Thursday, January 31, 2013

Heian Jingu Shrine and Garden in Kyoto, Japan

Day 6 in Nara: New Miyako Hotel, A review - HEIAN JINGU SHRINE - Nanzenji temple and grounds - Nijojyo Castle - Golden Pavilion Temple

Can you hear the rustling of the leaves?
I paused...
The lush green leaves swayed gently in the afternoon breeze,
Silent and peaceful, yes... that was all that I could hear.

Today, was our last day in Japan. After being picked up by stardust, dot at 8 in the morning, we soon set off to tick the first place from our to-see list in Kyoto – The Heian Jingu Shrine and garden.

The Heian Jingu Shrine


Listed as one of the important cultural properties of Japan, Heian shrine is a relatively modern Shinto Shrine built in the year 1895. What sets it apart though, is it’s dramatic color composition and it's huge torrii at the entrance.
 
The huge torrii of the Heian jingu shrine, Kyoto in Japan
The huge torrii at the entrance

This enormous Torrii brightly washed in a coat of orange leads you to an open courtyard with shrine buildings painted in beautiful contrasts of orange, white and green making the entire composition look absolutely amazing!

The main hall and other buildings in the courtyard at the Heian Jingu shrine, Kyoto in Japan
The shrine grounds

However beautiful as it might have looked from the distance where we stood, we still gave it a fleeting glance and instead opted to spend some more time in the adjacent garden that are often found as a part of many shrines and temples in Japan.

The Heian Jingu Shrine Garden

Surrounding the shrine building is a typical Japanese garden – abounding in carefully manicured trees with artistically inclined branches, pond flowers in various stages of their bloom, fishes and turtles to feed to and a lot of beauty and harmony.

We walked on it’s pebbled paths under the thatched bamboo roofs beneath the vast expanse of the cluster of the trees above,

Cluster of trees at the Heian Jingu shrine garden, Kyoto in Japan

We sat in the shade of elegance of one of the ancient buildings,

Old buildings at the Heian Jingu shrine garden, Kyoto in Japan

We amazed at the complete artistry of it’s picture,

Pond at the Heian Jingu shrine garden, Kyoto in Japan
Pond at the Heian Jingu shrine garden, Kyoto in Japan

And then, we paused...

Basking in it’s tranquility... soaking in the beauty of it’s views,

White Lotus in bloom, Heian Jingu shrine garden, Kyoto in Japan
Lake at Heian Jingu shrine, Kyoto in Japan

And losing ourselves...

To, the rustling rhythm of the leaves...

Rustling leaves at Heian Jingu shrine garden, Kyoto in Japan

To, the melody of nature.

Previous Posts from the Japan Trip -

1. Planning for Japan: Visa, Flight Bookings, Hotel Reservations, etc.
2. Sunrise pictures from the flight to Japan
3. Entire Day 1 of Japan (includes Review of Hotel Villa Fontaine Roppongi, Tokyo, Expedia Japan Office Meet: An Afternoon to Remember)

4. Entire Day 2 of Japan (includes SensoJi temple: Asakusa - Tokyo, Nakamise Dori Shopping Arcade in Tokyo, Sumida River Cruise, Tokyo, A Stroll in the Hibiya Gardens, Imperial Palace and East Gardens, The Tokyo Tower, Japan)


Monday, January 28, 2013

Where to Stay in Kyoto: New Miyako Hotel

Day 6 in Nara: NEW MIYAKO HOTEL, A REVIEW - Heian Jingu Shrine - Nanzenji temple and grounds - Nijojyo Castle - Golden Pavilion Temple

Even as our train continued to speed past the scenic countryside and the setting sun burnt the skies with a wipe of dramatic yellow, I found myself admiring the paper snowwhite and Redrose had handed over to me, when we had parted just a few minutes before.

Use this to find the way to your hotel in Kyoto...


After living every moment that life had rolled my way, we had finally waved goodbye to a place replete with beauty, culture, history, homeliness, warmth, hospitality... and friends, all packed into one - Nara. Two days in Nara had flown by in a whiffy and though Kyoto was supposed to be the one more popular amongst the two destinations, according to the various guidebooks for all that we read, I now doubted if it could ever beat the magic of my entire Nara experience.

Even as my mind filled up with thoughts like these, Hotel New Miyako – our place of overnight stay in Kyoto was gearing up to offer some sort of consolation.

Hotel New Miyako, Kyoto: A Review


At first glance:

It promised one word and that was - Luxury! It’s grand lavish exteriors were inviting and could easily pass of as any 5 star hotel in India.

Entrance to the Hotel New Miyako, Kyoto in Japan
Entrance to the Hotel New Miyako, Kyoto

What added to it’s alluring appeal, however, were the exceptionally reasonable room tariffs that the hotel had offered to us on account of booking it online. Excellent, both for the looks as well as value for money.

Room, Interiors and Ambiance:


After admiring the exteriors, we made our way towards our pre-booked standard twin room.

