There are 1,600 temples in Kyoto and the monkey was doing his best to see some of them. After mooring in the port city of Kobe, Kongo climbed aboard the bullet train (Shinkansen), the for a quick ride to Kyoto. Bullet trains travel at speeds up to 200 mph and they are smooth, quiet, really cool. There are even airline-like stewardesses to keep you nourished while you zip along.
The stations at Kobe and Kyoto are filled with teeming throngs of travelers, groups of school children headed out on field trips, and businessmen and women heading to important meetings further down the line in Tokyo. The monkey stayed close so he wouldn’t get lost.
The first stop was the Kiyomizu-dera Temple set high on a hill overlooking the city of Kyoto. This independent Buddhist Temple in the eastern part of Kyoto was founded in 788 and is visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year. Women rent fancy kimonos to visit the site and get in the mood.
The hills surrounding the temple are populated by ancient pagodas, shrines, and places to reflect on the meaning of life.
Kongo’s guide, Naomi, referred to this temple as the “shopping temple.” The narrow stone streets leading to the temple are packed with shops, restaurants, and throngs of visitors. This slowed Mrs. Kongo down considerably.
A favorite spot at the temple was a “waterfall” where three streams of water from a mountain spring emptied into a pool. The story is that you must choose to drink from just one of the streams to receive either long life, love, or competency. Now the monkey is already pretty old in monkey years, he’s got love (shout out to Mrs. Kongo), and he knows what he’s doing (at least most of the time) so he passed on taking in the waters.
After a forgetful lunch, the monkey headed over to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji Temple). In Kongo’s mind this temple should be named the “postcard temple” because the views of the main building are breathtaking.
The upper two stories are covered in solid gold leaf symbolizing the importance of the relics of Buddha kept inside. The monkey couldn’t get enough of this awe-inspiring site.
The temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (as is the entire city of Kyoto) is set in the center of a magnificent strolling garden that offer a different perspective of the temple at every turn on the trail.
The monkey also had time to catch a glimpse of the Shogun castle in Kyoto.
Kongo wished he had more time in Kyoto, and Osaka, and Kobe, and the entire area. Next time.
Travel safe. Have fun!