THIS is why walking is good for you. It has its health benefits and a learning experience especially when traveling.
Walking gives access to new areas to explore. These may not be as big and popular as the others, and never made to your must-see list but as interesting and worth the visit. You’d be grateful for opting to hike to your next stop.
Day 4 in Kyoto yielded copious surprises. The sun was getting ready to do its exit in the west but I still chose to walk from the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a Unesco World Heritage Site and Historic Monument of Kyoto, to the last stop for the day, the Gion.
Along the way, the road in the Higashiyama Ward was paved with “good distractions,” which the ancient capital is abundant with. I knew there was little chance I’d catch the popular Geisha district in daylight, but I was not missing out on the chance to give in to the discoveries.
From the Kiyomizu-dera, I took the stairs down to the sloped shopping street of Sannenzaka lined with quaint teahouses, shops and restaurants. Little did I know that the road I took was one of the city’s popular tourist pedestrian roads, which exudes the look and feel of old Kyoto. No flashing signage on the wooden structures and posts with exposed wires can be seen.
The street is part of the Nene-mo-michi (the Path of Nene), which extends all the way to the Gion. Nene-mo-michi was named after Kita-no-Mandokoro, aka Nene, the wife of a warlord. She became a nun after his husband’s death and built the Zen Buddhist temple Kodai-ji in 1606. The temple is located along the path.
In the area are centuries old temples like the Korin Temple, founded in 1520 as a family temple for the Hatekeyama family; the Gesshinin Temple founded in 1617 and site of the Goryo Eji Tonsho (the base of the “Guardians of the Imperial Tomb”); the Shunko-in (Temple of the Ray of Spring Light), a Zen Buddhist temple established in 1590; the Entuko-in Temple, a sub-temple of Kodai-ji Temple; and the Yasaka Shrine, aka The Gion Shrine, founded in 656.
Other points of interests are the 24-meter towering statue of Kanon at the Ryozen Kannon, a war memorial commemorating the soldiers who died in the Pacific War, and the Murayama Park, a public park that gets crowded during the cherry blossom season.
The Higashiyama district offers another kind of adventure — the roadside Buddhist statues and altar objects. There are nine listed and touching each can earn us merit. Kyoto just gave me another good reason to return, I said to myself.
For a preview I chanced upon a couple of the lucky objects. First was the Hotei at the entrance of the Gesshinin Temple. The potbelly deity of good fortune is said to be an incarnation of the Mirokubosatsu (god of love and kindness). Rubbing its belly will be prosperity, so I did. The next was the Mani wheels in Kodaiji temple, which is said to contain the Heart Sutra. To earn merit, one must touch the wheels once, but if one has wishes regarding health, longevity, etc., one has to walk around the hall clockwise while touching and turning the wheels with the right hand.
The other seven will be visited soon.
It was sunset when I finally reached Gion. I crossed my fingers that I would spot a geisha.
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