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Cafe Freundlieb - Kobe Japan

Freundlieb // Kobe’s Charming Bakery Cafe In Former Church

Housed within the former Kobe Union Church built in 1929, Freundlieb (フロインドリーブ) is a bakery and café located in the Ikuta area in Kobe, near the Kitano neighbourhood where many foreign merchants and diplomats resided after Kobe opened its doors to foreign trade in 1870.

The Gothic-style church was designed by American architect, W.M. Vories and survived the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 with some damages. On the other hand, Freundlieb had suffered immense damage to the store and factory in the same area, Nakayamatei (中山手).

Freundlieb - Kobe Must Visit Cafe Bakery

Freundlieb Bakery Cafe - Kobe Japan

Freundlieb itself dated back to 1924 when its German founder and 1st-generation master baker, Heinrich Freundlieb came to  Japan as a prisoner of war during the First World War and eventually settling down with a Japanese wife and opening his own bakery which he handed down to his son, Heinrich Freundlieb II. It was the 3rd-generation master baker, Bella Freundlieb, who moved the then-damaged store and factory to the former church in 1997 after it was being restored to its neo-Gothic style and remade into a bakery, a store, and a café. The building is registered as a Tangible Cultural Asset in 1999. It also received an Award for Urban Design of Kobe in 2000.

Freundlieb - Kobe Bakery Cafes

On the 2nd floor, Café Freundlieb boosts a charming aesthetic and a bright, airy atmosphere with its vaulted ceilings and tall arched windows. The dark wood panelling accentuates the high ceiling, further enhancing the elegance of the space. The light streaming in from the beautiful windows and the soft amber glow from the branched chandeliers make for a relaxed ambience while one is having a meal.

Cafe Freundlieb - Kobe Top Cafes

Cafe Freundlieb - Kobe Former Church

The stained glass window could be seen at what would have been the narthex where the choir burst into songs of praise and worship. On the opposite end, the crossing seats a couple of tables in a cosy embrace while the altar and the sacristy have been converted into the kitchen and serving area. From the entrance of the café to the kitchen is a long nave — where the pews must have been — seating 4 sections of tables.

Cafe Freundlieb Interior - Kobe Japan

Cafe Freundlieb Brunch Lunch Breakfast - Kobe Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had breakfast there and ordered the morning set (¥1,036) of egg sandwich, ham n’ cheese sandwich, a side of fresh salad (dressing on the side), and a pot of tea. The bread was soft and fluffy. We could tell that it was freshly baked, having helped a client open a bakery cafe in Singapore and ate mountains of bread. And eggs! We can never leave out egg sandwiches in Japan — the Japanese just do the egg mayonnaise filling so well that they never fail to satisfy. These were the same, plus the delicious bread! Morning sets are available from 10am to 11.30am and lunch sets are available from 11.30am to 2pm. Set menu is available from Mondays to Fridays.

Breakfast Sandwich Set at Cafe Freundlieb - Kobe Cafes Japan

Egg Ham Sandwich Set at Cafe Freundlieb - Kobe Japan Cafes

One can really while away time here which was exactly what we did reading a book and planning our next destination. Many Japanese ladies were seen catching up and even greeting neighbours in the next table. When the clock neared 12noon, Café Freundlieb started to fill up with lunchtime goers and business crowd. When we left, a queue can be seen in the waiting area just outside the entrance of the café. There was even a waiting room if this area overflows.

There are numerous spots of history in this building. At the stairwell, we spotted an antique public phone which was plugged in so you could actually use it! The toilet exudes an old-world elegance which made us want to refer to it as the powder room.

Cafe Freundlieb Restroom - Kobe Japan

Antique Telephone - Cafe Freundlieb Kobe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Renowned among the locals, the spacious Bakery is located on the first floor. There are bakes, biscuits, chocolates, confectionery, and honey that make for good souvenirs for foodie friends back home. Its most famous bake is no doubt the iconic pig’s ear pastries (see top right) which the bakery is accorded as the one introducing this Western pastry to Japan.

Freundlieb Bakery - Kobe Cafes Japan

pling thinks…Freundlieb is a must-visit for brunch lovers and for cafe-goers who love fresh bread and spending a charming time in a historical building with friends or families. It reminds us of CHIJMES in Singapore whereby the chapel is also converted into an event space instead of letting the beauty of the old church architecture go to waste and demolished especially when it had undergone damage due to war or natural disaster. We are praying for the restoration of Notre Dame in Paris as well. 🙏

Freundlieb Cafe - Kobe Kitano Ikuta JapanHow to get to Cafe Freundlieb

〒651-0092 兵庫県神戸市中央区生田町4丁目6−15
4-chōme-6-15 Ikutachō, Chūō-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 651-0092, Japan

Open 10am to 7pm
(Last order: 6.30pm)

By Train

Take JR West, Kobe Municipal Subway, Hankyu Railway or the Hanshin Electric Railway to Sannomiya Station and walk about 10-15 minutes toward Kitano neighbourhood. Use the map links above to navigate your way.

or

Take the JR West to Shin-Kobe Station and walk 10-15 minutes. You can pass ANA Crowne Plaza Kobe or the Nunobiki Herb Garden. Use the map links above to navigate your way.

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Cherry Blossoms Nara Must See - Fujiwara Palace Ruins Rapeseed Flower Field

Fujiwara Palace Ruins // Nara’s Flower Field Paradise

Spring beckons more than just the much-loved cherry blossoms in Japan. It is also a time when we can admire other seasonal flowers — one of which blooms in abundance in the ancient city of Nara (奈良) against a backdrop of mountains and yes, cherry trees.

Fujiwara Palace Ruins Nara - Cherry Blossoms Yellow Rapeseed Flowers MountainAt Fujiwara Palace Ruins (Fujiwara Kyūseki 藤原宮跡), this combination of rapeseed flowers, cherry blossoms, and mountains in the background lured us off the beaten path to Kashihara (橿原市), a city in Nara Prefecture and away from the main Nara city’s attractions. It took us 3 transfers from Kobe (2 if you’re traveling from Osaka) before we could step into this flower paradise.

