August 30, 2015

Riding the Japanese Train

Riding the Japanese train

The first time we rode the train in Japan I think my mind was eaten by a giant question mark monster. First, the ticket machine was in Japanese. Although there was an English button I was anxious of using it because I might do something wrong that I might destroy it. I stared at it for a long time wondering how I will get a ticket from this object. Thank heavens there was a "call attendant" button - a personnel wearing a blue uniform will appear and help you - sometimes he'll appear on a window near the ticket machine.
It's the red circle button; left most.  

Next, in some stations I saw a number of people who are carrying wheeled luggage with them; this was an everyday scenario.  Was that a Japanese fashion? Anyway let's get to the main point here which are the things to consider when riding the Japanese train.

I think Japanese have unwritten rules when riding the train. Some are just my assumptions based on what I observed during my visit.

1) When the train arrives, let the passengers get off the train first and wait on the sides of the door before entering. Don't be in a hurry, the train won't leave you just like what your ex did.

2) I think this applies around the world that if an elderly enters the train and there aren't any seat available and you are sitting comfortably, you should offer and give the elderly your seat. In Japan, if you offer your seat to the elderly they'll effin refuse you. This is one of the things that frustrates me about Japanese; they're so polite. Of course they  want your seat but they're so polite that they'll refuse you many times. I remember, this happened to me, on a bus though, I once offered my seat to an elderly. I think I asked him thrice but his response was no. What I did is I just left my seat and tap his shoulder and said "Please" while pointing at my seat. I don't know if he understood that but he finally seated. Japanese!

3) Japanese are silent creatures. You might have a bunch of people on the train with you but you won't hear a sound, because they are sleeping. Kidding. Anyway it is considered rude to be loud in Japanese trains. Don't be that annoying person who talks and laughs like it's the end of the world. Seriously, shut your mouth! If you must talk to someone, keep it on a low tone and end your discussion immediately.

4) You can use your phone on the train, anytime. But don't receive or make a phone call while you're inside the train. Trust me, you don't want all eyes on you like they want to kick you out off the train right?

TLDR: Just don't be an idiot when riding the train!

Thanks for reading. :)

You, what are your experiences on riding the Japanese train?

Honen-in Temple

Honen-in Temple

This is the only temple that can be toured for free all year round! We almost did not enter the temple because it looks like a private property and there were no other visitor except us. We asked the passersby if it was the Honen-in temple just to confirm if we were on the right area.

The temple was very serene and a great place to contemplate. Really. It was our last temple for that day and it was nice not to hear any noise.

Main gate and the two white sand bed (Biyaku-sadan).

The two mounds of sand are said to represent water that cleanses the mind and the body of the visitor. The gate was closed when we were there and we pass through a different route.

The main hall wasn't open during the time so we just roamed around. It houses the black Amida Buddha figure and is only open during the first week of April and November.

At the bridge going to the main hall.

Moss covered garden.

Gate at the entrance.

While touring around we passed by a cemetery which at first looks like an ordinary garden to me; it doesn't have that creepy atmosphere.

How to get there:

From Kawaramachi station of the Hankyu Line, take City bus 17 or 32 and get off at Ginkakuji-mae. It's a five minute walk from there.

From Kyoto Station, take City bus 5, 17 or 100.

Opening Hours and fees: 

Opening Hours: 07:00H to 16:00H

Fees: None

Ginkaku-ji Temple: Silver Pavilion and Path of Philosphy

Ginkaku-ji Temple: Silver Pavilion

Ginkaku-ji Temple is not covered in glistening silver unlike the Kinkaku-ji temple which is covered in gold. It was built by the grandson of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, who built the Kinkaku-ji Temple, for his retirement.

Although it doesn't have the grandeur of the Golden Pavilion, it offers stunning moss and dry sand gardens.

The entrance is a 50-meter long fence on both sides made of camellias

Kannon-den (Ginkaku).

The Kannon Hall is a two-story building: the first level built in Japanese architecture style and the second level in Chinese temple style. On top of the roof is a bronze phoenix believed to be guarding the temple dedicated to Kannonbosatsu, the Goddess of Mercy.

Kogetsudai "Moon Viewing Platform".

The vast dry sand garden with a massive sand cone, Kogetsudai.

The Main Hall beside the garden.

