Monday, May 9, 2011

Ginkaku-ji and further plans

I did indeed haul my lazy butt over to Ginkaku-ji. It cost 500 yen to get in. I think I might go back (perhaps!) because it's sooooo close and quite pretty and I forgot the memory card to my camera so basically I just have these two EXTREMELY SPEEDY sketches that I'm not super happy with. (There were colors, man! colors!)

This is the main and most famous building there. "Ginkaku-ji" means "the Silver Pavilion," though it is not, actually, covered in silver, though apparently that was originally the plan. It's supposed to be a counterpart to Kinkaku-ji ("the Golden Pavilion"), which I saw last time I was in Japan. Both were built as private residences, this one in the 1480s-90s, and later given over to orders of Buddhist monks to turn into temples. I kept picturing whatever brilliant old Japanese architect who designed this place spinning in his grave, yelling, "I spent MONTHS getting the curve of that roof JUST RIGHT, and now you cavalierly butcher it in your drawing? FOR SHAME!"

Ah well.

This brings to mind the fact that there are bunch of things that I really want to be sure that I see in Kyoto before leaving, and I probably should do a little planning such that I don't get caught unawares with how relatively little time I have here. I don't have a huge travel budget this time around, but as I swear 60% of Japan's "Important Cultural Properties" are located within a four-mile radius from where I live, I think I can handle that.

Firstly: Aoi Matsuri, the Hollyhock festival, which is apparently a big one in Kyoto, happens on May 15 -- this Sunday, to be precise. I think there's a parade and stuff, so hopefully I can go out and catch that.

I'd like to visit the Kyoto National Museum, the Kyoto Municipal Art Museum (hey, I've walked by it two or three times now), and the Kyoto International Manga Museum. On the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, there's Kamigamo and Shimogamo Shrines (one of which I think I've already walked by once without recognizing it, whoops), both about a mile or two north of where I live. There's Tou-ji (has a pagoda) and Nijou Castle, which are a little farther away and on the other side of the river. I'd love to visit Kiyomizu-dera again (and was intending to when I got lost on the road to Otsu, sigh). There's Daigo-ji, Ninna-ji, Saihou-ji, which all look to have lovely gardens/buildings (and another pagoda! I wish you could actually go up in the pagodas. Le sigh.) In other words, I could visit two major temples every weekend and still have a ton left.

We'll see.

In spite of having little budget for travel, I still have some ideas for outside of Kyoto:
  • Osaka is but a short (really short, like $15 round trip ish) train ride away. And it's huge. Doubtless there are dozens of things that I could do there every weekend too, but the things that are striking my fancy at the moment are the "Open Air Museum of Old Farmhouses," "Museum of Oriental Ceramics" (maybe, sometimes I can't deal with thousands of bowls), and Sumiyoshi Taisha (a carefully rebuilt/restored pre-Chinese Buddhist influence Shinto shrine). It also might be fun to try and tour about looking for modern architecture of note.
  • I had thought about going to Miyajima (it's the famous red torii in the ocean that you've doubtless seen photos of), but it's way farther down the coastline than I thought, such that a round-trip train ticket is going to be in the vicinity of $250. Eeep. Given that I, personally, am not super excited about going to see it at this point, I think it might get put off for another trip.
  • I thought maybe of trying to go back to Takamatsu. There was this really great garden there, the name of which escapes me now (I want to say Ritsurin-Kouen) that I didn't get any photos in because I had just annihilated my camera with rain water on the walk up to Kotohira, but it was pretty fantastic. Train fare would be in the neighborhood of $200 round trip, though. Possibly there's a less express, less expensive option? Shall look into this.
  • The place I would really, really like to visit is Nagasaki. A round-trip plane ticket to Nagasaki in early June and hosteling for a night is probably going to cost in the region of $330-$360, though I'd also like to visit Usuki. . . which is sadly on the opposite side of Kyuushuu and would cost another $200 in train tickets. Bah humbug. I probably need to reserve my flights and hostel in the next day or so if I'm going. . . .oy.

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