Myriam Moret's Weblog

2000 things to see in Kyoto/2000 choses a voir a Kyoto

Posted on 3/31/2008 by Myriam Moret

Le texte en français est, comme toujours, à la suite de celui en anglais)

We spent 2 nights in Kyoto and visited Kinkakuji (Golden Pavillion), Nijo Castle, Fushimi Inari Shrine and went shopping. Once you understand the japanese tourism "machine" It is not that hard to cram as many spots as we visited into 2 evenings and 1 full day. If you go with a tour they actually manage to cram it all in a one day mad dash thru the city. Most places take only a couple hours to visit if you're slow, so with a good schedule you get to see a lot.

We got to Kyoto late, after many hours on the train and frankly we were rather tired and a bit hungry. A walk and dinner in Gion (the Geisha's district) seemed like a good idea. Now to find Gion was another story. We walked for a while and passed by a few busy streets, but nowhere did we see something that might even remotely look like the famed "district" (It is in fact just a few buildings stretched on about half a block) By then I was starving and getting a little grumpy. We headed back to the busy shopping area and looked for a place to eat that would satisfy 2 ravenous tourists.

Don't care for sashimi, mountains of "tamago" and the idea of raw fish guts over rice doesn't quite gets your salivary glands going? Kyoto might not be your place of choice to move. Most places were displaying vivid and quite graphic displays of doubless very fresh but also very raw fish parts. (Did that shrimp just move??)  

Now VERY hungry but still not willing to settle for a beef fat bowl sitting at the counter of Yoshinoya (that's a fast food place) , we kept on walking... and then shining through the hundreds of other signs, I spotted it: SHAKEY'S PIZZA. Everyone knows pizza was invented by the gods to make me happy and even japanese pizza would do because right now I was just about ready to kill and eat the first passerby. The gods really were on my side, they made Shakey's an all-you-can-eat place. I could have cried from joy. 

After stuffing ourselves like pigs we slowly made our way back to the hotel, bought a bottle of wine, drank half a glass from it and fell asleep. Good thing since we were up bright and early to go to Kinkakuji.

Kinkaku-ji is the informal name for Rukuon-ji and was part of the retirement residence of shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. After his death in 1408, it was converted into a Zen temple by his son. The building houses sacred relics of the Buddha and is covered in 24k gold leaf. The present building dates from 1955. The original one was burned down by a fanatic monk who attempted suicide by fire in 1950. (WTF was wrong with him!?!)

Leaving Kinkakuji we embarked on the craziest taxi ride since the day of our arrival... and made our way alive to Nijo Castle. Barely holding the wheel, the driver quickly transformed into an improvised tourist guide. Pulling out pictures and postcards he kept in a folder in the gloves compartment, he proceeded to give us the know-all on the area. All this, obviously, is going on in Japanese intermingled with a few words of english.

Nijo-jo was built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu, as a residence for himself and the future shoguns. Construction began in 1601 and was completed in 1626. The Castle was opened to the public in 1939 after many reconstructions and after power was given back to the Imperial family in 1867.

The main building was constructed with nightingale floors. To protect inhabitants from sneak attacks, the floors are made to chirp like birds when walked upon.

Afterward we visited Fushimi Inari Shrine. Located a few km outside of Kyoto, it is the most famous of thousands of the shinto shrines dedicated to Inari, the rice and harvest god, represented by the fox. It was founded in the 8th century. Thousands of torii gates donated by worshipers form a 4km long path slithering through the woods and up the Inarisan mountain. Along the way, many smaller shrines guarded by foxes statues act as repository for the many mini-torii gates donated by less wealthy worshippers and tourists. Sometimes monks can be seen, keeping the paths clean of debris and little old ladies, living in old houses up the mountain sell water, refreshments and "fox udon", which is not made with fox meat but fried tofu. Apparently fried tofu is the favourite food of foxes (!?!?!)

Back in Kyoto, I bought stuff at a little shop we had walked by the night before. They sold traditional kimono purses and lots of very cool little gifts made with kimono fabric, traditional wooden dolls, and and Eric bought yet another blade. The shopkeeper was an older lady, she was very nice and gift wrapped EVERYTHING, she gave us discounts (which is not very common in Japan) and also each a little bag of candies :)

We had dinner at Kai, a very posh version of the all-you-can-eat-and-drink with table service. The very well presented and quite tasty food was served on understated white bone china on a black lacquered table with good quality wine. The "royal looking" chairs with purple velvet upholstery, low lighting and dark mirrored walls were quite impressive but not as much as the giant fish tank that made up and entire wall. The fishes were really cool, the smallest gathered in little cliques and one huge fish looked over all this like a mafia boss. I named the tank "Chez Roger - Boite de nuit" after the tune by Troublemakers.

