Daimon-Ji Mountain Hike

Above is the view from one of the fire platforms that make up the giant kanji symbol dai (great). Every August 16, the platforms are stocked with wood and ignited during the yaki – burning festival. A giant dai can be seen all over Kyoto. During the rest of the year, it makes for an beautiful hike and with my brother here, I took advantage of a gorgeous autumn day and went with him and his wife up the mountain. As you can see, the views over the city were breathtaking.

Taking a break at one of the many viewpoints over the city of Kyoto.

Kyoto has thousands of temples, shrines and historic homes. It was the the  capital of Japan for 1000 years, and unlike most of Japan, it was not destroyed in World War II (thanks to US Secretary of War Henry Stimson) and most of the history is preserved.

The hike starts at Ginkaku-ji or the temple of the Silver Pavilion. It dates back  over 500 years. It was originally the retirement villa of a shogun (hereditary military dictator) and it now is a Zen Buddhist temple. The Zen gardens of rock, trees and streams are serene and it would make a nice retirement pad. The main worship hall is not with silver anymore, but it is relaxing to visit if there are not too many tourists.

The trail is well-marked and we followed the description in the Lonely Planet’s “Hiking in Japan” which I highly recommend. The blue skies and autumn colors made it a glorious day that we will not soon forget.  We didn’t do the entire trail that leads to the “philosopher’s path” but made our way back to the starting point after getting a bit past the burning site.

Kyoto: Where Japanese Come to Experience Japan

Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over a thousand years. The allies in World War II also avoided bombing the historic city, hence, it is a place full of old, beautiful temples, shrines, and traditional Japanese architecture. It is about an hour’s drive from Osaka, and makes up 1/3 of the tri-city metro area that includes Osaka and Kobe. We spent the weekend in a traditional ryokan near the Kiyomizu Temple and really enjoyed the experience. We were surprised to see so many Japanese people dressed in kimonos. They also come to Kyoto to experience their own culture. Japan is a very modern country and most of the cities look and feel like western suburbs. The hills of Kyoto are the exception and there are literally thousand of Buddhist and Shinto shrines and temples. We only scratched the surface of what Kyoto has to offer.

Owen in front of the soldier memorial

The girls, Nadia, Ale, and Ocean were a big hit with their kimonos. People were asking to get their picture taken with them, as you can see above. The Kiyomizu Temple is one of the biggest tourist attractions and was great for the kids. There is a lot to do and see in the compound, much of it a bit kitschy, like drinking the water of the waterfall to get your wish to come true, fortune telling, etc. I do need to read up on Buddhism to understand fully what is going on at the temples.

It got crowded in the afternoon and we were starting to feel a bit uncomfortable with the amount of hustle and bustle. The girls loved the shopping. We got away from the crowds and visited the unknown soldier memorial and watched a local music concert while they finished their shopping. I highly recommend seeing Kyoto and spending a few days. The temples vary quite a lot so there is something for everyone.