Today is once again another lovely day! Yay! We take the hotel shuttle bus to Kyoto train station for our breakfast at Mister Donut.
After breakfast, we take a local train to Uji (宇治).
From Uji train station, we stroll along the shopping street which is still quiet at this hour.
We walk about 15 minutes before we reach the temple ground of Byodo-In Temple (平等院, Byodo-in). The site for Byodo-in Temple once housed the cottage of Minamotono Toru, who was believed to be Hikaru Genji in life. Hikaru Genji is the hero of “Tale of the Genji”. Over time, Byodo-in was a country villa owned by Fujiwarano Michinaga, and it was converted into a temple in 1052 by his son, Fujiwarano Yorimichi.
The east facing Hōō-den (Phoenix Hall) was built on an island in the middle of a pond. The water reflection of Hōō-den gives the impression of a floating palace. We pay a separate admission fee to visit the Hōō-den which is a guided tour in Japanese.
During the guided tour, we’ve to take off our shoes and walk around in our socks within the building. As it’s explained in Japanese, we could only follow the Japanese guide by looking at where she points to. Photography is not allowed within the building.
This beautiful 1,000-year-old temple has a graceful structure with wings like a bird, is a World Heritage site. Sculptures of a pair of mythical phoenix-like birds called ho-o sit on top of the roof. These are replicas as the originals, which are national treasures, have been removed and preserved in the treasure house.
The Japanese ten-thousand-yen note features the Phoenix’s image…
while the 10-yen coin features the Byodo-in’s Phoenix Hall.
The Chudo (central hall) of the temple houses Amitabha Buddha Sitting Statue carved by Jocho, a master craftsman of Buddhist image, and Bodhisattva Statue Offering in the clouds (雲中供養菩薩, Unchu-kuyo-bosatsu-zo). The doors of the hall have gorgeous Housouge patterns and colorful paintings.
The Chudo has a Yokuro (wing form hallway) standing on both sides of the Chudo and a Biro (tail form hallway) standing behind it. All are designated as national treasures under “Byodo-in Ho-o-do.”
Around the “Ho-o-do” is a garden with ponds, which is said to depict the Buddhist paradise in the west. This garden was originally constructed such that it incorporates the Uji River and the mountain range on the opposite shore into the scenery.
After the guided tour, we visit the Byodoin Museum Hoshokan before we re-track to the main entrance to shop along the short shopping street (Byodo-in Omotesando Street) to buy some green tea products. Then we cross the Uji River .
It’s a LONG way to the other side
But we take a break looking at the some birds in the water…I’m not sure what are these but definitely not seagulls.
Finally we come to a quiet residential area and find a path leading to Ujigami-jinja Shrine (宇治上神社), which is the oldest existing Shinto Shrine in Japan.
Wow, there is a tourist information board in a few languages for visitors, and we can press the “English” button for the information to be read to us. The good thing about this World Heritage Site is free admission.
Ujigami-jinja Shrine was called “Riku kami sha” until the Meiji Restoration. Emperor Ojin, his son, Prince Uji-no-waki-iratsuko, and his elder brother, Emperor Nintoku are worshipped in the shrines here.
The shrine in front was built at the beginning of the Kamakura period in splendid Shindenzukuri (shrine-style) architecture.
The inner Shrine (Honden), which is the oldest extant structure dates back to the 14th century, is a National Treasure. It consists of three inner shrines built side-by-side in the nagare-zukuri style, with the buildings on the right and left larger than the one in the middle, and sharing a common roof. The Worship Hall (Haiden), a National Treasure, is built in the residential style, and believed to be a relic of Uji Detached Palace.
Despite its status and history, there are no worshippers or visitors except us. We leave the quiet shrine and enjoy a short walk in the residential area.
We cross Uji River again to go back to the train station. The weather is fantastic!
We have lunch at Nakamura Tokichi Honten (中村藤吉本店).
The restaurant has a courtyard leading to the dinning area.
We each order a bowl of plain green tea soba.
and end with a lovely dessert comprising macha ice cream, rice cake, red bean and green tea jelly.
After our happy lunch, we leave Uji in the late afternoon. There is some spare time to kill.
We decide to stop by Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha) en-route to Kyoto Station. Thankfully not much walking as the shrine is right opposite to the JR train station.
At the shrine’s entrance stands the Romon Gate, which was donated in 1589 by the famous leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
Fushimi Inari Shrine is an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings.
Fushimi Inari Shrine is most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice.
As foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, there are many fox statues within the shrine grounds.
This is the shrine’s main building (Honden) with various auxiliary buildings.
At the very back of the shrine’s main grounds is the entrance to the torii gate covered hiking trail,
which starts with two dense, parallel rows of gates called Senbon Torii (“thousands of torii gates”).
The torii gates along the entire trail are donations by individuals and companies. The cost starts around 400,000 yen for a small-sized gate and increases to over one million yen for a large gate.
We find the donator’s name and the date of the donation inscribed on the back of each gate.
We reach a small shrine with stacks of miniature torii gates that were donated by visitors with smaller budgets.
The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds. However, we stop short of a hike to the summit of the mountain and back as it will take us another 2-3 hours. Although we can can enjoy views over Kyoto, we believe we’v enough and like to conserve our energy.
Back at Kyoto Station, it’s about 5 plus in the evening. We decide to have an early dinner at Kyoto Ramen Alley (京都拉麺小路 Kyoto Ramen Koji) since we are hungry with the walking.
We settle with Takaraya (宝屋). (However, I note that this shop has closed in November 2011.)
The ramen is nice though I find the soup slightly salty for me.
After our dinner, we do some last-minute shopping before we take a shuttle bus back to Westin Miyako Kyoto (ウェスティン都ホテル京都). Back at the hotel, we also take time to enjoy our last night view of Kyoto City in the cold winter night.