The “Palace” in Fujiwara Palace Ruins is long gone. All that remains are ongoing evacuation works and red mock pillars to mark where the Imperial Audience Hall once was.

Fujiwara Palace Nara - Imperial Palace Mock Pillars

Nara, like Kyoto, used to be a capital city and Fujiwara city was picked to be the capital by Emperor Tenmu (631-636) where he planned and built the first-ever tile-roofed imperial palace. However, a fire in 711 burnt down the whole city and nothing remains of that piece of history except the immutable mountains and whatever archaeologists can unearth. If you’re interested to know more about ancient Fujiwara, hop over to the Fujiwara Capital Information Centre, located at the stop where one takes the Community Bus.

Having gotten that out of the way, let’s bring you to the main attraction!

Spring

Best Place for Cherry Blossoms - Nara Fujiwara Palace Ruins

Summer

Fujiwara Palace Ruins Nara Kashihara - Orange Cosmos in SummerFujiwara Palace Ruins Nara Kashihara City - Lotus in Summer

 

Autumn

Fujiwara Palace Ruins Nara Kashihara - Pink Cosmos Field Autumn

Summer & Autumn Photos’ Credit: Kashihara City Facebook Page

Most locals who visit Fujiwara Palace Ruins come for the lyrical display of seasonal flowers. In spring, 2 wide fields of rapeseed flowers swayed and bowed in the intermittent breeze against a backdrop of cherry blossoms. In summer, pink lotuses and orange cosmos took their turns to switch on their charm. And finally, in autumn, pink cosmos bow their blowsy heads in goodbyes before snow descends. We made a mental note to return in autumn — still our favorite season.

Fujiwara Palace Ruins Nara - Entrance of Cherry Blossoms

Fujiwara Palace Ruins Nara - Close Up of Cherry BlossomsAt the entrance, it already looked promising in terms of wow-ing us — by that time, we were cherry-blossomed-out from a week of non-stop cherry blossoms viewing (hanami お花見) in western Japan. The bar was raised much higher after all that chasing after cherry blossoms and definitely, after Himeji Castle.

Enter through a small gate and walk along a roughly hewn path lined with cherry trees on the right. We can already see the yellow rapeseed flower field in the distance. Excited, we hurried on.

 

 

These cherry trees lining the 2 peripheries of the rapeseed flower fields lent a delicate shade of pink to the lemony yellows of these flowers. We saw some painters welding their paintbrushes and capturing the scenery with their choice of medium. And indeed, this scenery might be the sort of landscape that Claude Monet and Mikhail Larionov would have painted?

Fujiwara Palace Nara - Cherry Blossom Season Yellow Flowers

Besides painters and photographers, we saw families, friends, old-time pals, and pups basking and lounging in the springtime sun, either seated at the benches dotted along one side of the field or strolling with hands behind backs. Without doubt, mats would have been unfurled and laid down if the ground weren’t still a tad wet from yesterday’s rain. Nonetheless, exclamations of the stunning beauty could be heard all around.

Nara Fujiwara Palace Ruins - Cherry Blossoms Canola Flowers

Turning the other way, the view is just as breathtaking — lemon rapeseed fields set against the panorama of the Three Sacred Mountains of Yamato: Unebiyama (畝傍山), Kaguyama (香具山), and Miminashiyama (耳成山). As the clouds moved over and from the sun, we saw varied shades of yellow as the light shifted.

Fujiwara Palace Ruins Nara Japan - Spring Cherry Blossom Season Yellow Flowers

Fujiwara Palace Ruins Nara - Mountains Cherry Blossoms Rapeseed Flowers

Nara Fujiwara Palace - Cherry Blossoms Canola Flower Mountains Yamato

It was soothing to walk under the canopy of cherry trees — which were on a slightly higher elevation — with the rapeseed flower field just softly rustling on the other side.

Cherry Blossom Path Rapeseed Flowers - Nara Fujiwara Palace Ruins

Whenever the wind picked up, the rapeseed flower fields undulated and rippled as the flowers swayed with the push and pull of the breeze blowing through. Sometimes, the flowers quivered and danced. A whisper of swishing got us lost in reverie. Added to this, a fluttering of cherry blossom petals as they detached from their receptacles and rode on the wind.

Fujiwara Palace Ruin - Sign Flower Field

Notices are placed around the boundaries of the flower fields. So, we urge travelers to respect nature and do not tread onto the flower fields. Even if you’re selfie-obsessed, don’t. Even if you’re aiming for that perfect ‘gram, don’t. Just don’t. We can’t imagine this beauty being annihilated by trampling feet just because one needs to gain more likes or followers. Just be shutter-happy within the boundaries of respect for nature and for people. Thank you! We shall stop being naggy here. It’s just that we witnessed too many such occurrences during our travels as could be seen even in the next photo.

Fujiwara Palace - Spring Japan Nara Cherry Blossom Trees

We went shutter-crazy and snapped a total of 442 photos & videos of this flower field in Fujiwara Palace Ruins, knowing full well that our amateurish skills and equipment would not do full justice to this place, always conscious of that nagging weight of failing to capture its full beauty. Seeing the beauty of the real thing trump what we could capture with our cameras.

Fujiwara Palace Ruins Nara - Cherry Blossoms Rapeseed Flower Must See Japan

Nara Cherry Blossoms Season - Spring in Fujiawara Palace Ruins

pling thinks…Fujiwara Palace Ruins is a must-visit for catching cherry blossoms with a different perspective — one that is of a supporting role instead of being the main star which can be seen in most other attractions — and before it gets more known, popular, and crowded. It’s not on the usual tourist route (there were less than 5 foreigners then, including us) but if you appreciate scenery and nature, you will love it!

How to get to Fujiwara Palace Ruins

〒634-0072 奈良県橿原市醍醐町
Daigocho, Kashihara, Nara 634-0072, Japan

Admission is free.
Fujiwara Palace Ruins is always open but note the last Community Bus back to the Yamato-Yagi Station is 6.09pm on weekdays and 5.29pm on weekends if you are taking that route.

Not knowing if we would be able to do a 30-minute walk from a station without getting lost in more rural areas, we opt for the train+bus mode (top) instead of the train+walk mode.