The main hall, which is close to the public, houses paintings that dates back to 18th century.

Togu-do Hall. Oldest Shoin style building with one story Irimoya style.

The moss garden, which features ponds and bridges and small islands, is a feast for the eyes.

Moss garden.

View from the hill behind the buildings.

The temple is a World Cultural Heritage Site.

How to get there:

From Kawaramachi station of the Hankyu line, take City bus 5 or 17 and get off at Ginkakuji-michi.

From Kyoto station, take City bus 5, 17 or 100.

Opening Hours and fees: 

Opening Hours: 08:30H to 17:00H (09:00H to 16:30H from December to February)
No closing days

Fees: 500 yen

Website: Ginkaku-ji Temple (Japanese website)

Path of Philosophy

Consequently, from Ginkaku-ji temple you could walk to the Path of Philosophy which is one of the best cherry blossom spots during cherry blossom season. The path starts from the Ginkaku-ji temple extending to Nanzen-ji.

No cherry blossom yet. :(

My photos are quite dull due to cloudy weather that day. Sun randomly goes out and when I change my camera settings the clouds cover the sun again. Kind of frustrating actually. 

Kinkaku-ji Temple: Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Kinkaku-ji Temple: Temple of the Golden Pavilion

There are places that would make you feel something different in your body when you go there and for me this is one of them; it's the most scenic temple I've ever laid my eyes on. Every part of me of was smiling and dancing when I finally took a glimpse of the famous golden pavilion. I guess gold has a magic on me.

I usually take pictures before enjoying the scene but at that moment I just stood there looking at the temple sometimes interrupted by local and foreign tourists taking pictures. I think this has the highest number of crowd that I ever visited. 

The temple  is a Zen Buddhist and houses relics of Buddha.

The garden and buildings were said to represent the Pure Land of Buddha. 

The temple is not really made of gold but is covered with gold foil on lacquer on the upper two levels and on the top of the roof is a shining phoenix. The first and second level are built in Japanese temple style while the top level is built in Chinese style.

The pavilion is surrounded by a pond, that reflects the building, and small islands.

One of the islands surrounding the pavilion.

The garden is listed as a National Special Historic Site and Special Place of Scenic Beauty.

Chinese style gate.

Stone sculpture at the entrance.

Priests' living quarters.

An area where visitors can rest.

The temple was registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1994.

How to get there:

Coming from Ryoan-ji temple, take City bus 12 or 59 and get off at Kinkaku-ji michi.

From Kyoto station, take City bus 101 or 205.  Alternatively, you can use the subway Karasuma Line and get off at Kitaoji bus terminal. Take bus 101 or 205.

Opening Hours and fees: 

Opening Hours: 0900H - 1700H(No closing days)
Fees: 400 yen

Website: Kinkaku-ji Temple (Japanese website)

August 25, 2015

Ryoan-ji Temple

Ryoan-ji Temple

Ryoan-ji temple houses the most famous zen rock garden in Japan which was the simplest garden I've seen - it consist of fifteen rocks laid out in raked white gravel. The garden is an example of kare sansui (dry landscape) style. The rocks were arranged such that at any angle or point you look at, you could only see 14 rocks.

View from the platform of the rock garden.

There was less crowd during our visit so I took the time to sit on the platform and look at the garden. I've read in some reviews that this garden isn't worth the visit - that there's nothing to see or experience. I'm glad I didn't believe what I read.

Ryoan-ji rock garden.

I took my time watching the garden and just forget everything else. I never thought that such simple arrangement of rocks and pebbles is very relaxing to look at. The sun was also helping because it was freezing that time.

There are no records of when the garden was constructed and its meaning is also not clear which makes it more mysterious. I guess the meaning of the garden depends on your perception, on what you feel when looking at it. What I realized here is a lot of things in life is simple yet most of us make it complicated although you also have the option of not thinking what this garden means - just relax and enjoy its simplicity.

The temple also boasts beautiful and stunning gardens.

How to get there:

Coming from Ninnaji Temple, take City bus 59 and get off at Ryoanji mae.

Opening Hours and fees: 

Opening Hours: 0800H - 1700H (Mar - Nov), 0830H-1630H (Dec-Feb)
Fees: 500 yen (Adult), 300 Yen (Children under 15)

Website: Ryoanji Temple