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 [1.18] Kyoto - Station, Tower, Hongangi, Hokoku Last updated 
04 Feb 1999 

Trip to Kyoto Station 18 Jan 1999
Sam Blair and I decided to go to Kyoto today. Sam's in Japanese level 2, and I'm in Japanese level 1, so we're not exactly fluent. Neither of us had been to Kyoto before, so we decided to make it into a fun "see if we can do it" adventure. Today was the last day of our four-day weekend, so we had the whole day.

The train ride to Kyoto from Hikone takes about 50 minutes (depending on which train you take), and costs about $20 (round trip). Before we headed out we stopped at Makudonarudo (that's "McDonald's" in English). I wanted to try one of the exclusively Japanese menu items, so I ordered a Teriyaki McBurger (meal price: about $5.25). After we were done, Sam decided to be adventurous and try a Bacon Potato Pie (just like a McDonald's Apple Pie, but filled with potato and bacon)! It was yummy!

We rode the train, and finally arrived at Kyoto Station. Words or pictures cannot describe Kyoto Station. Let me try, though. First of all, it's massive. I think the sign said it was 500 meters long, or about a third of a mile. It has a hotel, an insane number of restaurants and shops, a mall, a bank, at least 12 stories, miles of escalators and moving ramps, and the most "futuristic-looking" architecture I've ever seen. It's open on the top, yet it's a building with a partial roof. I give up -- here's a picture that shows a mere fraction of it. (This picture was made by taking many pictures and stiching them together digitally. The picture shows you about 1/5 of the "main open area" of the entire station.)

We then rushed outside, and were greeted by tall buildings. Tall buildings! I knew Japan had some somewhere. We took a look at the map, and within 3 minutes, a random bus driver stopped to help us decipher the map (I was trying to find an English-language bookstore, but I ended up not going there until another Kyoto trip). We went right across the street to Kyoto Tower, where we rode to the top of a sightseeing bubble and took some pictures.

A view inside the tower.
Looking out the window to the south, Kyoto Station is only partially visible (it's so huge!).
Looking to the north, Higashi Hongangi Temple (where we would go next) is visible. It's the group of buildings in the center.
To the northeast, a very large statue is visible (the Ryozen Kannon statue).
Sam dropped 100 yen into the binoculars and took a peek. I held my camera up to the eyepiece and took this picture of it.

Inside Kyoto Tower there were a bunch of crazy video games, tourist trinkets, and other odd devices. Here's a picture of a fortune-telling machine. You put 100 yen in, and a little doll dances around and gives you a rolled up fortune. At least, that's what we think it was (we couldn't read it).

Once outside of Kyoto Tower, we went to a nearby bookstore to buy a map of Kyoto. Map in hand, we headed for the nearest "interesting looking" place. That happened to be Higashi Hongangi Temple.

Higashi Hongangi Temple 18 Jan 1999
This was the second temple I had ever visited, but it was quite a bit more impressive than the one I had seen in Hikone. Here are the pictures, with descriptions:

Entrance Gate
The entrance gate to a temple is called a "Chuumon." This particular temple site has more than one.

Larger Entrance Gate
Here's the top of the larger of the two entrances. Notice how the delicate nooks and crannies are covered with a fence to keep birds from destroying the beauty.

Two Main Structures
Here are the two main halls on the temple site. The one on the right is the biggest, and is called "Goei-do", or "The Founder's Hall." I'm not sure what the one on the left is called.

Temple Grounds
This shows the two main structures from a different angle.

Water and Dragon
Most temples have running water where you can cleanse your hands and mouth before entering. If I remember correctly from class, the Japanese believe that cleanliness (purity; absence of dirt) is an important attribute when dealing with Buddhist or Shinto dieties. This particular water basin has a very impressive dragon statue (writing retrospectively, many basins merely have a bamboo spigot).

Shourou (Belfry)
Many temples have a bell that can be struck with a giant horizontally-swung log. I don't know yet exactly why.

Kyoto Tower
Here's a picture of Kyoto tower (to the south) from the Higashi Hongangi Temple grounds.

Large Entrance Gate
Another picture of the larger of the two entrance gates, this time from the inside.

Largest Structure
This picture was created by digitally stitching together 12 individual pictures. It could not have been taken by a conventional lens, and the human eye would not normally be able to see this view in one "eyeful." The structure is very large. Note how small the person (in black clothing) is in the lower right corner, standing in front of the building. Because this is such a wide-angle view, and because it was stitched from 12 pictures, it looks "odd" -- some of the lines may appear at strange angles.