By Train & Bus:

  1. From Osaka Station, take the JR to Tsuruhashi Station. Find the Osaka Loop Line at Platform 2.
  2. Alight from the train and change to the Kintetsu-Osaka Line. But BEFORE you exit via the station exit gates, buy the tickets at the manned ticket window located between the gates and the automated ticket counters. It’s better to take either the Aoyamacho 急行 (skip some stops) or the Ābanraina アーバンライナーKintetsu-Nagoya (more expensive due to its non-stop route).
  3. Alight at Yamato-Yagi Station and exit the gates.
  4. Upon exit, you will see a sign pointing to your right for the bus terminal. Listed is the Community Bus for Fujiwara Palace Ruins.

Yamato-Yagi Station - To Fujiwara Palace Ruins

  1. At the bus terminal, go to Bus Stop 1. The cute bus is easily recognizable as it’s different from your usual city bus.

Bus Terminal Fujiwara Palace Ruins - Yamato-Yagi Nara Kashihara City

  1. Alight at Fujiwara Capital Information Centre which is 4 stations away. Pay the one-way bus fare of ¥170 when you alight.
Kashihara City Community Bus Map

Image Credit: Kashihara City

  1. You will see the 菜の花 sign beside the bus stop pointing to the left. Cross a tiny traffic junction and you are at the entrance of Fujiwara Palace Ruins. It’s about 1-3 minutes away.

Bus Stop at Fujiwara Palace Ruins - Kashihara Nara

  1. When you are leaving, take the same Community Bus from the diagonally opposite this bus stop.

Sharing the bus schedule to Fujiwara Palace Ruins here so that you can plan ahead. The information is correct at the time of publishing.

Weekdays

From Yamato-Yagi Station to Fujiwara Palace Ruins 7.20am 8.50am 10.20am 12.20pm 1.50pm 3.50pm 5.20pm
From Fujiwara Palace Ruins to Yamato-Yagi Station 8.09am 9.39am 11.39am 1.09pm 2.39pm 4.39pm 6.09pm

Weekends

From Yamato-Yagi Station to Fujiwara Palace Ruins 7.20am 8.50am 11.00am 1.50pm 4.05pm
From Fujiwara Palace Ruins to Yamato-Yagi Station 8.13am 10.17am 1.02pm 3.27pm 5.29pm

By Train & On Foot:

  1. From Osaka or Kyoto, take the JR Sakurai Line and alight and JR Unebi Station.
  2. Walk 30 minutes.

Kashihara City also said that you could use the Kintetsu and alight at Kintetsu Miminashi Station or Kintetsu Unebigoryomae Station and walk 30 minutes.

Golden Pavilion Gold Temple Kinkaku-ji - Kyoto Japan

Kinkaku-ji // Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion and Its Perfect Water Reflection

Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺 is undoubtedly one of Kyoto’s shining landmark. Literally, it shines.

Known as The Golden Pavilion for its gold leaf gilded facade, this temple is many photographers’ dream of a perfect water reflection. When the sun hits the right spot, its exterior gleams and glitters like a gem. Its reflection in the waveless waters of the surrounding pond is nothing short of magnificence.

Before we even beheld the razzle-dazzle of Kinkaku-ji, we were bewitched by the entrance path to the temple grounds, lined on both sides with Japanese maple trees. Resplendent with flaming reds and bewitching oranges, it was such a joy to just stroll towards the entrance.

Kinkakuji Entrance Autumn Maple Leaves - Kyoto

Autumn Colors Kinkaku-ji - Kyoto

Maple Trees Kinkaku-ji - Kyoto

Following signs to the entrance, a huge stone indicates that Kinkaku-ji, less commonly known as Rokuonji 鹿苑寺, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, alongside a wooden board which notes the temple’s history.

UNESCO World Heritage Site - Kinkaku-ji Kyoto

Through the entrance, we were immediately greeted by the golden splendor of Kinkaku-ji. The encircling pond, the couple tree island within the pond, the large pine tree bowing elegantly in the foreground, and the myriad of trees in the background, all add to the scenic beauty of this historical monument.

One can easily mistake the three-storey Kinkaku-ji to be fully laid with gold leaf. The 2nd and 3rd floors of its facade have been gilded with gold leaf over its lacquered surface, while the 1st floor is constructed in the style of a nobleman’s residence in the Heian period.

Gold Temple Golden Pavilion - Kinkaku-ji Kyoto Japan

Burnt to the ground in 1950 by a maniac monk and reconstructed in 1955, Kinkaku-ji was restored to its golden glory in 1987. One cannot enter the Golden Pavilion. Views of its magnificence from across the pond also included squints into the 1st floor, where the doors are usually kept open.

Capped on top is a golden phoenix, which looks resplendent against blue skies and Japanese pine trees.

Golden Phoenix - Roof of Kinkakuji Golden Temple Kyoto

During autumn, when the surrounding hills of Kinugasa-yama 衣笠山 deck out their oranges and reds, and when the Japanese maple trees within the temple garden proudly display their autumn colors, the view of Kinkaku-ji reminds one of a painting. The subject is set against a breathtaking, natural background and the foreground conjures the meditative, reflective essence of water.

Autumn in Golden Temple Pavilion Kinkaku-ji - Kyoto

Autumn Colors Kinkaku-ji Gold Temple - Kyoto Kinugasa Mountain

The autumn colors play here was strong! Sadly, the path strewn with Japanese maple leaves was not open for walking, closed in by a little wooden gate, whose top was overgrown with moss, accentuating the warm vibrant colors of the fallen leaves.

Kinkaku-ji - Wooden Gate with Maple Leaves - Kyoto

Autumn at Golden Pavilion Temple - Kinkakuji Kyoto
Japanese Maple Leaves on Mossy Ground at Kinkaku-ji

The other side of the Golden Pavilion offers a view framed by a Japanese maple tree, albeit no water reflection. pling thinks…it’s just as gorgeous!

