Category Archives: Kyoto

Kyomizu Dera – Kyoto, Japan

Sai-mon (west gate)

Kyomizu Dera

(81)  75.551.1234

Open Hours:
6:00-18:00    Daily
18:00-21:00 Special dates

Located up mount Otowain above Kyoto’s Higashiyama Ward, Kyomizu Dera is one of the most impressive structures of ancient Japan (and holds one of the best views in Kyoto!).  The walk up to the temple itself is a mesmerizing trek.  One eases up into the temple passing the massive structure beneath. By the time you get to the temple itself, you are already filled with awe.

The main hall was built in 778 and reconstructed in 1633.  The innermost sanctuary holds the image of eleven-headed Thousand-armed Kannon Bodhisattva. The deity of great mercy and compassion “Kiyomizu Kannon-san.”

The Zuigu-do hall, reconstructed in 1718, holds as it’s principal image  the Daizuigu Bodhisattva. Underneath this hall rests the Tainai meguri – regarded as the womb of Zuigu-Botatsu (symbolized by the Sanskrit character हर “Hara”) who is  known as the motherly Buddha.  The Tainai meguri is a pitch dark passage way, with only an oversized Buddhist bead string along the wall to guide your hand as you maze your way down to the Zuigu stone.

We visited the temple at night, after a lovely walk through the Higashiyama streets. We were quite lucky as the temple was open with a special light presentation!

above photo © Kyomizu dera (Hondo Main hall )
above photo © Kyomizu dera (Hondo Main hall )
above photo © Kyomizu dera (Hondo Main hall )
above photo © Kyomizu dera (Hondo Main hall )
Sai-mon (west gate)

Okochi Sanso – Kyoto, Japan


Okochi Sanso

(81)  75.872-2233

Open Hours:
9:00-17:00    Daily

Located a 15 minute walk from Tenryūji Temple, on the slopes of Mount Ogura, at the end of the famous Arashiyama Tenryū-ji Bamboo Forest , is hidden this most beautiful place; Okochi Sanso.  The former home and garden of the actor Denjirō Ōkōchi  (1898–1962) the villa became public after his death in 1962.

Ōkōchi -san’s movie career spanned over 5 decades from 1926 – 1962.  Escaping from the bustle of set, He retreated to the land and designed (mostly himself) this calming collection of gardens and buildings through the 1930s – 40s.

Narrow pathways, past the vistas and forests, will bring you to  a small museum (for Denjirō Ōkōchi and his life in film), as well as the Jibutsudō – an original  Meiji Era building. On your short walk, you can experience a most wonderful view of the fall foliage should you be present during the Autumn; and, with assumption, the same must be true for the spring bloom!

Keep your eyes open for a very discrete path.  Via this hidden corridor, there is a secret building most visitors miss.  Inside one will find, on one side, yet another perfect zen garden and on the back, a view to the mountains.  Lovingly, this room has tables prepared paper and ink for any visitor to practice calligraphy.

After all Kyoto’s palaces and temples, one could really feel the personal love that Okochi Sanso put into his own home.


okochi-sanso-030Tea garden in front of the Tekisuian


Higashiyama Ward – Kyoto, Japan


Kyoto’s Higashiyama is a happening area with souvenir stores, cafes, restaurants galleries and more.  Yes, it is very touristic, but try not to apply a regular tourist stop mentality that one dons in other counties.  Everything is priced accordingly to quality .

Guidebooks (and the actual guides) fail to give good directions on how find this district (1 of 11 in all Kyoto).   They all seemed to claim ‘no definite address‘!   After butting heads with taxi drivers and walking and walking and walking …  we came to the conclusion the best way to get there is asking directions to The Ryōzen Kannon; a war memorial and giant white concrete statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara.  Across the main street entrance to the memorial  is an uphill walking street.  This is the best place to start your walk. See map at the end of the post.  (In our opinon, The Ryōzen Kannon is not worth the time in a city of more interesting temples and shrines.)

Start  early before the crowds arrive at Kōdai-ji.  Take a taxi to The Ryōzen Kannon – walk up and around  the Higashiyama streets,  stop for lunch wheverer catches your eye (or just enjoy all the street samples!).  Follow this with a short walk to the Hokan-ji (Yasaka Pagoda)  and walk back uphill  and continue to Kiyomizu-dera for  the astounding evening lights.

I you want to do something fun you can rent a Kimono (his & hers) at    at the beginning of the Higashiyama walk . Most Japanese woman and a few men rent Kimonos to tour Kyoto and other historical cities. It  is super cute, lends to wonderful photos! The rental house will also do your hair and accessorize! Returns are very easy.

Highly recommended is the the ume boshi store.  It is one of the best we found in all Japan.  We didn’t purchase enough at the cheaper tourist price and found the same brand at the Ginza Mitsokishi department store, but at a higher price.

seasoned rice crackers _ amazing!!
amazake stand – a must during the cold months

Amazake is a sweet, slightly fermented rice drink with  kome kōji (malted rice) can be mixed with spices and  served hot

street gallery
Hokan-ji (Yasaka Pagoda)
Hokan-ji (Yasaka Pagoda)
Hokan-ji (Yasaka Pagoda)
Hokan-ji (Yasaka Pagoda)

suggestedroute in pink – top right Kiyomizu-dera