Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Getting Lost and Found in Kyoto

23rd October, 2006 - Across the road from Nijō-jo lies a small garden, Shinsen-en, originally built at the dawn of Heian-kyo, but the present garden dates from Meiji times (late 19th century); a shadow of the previous imperial garden.

There's a small lake and island as the centre-piece of the garden. The island houses a small shrine to a female kami, Zen-nyo-ryu-o.

The bridge is known as the Hosei-bashi, and was quite attractive. It's also nice to find an old-style Japanese bridge that you can walk over. Almost all of the ones previously are blocked from walking over... this most probably indicates the historical value of the garden.

The garden, though small, is nice and secluded... a peaceful retreat. And free.

After we had finished at Shinsen-en, we had one small thing to do... have lunch: Zarusoba (T-chan) and Curry Udon (me). Hmm.. T-chan's pregnancy is starting to work up quite an appetite. Still can't taste a thing though.

Now with a full stomach we set out to find something a little different. Nijo Jinya... an inn dating from 1660, it is famous as for it's ninja-style trap-doors and secret passages... and whilst costing 1000yen, is supposed to be quite good. Normally you're supposed to book in advance, but as we'd been pretty well flat out we'd missed the chance. We thought we'd try our luck.

Hmmm... T-chan... which way is it? Er.... this ain't good.

As it turns out... it's actually very easy to get there from (A) Nijō-jo, via (B) Shinsen-en, and then finally (C) Nijo-Jinya.

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The only problem is that we walked past here a couple of times... not knowing. They don't go out of their way to advertise it (maybe why they ask you to book ahead). Street-view was just a twinkle in a deluded mind back in 2006... so we had no idea what to look for, and all the maps were too vague. Anyway... hope this helps people a bit.

In the end we got that confused we started asking locals... you'd be surprised how many looked at us like, "what da hell yo talkin' bout?!?". Apparently it's not that well known locally. By the time we got there - it was way after the tour time was due to start, and it looked decidedly quiet. Once again... booking ahead IS recommended. As is reading the map properly. Feeling a little on the flat side, we decided this was one of Kyōto's sites that would defeat us... this trip.

Jumping on the subway we headed off to do some shopping... and it just so happened we came across Honnō-ji, the location where Oda Nobunaga met his ultimate doom by his own sword. As described previously, Oda Nobunaga - the first grand almost-unifer of Japan - was waylaid by one of his disgruntled generals (Akechi Mistuhide). This is known, unimaginatively as the Incident at Honnō-ji.

Rather than accept the ignominy of such a disgraceful end, Nobunaga ordered the temple set alight and took his own life... though... it should be said that whilst he saved himself the dishonour of having his head taken... his remains were also never found. This apparently is one of the great conspiracy theories of the time... and not a grassy knoll in sight. 

Now - there remains just a small shrine to Oda Nobunaga on site. A small but steady group of people come to pay respects to this great, though fearsome leader. Even in the rain that had started to fall.

The grave of Oda Nobunaga is not particularly impressive - all things considered. He had almost become ultimate warlord of all of Japan. Of course - grand memorials don't generally come to those that almost made it. No matter how grandly.

The temple is hidden away behind a number of buildings, and is not that obvious. Get off at Kyoto Shiyakusho station.

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We quickly made our way down to the shopping district of Kyōto... in particular around the arcades of Sanjodōri and Teramachidōri (named after the concentration of temples that were constructed there following Toyotomi Hideyoshi's reign). I might blog about these later however... today (our third full day in Kyōto) was coming to an end.
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  1. I would love to visit Nobunaga's shrine. I have visited Tokugawa Ieyasu's shrine in Nikko several times.

  2. It was one of the places that we had kept in the back of our minds to visit. I had expected there to be a bit more there however. Having said that as it had started rain and we were looking to do shopping, we didn't exactly stay that long to really dig either.

  3. Good to know about booking ahead. Don't know how easy it is to book in Japanese by myself. =P