Kyoto is one of the places I always want to see. Comparing to other travellers, yes, I should have come many years ago but later is better than never.  Kyoto is culturally rich, colourful and very high in diversity, a Mecca for photographer and architect.

We stayed at the Kyomachiya Sakura Ryokan. It’s small and modern, not quite the traditional Ryokan as you would expect but the atmosphere is very cosy. Kyomachiya is about 5 minutes by bus from Kyoto Station. The staffs were friendly and spoke good english (after being in China for a while, anyone who can speak english really impress us. I’ll keep raving in this blog). One of the staffs is Thai. She is studying at the university and works at the Ryokan as part time. She even helped us to book the sushi restaurant. More on that later.


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The weather forecast put up a warning for the approaching typhoon. So today will be our only sunny day in Kyoto. Should make the most out of it.

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When we arrived at the Kiyomizu temple ( 清水寺), it was under a major renovation and parts are covered with the scaffolds and canvases. Generally, the temple is one of the ‘must see’ destinations inKyoto so be prepare for the crowd.

We use the kyoto walk book which shows you different walking routes in most of the areas, some places are touristic but most are not. The book explains the history of each place really well so I’m not going to attemp to do that in this blog.


Girls in Kimino at Kiyomizu temple .

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A schoolgirl tried to find the love stone with her eyes closed. There are two of them placing some 20m apart in front of a Jishu shrine. It is believed that if you can walk from one stone to another with your eyes closed, you’ll find true love. So you can see why this will be a popular place.


Looking back from the viewing platform, you can see the terrace is full of tourist.

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Ninnenzaka and Sannenzaka streets near the kiyomizu temple. Both side of the streets are lined with small restaurant and gifts shops. The temptation to buy something was really high. We ended up giving in to the green tean and chestnut Choux Creme




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There is a shop that teaches pottery class at the end of the Sannenzaka. After the class, they’ll fire your clay for you but the kiln is not big enough to put all of them in. So they’ll do this over a few days and your finished work will be posted to you.

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Entrance of the Zenkyoan Temple (禅居庵)

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A red lantern in front of Ochaya (お茶屋) in Gion district.

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As we were photographing the streetscape, we were quite lucky that a meiko walked pass right on to my camera. I have to say she walked really fast (possibly to avoid photographer like me). It’s quite easy to see why people are charmed by the Geisha. They are graceful and enigmatic. Their lives are dedicated to represent the disappearing traditional arts and cultures.

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A small Inari sub Shrine in Gion.

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After spending an hour walking around Gion, we had to dash over to the other side of Kyoto at Daikakuji temple (大覚寺). Pao saw in a paper that there will be a Otsukimi (月見) or Moon viewing festival at the temple. The festival is held every year during the mid-autumn for a period of 3 days. Knowing the typhoon is going to make a landfall tomorrow night, we decided to go on the first night of the event as for sure the moon will be obscured tomorrow.
The garden in the temple compound was designed since Heian period and was intended to be viewed from a boat. The pond in this garden, Osawa pond, is made of that purpose to view the rise of the moon. From the boat, you get a glimpse of a pagoda and a pavilion which set among the landscape and almost a perfect reflection of the moon. Of course, we opted to buy the ticket to go on the dragon boat which include a cup of traditional green tea and a sweet during the ride.

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On of the halls was set as a performance stage. The key performance of the night included Rimacona with some beautiful musics which all related to the moon. We managed to creep onto the front row and had a perfect viewing position.
The sun has already set in this picture and there is an afterglow which reveal the temple roof silhouette. So with the D800, it has no problem when the ISO was dialed up to 1000, I can hand hold the camera and picture has almost no visible noise.

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A wonderful movie always accompanied by great musics or is it because great musics make you feel more emotionally driven hence bound to enjoy the experience more.  If that is the case then I love to thank both of them Marihiko and Natsuko for setting a beautiful soundtrack of that mid-autumn night. I would love to hear the songs again but guess will have to turn up next year at the same time?

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The only one of the few times I ever used the 70-200mm was for this picture after bearing its weight all day long. That said it is still amaze me how sharp it is, considering the low light condition.

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Being foodies as we are (or greedies I’m not sure?), of course we bough a tray of takoyaki and some skewers, ice cream and green tea to help enjoying the viewing. It was pleasantly quiet, no firework, fire cracker and guys shouting on the mobile phone, spitting to ruin the experience (you know what I’m talking about).

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Back to the Hotel around midnight.

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Two Yukatas was provided for us at every Ryokan, this one with colourful silk Obi. In the modern business hotel, they also have a little less glam version. Whatever it is called , it looked like a doctor gown except much shorter. I looked hideous in it and you won’t want to see the photo.

