Achieving “zen” through heat exhaustion…

Editors Note:  Soooooo… this post, is … a little late. For reasons that only Steve Jobs would understand my computer decided that our arrival to Osaka was a perfect time to crash. Crash like Bubs’ from David Simon’s The Wire. Amidst a picture import my computer shut down and wouldn’t even open in safe mode. I’ll spare you the remainder of the gory details but there were some casualties. Most notably some pictures and MS Word. It took a couple days to get my computer operating again and now I am way behind schedule on our blog. We have been taking notes furiously on our iPad to maintain some level of recollection. Thank you for your patience.

Attempting a pub crawl in one building has consequences. You may suffer from: bed crumbs, taxi standing, umbrella elbow and Pocari sweats. After a late second night in Kyoto we got a late start on our sight seeing the following day.

Eager to get the day started despite the late wake up time, we shot off to the convenience store for breakfast and hopped on the bus to Ginkaku-ji. Buses are nearly impossible to eat breakfast on. To make matters worse, laps are not ideal tables. After some finagling I managed to wolf down my breakfast before we arrived at the stop Ginkaku-ji.



Ginkaku-ji is the companion temple to Kinkaku-ji on the opposite side of Kyoto. The sun was out and we were thinking we would be in for a real treat as we purchased our tickets. Hoping to see the sunlight glinting off the silver finish of the “Silver Pavilion,” we braved the sweltering heat and went inside.

There are two major problems with Ginkaku-ji. 1) Its not actually silver. 2) It’s called the “Silver Pavilion.” The Zen style sand garden is really cool and there is a giant sand mound that is supposed to represent Mt. Fuji. After seeing the magnificent Kinkaku-ji, I was looking forward to a literally silver version. Ginkaku-ji earned that nickname because it was supposed to be silver, the architect just never got around to finishing the job. The rest of Ginkaku-ji is really beautiful but for my money I would spend more time else where in Kyoto first.

Garden around Gin kaku-ji

Garden around Gin kaku-ji

After that we took a long bus ride back to Kyoto station and then hopped on a train to the Fushimi ward of Kyoto.

Fushimi Inari is a great way to get more than one benefit from the same attraction. First off you get a massive work out if you want to see the whole thing. Lots of stairs. As heat exhaustion sets in it will feel quite a bit like total serenity. If you like orange, Fushimi Inari is basically Heaven on Earth since there are thousands of bright orange torii that cover the paths and the shrines from top to bottom. If you have an unnatural fear of orange or stairs don’t go here. Also its free.

Fear the orange

Fear the orange

I really liked the climb, however, the best view was not from the top of the mountain but from a smaller platform about 75% of the way to the top. Don’t bother with going all the way to the top unless you are making an offering or simply want to say that you did it. I did it.

Also some of the movie, “Memoirs of a Geisha” was shot at Fushimi Inari.

Pond about half way to the top of Fushimi Inari

Pond about half way to the top of Fushimi Inari

The Fushimi ward is also famous for its water which has been used in Sake brewing for a very long time. We stopped in at the Gekkeikan Sake museum and brewery. For 300yen you get a small bottle of sake with your ticket. Basically it pays for itself. Also you get to try 3 or 4 different kinds of sake at the end of the museum trip. The museum is really small but interesting and covers the sake brewing process top to bottom.

That is a lot of sake

That is a lot of sake

We decided to make a random tour of out the Fushimi ward and found another sake brewery where you can get samples for 100yen each. Kappa Sake also brews craft beers but by the time we made it there the beer counter was closed.

The long hike up Fushimi Inari and sake tasting had whet the appetite for kaiseki ryori. Kaiseki Ryori is traditional Kyoto cuisine. Many places serve the meals on platforms above the river. Even though we carried around our umbrellas the whole day it didn’t start to rain until we wanted to eat outside. We found a place with a covered patio and indulged in some great food and undiluted sake. Typically with sake extra water is added to lower the alcohol percent to volume. This stuff was pure uncut sake. Oh yeah.

Dining almost over the water.

Dining almost over the water.

Once we devoured our dinner we headed down to Kyoto station to take a rather expensive ride up the 100 meter tall Kyoto tower. Here you can get a full 360 degree view of Kyoto. Not a cheap thrill but very cool none the less. There is a even a yuru kyara for the tower, Towawa-chan. If you are traveling in Kyoto and need some cheap odds and ends beneath the Kyoto tower is Daiso (100 yen store).

View from Kyoto tower at night.

View from Kyoto tower at night.

With our last night in Kyoto coming to a close we debated briefly about going to a beer garden near the Kyoto tower. Long enough to check the price. $9 dollars a beer… No thanks, we’ll get some sleep.

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3 comments on “Achieving “zen” through heat exhaustion…

  1. That sand pudding is supposed to be Fujisan? After seeing it myself last year I asked my students what it was and got the most ludicrous answers, from a mini-star gazing mound to a representation of Japan, lol.

  2. Andrew says:

    According to wikipedia, yes that is supposed to be Fuji-san, “In addition to the temple’s famous building, the property features wooded grounds covered with a variety of mosses. The Japanese garden, supposedly designed by the great landscape artist Sōami. The sand garden of Ginkaku-ji has become particularly well known; and the carefully formed pile of sand which is said to symbolize Mount Fuji is an essential element in the garden.”

  3. Andrew says:

    I also thought it was funny that Fuji-san was teeming with wasps.

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