We finished our first day in Kyoto with a visit to the Kodai-ji Zen temple. This was a tranquil oasis after the crowds at Kiyiomizudera, and by this point in the day I would have really enjoyed sitting quietly looking at the pristine dry garden, but sadly the rest of the party were excited to keep exploring. This temple also featured a bamboo forest that was particularly beautiful in the late afternoon sun.
The warm and sunny weather continued into our second day which made it ideal for an amble along the canal known as the Path of Philosophy. Like the previous day, we found plenty of interesting and welcoming cafés at which to take refreshments, and then after lunch1 we visited Ginkaku-ji. The name literally translates as, “Temple of the Silver Pavilion” but it is a misnomer and none of the buildings are actually covered in silver. This is another Zen temple, and in addition to the dry garden, there was a moss garden that had a cool and muted “deep within a forest” atmosphere. This would be a lovely spot to escape the heat of Japanese summer, as well as the hustle and bustle of the city.
In the evening we enjoyed traditional obanzai (Kyoto-style) food and sake at a small and intimate restaurant in Gion called Tokiyo. Enjoying a special meal of obanzai and kaiseki (fine dining) are popular activities for visitors to Kyoto with many highly priced options that require reservations to be made a month in advance. Unsure of our plans until a few days before, we had failed to book any of these, so were very glad to find Tokiyo. The outstanding food was made in the open kitchen by the chef-owner (who originally started the restaurant in partnership with his mother) and his single assistant/waitress. After the evening rush was completed they were keen to chat with us, adding to the charm and authenticity of the experience. Highly recommended.
It seems that after-lunch is also when the school parties visit. While this did not interfere with our enjoyment of the temple it is another reason to take a later lunch and visit places whilst tour groups are eating. ↩︎