Day 4 (December 24th, 2014)

After break­fast we were picked up by our dri­ver and dri­ven to Kyō­to togeth­er with our guide from the day before yes­ter­day. Dur­ing the about 1 hour dri­ve, she made a brief pre­sen­ta­tion about the his­to­ry of Japan and even wrote a his­to­ry paper. Kyō­to is one of the his­tor­i­cal­ly and cul­tur­al­ly most impor­tant cities in Japan and was the res­i­dence of the roy­al court from 794 to 1868. Today it is the cap­i­tal of the pre­fec­ture Kyō­to. 14 tem­ples and Shin­tō shrines in Kyō­to were declared a UNESCO World Her­itage Site in 1994.

Arriv­ing in Kyō­to, we want­ed to vis­it the cas­tle “Nijo-jo” first. But since yes­ter­day (Tues­day) was a hol­i­day (birth­day of the emper­or) and nor­mal­ly the cas­tle is always closed on Tues­days, the “can­celled” day off was resched­uled today. So we quick­ly changed our plans and went to the “Kinkaku-jo” or “The Gold­en Pavil­ion”. This was the for­mer home of a Shogun, which was lat­er trans­formed into a Zen tem­ple. Destroyed by fire sev­er­al times over the cen­turies, the phoenix keeps ris­ing from the ash­es. The present build­ing dates from 1955 and is cov­ered with gold leaf and is sit­u­at­ed in a very pho­to­genic loca­tion in the mid­dle of a very well-kept and exten­sive gar­den at a lake. A very worth­while des­ti­na­tion.

After vis­it­ing the gold­en pavil­ion, our dri­ver took us to the his­toric cen­tre of Kyō­to, where a typ­i­cal Japan­ese lunch in a small restau­rant await­ed us.

After lunch we made a short detour to Heian-jingū, a shrine from 1895, which was built by the for­mer emper­or Kam­mu on the 1100th anniver­sary of the foun­da­tion of Heian-kyō, which is today Kyō­to.

Heian-jingū

After­wards we vis­it­ed the “San­ju­san­gen­do Tem­ple”. Inside you can see 1000 stat­ues, all of them with slight­ly dif­fer­ent faces. You had to take off your shoes at the entrance, but we already knew that and so we each brought a pair of warm wool socks. The tem­ple is not heat­ed and only in sim­ple socks it gets very cold at the foot.

San­ju­san­gen­do-Tem­ple

As we were told, there are also tra­di­tion­al com­pe­ti­tions in archery. Young women at the age of 20, dressed in kimonos, shoot along the whole build­ing (128m).

At the end of the day, we were tak­en to the tem­ple com­plex “Kiy­omizu”. This build­ing is built on poles on a slope, again in a gar­den with dif­fer­ent shrines. There is a water­fall at one of them, and drink­ing from this water is said to have heal­ing effects.

The tem­ple com­plex is locat­ed on a hill. One can walk down through steep alleys to the his­toric cen­tre of Kyō­to. There are many shops and small pas­sages to the right and left of the path. Very nice. It got slow­ly dark and more and more lights came on.

We almost for­got it was Christ­mas Eve. Usu­al­ly we spend this evening togeth­er at a Fon­due Chi­noise at home. For­tu­nate­ly, we found a restau­rant near the hotel that offered “Nabe” or “Hot Pot” - the Japan­ese ver­sion of fon­due. Every­body there got a tray with a burn­er and a bowl with broth in which one could pre­pare meat, fish and veg­eta­bles. Addi­tion­al­ly they served miso soup (which is actu­al­ly avail­able every­where from morn­ing till night always and with every­thing) and sushi. So final­ly we got a lit­tle bit of Christ­mas spir­it.