An epic nap last night and lots of tea seems to have set me right for yesterday's adventures.
We were up early and on a rush-hour bus to Ryoanji. This Zen temple is famous for its "dry landscape" garden, so much so that it can get mobbed pretty quickly. We arrived early enough to snatch a few quiet moments on the veranda of the abbot's residence overlooking the sea of raked sand and stone islands before the clomping of sneakers announced the arrival of some Japanese high school students. The girls saw me sitting quietly with my camera and one approached offering a pink point-and-shoot. I took their picture as they all posed making the "V" peace sign, then I had to sign everyone's notebooks. (I tried getting one of them with mine, but it was so strongly backlit it wasn't worth keeping.)
At this point we moved on to explore the equally lovely landscape gardens. On our way to retrieve our shoes, another group of kids passed us. Josh asked them what school they went to, conversation with one of the girls ensued, and the next thing we knew we were posing with more kids and signing more autographs.
We caught another bus for Rokuonji, better known as Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. This garish monstrosity was built by the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (the current building is a reconstruction as the original was burned down by a suicidal monk in the 1950s). Still, the gardens are lovely, particularly with the trees turning.
Another bus, another shogunal mansion: this time, the Ginkakuji - while not clad in silver, it is so named, probably so it pairs poetically with the other. Ashikaga Yoshimasa used it as a retreat where he dabbled in the arts while there was unrest in the streets of the city below. High on a hillside, the gardens, complete with a more ostentatious dry landscape, offer a commanding view of the city below.
We found lunch in a little place on the street below the Ginkakuji, then followed the "philosopher's path," a lovely shady walk along a canal, named for Kyoto University's Nishida Kitaro, who supposedly thought great thoughts there. Cherry blossom season must be a zoo, but it was very pleasant, with little shops and cafes tucked in between residences. We found a little place canalside selling vintage kimono. They had some great plaid ones, which were unlined and looked eminently suited to re-tailoring. Josh picked out two, I found one and we got a heavy discount. I think it came to under $10 each.
We also stumbled upon a small Shinto shrine just off the canal and up the hill. A little wild and overgrown, it featured all sorts of animal guardians, particularly mice. We finally came out at the bottom of the hill near the southern gate of Nanzen-ji.
It being Cori's birthday, we went out to a place where exquisitely cut pieces of raw beef in all its forms are brought to your table and you grill it yourself. Insanely good, probably because it was all well marbled, and well, fat tastes good. We walked back through town instead of taking a bus back, so that probably helped. Got some decent night shots in the huge arcade at Sanjo-dori (Third Avenue) and Teramachi-dori too!