Facts about the structure: The sign said it was rebuilt in 1895. It's 249 feet wide by 126 feet tall by 189 feet deep. It says it's the largest wooden structure in the world, but I think that's a slippery statement.

Wooden Decor
Most temples are covered with woodwork like this, or more ornate than this.

Take off Your Shoes
To enter the temples, you must remove your shoes. Some temples have slippers for you to use, others do not. This particular one has plastic bags to carry your shoes in while you visit, but we just left our shoes on the ground (this is Japan, after all, I don't anyone would have taken them) and went in with socks.

Security Guards
Upon entering the Founder's Hall, you walk past a small box with one or two posted security guards (who also act as firemen in the case of an emergency, I'm guessing -- remember, the building is entirely wood).

Inside the Founder's Hall
A view inside the larger of the two buildings. The floor is covered with 927 "tatami" mats (according to the sign).

A closer view of the statue in the front-center. The statue is of Shinran Shonin. Don't ask me who he is.

Hair Rope
A bridge connects the two halls (so that you don't need to worry about shoes). On the bridge is an odd display case with a large rope inside. The sign says:

This rope is one of 53 ropes that were made of women's hair to transport the huge wooden beams of the two main halls to this location when they were rebuilt in 1895. Because of the massive size and weight of the beams, conventional ropes were too weak.

Inside the Other Hall
There were Japanese kneeling on the tatami mats in this hall. I turned my flash off and took their picture. I hope they don't mind.

Ornate Gold-covered Woodwork
A closer view of the beautiful woodwork (covered with gold) at the front of this hall.

After walking through both halls, over the bridge connecting them, and around their perimeter (wooden walkways surround the halls), guess what color my socks were? Completely white -- not a speck of dirt! I was definitely surprised. We left Higashi Hongangi and walked around Kyoto. We attempted to enter a garden, but couldn't find a way in. We walked to the Kyoto museum and to another temple, but just in time for them to close. We then ended up visiting the Hokuko Shrine.

Hokoku Shrine 18 Jan 1999
Whenever you enter a shrine, you always see a torii (toh-ree) gate. Tori in Japanese means "bird". A torii gate looks like a giant bird perch. Make sense? The gate means "you are entering a sacred place."

After passing under the gate, I took these pictures:

Shrine Area
The walkway to the main building (the "haiden").

Near the Haiden
A lantern and many wooden paddles hang near the entrance. Someone explained to me what the wooden paddles are for, but I don't remember now. I think they might be written out when people have a fulfilled wish, and they want to show their thanks.

Beside the shrine was a large "shourou" belfry, similar to the one we saw in Higashi Hongangi Temple. I think that next door there might have been a Buddhist establishment, because I think the bell is a Buddhist element. (Remember, Shrines are Shinto.)

More Torii
Inside the shrine area there was a walkway completely lined with torii gates. Torii gates are often painted orange or red-orange.

Leftover Kyoto Pictures
Quite tired from walking all day, Sam and I tried to find a place to eat. We must have been in the wrong part of town, though, because everyone was closing their doors (it was after 4pm, and lots of things close around 4:00, apparently).

While we were walking, we found a strange vending machine (here comes another strange vending machine picture!) in the side of a building. It's a rice vending machine! You put in 900 yen, and it dispenses a bag filled with 2kg of uncooked rice! Very interesting...

I also saw a gas station with pumps on the ceiling! Take a look. The pump handle and hose hangs down, and you drive under it, park, and pump the gas! The other weird thing about this gas station was that it was "carved" out of the bottom corner of another (non-gas-related) multi-story building. Imagine a perfect rectangular solid shaped like a skyscraper with one of the bottom corners "cut" out. That's where this gas station was.

We finally found a place to eat after walking for a while. I had this for dinner. I ordered off a picture menu, and translated the meal's name when I returned to JCMU. The name was "yasai ankake udon", which I guess means "vegetable (soup) with Japanese udon noodles." It was pretty good.

We weren't worried about getting lost in Kyoto after dark, because if you can see Kyoto Tower, you can get to the train station quite easily. And, you can see Kyoto Tower from just about anywhere. Here's a picture of it at sunset.

We finally reached the train station after a day of walking, and I took one final picture of Kyoto Tower all lit up before getting on the train (sorry for the blurriness of that picture -- I've got more pictures of Kyoto Tower at night I'll show you in a later section).

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