Golden Pavilion Temple Kinkaku-ji - Kyoto Autumn

Travel Tip: Kinkaku-ji, being on most travel itineraries, can get crowded real fast and by the busloads. The area for viewing the Golden Pavilion across the pond is not large. To enjoy the view and for less jostling, go early before the crowd and tour buses hit from 10am onwards.

How to get to Kinkaku-ji

Ticket Amulet Souvenir Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion Temple Kyoto金閣寺 〒603-8361 京都府京都市北区金閣寺町1

Entry Fees ¥400
9am – 5pm

The cheapest and easiest way to get to Kinkakuji, without taking a cab, is by bus. There is no JR station near Kinkaku-ji. We generally avoid taxi rides in Japan due to its relatively high cost for a traveling party of 2. It might make more sense for short distances if your party is 3-4 pax, but grappling with the unknown ticking fare sets off some alarms so we usually avoid unless it’s an emergency or simply unavoidable.

By Bus:

  1. From Kyoto Station, take the Kyoto City Bus 101 or 205. Do not take the Rapid 205 (急速205) as it doesn’t go to Kinkaku-ji.
  2. Alight at Kinkakuji-michi 金閣寺道 after traveling for about 30 – 40 minutes.
Inoda Coffee at Kiyomizu Higashiyama - Kyoto Cafes

Inoda Coffee // Kyoto’s Old School Café

Founded since 1940, Inoda Coffee イノダコーヒ has been a beloved coffeehouse for more than 69 years, serving the residents of Kyoto with its own brand of coffee. Its first café opened in 1947 in Sanjyo 三条, and it has 7 other branches in Kyoto, 1 in Osaka, 1 in Hiroshima, 1 in Hokkaido, 1 in Tokyo, and 1 in Yokohama. It also has a take-out cake shop in Kyoto, called Ketel.

Don’t expect swanky or hipster vibes in this Kyoto café. Inoda Coffee houses an old school charm that still appeals to the everyday lives of locals. There are no frills, no fuss, just a strangely familiar comfort that seems to belong to bygone days. Since 1947, Inoda Coffee has been a beloved coffeehouse for more than 69 years, serving the residents of Kyoto with its own brand of coffee.

Instead of visiting the flagship café or honten 本店, we always made our way to the one in Kiyomizu as part of our exploration of the Higashiyama district 東山区 after visiting Kiyomizu-dera. You need strong knees to conquer the stone stairs winding through this historic district, but you’ll find it well worth the strain to take in the charm of the area.

Historical District Higashiyama Kiyomizu - Kyoto Japan

We often hit a sugar low during our travels, walking for miles and not wanting to waste a minute. We were thinking of making a pit stop to rest our feet when we first chanced upon this decades-old café. It was not difficult to locate the 2nd time we visited. A young willow tree poetically swayed its long tendrils of leaves at the facade of this Machiya-style café.

Inoda Coffee Kiyomizu Willow Tree - Kyoto

Inoda Coffee Higashiyama - Kyoto Cafe

Unlike hipster cafés, you’ll find another breed of café-goers in Inoda Coffee. We don’t see many tourists or teenagers here. Instead, we spotted many Japanese patrons, mostly in their 30s to 70s – a businessman man reading his newspapers, an elderly couple enjoying their black coffee, or Japanese ladies having a chitter-chatter over small bites.

Cafe au lait at Inoda Coffee - Kyoto Cafes

Inoda Coffee serves their own original blend coffee using cotton filters, having roasted the beans at their own coffee roasting factory. Like Japanese cafés of yonder years ago, you’ll be asked if you want your coffee with milk, sugar, or both. Do mention to the servers if you want it black. Café au lait, pictured above, has hot milk already poured in.

We would recommend the Colombian Emerald (¥560) blend if you prefer something close to single origin coffee. Of light roast, this blend is surprisingly easy to drink with a rich aroma.

Emerald Colombian Inoda Coffee - Kyoto Cafe

Inoda Coffee Arabian Pearl - Kyoto Cafe

If you prefer your coffee black and roasty like us, opt for the Arabian Pearl (¥560) blend. Of dark roast, it’s a bittersweet cup of medium acidity. Inoda Coffee has been using this blend since it was founded.

As it was a pit stop for us, we had a light cheesecake (¥480) to pair with our coffees. We observed other patrons taking dainty bites from their sandwiches (¥680 – ¥1,880) and the monthly set menus (¥880 – ¥1,380).

Cheesecake Inoda Coffee - Kyoto Cafe

Another reason for repeated visits to this branch, which some of you might find frivolous, is that we find its single long glass window looking out to a shared garden courtyard a legit attraction point. Often, you’ll see ladies clad in kimonos passing by or taking pictures in the landscaped courtyard.

Garden Inoda Coffee - Kiyomizu Kyoto Cafe

View from inside Inoda Coffee Kiyomizu Branch - Kyoto Cafe

Being old school and all, Inoda Coffee allows smoking inside their coffeehouses. You’ll be asked if you’d like to sit in the smoking or non-smoking areas. It can get quite reeky if you happen to sit beside a table of 4 all puffing away at the same time. Other times, we weren’t affected as we sat quite a distance from the smoking area. Alternatively, if the weather is cool and beautiful, take a seat outside. You can admire the Japanese garden and people-watch while sipping your cuppa.

Al fresco outside Inoda Coffee Higashiyama - Kyoto Cafe

Having boosted our meagre strength with some caffeine and sugar, we took a walk in the Japanese garden, shared with its neighbour, Yōjiya. We even ran into a couple of elderly photo enthusiasts snapping away with their humongous DSLRs.

Japanese garden in Inoda Coffee Kiyomizu - Higashiyama Kyoto

Yojiya Inoda Coffee Higashiyama - Kyoto Japan

pling thinks…if you’re in for a local experience, weave in a visit to Inoda Coffee for a chance to see how first-wave coffee roasters and old school Japanese cafés are like.

How to get to Inoda Coffee Kiyomizu

〒605-0862 京都市東山区清水3-334

Open 9am – 5pm

By Bus:

  1. From Kyoto Station, take bus 100 or 206.
  2. Alight at Kiyomizumichi stop 清水道.
  3. Cross the road and start the trek uphill on Matsubara-dori 松原通.

