Shosei-en Garden and Uji

We met Miki and her mother Sumi on our first trip to Kyoto in 2005, and we've kept in touch over the years. We were looking forward to seeing them again on this trip.

The weather had been beautiful for our first 2 days in Kyoto, but the drizzly rain was closing in. On previous visits we had spent our days together slogging through a seemingly continuous downpour, however, so our spirits were undampened by the occasional shower we experienced this time.

Our first stop was the Shosei-en Garden which is a short walk from Kyoto Station. The garden site was originally established by Prince Minamoto no Toru in the late 9th century. In 1641, Tokugawa Iemitsu gave the land to the Higashi Honganji temple, and the garden became known as Shosei-en.

This building was a viewing site for the garden.

I was impressed by the elaborate woodwork.

We posed for pictures, of course.

I always enjoy the contrast of painstaking care and wildness that Japanese gardens and parks exhibit. The garden would, perhaps, have looked better on a sunny day, but it was a pleasant place to wander and get caught up on what we had all been doing for the last 3 years.

When we travel, I prepare a rough list of places I would like to see and things I would like to do. The list always includes more things than we can fit in because I like to have a lot of options. One of the things left over from the list in 2008 was to visit Uji - an area known for its tea - and that was our main destination on this day.

We stopped first at a restaurant where Sumi treated us to a delicious lunch of seasonal foods. Then we continued on to Byodo-in, the temple which is depicted on the back of the 10 yen coin.

Some places really make a strong first impression on me, and this is one of those places. Maybe it's just that the Phoenix Hall has managed to stand since 1053 in spite of battles and fires and earthquakes and other natural disasters. It somehow managed to exude a mystic air in spite of all the people bustling around me.

One fact that I discovered after visiting Byodo-in is that the temple on Oahu just a short walk from our house is a half sized replica of this temple. I don't know how I managed to space by that fact all these years. The pictures on the left are taken in Uji. The pictures on the right are taken in Temple Valley, Oahu.

Who could fail to be impressed by the eerie photo on the front of the tourist brochure?

After leaving Byodo-in we wandered over to the Uji River. You can't really tell from the pictures, but the current was very strong, and the water was rushing by at a rapid rate.

We crossed the river and took a leisurely stroll down a quiet road lined with giant trees. Along the way We passed several interesting smaller shrines including this one - Ujigami Shrine - built originally as a guardian shrine for Byodo-in. Then we headed back for our final night in Kyoto.