The shariden at Rokuon-ji, or the Golden pavilion (Kinkaku -ji) has been destroyed twice, once during the Onin wars and again in 1950 by a monk of the temple who had a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock. All that said, it’s still magnificently splediferours in all it’s gold plate. Look closely and you’ll also see the architecture changes floor by floor, from shinden through samurai and finally to zen, not bad for a building that started out life as a retirement villa. The largest island in the lake that surrounds the villa represents Japan, and the whole is surrounded by a magnificent, running out of superlatives here, walk around garden with carefully planned views back over the estate. All very zen. How to get there? Well we took the green Raku tourist bus from Kyoto station*.
*FYI if you’re in Kyoto for a couple of days it’s probably worthwhile getting a Kyoto city bus day pass at Kyoto station.
Tucked in between Teramachi and Takakura and one block north of Shijo is the Nishiki markets with it’s multi-coloured glass roof. An awe inspiring selection of gastronomic sights, and smells, greets you in what the locals call Kyoto’s pantry. Some of the stalls sell takeaway in the form of sashimi and yakitori skewers and there are some small sit down restaurants tucked away here and there. A good place to hit for an hour or so of wandering if the weather is dubious, which is exactly what we did. Be warned though, if you’re a foody you may never escape…
You’re probably wondering how we got here aren’t you… Let’s wind the tape back a little to see how we got here shall we? Dateline Narita International airport, situated in Chiba prefecture to the east of Tokyo. Our intrepid travellers arrive on their way to Yokohama via a flying visit to Kyoto. As it turns out the easiest way to Tokyo station and the Shinkasen connection to Kyoto is simply to take the Narita express (takes about an hour) delivering you to a basement platform in Tokyo central. You do need to book your seats for the Shinkasen and NEX trains at Narita. We left the Narita express at Tokyo station trundled upstairs to the ground concourse and the transfer gate to the Tokaido Shinkansen to Kyoto. All the lines are colour coded (Tokaido Shinkasen a helpful blue) and signed in english. Safely boarded on the Shinkasen it was kick back and enjoy riding the bullet in all it’s retro-futuristic glory as the Japanese countryside unwinds around us and we fall into an alternate future called Japan.