Willow Tree Inoda Coffee Kiyomizu - Higashiyama KyotoWalk:

  1. From Kiyomizu-dera’s entrance gate, walk down along Matsubara-dori 松原通.
  2. Keep a lookout on the right for stone steps going downwards (pictured above). You’ll see 七味家本舗, a shop selling Japanese condiments.
  3. Walk down the flight of stone steps towards Inoda Coffee. Find the young willow tree and viola~!

 

Kiyomizu-dera Autumn Maple Trees - Kyoto Temple

8 Things to do at Kiyomizu-dera // Kyoto’s Nailless Hillside Temple

Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺) is Kyoto’s most famous temple. Almost every traveler who passes through Kyoto would have made a trip to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site, built on the hillside of Higashiyama. And if an airline or a travel agency would have to pick a representative picture of Kyoto, we bet a photo of Kiyomizu-dera in its autumn splendor would have been one of the top 3 choices, if not the first.

Chawan-zaka Teapot Lane - Kiyomizu KyotoFor friends travelling to Kyoto with us for the first time, we’ll definitely put Kiyomizu-dera on the itinerary. This meant that we have visited Kiyomizu-dera 3 times!

Don’t we tire of it? Not at all. The charm of Kiyomizu-dera extends beyond the temple itself to the Higashiyama district 東山区, a meandering historical area that seeks to be explored again and again. It’s also about an hour’s walk to the Gion district.

An uphill trek through the steep Kiyomizu-michi 清水道, or Chawan-zaka 茶碗坂 (Teapot Lane) preludes a visit to Kiyomizu-dera. Shops selling souvenirs, Kyoto snacks, street food, and handicrafts line Chawan-zaka, marking it as a popular spot for getting gifts or omiyage お土産 back home.

With many accolades packed under its belt, we picked out 8 things to do at Kiyomizu-dera.

1. Behold the Kyoto skyline

Kiyomizu-dera Temple Romon Entrance Gate - KyotoThree Storied Pagoda Kiyomizu - Kyoto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the bright 2-story entrance gate Rōmon 楼門 of Kiyomizu-dera, where the 3-story pagoda Sanjūnotō 三重塔 is, there’s a perfect spot to take in the expanse of Kyoto city with the Kyoto Tower in plain sight. Founded in 778 A.D., the present structures were rebuilt in the 17th-century.

Kyoto Tower city skyline from Kiyomizudera - early Nov autumn

Kyoto Tower Skyline at Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kyoto skyline from Kiyomizu-dera - Kyoto Japan

If you are blessed with clear skies, and the light is in your favor, you can even get a shot of the temple and the surrounding treetops against the city skyline.

Kiyomizu Kyoto Tower City Skyline

2. Take in the beauty of seasonal changes and nighttime illuminations

Having been to Kiyomizu-dera 3 times – end of spring, beginning of autumn and peak autumn, we were blessed to take in the beauty of the temple grounds set against backdrops of lush green (spring), variegated yellows (early autumn) and brilliant reds (peak autumn).

Kiyomizu-dera late Spring May - Kyoto Japan

Kiyomizu-dera peak autumn colors - Kyoto Japan

The next time? We’ll get to Kiyomizu-dera during the peak spring season when cherry blossoms reign on this particular hillside. There are also nighttime illuminations in mid-March (cherry blossom season) and late November (peak autumn colors), which you can check out.

  • Spring March 12 – 21, March 26 – April 10: 6pm – 9pm
  • Summer August 14 – 16: 7pm – 9pm
  • Autumn November 12 – December 4: 5.00pm – 9pm
Nighttime Illumination Spring Cherry Blossom - Kiyomizu Kyoto

Photo Credit: Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Nighttime Illumination Autumn Maple - Kiyomizu Kyoto

Photo Credit: Kiyomizu-dera Temple

3. Marvel at the nailless wooden stage of the main hall

Japanese craftsmen are amazingly precise! Building a stage without nails, stacking wood upon wood, and doing this on the steep incline of a hill, go beyond what our puny minds can fathom. This Hondō 本堂 or main hall perches atop the hillside, and you can marvel at the ingenuity of their craftsmanship from the side, or at the base of the temple.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple Main Hall Hondo

Nailless No Nail Main Hall of Kiyomizu Temple - Kyoto Japan

And while you’re standing in the main hall, cast your eyes across the treetops to the far southern end of the temple grounds to see the three-story Koyasu Pagoda 子安塔.

Koyasu Pagoda - Kiyomizu Kyoto

4. Take a sip at Otowa Waterfall

Visitors can take a sip of mountain spring water from Otowa Waterfall 音羽の滝 using the long scoops provided at the site. Hold out the long scoops, which has been pre-sterilized in UV blue light, to catch one of the 3 streams of spring water. Each stream is said to bestow longevity, success, and love. Go early, as the queues for Otowa Waterfall can get windingly long.

Otowa Waterfall at Kiyomizu-dera - Kyoto3 Streams of Spring Water at Otowa Waterfall - Kiyomizu Kyoto

 

5. Watch the love search at Jishu-jinja

Just a short walk from the main hall of Kiyomizu-dera is a smaller shrine, Jishu-jinja 地主神社, where students and young persons flock to. Dedicated to the deity of love and matchmaking, it’s one place frequented by those looking for love – some shyly, some boldly. You might chance upon people walking, with their eyes closed, between the 2 stones placed 18m apart at the shrine’s entrance. Some believe that this will bring their luck in finding their true love.

Jishu-jinja Kiyomizu-dera - Kyoto Japan

6. Walk through the mysterious paths full of Jizos

Jizo Stone Statues - Kiyomizu-dera KyotoIn the back gardens of Kiyomizu-dera, where few wander through, are little stone statues called Jizos 地蔵, placed in no obvious patterns throughout the paths leading out of the temple. When we visited, they donned little aprons or hand-knitted hats, giving off an eerily mysterious atmosphere. Little did we know the sad stories behind these seemingly peculiar statues. Upon research, it seems that these little aprons are not aprons at all, but bibs. These bibs mimic the ones worn long ago by children, and parents dress the Jizos to ask for protection over the souls of unborn or lost children.

