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Kyoto Day 02: Merciful Goddess, Beautiful Nature, Unplanned Rickshaw Ride, and Getting Lost

We were raring to go on our second day in Kyoto, Japan. Our first day of exploring was wonderful and we were excited for more.

sanjusangendo


Transfer to Hana Hostel

Before we went sightseeing, however, we had to check out of Khaosan Kyoto Guest House (KKGH) since we only had 2 nights booked there. We had to move to Hybrid Inn Kyoto Hana Hostel (Hana). When we planned this trip, we selected dates and then booked a room accordingly in Hana. But when we finally purchased the tickets, our final travel period was longer than expected.

We actually arrived in Kyoto 2 days earlier than originally planned. When I inquired at Hana, they had no more rooms for our first two days and that is why we ended up booking KKGH. Oh, and the Hana room we got was only available for 3 nights, so I also booked Backpackers Hostel K’s House Kyoto for the remainder of our visit. Although we had to transfer accommodations three times, at least we tried three different places. All is well that ends well. 🙂

Hana Hostel’s kitchen. Pretty and well-organized.

To get to Hana, we got another unlimited bus pass for the day (500 yen, purchased from KKGH). We rode a bus to our second accommodation. Since it wasn’t check-in time yet, we just left our backpacks at the inn’s storage room. Since they know we will be out the whole day gallivanting, we were told to return there before midnight for check-in. That sounded fine to us. We had plenty of time, we thought. What could go wrong, right? My horrible sense of direction, that’s what! Full story below.

But before that, we had breakfast first. We went to a nearby convenience store. I can’t recall which one now, but must be a Family Mart or Ministop since both are within walking distance. Purchased an onigiri, some meat and a canned cafe au lait. We then said goodbye to the reception lady and off we went sightseeing for the day.

Filling breakfast from a convenience store.

1,000 Kannon Statues at Sanjusangen-do

We rode a bus to Sanjusangen-do, a Buddhist temple that houses an 11-foot tall seated Kannon statue and 1,000 life-sized thousand-arm Kannon statues! Statues of other deities and guardians, such as Fujin and Raijin (names that featured in animes like Flame of Recca and Naruto) can also be found there.

Sanjusangen-do’s unassuming yet imposing facade

So who is Kannon? She is the goddess of mercy in Hinduism. But wait, wasn’t this a Buddhist temple? Well yeah, but apparently Hinduism concepts came to Japan through China, so getting it mixed with Buddhist concepts is not a surprise. I’m probably not explaining this properly at all, so if you want to know more, there’s always the internet. Better yet, give Sanjusangen-do a visit!

The mighty Kannon. Photo taken from the web since picture-taking is not allowed inside.

Personally, I wanted to see this temple because it is dedicated to a goddess. Being a born-Catholic-turned-agnostic and someone who grew up surrounded by the concepts of a patriarchal monotheism, I find the worship of goddesses fascinating. Learning about her and the other Hindu deities in the temple was satisfying on so many levels. I lighted an incense candle there for good luck and to wish more Japan travels in my future.

the thousand statues of thousand-arm Kannon, plus statues of other Hindu deities.

The Unplanned Rickshaw Ride

After exploring Sanjusangen-do, my friend and I took a bus to the Gion area. Our goal was to visit Yasaka Shrine. At the temple’s entrance, our attention was caught by a guy dressed in a traditional shirt and what we assumed were loin cloths. He was standing beside a man-powered rickshaw and offering rides to tourists. We were amazed because he was just casually chatting with visitors with his legs bared to the cold winds!

Come ride the rickshaw! Expensive, but a great experience, especially if touring around beautiful Gion.

Curious that we are, we decided to approach and see what he has to offer. The guy explained to us the routes and the prices. The cheapest was a 12-minute ride for 4,000 yen. Holy guacamole! That’s like at least Php 1,500. Who would burn that amount in just 12 minutes? Since we were in Japan, we obviously refrained from haggling. So we just told the guy that we would go around first and consider it.

A few minutes later, we still cannot banish the thought of, ahem, the rickshaw. Since Yasaka Shrine will not cost us to enter and because YOLO, we decided to indeed pay around 1,500 pesos for a 12-minute jinrikisha (rickshaw) ride. We went back to where the guy we talked to was standing. Unfortunately, he was not there. We found another guy with a rickshaw. His name, he said, was Naoki-san. He called his boss, we agreed on the route, and off we went on an awesome ride! >_<

With Naoki-san, our friendly and engaging rickshaw driver.

Naoki-san spoke broken but good English. He was also very friendly and oh so strong. He pulled us along and at times we’d feel bad about him doing this obviously hard work, but then he would turn around, smile and tell jokes, and everything was well again. There might or might not have been giggling over well-toned leg muscles. We apologize for our baser instincts. Sumimasen!

Totally enjoyed that short rickshaw ride. Never mind the price!

