Shrine Complex (伏見稲荷大社). This is a long and winding walkway that follows paths up and around the hill/mountain called Inariyama and If you plan on doing it all in summer then it’s best to go early morning as, although it’s not steep, the walk is long and undulating.

To get there take one of the frequent trains from Kyoto station to Inari Station on the JR Nara Line. The Stop is 2nd out from Kyoto and takes minutes.

The same Torii Gate at the Romon Gateway Entrance

Torii Gate at the Romon Gateway
(Photo Grant Pollard/Films.Gb)

Pretty much opposite the station exit  & the start is at the bottom of the Large hill/mountain that overlooks Kyoto called “Inariyama”. The entrance is fairly obvious – just look for the giant red Torii gates that form the entrance to the main Shrine at the Romon Gate.

Inari is the Shinto God of Rice, Sake, and generally business prosperity, hence this god is revered by business-folk and storekeepers. An interesting comparison in the Hindu pantheon would be the elephant god Ganesh who you find in any Indian shops and businesses.

Fushima Inari Shrine Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Shrine Kyoto
(Photo Grant Pollard/Films.Gb)

Make an offering at the main shrine then start walking uphill… through the first Torii gate which is guarded left and right, by Kitsune, the fox and messenger of Inari.

At the Foot of the Inari Shrine Kyoto

Kitsune At the Foot of the Fushimi Inari Shrine
(Photo Grant Pollard/Films.Gb)

These are not the only steps ….. get used to seeing them, however much of the steeper elements are offset by long stretches of very gently sloping pathways.

Torii Gates at the Inari Shrine, Kyoto

Torii Gates at the Inari Shrine, Kyoto
Photo by Grant Pollard/Films.Gb

Each red wooden gate is donated by a business and is made in the hope of ensuring prosperity and success for the enterprise.

In summer months it’s hot and humid so if you start early(wish) – say before 9.00am the air is likely to be cooler and there is much shade provided by the trees and torii gates themselves. There are thousands of them which leads to their name ‘senbon’ Torii – which literally means a “thousand’ Torii.

Senbon Tori Gates at the Inari Shrine, Kyoto

Senbon Torii Gates
(Photo Grant Pollard/Films.Gb)

Which way to go?…. actually it doesn’t matter …both paths lead to the top of the mountain.

View of kyoto from the Inari Shrine, Kyoto

View of kyoto from Yotsutsuji
(Photo Grant Pollard/Films.Gb)

Halfway to the top there’s a little resting area and a collection of small cafes and eating places. There is also a great view over Kyoto – just hope for a clear day. It’s a good idea to take a bottle of your own water with you…… then you don’t have to really on the next rest-stop.

A Lake at Fushima Inari Shrine Kyoto

Lake-side Inari shrine
(Photo Grant Pollard/Films.Gb)

Resting here by the lake is not a great idea in summer as there are many mosquitoes lurking and waiting to pounce. You can quickly lose the mozzies by moving onwards and upwards.

Kitsune Fountain

Kitsune Fountain
(Photo Grant Pollard/Films.Gb)

Kitsune fountain – the fox is Inari’s messenger and wears a red ‘bib’ to ward off bad spirits that may come from the East. There are plenty of smaller statutes that feature the fox dotted around the shrine complex – some hold keys in their mouths to indicate a key to the Granary or Rice Store.

Minor Shrine at Fushima

Minor Shrine at Fushimi
Photo Grant Pollard/Films.Gb

It’s important to purify your hands and before making an offering at a shrine – there are many little troughs filled with water and ladles are provided for the ritual.

Dragon Guards the Water at Inari

(Photo: Grant Pollard/Films.Gb)

Torii Gates lead downhill

Going Down….Torii Gates lead downhill
Photo Grant Pollard/Films.Gb

One thing pictures don’t provide is sound…. and the Cicadas are LOUD – something which really adds to the atmosphere of the place.

Inscribed stones at The Inari Shrine, Kyoto

Inscribed stones
Photo Grant Pollard/Films.Gb

The higher up, you get the less folk there are and the more peaceful and serene it becomes.

It’s all within woodland so the many Torii gates provide a home for the local beasties…

Tori Gates at the Inari Shrine, Kyoto

(Photo: Grant Pollard)

Paths diverge at Fushima Inari Shrine

Paths Diverge Again
Photo Grant Pollard/Films.Gb

A lot of welcome shade is provided by the trees and the Torii gates themselves, but beware the humidity in summer – and although it is a gentle enough walk around the mountain and shrine it can certainly take it out of you.

Kitsune at the Inari Shrine, Kyoto

Kitsune
Photo by Grant Pollard/Films.Gb

At the bottom of the mountain again and yet more Kitsune – who i have to say is a handsome beast. Not sure what this cat was doing at the bottom of the hill though…..

A Cat Sleeps

ZZZzzzzzzzZZZzzzzzz
Photo Grant Pollard/Films.Gb

This cat was so very still, from a distance i thought it might be made of stone, but it was simply dozing…. and drooling a little in the heat.

INARI Station

INARI Station – 2nd stop out from Kyoto on the JR Nara Line
Photo Grant Pollard/Films.Gb

Inari station is on the JR Nara line and trains are easy to catch from kyoto Station. The journey time to Inari is abut 5 minutes so really there’s no excuse not to go and walk at least a little way up the mountain….even if you don’t do the whole thing.

I went at about 7.30am in July and the heat & humidity were manageable. This early(ish) hour also meant the lower pathways were less crowded and process was easier. I strolled to the top and down before 9.00am and i took a fair time taking taking pictures and generally dawdling.