7. Rest your feet & eat matcha dango at temple rest huts before taking a parting shot of the Pagoda

There are a few temple rest huts situated at intervals in the temple. We always took a rest at these huts, drinking tea, and eating matcha dangos or zenzai, as we admired the surrounding magnificence.

Rest huts at Kiyomizu-dera - Kyoto Japan

Autumn Colors Maple Trees - Kiyomizu Kyoto

Matcha dangos are one of my favorite Japanese snacks to buy home. We love their chewiness and the slight bittersweet matcha flavor. They can be purchased at some of the shops along Chawan-zaka and in Kyoto Station. Having them here, coupled with a cup of smoky tea, and midst such tranquil beauty is a different experience and definitely one enjoyment we revel in.

Matcha dangos and tea - Kiyomizu Kyoto Snack

Walking towards the exit, there’s a beautiful place to take a parting shot of the three-story Pagoda framed by lush leaves and against clear blue skies. If you attempt a low-angle bottom-up shot, you can get a group shot of these with your traveling party.

Three Story Pagoda - Kiyomizu-dera Temple KyotoPagoda Maple Leaves - Kiyomizu Kyoto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Participate in a Tea Ceremony

If you’re interested in what the culture is like in Kyoto and yet short on time, this 3-hour Kyoto Tea Ceremony and Kiyomizu-dera Temple Walking Tour by Magical Trip will be a good fit for you. You’ll experience an elegant Japanese tea ceremony, whisking your own matcha and drinking it paired with Japanese sweets. The walking tour of Kiyomizu-dera with your friendly English-speaking Japanese guide also means you’ll learn more about the interesting history and cultural facts of this iconic temple while seeing the other beautiful sides of this part of Kyoto.

Kiyomizu-dera Tea Ceremony - Kyoto Japan

Photo Credit: Magical Trip

Kiyomizu-dera Walking Tour - Kyoto Japan Must Visit

Photo Credit: Magical Trip


pling thinks
…you may like to get to Kiyomizu-dera in the early hours to avoid the huge crowds, which make photo-taking difficult and the queue to the Otowa Waterfall long. After a visit to the temple, one can then leisurely explore Chawan-zaka, the Higashiyama, and Gion districts, or head to Hisago for a flavorful bowl of oyako-don.

How to get to Kiyomizu-Kiyomizu-dera ticket - Kyoto Japandera

294 Kiyomizu 1-chome, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0862, Japan

A very comprehensive guide is available in English, Mandarin, Korean and Japanese.
Visitor Guide & Map

Entry fees: ¥400
Open 6am – 6pm (9pm on night illumination days)
Kiyomizu-dera website in Japanese
Kiyomizu-dera website in English

By Bus:

  1. From Kyoto Station, take bus 100 or 206.
  2. Alight at Gojozaka stop 五条坂.
  3. Cross the road and start the trek uphill along Gojozaka 五条坂 and onto Chawan-zaka 茶碗坂 towards Kiyomizu-dera.
Nishiki Traditional Market - Kyoto Japan

Nishiki Market // 5 Must-Eats in Kyoto’s Kitchen

Nishiki Market (錦市場), fondly known as Kyoto’s Kitchen, has been around for more than 400 years. Traditional food vendors, small cooked food shops, and eateries line this 400-metre street.

The potential of this street extends beyond these 400 metres. Running perpendicular to Nishiki Market is Teramachi-dori (寺町通), an organized labyrinth of shops and restaurants worth exploring. Weaved into the smaller lanes, you will find vintage shops, small eateries, and the famous Sou•Sou shops. Parallel to Nishiki Market is the shopping belt of Kyoto, Shijō-dori (四条通), where you’ll find bigger shopping malls and boutique shops. We’ll dedicate a separate post to these later on. Stay tuned!

Must Visit Nishiki Market - Kyoto JapanNishiki Food Market - Kyoto Kitchen Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The array of fresh vegetables, local fruits, seafood, meat, pickled foodstuff, condiments, and ingredients will have you weaving in and out of the traditional food shops if you love to cook. Such was the allure of seeing in person, those heirloom Kyoto vegetables (京野菜 kyōyasai) cultivated since the Meiji Era, that you’ve only heard of, or seen on television – the sweet spring onions called Kujo negi (九条ねぎ), round eggplants called Kamo eggplants (賀茂茄子), and large chestnuts called Tanba chestnuts (丹波栗). And of course, all those fresh vegs and Japanese pickles!

Nishiki Traditional Market - Kyoto Japan

While these traditional food shops lure the local housewives and chefs with their fresh produce, seafood, and meat, we travelers can indulge in the other kind of stores found here – cooked or ready-to-eat food.

In Asia, and as in Japan, we are blessed with street food – little bites that we can eat and share before we continue walking. It’s one of the many charms of traveling in this part of the world.

Here are our top 5 must-eats in Nishiki Market.

1. Soy Mini Donuts – Konnamonjya

No one zooms past without making a stop at Konnamonjya (こんなもんじゃ) for a freshly fried bag of mini donuts. These bite-size donuts are made from soy milk and attribute to its light taste. I usually steer away from most donuts and their saccharine oiliness. Non-sugary, these mini donuts are light and crisp. We easily devour a bag of 12 mini donuts in original flavor (¥300) and contemplated whether to go for more.

Soy Milk Donuts Konnamonjya - Nishiki Kyoto

We refrained but made a mental note to come back for more, which we did on our walk back. Craving something different, we tried the soy milk donuts with roasted soybean flour or kinako (きなこ) and brown sugar drizzle. We prefer the original, unadulterated version.

Soy Milk Kinako Donuts - Nishiki Market Kyoto

Tofu Soy Donuts - Nishiki Market Kyoto

2. Dashimaki Tamago – Miki Keiran

Egg lovers mustn’t miss this! This dashimaki tamago (だし巻き) or Japanese rolled omelet at Miki Keiran (三木鶏卵) got us real bad! Different from the usual tamagoyaki (玉子焼き) which tends to be sweeter with added sugar and mirin (味醂), dashimaki tamago tends to more savory.

At the stall, you will see them pan-frying the eggs in the background, while the stall front sells eggs neatly categorized into various grades.

