Our travels around Kyoto on the first day were by hired bus with a local guide. We first went to the Golden Pavilion, a Zen temple (photo). It was first built as a residence in the 1220’s and has burned down a couple of times. The gardens are original and are quite beautiful. The next stop was Nijo Castle, the Kyoto residence of the first Tokogawa shogun and was built in 1603 (3 photos.) We made a visit to the interior but were not permitted to take photos. It is a large castle, on one level with many rooms covered in tatami mats. It has a feature which was used as a warning to the shogun of people approaching his quarters – the floors were built to squeak. They call them the nightingale but when we were all walking along in our stocking feet, the floors sounded like a large flock of Canada geese. The gardens were also quite beautiful. The Heian Jingu Shrine was our next stop. The vermilion coloured buildings were striking and it was quite peaceful. This temple was built in 1895 to mark the 1100th anniversary of the founding of Kyoto. Unlike many other sights around Kyoto, there were not hundreds of school children visiting. We made a stop at the Kiyomizudera Temple (photo with women in kimonos) and visited a quaint local area which like many such areas, has been turned into a shopping and restaurant area. The last stop of the day was the Gion (geisha) district. We saw one trainee Maeko but most would have been in the tea houses with their clients. Kyoto Geisha prefer to be called Geiko. We saw the most exclusive tea house (red house in photo) and a number of former tea houses which are now hotels and restaurants ( photo). Our guide had many photos to explain to us how the Maeko and Geiko were trained and how they dress and showed us some of the dormitories in which they live. We stopped by a spot where part Memoirs of a Geisha was filmed. It is close by place in the last photo. There are only about 300 Geiko and Maeko in Kyoto today.
Today we took a couple of trains to get to a scenic area in the country where we took a short steam train ride on the Sagano Romantic Train to look at the scenery. One of the main features was a large bamboo forest. (photo) Before returning by train we had free time in a town where I visited another Zen temple garden (Tenryuji) that is a World Heritage Site. It is one of the oldest gardens in Japan. I have a couple of photos of this large landscaped garden. I had hoped that we would visit a raked garden, that I at least think of most when I think of temples in Kyoto. Our local guide directed me to one called Daitokuji which I was able to visit on my own in our free time in the afternoon. There are several sub-temples and I visited Zuiho-in, a Zen Buddhist Monastery dedicated in 1546 by its patron who later converted to Christianity. Christianity was outlawed in Japan soon after and remained so for some 200 years. Christianity was not taught at this Monastery but there are some allusions to it in one of the gardens. I attach a couple of photos which show the rocks and raked pebbles which give the impression of rough seas.
The tour has ended but I am off to Osaka for a couple of days on my own.