This is a detailed post of my 2 weeks long solo backpacking trip to Japan. Please see preview and itinerary/index of my complete trip on this post.
Day 2 – Kyoto
I boarded a local city bus to reach Yasaka Shrine from Philosopher’s path. Distance between the two is less than 10 kms but it took me nearly an hour due to traffic. Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社, Yasaka Jinja), also known as Gion Shrine, is near Gion area. So quite a central point of all tourism in Kyoto. Shrine was founded over 1350 years ago. Yasaka Shrine has no entry fees.
The shrine’s main hall combines the honden (inner sanctuary) and haiden (offering hall) into a single building. In front of it stands a dance stage with hundreds of lanterns that get lit in the evenings. Each lantern bears the name of a local business in return for a donation.
It has a lot of street food stalls but mainly serving non vegetarian food so not of interest to me.
Amazing sunset awaits at Maruyama Park
Cloudy weather has been constantly frustrating me. I was expecting a mediocre sunset, but weather turned clear towards the end of day and I had a amazing blue sky for shoot.
I reached “Maruyama Park” just in time. Maruyama park is walkable from Yasaka Shrine. They both are adjacent. Maruyama Park is a very popular spot for Sakura viewing and Hanami parties. Maruyama park has no entry fees.
Since I was carrying nothing but camera and tripod bag I caught attention of few local/tourists and it was good to have interaction with them. I met many local Japanese people from nearby cities visiting Maruyama Park for sakura viewing. All Japanese people I have met were very warm and inviting. They were very happy to pose for me when I told I am a travel blogger. A few immediately connected with me over Facebook. Most Japanese people I met knew basic or no English but still they try their best to interact with foreigners.
Old and Faithful
The centerpiece of the park is a tall Shidarezakura (weeping cherry tree), which gets lit up in the night. Tree itself is quite huge and has a protective fencing around it. This tree is one of the greatest attraction of Maruyama Park. There are numerous cherry tree here and this park is good place to spend a evening. Since sky looked better today I placed my camera to shoot a time-lapse while I grabbed a cup of hot coffee to keep myself warm. It was a freaking windy and cold evening! Seeing sky turn colors and cherry tree illuminated by external light was a great experience. Here are three shots from my timelapse sequence. Notice how distinct each of them looks though it is the same tree.
Lovely setup of Hanami Parties
A open seating arrangement beneath cherry trees is a wonderful setup to have relaxing time with family and friends. I would have too loved to spend some time here with my family and friends unfortunately that was not possible. Some people felt awkward and few gave me a thumbs up when noticed me taking pictures. Though it is not good to photograph while eating but I have no option. I had to capture the essence of Hanami Parties. I was feeling like a poor foreign traveler because everyone around was wearing nice suits and dresses, on the other hand I was wearing just average clothes. To travel light I was carrying only sturdy clothes that could last days unwashed (In-fact I was carrying only one lower, which I am wearing). Anyways that is a part of backing and I should learn it embrace it.
Night Illumination at Kiyomizudera Temple
Making my way through narrow by lanes of Higashiyama district I reached Kiyomizudera in about 20 mins. A local city bus can also be used to travel between them but it takes almost same time due to traffic. I checked a few hostels/hotels on my way and they were all too pricey due to proximity to major temples. If you are short on time, this area is the best place to stay.
Kiyomizudera (清水寺, literally “Pure Water Temple”) is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. It was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills east of Kyoto, and derives its name from the fall’s pure waters. Temple looks heavenly and colorful in Spring and fall season due to numerous cherry and maple trees. main shrine is located on a hill and has a amazing view of Kyoto city at night. Main entrance of the temple is under construction right now and a secondary gate on its side is open for public use. Temple charges an entry fees of 400Y.
Shooting landscapes/cityscapes at night is relatively easy. Shooting cherry tress at night is not as easy as I thought due to continuous movement of flowers/trees with wind. A little underexposed and you tend to loose all the details. I tried to capture night illumination to the best of my knowledge. I hope I did some justice to the amazing scenery of night setup. I met and talked to a few local photographers who were visiting the temple with their heavy tripods. Temple is also popular due to a wooden stage that extends over the hill and is lined with cherry trees. A birds eye view of Kyoto city from the wooden stage of the main hall is worth staying after sunset.
After spending couple of hours shooting historic architecture of Kiyomizudera and night illumination I made my way back to my hostel. A day well spent. I fell in love with Kyoto on first day itself ! So much so that I decided to spend an extra day here. I had kept two buffer days in my original plan to use them in case i like some place more. I earlier planned three days in Kyoto but now I extended it to four.
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