Verandah of the New Miyako hotel in Kyoto - Japan
Way to the room

Warm and wood toned, the room had everything in place -

Room at New Miyako hotel in Kyoto - Japan
Fluffy beds

Complete tea making kit at New Miyako hotel in Kyoto - Japan
Complete tea making kit

Japanese art in the room at New Miyako hotel in Kyoto - Japan
Japanese art

... And, oodles of serenity. Just the kind you want after a long, hectic day.

Speeding views: 


Perched on the 7th floor, the views from the window were amazing, with the lit up streets at night,

The view from the balcony of New Miyako hotel in Kyoto - Japan
The view from the balcony at night

... And the Bullet zooming past every now and then during the day.

Shinkansen Bullet train from the window of the hotel New Miyako, Kyoto - Japan
Shinkansen Bullet train from the hotel window

Easy accessibility: It’s proximity to the Shinkansen/ JR/ Kintetsu Kyoto station makes it easier to locate and also serves as a good starting point for getting around.

Things I missed: Free Internet connectivity with my room tariff, something that I had enjoyed while my stay in Tokyo (please note that the hotel has free wi-fi) and my Villa fontaine bread - butter – orange juice breakfast, two things I wished for while my stay in Kyoto.

Overall Conclusions - Highly Recommended: 

Though it was a very short stay of one night, the high degree of comfort, value for money and relaxation infused in the various elements of the hotel so also it's proximity to the Kyoto station have ensured that I’ve bookmarked the hotel for the next time, if ever there is one that is!

Tips for travelers:

1. Book online and save yourself some money: Do not forget to avail the online booking facility and get access to huge discounts on the room tariffs.

Sample this – Our standard twin sized room (26 m. sq. in size), otherwise priced at 32,340 Yen, cost us only around 9000 Yen - thanks to stardust and cosmos who booked it for us via the hotel’s internet reservation form!

For reservations and enquiries, you can visit – http://www.miyakohotels.ne.jp


Address: Hachijyo-guchi, Kyoto station, Kyoto.
Contact: (075) 661-7111

Previous Posts from the Japan Trip -

1. Planning for Japan: Visa, Flight Bookings, Hotel Reservations, etc.
2. Sunrise pictures from the flight to Japan 

3. Entire Day 1 of Japan (includes Review of Hotel Villa Fontaine Roppongi, Tokyo, Expedia Japan Office Meet: An Afternoon to Remember)


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Slice of Ancient Japan: Naramachi

Day 5 in Nara: Deer Park - Todaiji Temple in Nara - Yoshikien Garden - Kofukuji Temple - NARAMACHI

One of the best ways to discover the ancient town of Nara is to walk through the narrow streets of Naramachi - the former merchant district of Nara - that helps you step back in time.

Lined with little cafes and stores, old buildings, merchant houses and ancient temples – the streets of Naramachi in Nara are filled with structures that have simply refused to change over the years. These are structures that reveal layers of ancient traditions, culture and history ardently preserved over ages for all the generations to come. It's a place that keeps it's promise of letting you peep into the past, by taking you along through alleys of time.

So let's discover the beauty brimming in the quietude, old worldliness and time-honored antiques by browsing through some pictures which I took while walking through Naramachi in the wonderful company of snowwhite and Redrose, the resident bloggers of Nara.

Walking Through Nara-Machi: A Photo Tour

Streets:

Naramachi streets, Nara - Japan
Naramachi streets, Japan
The streets, lined with houses and cafes
A house in Naramachi

Ancient cafes and shops along the Naramachi streets, Japan
Ancient cafes and shops along the Naramachi streets, Japan
Doors of ancient cafes and shops along the streets

An apparel shop in Naramachi street - Japan
A tea shop in Naramachi street - Japan
Inside the shops: Lots of items like tea and apparel on sale

Symbols along the way:

1) Monkeys - A lot of these red stuffed monkeys, known as Migawari Saru or 'substitute monkeys' can be seen hanging at the entrances - of shops, cafes, houses and temples. A symbolic deity of a local temple (the Koshin-do Temple), they are good luck charms believed to ward off evil and bring good fortune.

Brightly colored red and white hanging monkeys (migawari-zaru)
commonly seen in Naramachi doorways.

Three monkeys at the entrance to a shrine

2) Besides... -
A symbol carved at the top of a house

The House, The Museum and The Temples:

1) Naramachi Koshi-no-ie or the Lattice House -
Complete with rooms, ceiling, kitchen, inner garden, storage, etc., this traditional merchant house gives a fascinating glimpse of how life was back in the 18th century.

Entrance to the Naramachi Koshi-no-ie or the Lattice House
The entrance with a unique latticed door pattern

Tea room of the Naramachi Koshi-no-ie or the Lattice House
Inside the house: The tea room

The kitchen stove of the Naramachi Koshi-no-ie or the Lattice House
The kitchen stove

(Note: Timings - 9:00-17:00; Closed: Monday (Open if Mon. is a national holiday); No Admission fee.)