Experiencing Yasaka Shrine

This temple is one of the popular ones in Kyoto and it is free to enter. Many Japanese go here to pray and celebrate special occasions. The shrine has wide grounds and a lot of people were milling around. You could ring some bells there as a form of worship, usually to pray for good luck. The shrine is around for more than 1,300 years now and is always open.

Visiting Yasaka-jinja, a shrine that has stood the test of time.
We passed by this structure in between the shrine and park and I thought this was simply beautiful. Seriously, if you are a fan of traditional Japanese architecture, Gion is a great place to walk around in.

Beautiful and Peaceful Maruyama Park

Right next to Yasaka Shrine or Yasaka-jinja, is the pretty Maruyama Park (Maruyama Koen). It is also free to enter and is very beautiful. It had lots of trees sporting autumn foliage. There were many cherry trees in the area too, but all of them had lost their leaves and were gearing for winter.

We spent a long time there just taking photos and drinking in nature’s beauty. There were many people but it was not noisy. Visitors, locals and foreigners alike, mostly sat in silence to admire the beauty around them. When they talked, they did so in hushed tones.

Enjoying the fall colors at the park.

As we were taking photos, an old man approached us. No, he wasn’t creepy at all. He asked us if we would like him to take our picture. We were so thankful and surprised that he knows how to use a digital camera so well. Thanks ojii-san!

People enjoying the serenity of the park. And, yes, there is a pond there filled with koi.

Dinner Served by a Ninja at Zaraku

As we were walking towards Yasaka that afternoon, we came across this guy dressed in “ninja” clothing trying to attract people’s attention to the small restaurant behind him. He gave us a coupon and we told him we’ll come back after visiting the temple.

Shiopi the ninja inviting guests to have dinner at this restaurant.
that curry rice dinner at Zaraku

The ninja waiter remembered us when we returned, which was very kind or perhaps shrewd of him haha. Anyway, he was very accommodating and fun. He said his name was Shiopi the ninja lol. We ordered our dinner and he served us with gusto. He kept smiling and goofing around despite the language barrier. He readily agreed too when we asked for a photo with him. Then, a few minutes later, two Filipino guys (Tagalogs) came in for dinner and we enjoyed chatting with them. Overall, that dinner was one for the books.

goofing around with Shiopi-san

Night Lights at Kodaiji and Entuku-in

Come Spring and Autumn time, a lot of temples and gardens in Japan open up for the night to dazzle visitors with a night lights display. Spotlights will be placed around strategically to highlight the beauty of nature. In the case of Kodaiji and Entuku-in, we got that and more. They had a short LED light show that I found very entertaining.

Enjoying the night lights at Kodaiji and Entukuin. Lots of leaves here are still green, but the whole place was still beautiful.

The best part was the fact that on the way there, we met an old man named Kondo-san. He acted as our impromptu guide. He took our pictures using our cameras and made that visit even more special!

One of the photos taken by Kondo-san, our impromptu guide at Kodaiji Temple.
There was also a bamboo grove in the temple. It was lighted up and walking on the path that winds through it was definitely a relaxing experience. Just make sure you are wearing the right footwear, or all the walking will be difficult for the feet.
Exquisite kimono display at the temple.

I Got Lost!

My horrible sense of direction at its finest. Around 11pm, we decided to head home to be on time for our check-in at Hana. We rode a bus but since it was almost full, my friend Arcel and I ended up sitting on separate seats. Hers was towards the back of the bus while mine was near the door.

I thought I memorized the stop where we were supposed to get off. When I heard something that sounded like it announced, I immediately hopped out thinking we had arrived. When I looked behind me, Arcel was nowhere in sight. The door closed and the bus sped off! When I realized what was happening, I was sorely tempted to run after the bus, drama style! Arcel told me later that she attempted to follow me out but couldn’t move fast enough. The door actually closed in front of her face. If we were lovers, that scene would totally pass the cliche meter!

Unfortunately, this was real life and I was hopelessly lost. I wasn’t worried about Arcel at all because she is a smart girl and has a way better sense of direction. I wasn’t too worried about me either since I had the pocket Wi-Fi and I thought I could rely on Google Maps. I clearly underestimated my effed-up sense of direction. I kept walking and walking and I just saw myself on the digital map as an arrow that keeps going in circles. Gaaah!

So, using my broken Japanese, I finally decided to bother a young lady who is about to cross a street. I asked her for help, expecting she would just point me to the general correct direction. What she did instead was walk with me for two blocks in the opposite direction of where she was going until I found Hana Hostel. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I made it on time for the check-in. Oh, and Arcel was already there waiting for me. Told you her sense of direction is excellent. In fairness to me, I’m resourceful and still found my way back. There are always different ways to solve a problem :p

And so that’s our eventful Day 02 in Kyoto. Sayonara for now ^_^

I hope this post about Kyoto brightened your day, even for a little bit. Here’s a pic of random Japanese ladies looking pretty in their traditional dress. Photo taken at Sanjusangen-do. They were just walking around and they looked great. Couldn’t resist so I approached them for a photo. They graciously obliged. Thank you!

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