Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture ー Exams are finally over and in celebration of surviving 2 stressful weeks, I decided to go to Kyoto for a day to do some sightseeing.
Kyoto is only an hour away from the university campus by bus and train, so it’s actually closer than central Osaka. The first stop was Byodoin (平等院), a Buddhist temple that was completed in 1053. The central building, known as the Phoenix Hall (鳳凰堂), is the only remaining original building on the temple grounds. The temple was commissioned by a very powerful family, the Fujiwara clan, that held power in Japan for hundreds of years. We studied the political system at time the temple was built in history class, and so I wanted to see it in person.
The Phoenix Hall gets its name from the shape of the building itself and the two phoenixes that adorn the roof. In the picture above, you can see a bird’s eye view of the temple. The pond in front of the temple symbolizes the Japanese Sanzu River (三途川) which is the river one must cross in his afterlife. It is said that only a phoenix is able to cross the river multiple times. The story is that the phoenix is looking over the river to find someone to bring to enlightenment.
After getting a tour of the Phoenix Hall, we made our way to central Kyoto for lunch. Throughout August and September, many restaurants in Kyoto have outdoor patios called Kawadoko (川床) which are structures built over rivers. Often times, traditional Japanese food is served at these restaurants, and you can enjoy the outdoors while you eat. I ordered the recommended Kawadoko Set, which consisted of various tofu dishes, fish, tempura, rice, and reimen (冷麺) a type of cold Japanese noodle.
I wasn’t able to get a good picture of the Kawadoko, but thankfully google always has my back.
We slurped down the noodles and then left the riverside for Gion (祇園) which is one of the most famous areas in Kyoto. We walked down a narrow alley to an inconspicuous storefront where we were given a card with a time to return. It was a cafe/bar that specializes in shaved ice. When we returned, we were seated at the bar and watched them create the best kakigori I’ve had so far!
It may seem silly to some people to pay for shaved ice, but there is a technique behind it and each store has their own way of doing things. In an earlier blog post I mentioned a kakigori store that was 700 years old. They’ve mastered the texture of the ice and have found the perfect flavour balance. This cafe could definitely compete!