Miki Kenran Tamagoyaki Dashimaki Tamago - Kyoto Nishiki MarketDashimaki Tamago - Nishiki Kyoto

We couldn’t wait so we tore open the carefully wrapped packaging while standing beside the stall. Most locals buy it home, adding this simple delicacy to their meals.

Egg Rolls Tamagoyaki Dashimaki Tamago - Nishiki Market Kyoto

Gone in a few minutes, the dashimaki tamago was moist, thick, and bursting with a deep, lingering flavor derived from dried kelp or kombu (昆布) and fermented skipjack tuna or katsuobushi (鰹節). Umami 旨み!

3. Fresh Kusa Mochi – Nishiki Mochitsuki-Ya

There’s never a chance to eat fresh mochi in our home country. Every time we visit Nishiki Market, we never fail to make a stop at Nishiki Mochitsuki-Ya (錦もちつき屋) for their charcoal-grilled mochi.

Nishiki Market Kyoto Eats - Kusa Mochi

Charcoal Grilled Fresh Mochi - Nishiki Market Kyoto

The mochi was soft & chewy, and in itself not sweet. The slight fragrance of mugwort, which was pounded into the mochi to give its green hue, wafted into our noses as we savor its sweet red bean filling. The charcoal grill gave the mochi a nice smoky taste. Imagine eating warm, smoky mochi filled with sweet red beans on a cold day in autumn or winter! The perfect snack for any mochi-lover!

4. Tanba Chestnuts – Kyotanba

They are huge! Their sizes stopped us in our tracks. That, and the toasty smell of roasting chestnuts lingering in the autumn air. Handpicked from the Funai District in northern Kyoto, these enormous Tanba chestnuts 丹波栗 go through careful selection by hand. Only those with high sugar content, and of considerable sizes are sold in the store. They are then roasted and inspected again before sold in packs of ¥1,000 (small bag), ¥2,000 (medium bag) t0 ¥3,000 (big bag).

Tanba Chestnuts - Nishiki Market Kyoto

Kyotanba Tamba Chestnuts - Nishiki Market Kyoto

5. Japanese Pickles – Uchida

Ok, we cheated on this one. It’s not exactly street food. But then again, we bought some back home on a plane. we love the crunchy, tangy yuzu radish, which I don’t see in Japanese grocers and supermarkets back home. The pickles (tsukemono 漬け物) in Kyoto are less salty than those we buy from supermarkets and eat in some Japanese restaurants back home. We think it’s due to the delicate palate of the Kyoto people. It’s no wonder they are must-buy souvenirs for foodies.

Japanese Pickles Pickled Vegetables - Nishiki Market Kyoto

Uchida has a wide assortment of pickled vegetables, having been in Nishiki Market since 1937. You can pick to your hearts’ content at Uchida. Remember to have the pickles vacuum-sealed if you’re packing them for the plane.

pling thinks…if you want to explore a traditional food market in Kyoto, this is the one to go to for its heritage food stores and its wide assortment. A good idea to start the day, satisfy that breakfast hunger pang, and truly see this market would be to join this Nishiki Market Breakfast Walking Food Tour by Magical Trip. The friendly English-speaking guide will bring you to sample some of the tasty foods unique to Kyoto while at the same time, share knowledge about the culture and history of Kyoto. If you can’t speak Japanese, the difficulty and the fear of ordering food are resolved too!

Nishiki Market Breakfast Walking Tour - Kyoto Japan

Photo Credit: Magical Trip

And if you are a big fan of yuzu like we are, we would recommend stopping by Eitaro for their yuzu ramen. It’s right along Nishikikoji-dori (錦小路通), just outside Nishiki Market.

How to get to Nishiki Market

錦市場 Japan, 〒604-8054 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 富小路通四条上る西大文字町609

Open 9.30am – 5pm
Some shops, we noticed, close earlier.

By Train:

  1. From Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma Line and alight at Shijō Station (四条駅). Exit station by Exit 1. Cross the road towards Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporate (SMBC, 三井住友銀行). Walk along Karasuma Dori (烏丸通). Turn right to Nishikikoji Dori (錦小路通). It’s about a 5-minute walk.
  2. You can also take the Hankyu Kyoto Line and alight at Karasuma Station. After that, walk along Shijō Dori (四条通), towards Karasuma Dori (烏丸通), and find the same landmark of SMBC.

By Bus:

Many buses go to Shijō Dori 四条通, which is the main shopping district – 5, 101, 205 & 206.

Moss Bridge in Moss Garden - Kokedera Kyoto

Saihoji Kokedera // Kyoto’s Magical Moss Garden

It’s like walking in a giant terrarium.

The place. A temple garden with thousands of moss varieties.

Moss Garden - Saihoji Kyoto Japan
The little figurines. You.

Moss Garden UNESCO Heritage Site - Kyoto

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Saihōji (西芳寺) or Kokedera (苔寺) is magical, out-of-this-world, surreal, and an ancient treasure. With such superlatives for this Kyoto site, you don’t see as much content or information out there as compared to say, Kiyomizudera or Gion.

Why? Some might wonder.

  1. It’s not easy to get there. Not the usual tourist routes, there are buses to Kokedera but no trains.
  2. You have to make a reservation with a return postcard at least 2 months (depending on how fast your postal service is) prior to your intended visit. Advance planning is required, of which many didn’t get a chance to do for their travels.
  3. There are only 1 stipulated visiting time each day. The time of visit varies and is decided by the temple. It has been said that latecomers do not get to enter and are shut outside the door. You know how traveling tends to get when you’re in a foreign land and unfamiliar with public transport.
  4. Before you get to visit the moss garden itself, one has to sit at a low desk and copy out sutras in complex kanji with a calligraphy ink pen for about an hour. For those literate in Mandarin, it’s like our preschool books where we trace out the strokes as indicated by the dotted lines. For those illiterate in Mandarin, do not worry. Just think of it as tracing and coloring in those dotted lines.
  5. The relatively high entry fees as compared to other temples or shrines.

Despite all these, it’s well worth the hassle & time to visit Kokedera. In fact, it’s hard to describe the experience outside of the actual experience within the grounds.

