Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo-ji, and a couple of interesting restaurants

One of the best things about traveling with John Meffert on National Trust Tours is going on walkabouts with him; he finds interesting things to go see which wouldn’t be worth a full tour. Today, John took us through the area around the Kyoto Okura Hotel, beginning with the statues of Matakichi Maeda (founder of the hotel) and Hirobumi Ito (first Prime Minister of Japan, serving the Meiji Emperor). The Government of Japan wanted a large hotel in Kyoto to accommodate visitors to the then-capital, and Matakichi provided it. In addition to the statues, there are memorial stones to both men.

John then took us to the remains of the Takase-gawa canal, which had been used to bring goods into the area; there were nine sites on the canal where cargo was loaded or unloaded. This one was preserved as a National Historic site after canal traffic ended in 1920.

We walked a bit further and admired a defensive wall that had been erected during the feudal period to protect the property of a Very Rich Person.

And then we walked the five minutes back to the hotel to join our first official tour of the day, which brought us to Kiyomizu-dera Temple (“-dera” means temple, so the name is somewhat redundant!), which is a Buddhist temple complex dating back to 778 CE. Many of the current buildings were constructed in 1633; they were built without any nails.

The complex is dedicated to Kannon, the bodhisattva of peace and mercy – and this dragon is one of Kannon’s incarnations.

We took off our shoes to enter the main hall and look around.

The main pavilion includes a stage which was used for performances centuries ago; today, it’s where you stand to get a great view.

The name “Kiyomizu” means “pure clear water” and refers to the waterfall which runs through the complex; people drink from it for good fortune even today.

As is typical in Japan, there are also Shinto shrines on the grounds (and lots of shops and restaurants, too).

We left Kiyomizu-dera to return to the hotel; we had ninety minutes before our next tour, so Diane and I went to Sushino Musashi, about a seven minute walk from the hotel. It’s a conveyor sushi restaurant, with clear English and Japanese signage for the dishes on the belt. There was a wide selection, but we chose to skip the raw horsemeat sushi in favor of the tuna and salmon. Lunch was excellent, fast, and inexpensive (lunch was under $25 for the two of us), and we were back at the hotel with plenty of time before our afternoon tour.

Sushino Musashi

Nijo-ji (Nijo Castle) was built in the early 17th Century to serve as the Kyoto residence of the Shogun; in 1867, the last Shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, declared the end of the Shogunate and the return of authority to the Emperor while in residence at Nijo-ji.

We weren’t allowed to take photos in the palace, but it was impressive. So were the rest of the grounds.

John had hoped to take some of us on a walkabout back to the hotel, but it was hot and everyone was tired, so we rode the bus back instead and went up to our room to rest for a bit.

We decided to look for a place to eat in the Teramachi Arcade. We ended up at Hyakusai Beef Noodles and had their most popular item, the Lanzhou beef noodle soup. It was quite tasty, but a little tricky to eat with chopsticks.

After dinner, we explored the arcade until the stores started closing but left without buying anything.