Kyoto Part III: Part 2

The early spring weather has been all over the place, warm one day, freezing the next, but I guess that’s not unusual. Rain was pouring down all last night. Now the rain has been replaced with howling wind. So I’m not going to go out much today, but in the meantime, I still have lots of pictures that I’ve been meaning to put up. Picking up where I left off . . .

On December 2nd, I went to Kyoto. In the morning I visited Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. After that I went to the Zen temple complex of Daitoku-ji, where I spent the rest of the day.

Daitoku-ji, founded in 1319, is a large complex composed of many sub-temples. Each sub-temple is in its own enclosure and has its own character and history. The sub-temples also all have their own gardens, which include some of Japan’s most famous rock gardens. Alas, photography isn’t allowed inside most of the temples, so I don’t have pictures of the best stuff, but hopefully I can still give you an idea of what Daitoku-ji is like.

This map is near the main gate.

Daitoku-ji Map

Daitoku-ji is still active, with operating monasteries, public and private religious services, and so on. Of twenty-one sub-temples, only four are normally open to entry. Luckily, three more were specially opened for autumn, and I took the afternoon to visit all seven.

But before that I had lunch. I ate at Izusen, a Zen vegetarian restaurant (vegan, in fact) inside Daitoku-ji. The meal was absolutely fantastic. It’s probably a good thing that I’m not living in Kyoto. I wouldn’t be able to stay away from all the great restaurants and I’d go happily broke.

This sign points to Izusen.

Daitoku-ji Izusen

Now, onto the rest of Daitoku-ji. I won’t go into the details of each temple or anything, I’ll just show you my favorite pictures.


The paths.

The roads in the complex (all private) were busy with repair workers with trucks like this one.

Daitoku-ji Truck

Smaller avenues were lined with trees near the end of their autumn glory.

Daitoku-ji Broad Path

And garden walkways lead from each temple to its gate.

Daitoku-ji Garden Path


The roofs.

Many of the temple roofs have gargoyle-like faces at their peaks.

Daitoku-ji Face

Sometimes you have to look closely to tell, but different temples have different faces.

Daitoku-ji Face 2

And some temples have other sorts of decorations.

Daitoku-ji Roof

From the style of its roof, you can tell that this bell is part of the previous temple.

Daitoku-ji Bell

And finishing my theme, I like how the wall is made from old roof tiles.


One last picture.

Daitoku-ji Basin

This large, pretty, but unassuming basin was made from a stone taken from Korea’s royal palace when Japan invaded in the 1590s. It’s in a sub-temple that was built in 1601 at the behest of a famous military leader who retired to study Zen under Daitoku-ji’s abbot, thirty years later. He had a really fascinating life, but I’ve written enough for one post, so I’ll just leave it at that.



Addendum: now it’s snowing. Crazy.


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6 Responses to “Kyoto Part III: Part 2”

  1. Nicole Says:

    you getting stuck inside was definitely our gain!! once again, gorgeous pictures. I too really like the wall of old roof tiles. And your last picture – those beautiful autumn leaves make for a stunning composition. Back to the first picture – I imagine the restaurant inside is as lovely inside as it’s entrance is? (Is the restaurant deliberately vegan or is that because there really isn’t much dairy used anyway?) With the different gargoyles – are those protectors of sorts?

  2. kevinjames Says:

    In some branches of Buddhism the monks are required to be vegetarian, and in Japan, a high-class cuisine, called shoujin ryouri, grew out of this. It’s true that dairy used to be non-existent in Japan, but I have no idea if it’s deliberately avoided or if it isn’t used because it’s not a traditional ingredient.

    As for the gargoyles, I don’t know if they they are guardians or are only decorative.

    0 for 2! Oh well.

  3. Nicole Says:

    well 0 for 3 since you skipped my first ? (snicker) though actually I would count it 1 for 3, because you did give me more background that puts the vegan menu into perspective…now you need to tell what are the highlights of that cuisine……

  4. kevinjames Says:

    Ah, true enough. To attend to my oversight: The inside of the restaurant is nice, but also very understated, with not much in the way of decoration. The style is traditional Japanese, so the flooring is tatami mats, the tables are lower than most Western coffee tables, and you sit on a cushion (cross-legged or with your legs folded under you).

    I’m finding myself at a loss to describe the cuisine, other than to say that it involves doing wonderful things with veggies and with tofu (tofu, of course, isn’t used for anything so philistine as fake meat). A little bit of fruit is included as well, and there was a big, tempura-ed cherry that was fabulous. But for many of the dishes, I had no idea what I was eating, so that makes it hard to say much.

  5. Nicole Says:

    Ahh, Kevin, it is very cool that you continue to be so adventuresome with food! For such a fussy eater, it has been remarkable that you have always been willing and enjoyed eating new things. Mmmm, tempura-ed cherry….(don’t suppose you asked for the recipe?)

  6. Yokohama « Erratic Dispatches from a Kobe JET Says:

    […] this isn’t the best picture, but the building shown here was taken from Daitoku-ji. It was built in 1591 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to celebrate the long life of his […]

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