I didn't get to see a Maiko (Geisha apprentice) or a Geisha but I saw a lot of people in traditional Japanese kimonos shopping and doing their everyday businesses. Somehow that made up for not getting a glimpse, at an overmade white-painted girl who makes tea and sings and dances for people paying thousands of dollars before returning in hiding until the next customer. They made the garments more real, more part of everyday life and a lot more "human". Kyoto is a little bit like modern times have superposed themselves to feodal Japan and none can actually really get the other to move over.


2 nuits a Kyoto et nous avons visité Kinkakuji (Le pavillion d'Or), Le palais de Nijo, le Temple de Fushimi-Inari et nous avons magasiné. Une fois que vous avez compris la dynamique de la machine touristique japonnaise, ça deviens assez facile de tout entasser ça en 2 soirées et une journée. Si vous le faites en voyage organisé, ils le font en voyage d'un jour en une course effrenée sur la ville. À la plupart des endroits il suffit de quelques heures pour faire le tour et avec un horaire bien organisé ont peut voir beaucoup.

Nous sommes arrivés à Kyoto assez tard, après plusieurs heures de train, un peu fatiqués et avec une petit faim. Une balade et un souper dans Gion (le district des Geisha) semblais être une bonne idée. Trouver Gion c'est une autre paire de manches. Après avoir marché un bout de temps, nous avons passé quelques rues animées avec des boutiques et des restos mais rien qui ressemblais même de loin au fameux "district" qui est en fait quelque maisons étendues sur la moitié d'un bloc de rue. J'étais maintenant affamée et quand j'ai faim je suis un peu marabout. Nous sommes retournés vers le coin "vivant" et cherché un resto qui pourrais satisfaire 2 touristes affamés.

Si le sashimi, les montagnes de "tamago" et l'idée d'entrailles de poissons sur du riz ne vous mettent pas en appétit, Kyoto ne doit pas figurer sur votre liste d'endroit ou déménager. La plupart des endroits montrait un menu de parties de poissons et fruits de mer sans doute très frais mais aussi très cru. (Est-ce que la crevette viens de bouger?)

Maintenant VRAIMENT affamée, mais pas encore assez pour s'installer au comptoir d'un Yoshinoya (une place de fast-food) pour un bol de gras de boeuf, on a continuer notre route... et soudain au milieu des centaines d'autres paneaux lumineux il étais là: SHAKEY'S PIZZA! Tout le monde sait que la pizza à été inventée par les dieux pour me rendre heureuse et ce soir la pizza japonnaise ce serait car j'étais juste au bord de tuer et manger le premier passant. Les dieux étais vraiment de mon côté, ils ont fait de Shakey's un all-you-can-eat. J'ai presque pleuré de joie.

Après avoir mangé comme des porcs, on est lentement retourné vers l'hotel, acheté un bouteille de vin,  bu 1/2 verre et on s'est endormi... Bonne chose car on étais debout très tôt pour aller a Kinkakuji.

Kinkaku-ji c'est l'appelation commune de Rukuon-ji et faisait partie de la résidence de retraite du shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Après sa mort en 1408, l'endroit fût converti en un temple Zen par le fils de Yoshimitsu. Le pavillon contiens des reliques sacrées du Boudha et est couvert de feuilles d'or 24k. La construction actuelle date de 1955, l'original ayant été détruit en 1950 par un moine fanatique qui tenta de se suicider en s'immolant par le feu. (Beau malade!!)

En partant de Kinkaku-ji on est embarqué dans le trajet de taxi le plus dingue depuis notre arrivée... et on s'est rendu vivant au palais de Nijo. Tenant à peine le volant, notre chauffeur s'est vite improvisé guide touristique. Sortant des photos et des cartes postales qu'il garde dans son coffre à gants , il s'est fait un devoir de nous en dire le plus possible sur les trucs à voir dans la région. Tout ça, évidement, en japonnais mêlé de quelques mots d'anglais.

Nijo-jo, dont la construction s'étend de 1601 à 1626 servit de résidence à Tokugawa Ieasu, fondateur du shogunat de Edo. Il servit aussi de résidence aux shoguns subséquents. Le palais fût ouvert au public en 1939 après plusieurs reconstructions et après que le pouvoir soit rendu à la famille impériale en 1867.

La résidence principale est construite avec des planchers "rossignols". Afin de protéger les occupants contre les attaques surprises, les planchers "chantent" comme des oiseaux lorsqu'on marche dessus.