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The next morning we headed to Fushimi to see the famous Inari shrine. I guess if you want decent photos of any place then you have to force yourself to get up early and arrive before everyone else.
The shirne is famous for hunderds of Torii gates that trails upward on to the mountain. We didn’t manage to get to the top but just went up high enough to break sweat.

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Name of the donator is inscribed to the back of the gate.

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The reason we couldn’t spend so long at the Inari shrine was because we had the munch booked at the Sushi restaurant. Back at the city centre we walked through the Nishiki Market (錦市場). we had to get to the restaurant is on the others ide. There was a shop that was roasting tea and the fragrant filled the whole street. It was so nice.

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Before we came, we had a look at the latest Michelin star list and decided that we should have at least try one good sushi while in Japan. We decided on Sushi Imai which has 1 star Michelin.
At the Imai restaurant, we sat at the counter and asked the chef for Omakase, meaning leaving the choice to him whatever freshest fish that is available for that day or using whatever  technique such as grilling and smoking.

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It is basically a front row seat to see the chef perform the sushi making and better yet, get to taste them fresh, very fresh. The taste starts from light and fresh using white fish and gradually increase to stronger such as eel with kabayaki sauce which is thick and sweet. Now, if you love sushi and sashimi, eating a set is one thing. Having each one made piece by piece for you is a whole new world.

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I was busy taking photograph and the chef has already placing making 2 nigiris on the plate. The fat pattern on Maguro was like a beef, I think this came from the head part. I can’t describe how soft and delicious it was.

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After so many oohs and ahhs after putting each piece in the mouth and some 14,000 yen lighter, we strolled around Pontocho, area where Geisha and tea houses were so prevalent.We only manage to spot a few tourists dressed up in geisha costume.

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Back to Gion at night. This time we spotted many Geishas coming out of the Tea house but they hop straight onto the Taxi. The rain started pouring down so we decided to head back.

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A view from our window. Interestingly the sky glow white from the street lights, not orange from high pressure sodium lamps like many other cities.

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The next morning was cloudy. Typhoon will arrive over the course of a few days so we can only hope for the best that it’ll pass very soon.

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Myoshinin Temple ground. Tonight, we will stay here. This is a complex making up of many temples interconnected together via an internal roads.

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Ninnaji temple (仁和寺)

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We spent about half an hour walking around just studying the carpentry work and details of this golden hall. A lot of thought must have gone into working out the sequencing so that nails are not needed.

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One of the places that we must visit around that area was Ryoan-ji temple. It’s a short walk from Ninnaji temple but it’s uphill all the way.
Kyoyochi Pond at the entrance of the temple.

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The famous Ryoan-ji rock garden, the finest example (supposedly) of Zen garden and a UNESCO site. There are 15 rocks that is carefully composed so you cannot see all of them from any position. The gravel is raked to form straight and ripple patterns. There are many theories about how this garden works but for me, the garden is a space and the rocks are the abstraction of shapes that help to provokes your mind to think of something. It can be islands in the sea, peaks of the mountain that rise through the fog.  What’s interesting is scale in this place doesn’t matter. In my paper, I used a lot of  this garden as an example for what might be an experience of architecture in the virtual world. So I have been wanting to come this this place for so many years just to see whether the experience would be the same as I expected.
Well, I have to say I didn’t feel anything. I was hoping for an enlightening moment sitting under that veranda, but with so many tourists and schoolgirls running and shouting, it was very hard to contemplate anything.
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Moss garden on the other side of the hojo. It is actually really beautiful garden especially in the rain and deserves much more attention that currently has.

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As rain started to get heavier, our stomach cried out louder. It’s time to tank up and get warm. We found a Okonomiyaki shop near the entrance of the Kinkakuji.

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The rain and wind was really hampering in at this point as the typhoon was approaching but the trip must go on. Kinkakuji in the rain is still beautiful and, strangely enough, glowed even brighter in cloudy condition.

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Even a smallest space can create a beautiful garden.

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We decided to have some tea and sweet while taking the shelter from the rain. The owner at Tamaruya 田丸弥 cannot speak english nor do they have english menu so they ran over to the display in front of the shop and brought back the model of the dish to make sure we know which one we are ordering. They were so kind and also gave us 2 senbei for free.

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Will it ever stop raining.

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Back at the temple. this is our accommodation for the night. A room there is on a separate building close by to the main hall with a view of  private zen garden. Lovely. Who needs to go to Ryoanji to fight with other people, when you have your own garden.



During the storm, the noise is horrendous with thunder, tree rustling, wind howling. Suddenly, it all stopped as the storm has passed. Just like that.
We came out walking around the Myoshinji complex, feeling like nothing had happened.



A view in front of our room.








The room where we had the morning meditation


That’s it for Kyoto. Three days just went by so fast. We really enjoyed it and were sad to leave but there are other places to see on this trip.
Next Part is Takayama and Shirakawago.