In October there are zero cherry blossoms, sigh. The description of the shrine sounded interesting and the bus we were taking to a temple was making a stop there, so we de-bused and took a look! [yes i know that de-bused isn't a word, but it should be! if you can de-plane, and de-camp, why can't you de-bus?]
A pleasant walk lined with trees covered in leaves rusty with the beginnings of fall. The grass grows long under the trees off the path and the city street noise seemed to funnel into the shrine. The path gradually took a bend to where there was a tori, and the most amazing thing occurred when we stepped through the first tori.
The sounds of the street were gone! Replaced by bird songs and breezes playing with the leaves. Hirano-jinja is a small shrine, but houses so much peacefulness that it floods every pore and cell. A few people came by to do a quick prayer before continuing with their day. The grounds not only hold an amazing amount of cherry trees, but one of the oldest camphor trees in Kyoto, around 400 years.
We have no idea the significance of this tree, damn us for not being able to read, or speak Japanese! But this cherry tree is a well cared for tree.
Jumping onto bus 205 we continued north to Kinkakuji Temple better known as The Golden Pavilion, one of the most famous landmarks in Kyoto, if not in all of Japan. As we walked up the path into the shrine we saw bus after bus after bus of tourists and school kids. We were having a leisurely stroll up the long path when we saw ahead of us people running to the entrance gate.
The crowds were unruly, noisy and out and out rude, pushing and shoving and yelling back and forth to each other about who knows what, as nearly every language on earth was available to our ears.
When we finally got close enough, by dent of being pushy, we were remarkably underwhelmed. Yes, the building on the upper half is covered in gold leaf, and yes the reflecting pond did it's job well by reflecting the gold shine into the water, but the whole experience left us with a giant, meh. Could it have been the crowds that left us being less than impressed? Or maybe it was the fact that it was just another temple in a long line of temples? There has been only two temples that we felt a presence at, and it wasn't this one.
If you do ever go to Kyoto, and want to experience Kinkakuji for yourself, be there at 9 am when the gates open, the tour buses don't show up until 10 am.
Just an arty pic of a water grotto...
Wandering around for several hours left us starving. Fresh air and elbowing your way through crowds will do that. Leaving us to wander around the main street looking at all the displays of "plastic food" that are so helpful to tourists who don't read Japanese.
Noodles, no....shrimp! oh hellz no. For those of you who are reading this and don't know, I'm a celiac who carries around epi-pens due to a severe shellfish allergy. Eating out has been extremely difficult, most restaurants when I give them my allergy info sheet will read it, re-read it, and then give the "no" hand sign. They are sorry they can't accommodate my food needs, and are very kind about it, but have spent a great deal of time being hungry while out and about and cooking nearly every dinner at the apartment.
We walked further and further down the street and I was about to call it quits and go and get shio eggs and some fruit and chips when we saw a doorway with stairs leading up, up, up. Deciding to take a chance we climbed those very steep stairs, a common architectural feature of Japan, hoping for a safe delicious meal. Turns out the man who owns the bar was raised in Oregon for a while as a child, spoke passable English and was so eager to feed me he served me something off the dinner menu, and then refused to allow us to pay for it!! He charged us only for Greg's burger, both times we stopped there he charged us less than the prices on the menu. The bar is decorated with an old west theme, and a tv over the bar plays American adventure movies with the sound off.
He served Greg a mountain of a hamburger that he said was one of the best burgers he had ever eaten, it came with potato salad, fries and salad.
I was served duck medallions that had been grilled and had a sauce made of balsamic vinegar. It was smokey and flavorful, one of the best duck dishes I've ever eaten. I was so hungry and it smelled so divine that I ate a piece or two before I remembered to snap a photo, sorry.