I paid a quick visit to Kyoto in June 2014: a two-day trip from Tokyo in the rainy season.
Itinerary – 1st day (29th June 2014):
Tokyo – JR Kyoto Station – Lunch at Daiichi Asahi – Yogenin Temple – Byodoin Temple – Dinner at Ishikawa – Drink at Oku
Headed to Kyoto Takabashi Honke Daiichiasahi for Ramen as soon as I hopped off a Shinkansen bullet train. Just a five minute walk from Kyoto Station, and I found some people were queuing up. Waited for 15 minutes or so, but worth the wait! Reviews on Tripadvisor
The ceiling above the corridor of the main hall is well known for the “blood ceiling”. At the Battle of Fushimi Castle in 1600, Mototada Torii and his subordinates, ordered to defend the Castle by Ieyasu Tokugawa (1st Shogun in Edo period), were defeated and killed themselves. The floorboards stained with their blood were brought to the temple to pray for those departed souls.
You might think it’s creepy, but Yogenin is one of the most historically interesting temples in Kyoto. It’s worthwhile visiting if you are interested in Toyotomi and Tokugawa Clans (click for more details).
After Yogenin, took a train down to Uji to see Byodoin Temple, one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. ‘Byodoin Temple is a striking example of Buddhist Pure Land (Jodo) architecture. Together with its garden, the temple represents the Pure Land Paradise and was influential on later temple construction. Byodoin was initially built in 998 as a countryside retreat villa for the powerful politician Fujiwara no Michinaga, not as a temple.’ (ref: japan-guide.com)
You cannot miss the interior of Amida Hall, or the Phoenix Hall, ‘built with the sole purpose of housing the Amida Buddha image. It has three wings, creating an image of the mythical bird of China, the phoenix. The central hall is flanked by twin wing corridors on both sides, plus a “tail” corridor. The roof of the hall is surmounted by bronze phoenixes.’ (ref: sacred-destination.com)
The hall accepts up to 50 visitors at a time, and each tour is limited to 20 minutes. Check with the admission and times when visit.
If you visit Uji in June or July and have a plenty of time there, try Mimurotoji Tempe for beautifully bloomed hydrangeas and lotus flowers. I was going to stop by, but stuck in the temple because of heavy rain and couldn’t have enough time to make it….
Headed back to Central Kyoto to book in a hotel, and went out for Obanzai dinner. Obanzai is:
the traditional home style cooking of Kyoto. It is made up of multiple small dishes that are usually quite simple to prepare. Local produce that is in season is best suited for the dishes. Although the cooking methods are usually not complicated, obanzai dishes can be made very rich by chefs skillfully bringing out the natural flavors of the ingredients.
Restaurants that serve obanzai ryori can be found all over Kyoto. Many of them have a relaxed and friendly atmosphere that reflects the home style of cooking. A full meal usually costs 2000 to 3000 yen, but can vary depending on the number and type of dishes ordered. (ref: Kyoto Food Guide)
Alternative Obanzai restaurants:
My favourite Obanzai place – I used to be a Menami-goer when lived in Kansai. Nama Yuba Harumaki, or Yuba (Tofu skin) Spring Rolls, and Renkon Manju, or Lotus Root Dumpling, are highly recommended! Loved to go back again, but it’s closed on Sundays. Reviews on Tripadvisor