Archive for the ‘Kyoto travel blog’ tag
Tsujirihei Honten 辻利兵衛本店
Add: 611-0021 京都府宇治市宇治若森４１
Hours: 9am~5pm (closed on weekends)
Tasted on: 2012-04
Here’s something to brighten up this rainy day: a beautiful and delicious packet of matcha castella from Kyoto’s famous green tea shop, Tsujirihei 辻利兵衛本店. I’ve previously blogged about castella from Nagasaki’s Fukusaya, and I’m happy to present to you the green tea variation on this simple Japanese sponge cake. If you have read my Kyoto travel posts, you might remember Uji, a tranquil little town that’s especially famous for its green tea. Tsujirihei is one of the most historical and well-respected green tea specialty shops in Uji (along with Nakamura Tokichi 中村藤吉 which I also adore), and its green tea desserts are naturally meticulously created.
The Japanese are true masters at packaging design, and the encasing of Tsujirihei’s matcha castella is no exception. Each layer is designed for a specific purpose, and all together they keep the cake fresh until it’s ready to be eaten. If you want to see what each layer is meant for, click here to see my previous post on Fukusaya castella.
Beautiful, tranquil, mesmerizing with its historical flair and traditional sensibilities.
One of my favorite places to visit in the world!
Day 1: Late afternoon arrival –> Hotel check-in –> Kyoto Station
Day 2: Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺 –> Ninnen-saka 二年坂/Sannen-saka 三年坂 –> Lunch at Okutan 奧丹 –> Yasaka Jinja 八坂神社–> Gion 祗園 –> Afternoon tea at Saryo Tsujiri 茶寮都路里 –> Hanamikoji 花見小路 –> Kenninji 建仁寺 –> Dinner at Kiyamachi-dori 木屋町通
Day 5: Departure
When I was planning the Kyoto trip, I wasn’t sure if Uji should be on the itinerary. Sure, it has the famed Byodoin and Uji tea, but it’s a good 30-minute train ride away from Kyoto. With so many amazing sites within the city that I already can’t fit into my itinerary, do I really need to travel to the outskirts? Yes, absolutely. Now that I have been to Uji, I would without any hesitation recommend it to anyone who has more than 3 days in Kyoto. Here’s why:
1. Byodoin 平等院
The cultural significance of Byodoin is indisputable. It is displayed on the backside of the 10 yen coin, and its signature phoenix image is printed on the 10,000 yen note. Built in 1053, the only remaining original (as well as the most famous) structure is the Phoenix Hall, which was designed according to descriptions of the Western Paradise. People would gaze at the Phoenix Hall and its reflection on the pond all the day, but the best time is during the late afternoon when the sunlight hits the golden buddha. Almost paradise!
Add: 116 Uji Renge Uji, Kyoto Prefecture 611-0021
Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm (4:00pm in winter)
Price: ¥600; additional ¥500 for admission to Phoenix Hall
2. Ujigami Jinja 宇治上神社
Ujigami-jinja, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was originally built as a guardian shrine for Byodoin. The inner shrine, which dates back to the 14th century, is believed to be the oldest shrine building in Japan and is now protected as a National Treasure.
Add: 59 Ujiyamada, Matafuri, Uji City
Hours: 9am – 4:30pm
3. Ujia tea and its variations
Uji tea is the recognized as the quintessential Japanese tea. For more details, see this post on lunch and afternoon tea at Nakamura Tokichi, one of the most famous and historical tea shops in Uji.
Another famous tea shop, Itokyuemon 伊藤久右衛門.
4. Beautiful street scenery
Uji is serene and charming in the most unexpected places. The turn of a street corner, a vintage-looking barber shop, the last of the maple leaves hanging on the branch, kittens lingering on the doorstep of a random apartment…Really, you don’t need any other reason to visit.
To get there: There are frequent local and rapid trains between Kyoto Station and Uji (30 mintes, ¥230/one way). There is also the Keihan Uji Line from Shijo Station to Uji (30 minutes, ¥300).
After visiting Kinkakuji and Ryoanji, we boarded the Keifuku trains for Arashiyama, a touristy but still very pleasant district in the Western outskirts of Kyoto. The area has numerous temples, shops, cafes, and restaurants, all centering around the Togetsukyo Bridge and Keifuku Arashiyama Station. Come here for a relaxing afternoon away from the city.
Right outside the Keifuku train station is a roll cake (i.e. Swiss roll) specialty shop called Arinco. We tried a thick slice of their delicious matcha roll cake, which can also be purchased by the roll (¥950/roll) or as a “roll sand”, which is a roll cake sandwich. See their website here.
After the sweet fix, we headed for Tenryu-ji, which is ranked number one among the “Top Five Zen Temples in Kyoto”. For more pictures of the majestically beautiful Tenryu-ji, see this post.
Add: 68 Saga Tenryuji Susukinobaba-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Hours: [Apr-Oct] 8:30am-5:30pm [Nov-Mar] 8:30am-5pm
Visited: Nov 2010
If you travel to Arashiyama (嵐山), Tenryu-ji would undoubtedly be on your list of places to visit. It’s ranked first among the “Top Five Zen Temples” in Kyoto and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I honestly don’t remember too much about the design and history of this particular temple complex (it is, after all, our 3rd temple for the day), other than the fact that it is majestically beautiful. Let’s just proceed with the pictures and let those speak for themselves.
Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稻荷大社
Add: Fushimi-ku, Kyoto 京都市伏見区
Visited: Nov 2010
On our third day in Kyoto, we visited the spectacular Fushimi Inari Taisha, a site with thousands of torii shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. The trail from the main shrine, located at the bottom of the hill, to the inner shrine, located at the middle of the mountain, is about a two-hour round trip. Happy hiking!
At the bottom of the hill is the main shrine. According to my Japanese friends, this is what you do: at the offering hall, throw a coin into the offering box, bow deeply twice, clap your hands twice, bow deeply once more and make your prayers. If there is a gong or a bell, ring it (this is my favorite!) before praying in order to get the gods’ attention.
There are other fun stuff to do at the shrine. There’s the ema, wooden plates on which you can write your wishes and then leave at the shrine for the wishes to come true. There’s the omikuji, fortune telling paper slips that are randomly drawn and contain predictions ranging from daikichi (very good luck) to daikyo (very bad luck). Tie the pieces of paper to a fixture at the shrine, so good fortune will come true and bad fortune can be averted.
The most distinguishing feature if Fushimi Inari Taisha is of course the thousands of torii. You’ll also see fox statues here and there, as foxes were thought to be the messengers of Inari.
On our 2nd day in Kyoto, we spent the whole afternoon and evening in Gion 祗園, an area where the geishas reside and entertain. Supposedly the best time to see geishas is after 6pm when they begin to go out to entertain for the evening, but we were not so lucky even though we lingered in the area until after dark.
Kamogawa River 鴨川.
Dinner: Chinese style noodles (擔擔麵) at Kiyamachi.
To get there: By bus, take number 100 or 206 and get off at Gion bus stop. By train, take Keihan Line and get off at Gion Shijo Station or take Hankyu Line and get off at Kawaramachi Station.
Add: 13 Goryoshita-machi, Ryoan-ji, Kyoto
Hours: [Mar-Nov] 8am-5pm [Dec-Feb] 8:30am-4:30pm
Visited: Nov 2010
Ryoan-ji’s “Zen garden” is another one of my favorite spots in Kyoto. There are no trees in this dry landscape garden (kareisansui), just 15 irregularly shaped moss-surrounded rocks of varying sizes, arranged in white gravel that is raked every day. The rocks are placed so that, when looking at the garden from any angle, only 14 are visible at one time. It is said that only through attaining enlightenment would one be able to see the fifteenth boulder. Come try it yourself?
So why 15? In the Buddhist world, the number 15 denotes completeness. To have a whole and meaningful experience, one must have a total view of the garden, which is not possible in the conditions of this world.
The meaning of the garden is not explicit and is up to each viewer to find meaning for him/herself. Do visit early since the garden becomes crowded in the afternoon, and you most definitely won’t have a serene moment for contemplation and introspection.
Add: 1 Kinkakuji-chō, Kita-ku, Kyoto / 〒603-8361 京都市北区金閣寺町1
Visited: Nov 2010
Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺 Temple of the Golden Pavilion), also known as Rokuon-ji (鹿苑寺, Deer Garden Temple), is a Zen Buddhist temple and one of the 17 World Cultural Heritage sites in Kyoto. It was built as the retirement villa of shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and is modeled according to the descriptions of the Western Paradise of the Buddha Amida. The most distinguishing structure in the temple complex, the Golden Pavilion, has the two floors completely covered with pure gold. Talk about lavishness.
Kinkaku-ji’s history dates to 1397, but the present Golden Pavilion (金閣) structure was rebuilt in 1955 and subsequently underwent various reconstructions. The top two stories of the pavilion emit a warm glow in the sun as they are completed covered with pure gold leaf. More mesmerizing yet, the Mirror Pond upon which the pavilion was built on produces a perfect reflection of the golden extravagance on a clear day. Absolutely beautiful.
Add: 1-294 Kiyomizu Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Visited: Nov 2010
Among the hundreds of temples and shrines in Kyoto, Kiyomizu-dera (Pure Water Temple) stands out as a must visit. Originally built in 798 and reconstructed in 1633, the temple is best known for its wooden stage that juts out 13 meters above the hillside below, offering an impressive view of cherry blossoms in the Spring or maple leaves in the Fall with Kyoto city in the backdrop.
Kiyomizu-dera is extremely popular even during off seasons, so we made that our first destination in the morning to beat the crowd. To get there, take bus 100 or 206 (15 minutes, ¥220) from Kyoto Station, get off at Kiyomizu-michi bus stop, then take a 10-minute uphill stroll via Chawan-zaka (茶わん坂) to reach Kiyomizu-dera.
At the entrance of Kiyomizu-dera, we rinsed our mouths and hands at the stone water basin. This is a common practice at all Japanese temples and shrines, since it is believed that such purification is necessary before entering sacred temple grounds.