Day 4: Kyoto

Matsuda-san, pointing out his name on the temple donor wall

 Day 4 was a nice day because we left the tour guiding to someone else.  My XO and his awesome wife highly recommended 松田 和久 (Kazuhusa Matsuda) of Meet Us Kyoto as a tour guide.  He’s a retired banker.  He used to be the Kyoto Branch manager for a large Japanese bank.  For five years, he gave tours on the weekends only and kept it a secret from work.  Now he’s retired from banking but gives several tours a month, depending on how busy the tourist season is.

The main gate and aqueduct of Nanzen-ji

We met him at 0900 in the lobby of the hotel and had a cup of coffee before heading out.  The plan for the day was exploring the Eastern part of Kyoto by following the Philosopher’s Walk.  After that, we were going to go to Daitokuji, a complex of several smaller sub-temples.  Next, we were invited to a tea ceremony hosted by Matsuda-san’s wife and finally, we would get a tour of Nijo castle.  What a jam packed, awesome itinerary!

Nanzen-ji aqueduct

We took the subway from our hotel to the start of the Philosopher’s Walk.  There, we saw Nanzen-ji, an old Buddhist temple.  There was a really neat large wooden gate.  We explored the ground, including the European-inspired aqueducts.  We walked to the top and it was really beautiful and serene with the sound of flowing water.

Small shrine (Rokan-ji) along our walk with animal guardians.

Rokan-ji with the shiny copper roof and animal guardian.

We headed down the path for about a mile, and then went uphill to take a course parallel to the Philosopher’s Walk that was less touristy and had several cool temples.  We saw a neat temple (Rokan-ji, based on the map photo I took) with several animal guardian statues.  Matsuda-san actually donated to the temple to help replace the copper roof.  He thought it was “too shiny” but that it would fade over time.

Entrance to Honen-in
Gardens of Honen-in

Then, we walked some more (theme of the day) to Honen-in, with a beautiful garden and small lake.  There was also a small raked sand garden that was very tranquil.  Finally, we approached the end of the Walk at the Ginkaku-ji, or Silver Temple.  We loved this temple!  It was styled as a tea house and not silver, in fact, since the patron ran out of money before silver leaf could be applied.  The gardens are what completely captivated us though.  They were so gorgeous.  There was some mild drizzle that day which really made the green moss especially vibrant.

Sand Garden at Ginkaku-ji

Silver Temple (Ginkaku-ji) and grounds

After the walk, we headed to Daitokuji.  First, we had lunch at a yummy soba-ya.  While we were eating, I looked up and saw that Matsuda-san was profusely sweating.  I was nervous since he had said he was feeling under the weather that day.  He said he was fine and later, explained that he thought that’s when his fever broke because he felt much better!  He said, “Soba is my medicine!”

Koto-in

Daitokuji has lots of sub-temples and Matsuda-san brought us to his favorite, Koto-in.  There is a beautiful tea house with tatami mats and gorgeous moss garden.  Inside, there’s a lamp that marks the gravesite of the patron.  A back corner of the lamp is missing because the master liked the lamp so much, he damaged it rather than give it to a higher up that had requested it!  It sort of looked like every other stone lamp we had seen and when asked what was special about it, Matsuda-san said “It has a beautiful shape.”

Now, THESE are some lamps!

Next, we went to Matsuda-san’s house where his wife Noboku hosted a tea ceremony.  We were very nervous since we didn’t know what to and right before she gave Dad the tea cup (he was first, ha ha!), she let us know that the cup was a 400-year old antique.  Fortunately, none of us chipped or broke it!  Phew!

Nijo Gate and the source of the Nightingale Floor sound

Finally, we headed to Nijo Castle.  Two really cool things I learned is one, the hall that shows the feudal lords gathering is actually the room where the Shogun received and handed back power to the emperor (the two events were separated by several centuries).  It was amazing to see the room that had so much history, which was now filled with feudal lord mannequins.  Two, I saw how the Nightingale floors make the sound, with two metal spikes at the edge of several floorboards.  
It was a great day and we were pretty pooped.  Still, we found the energy to go to Gion Corner to watch a cultural show.  It’s a little cheesy, but it’s cool in that it shows dancing Maiko, which we wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.  We ended with dinner at Iyemon salon, a restaurant right next to our hotel.  It was delicious!  They had a nice mix of Japanese food and some Western dishes for some comfort.  We had an awesome grilled tofu dish that was sort of pizza-like, a seafood pasta gratin, grilled ginger pork and two orders of assorted tempura.  We had a wonderful dinner and then headed off to bed.

Oyasuminasai!

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