2) Naramachi museum - This is Mushiko Mado literally translated as 'insect cage window' because of its special type of windows but what fascinated me more about it was this huge monkey, it was also the largest that I saw in Naramachi.

Mushiko Mado, the Naramachi museum - Japan
Mushiko Mado, the Naramachi museum

3) The Temples:

Entrance to the Gangoji Temple - Naramachi street, Japan
Entrance to the Gangoji Temple, a UNESCO World heritage site

Entrance to the Goryo Shrine, Naramachi street, Japan
Entrance to the Goryo Shrine - The deity of good matchmaking,
also the main deity of Naramachi. 

From here and there:

Naramachi street, Japan
Plenty of wooded work all around to catch your eye

Food in Naramachi street, Japan
Dough being kneaded -- in style!

(Sweet rice ball after pounding mochi: Rice cake)


How to Reach:

Naramachi is about a ten minute walk south from Kinetsu Nara Station.

Previous Posts from the Japan Trip -

1. Planning for Japan: Visa, Flight Bookings, Hotel Reservations, etc.
2. Sunrise pictures from the flight to Japan

3. Entire Day 1 of Japan (includes Review of Hotel Villa Fontaine Roppongi, Tokyo, Expedia Japan Office Meet: An Afternoon to Remember)
4. Entire Day 2 of Japan (includes SensoJi temple: Asakusa - Tokyo, Nakamise Dori Shopping Arcade in Tokyo, Sumida River Cruise, Tokyo, A Stroll in the Hibiya Gardens, Imperial Palace and East Gardens, The Tokyo Tower, Japan)
9. A Walk in the Yoshikien Garden


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Kofukuji temple in Nara, Japan

Day 5 in Nara: Deer Park - Todaiji Temple in Nara - Yoshikien Garden - KOFUKUJI TEMPLE - Naramachi street

Leaving the crowds of the Todai-ji temple behind, we started walking on the streets of Nara Park again. Absolutely devoid of any kind of traffic – vehicle or otherwise - the place was tranquil and slow and seemed to find it's roots in all things traditional.

The Nara Park walkway
The Nara Park walkway

Making our way leisurely through the fascinating landscaping, we made sure to break away every now and then and savor the sights, sounds and smells of an environ which simply seemed way too happy to be moving at it’s our own rate.

Green canopies of the Nara Park, Japan
Walk under the big umbrella of sky soaring trees

Nara Park, Japan
Relish the slender hints of sunshine passing through

A deer in Nara Park, Japan
Gaze at those innocent creatures who never fail to amaze

Nara Park, Japan
Tread the path carpeted by the dry fallen leaves

Isn't it amazing, how time suddenly comes to a standstill...
when we walk across places like these, that seem to have been crafted
so carefully in pieces of silence?  

Taking it all in, bit by bit, we finally reached our next place in the itinerary which was the Kofukuji temple.

The Kofukuji Temple

Resplendent with old buildings and structures originally dating back to the 7th century but reconstructed between the 12th – 18th centuries, the Kofukuji temple is one of the ancient temples of Nara featuring in the UNESCO World Heritage site.

Overview of the Kofuku-ji temple grounds
Overview of the Kofuku-ji temple grounds

Our stay at the Kofukuji temple grounds was brief with our main sight of attraction being the intricately carved five storey pagoda - which was quite a remarkable structure.

Kofukuji's five tier pagoda – A symbol of Nara in Japan
Kofukuji's tip of five tier pagoda – A symbol of Nara in Japan

Kofukuji's five tier pagoda – A symbol of Nara and
also Japan’s second tallest building after Tojiji temple in Kyoto.
It was first built in 730 and restructured in 1426.

Besides the pagoda, the temple grounds also houses two octagonal buildings - the Hokuendo (Northern Octagonal Hall) and the Nanendo (Southern Octagonal Hall), a national treasure museum containing ancient relics of Buddhist art, an Eastern Golden Hall housing a large wooden statue and the temple’s main building, the Central Golden Hall which is currently under renovation.

The Nanendo hall, Kofukuji Temple in Nara - Japan
The Nanendo hall dating back over a thousand years, rebuilt in 1210.

Tokondo hall or the Eastern golden hall, Kofukuji Temple in Nara - Japan
Tokondo hall or the Eastern golden hall

We passed by all of these structures but gave a miss on entering the insides due to lack of time.

Tips for Travelers

Entrance fee and timings: 24 hrs. open free admission on Kofukuji's temple grounds.
However, please note that a payment is required for entering the temple's National Treasure Museum and the Eastern Golden Hall.

Previous Posts from the Japan Trip -

1. Planning for Japan: Visa, Flight Bookings, Hotel Reservations, etc.

2. Sunrise pictures from the flight to Japan
9. A Walk in the Yoshikien Garden

PS: Thank you for all your kind prayers and wishes in my last post. I know that I had closed the comments section... but I believe that feelings that come from the heart don't need any words for expression. I am good, slowly getting back and will be at your space very very soon. Thanks again :-)


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