Rakunan houses some of the cities finest temples, parks, shrines, gardens and restaurants. There are also a selection of mountains for any adventurers out there who love a good hike to climb. This is a location in the city to go when the weather is good and the temperature cool as the amount of outdoor activities to do is as remarkable as the ancient architecture and shrines that are worshipped here.
Of course I only have a day in Southern Kyoto, so here was my itinerary;
Today we woke up energised and refreshed at the modest time of 5:30am. Due to the fact that we are staying in Kyoto during August and most days temperatures reach to as high as 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) we have decided to split our days here into three sections, to maximise efficiency and to hide away from the blistering sun during the mid day. Our daily schedule goes a little something like;
05:30am – 11:30am Morning activities
(This is the time it gets too hot)
11:30am – 3:30pm lunch/siesta/rest
3:30am ~ late evening activities
For those who are visiting in a time outside of August you probably won’t need to draw up and think of a ridiculous schedule like this but for those who know how hot it can get in this city you will surely be sympathising with me.
By 6:30am on our first morning we had got the southbound subway to Inari station, where a 10 minute walk away was the beginning of our journey at Fushimi Inari.
The Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine is home to over 30,000 of Japan’s 40,000 Inari shrines which is dedicated towards the gods of harvest and business. The history of the shrine dates back to 711AD when the Hata clan built the shrine at the top of the mountain. In 852AD, the emperor at the time offered motives for rain, repeatedly sending messengers to the top in the hope for a bountiful and resourceful harvest. The large amount of tori gates have been donated to the Fushimi Inari by companies expressing their wishes for good business.
From here we climbed for about an hour on the hikers trail that leads up to the peak of Mount Inari. With our clothes saturated with sweat and our muscles tensing with every step we enjoyed the incredible amount of shrines that we saw walking up the mountain.
By 9am we had reached the top of Mount Inari and spent our time here enjoying the panoramic views of Kyoto, as seen in the photos below.
Kyoto is a world of Temples, around 1600 to be exact. It would be uncommon and predominantly unnecessary to visit or tell you about them all so I will only pick out the highlights.
Tofukijo temple was built in 1239AD and is the largest Zen Buddhist temple in the city. It is also very popular for Maple Tree viewing;
The Temple is so calming and peaceful that we literally sat there for half an hour without saying a word to one another and enjoyed the view of the wooden buildings. The entrance is free to the temple but additional costs to go into the Hojo garden and Tsuten Bridge are ¥400 a piece.
Below is a Zendo (mediation hall) which is one of the most iconic parts of the temples grounds. It is also named Sembutsujo where the priests who have attained Nirvana are conducted. Monks who are practising Zen sleep, eat, study and practise zazen (seated meditation) here. Historically around 400 priests have trained Zen at this location.
After our much needed Siesta we decided to go to Toji, a small area with a great temple and luscious gardens. However, we didn’t manage to go as I accidentally got on the wrong bus to the temple and was instead heading in the complete opposite direction. I knew the temple closed at 16:30pm meaning a re-route would be too much of a time constraint to make it a worthwhile visit. So instead we walked to a Tower Records and had a listen to some more J-Pop and new releases. I have decided since visiting several Tower Records in Japan that post retirement I would love to work in a record store.
From there we strolled down one of Kyotos famous neighbourhoods, Pontocho. The narrow street adjacent to the Kamogawa is the place to go if you’re looking for nightlife in Kyoto. With bars and restaurants straddling each side of the road it reminded me of Xi’an in China as there were red lanterns hovering above you seducing your appetite for worldly culture. Pontocho is not only good for getting drunk and enjoying a ice cold Asahi, it is also recognised as a superb culinary neighbourhood with some of the finest restaurants in town here.
If you’re looking for a place to eat near Pontocho that is good quality and budget friendly I recommend Ootoya. We had a delicious meal with big portions , miso soup, salad, rice, pickles, 2 beers each and it came to ¥3200. (£25) A bargain!
Unfortunately my phone died at this point so I have no photos of Pontocho at night but I am sure to go again within the next week.
Thanks fo reading, tomorrow we go to Nara, a day excursion outside of Kyoto!