Linda & Rip Take On Japan! Day 4: Kyoto (cont…)

Maple Leaves and reflection at the Ryoan-ji Lake.

Our first full day in Kyoto coincided with the arrival of rain from the remnants of typhoon Vongfong. Fortunately, the rain held off until early afternoon and we made the most of our morning.  It was another early start and this time, we were powered by Japanese pastries- soy-dusted donuts, sweet potato donuts, etc.  I switched up the itinerary a bit and instead of going to Nijo Castle first, we decided to go to some temples and gardens since it wasn’t raining.  It had rained overnight so I thought the gardens would be especially verdant.

Looking good, feeling Zen! (SMS)

Rip and I, walking around Ryoan-ji (SMS)

 First, we went to Ryoan-ji.  This is one of my favorite temples in Kyoto.  The main feature of the temple is the Philosopher’s Garden, a rock garden consisting of 15 rocks in a gravel bed.  The existential crisis that this garden provokes is that, no matter where you sit, you can only see 14 of the rocks at any given time.  Although the temple is cool, I think the surrounding gardens are the highlight of the site.  The grounds are absolutely beautiful and meticulously groomed gardens and a gorgeous lake.  In the Spring, there are gorgeous, overhanging wisteria trellises.

Yay, family portrait! (SMS)

After strolling through the gardens, we went to the nearby Kinkaku-ji.  Here, the main attraction is definitely the gorgeous, gold-leaf covered temple.  It’s a beautiful building and quite striking against the vivid green of the landscape.  The lake is also its own rock garden with views designed to inspire contemplation.

Amazing coffee stop, right by Kinkaku-ji. (SMS)

Nijo Castle (SMS)

After the two temples, we headed over to Nijo Castle as we could tell our luck with the rain holding off was about to run out.  There, we walked through the outer Ninomaru Palace with the famous nightingale floors.  The uguisu-bari corridors are designed so that the floorboards rub against spikes underneath that create a nightingale bird sound to warn of intruders.  It seems to be especially squeaky if a person is trying to be quiet!  We also saw the room where the shogun period ended with the signing of power back to the emperor.

Nijo Castle entrance bridge. (SMS)

We had our umbrellas with us so we walked around the palace grounds and over to the staircase that let us scale the large guard wall.  Then it was time for lunch!  We went to the Iyemon Salon restaurant, where I had been during my parents’ visit.  They had excellent lunch sets.  SMS was the winner with the mackerel set.  I had a tasty curry and Linda and Rip had the beef stew.

Afterwards, we headed back to the Machiya to hang out and relax.  The rain was coming down pretty hard and we only ventured out for dinner.  We went to a nearby izakaya where SMS showed off his mastery of navigating a menu written only in Japanese.  He did great, we all ate and everyone was very happy!

All pictures in this post by SMS!

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