Ensuite, visite du Temple de Fushimi-Inari. Situé à quelques km en banlieu de Kyoto et fondé au 8ième siècle, c'est le plus célèbre des milliers de temples dédiés à Inari, le dieux du riz et des récoltes, représenté par le renard. Des milliers de torii, dons des adorateurs, forment un sentier de 4km de long qui serpente les boisés environants et la montagne d'Inarisan. Sur le chemin, plusieurs petits autels et temples, gardés par des statues de renards, sont la résidence des maintes mini-torii, données par les adorateurs moins fortunés et les touristes. Parfois sur le sentier, on peut entrevoir des moines qui gardent les sentiers propres et des vielles dames dans des vielles maisons, qui vendent de l'eau, des rafraichissements et du "udon de renard", qui n'est pas fait avec de la viande de renard mais plutôt du tofu frit. Le tofu frit est apparament la nouriture préférée des renards (!?!?!)

De retour à Kyoto, j'ai acheté des trucs dans une boutique qu'on avait vu le soir d'avant. Ils vendaient des  bourses et des petits cadeaux cools fait en tissu de kimono, des poupées traditionelles en bois, et Eric s'est (encore) acheté un sabre. La propriétaire étais une dame plutôt agée, elle était vraiment gentille, à fait des embalage cadeaux pour TOUT, nous à fait des rabais (ça arrive TRÈS rarement au Japon) et nous a aussi donné à chacun un sac de bonbons :)

Souper au KAI, une version très classe du all-you-can-eat-and-drink, avec service aux tables. Les plats étais très bien présentés sur des assiettes simples en porcelaine blanche avec du bon vin. Les tables laquées noires, les chaises "royales" capitonnées de velours pourpre, l'éclairage tamisé et les murs en mirroirs fumés étaient très impressionants. Mais pas autant que l'aquarium géant qui faisait tout un mur. Les poissons étaient vraiment cool, les petits en cliques et un énorme poisson qui regardais toute l'action comme un parain de la mafia. J'ai baptisé l'aquarium "Chez Roger - Boite de nuit" comme la toune des Troublemakers.

Je n'ai pas vu de Maiko (apprentie Geisha) ou de Geisha par contre, j'ai vu beaucoup de gens en habits traditionnels, magasinant et faisant leur p'tites affaires. C'étais une ample compensation pour ne pas avoir vu de fille peinte en blanc, qui fait du thé et chante et danse pour des gens qui paient des milliers de dollars avant de retourner en isolement jusqu'au prochain client. Ces gens là ont rendu ces vêtements plus vrais, plus une part de la vie de tout les jours. Kyoto, c'est un peu come si la modernité s'étais superposée au Japon feodal sans que l'un soit jamais completement capable de prendre le dessus sur l'autre.

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Inner court of the hotel... very cool!/ La cour intérieure de l'hotel... vraiment cool!

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The Golden Pavillion. Funny story, there was a bunch of people from Québec visiting the place with a group, we got a free explanation of some of the sights and got a little laugh at the "Isn't it Zen?" comments.

 Le Pavillion d'or. Histoire drôle: Il y avait une gang de Québecois qui visitaient avec un groupe organisé. On a eu droit à quelque explications des sites gratuites et on a pu rire un peu des commentaires de "C'est vraiment Zen hein?"

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The groundskeeper in "work kimono" Isn't she the coolest?/ Elle fait l'entretien du terrain dans son 'kimono de travail". Cool!

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A walk in the gardens / Une petite marche dans les jardins.

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That lady was SO cute... She was all confused with the entry system at Nijo-jo. With the school girls in sailor outfits in the back it is the most typical Japna pic I could get.

Elle étais TELLEMENT cute, elle étais toute mêlée d'avoir à payer et donner des tickets pour entrer a Nijo-jo. Avec les étudiantes en habits de marin en background, c'est une des photos les plus "typique du Japon" que j'ai prise.

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A group of school kids in traditional dress visiting Nijo-jo / Un groue d'étudiant en habit traditionel visitant Nijo-jo.

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2 girls enjoying a day at Nijo-jo / 2 filles visitant Nijo-jo

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Welcome to Fushimi Inari Shrine, it's the 1st thing you see out of the station / Bienvenue au Temple de Fushimi Inari, c'est la 1ère chose que l'on voit en sortant de la station.

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Lunch at some traditional mom and pop restaurant near the shrine. It was very nice, I don't think they understood anything we said :p

Lunch a un petit resto familial traditionel. C'étais bon et je ne crois pas qu'ils aient compris 1 mot de ce qu'on disait :p

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2 ladies visiting the temple, just a normal day in Kyoto / 2 dames visitant le temple, journée normale à Kyoto

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One of the many foxes guarding the shrines and temples at Fushimi Inari / Un des nombreux renards qui gardent les autels et les temples à Fushimi Inari

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Torri gates at Fushimi Inari / Les torii à Fushimi Inari

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The thousands of torii slithering thru the woods / Les milliers de torii qui serpentent les bois


Chez Roger - Boite de nuit


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