No. There will be no space warps or out-of-body experience.
But, there is magic. And there is a garden of great antiquity. For those undeterred. Read on.

Moss Island Golden Pond - Moss Garden Kyoto

RESERVE YOUR SLOTS – SEND LETTER + POSTCARD

[UPDATE: Saihoji now has an official English website where you can find out more about how to make a reservation and download a letter template.]

With 1 visiting time per day (sometimes 2, depending on the temple), there’s a limit to the number of visitors. To visit the temple and its famed moss garden, you have to apply in writing with 1 letter and a prepaid return postcard.

In Your Letter, state:
1. Your Name
2. Your Address
3. Preferred Date of Visit
4. Number of Pax in the Group

Within the envelope containing your application letter, enclose either:
1. A prepaid return postcard (within Japan) or
2. A self-addressed envelope + an international reply coupon (sold in most postal offices in respective countries of residence)

The Temple says the application has to reach them 3 weeks before your visit. But, to err on the side of caution, I recommend sending them out way earlier to buffer for the varying postal processing time on both ends. I sent mine out 1 – 1.5 months before my departure date.

The Address to send to:
Saihōji Temple
56 Jingatani-cho, Matsuo
Nishikyo-ku
Kyoto 615-8286
JAPAN

How to Get to Moss Garden Kyoto - Postcard

After 2 weeks, the postcard arrived, stating the date & time of your visit. There’s a reminder of the entry fees per person and the address. Both visiting times – one for my visit, and the other for my other friend – happened at 1pm.

DAY OF VISIT

Arrive on time or earlier if you must. We can’t stress this enough. The Japanese are super punctual, Japanese monks as well. You’ll be shut outside the gates if you’re late. Click for directions on how to get there.

Wait outside the closed gate. When the clock strikes, the gates will open to allow entry.

Upon entry, present your postcard from Saihōji, pay ¥3,000 per person and you’ll be led into a tatami room (yes, shoes off) with rows of low desks and cushions.

BEFORE THE GARDEN – SUTRA

Sutra Praying Copying - Saihoji KyotoBefore you’re given entry into their famed moss garden, you’ll be asked to observe the temple’s rituals – the chanting and copying of sutras. A monk leads the sutra chanting as you sit on your knees. Well, that was a challenge for us – non-Japanese, bad knees and all. After a while, we were sitting cross-legged instead.

After the chanting, you receive the paper to start copying the sutra, writing down your name and address on the side. We understood that the monks will pray over these. On the paper, outlined with dotted lines, follow the strokes of the complex kanji with the calligraphy ink pen provided.

After 30-60 minutes, when you’ve completed the copying, take your paper and place it at the altar before you exit for the garden.

ROAMING THE MOSS GARDEN

You can freely roam the mesmeric garden, replete with moss of the softest, greenest, and most varied kinds.

The path is lined with rope to designate the out-of-bounds areas. A good traveler is always respectful of nature and boundaries, so please keep within the stone path to admire the moss garden.

By now, you’d have wondered how this temple garden came to be so wondrous. Long story short, it fell into disrepair after 2 floods for more than 100 years due to lack of funds to maintain it. The moss naturally grew and blossomed, and is now being cared for.

The centerpiece of the moss garden, a pond sited within this grove called the Golden Pond or ōgonchi (黄金池), captivated us. It’s linked via little wooden bridges, overgrown with moss (see the 1st 3 pictures at the top). This centerpiece is surrounded by 3 smaller islands, and with the encircling pond, gives the shape of the character 心, which means heart. I wished we had a drone to capture a bird’s eye view.

Bridge in Moss Garden - Saihoji Kyoto

Bridge in Moss - Kokedera Kyoto

The beauty of undulating moss underneath trees.

Moss under Tree in Autumn - Saihoji Kokedera Kyoto

It was hard not to be captivated by the soft carpet of green moss underneath all these trees, freshly drenched in a light rain before. We can just imagine hours spent here in contemplation and meditation.

Carpet of Moss - Garden in Saihoji Kyoto

As we visited during the gorgeous autumn season, we enjoyed some photographic perks – the reds, oranges & yellows against rich, luscious greens, and this chōzuya or temizuya (手水舎) bedecked with fallen Japanese maple leaves.

Temizuya at Moss Garden - Saihoji Temple Kyoto

Japanese Maple Leaf - Moss Garden Kyoto

Autumn Moss Garden - Kyoto Saihoji Kokedera

Moss Rocks Maple Leaves - Saihoji Kokedera Kyoto

Moss, babbling brook & Japanese maple leaves. Music to the ears and eyes!

Babbling Brook in Moss Garden - Autumn Kyoto

Stone Maple Leaves Moss Autumn - Saihoji Kyoto

Just when you thought you’ve reached the end of the walk, you might see this little door near the stone pebble path (pictured above). A lot of the visitors left. But there’s more beyond this door. Head upwards for a different vantage point.

Beauty, as well, on higher ground.

Japanese Maple on Moss - Saihoji Kyoto Japan

Be careful when you’re going down the stone stairs. They can get real slippery after rain. We had to hold onto the handrails made from bamboo.

Bamboo Handrails Stairs Moss Garden - Kyoto

As it neared the close of the day, the sun was beginning to set, casting long shadows between tree trunks and sending sparkles of light through. Another moment.

Sunset Moss Garden Saihoji - Kyoto Kokedera

Light Shadow Play in Moss Garden - Kokedera Kyoto

Light Shadow Trees in Moss Garden - Kokedera Kyoto

For terrarium- and moss-lovers like us, we left Saihōji hypnotized and enraptured. At some point, we thought Totoro might just pop out to stare at us intruders into the magical world. It leaves us inspired. I even made a terrarium, and designed & handcrafted a whole collection of necklaces, STORY DOMES.

pling thinks…if you have a love for moss, botany, terrariums & Totoro, you mustn’t leave out Saihōji in your itinerary.

Cafe outside Saihoji - Kokedera Kyoto

緑翠庵 喫茶店 Ryokusuian Café

Our hands were cold & stiff from clicking away at our cameras. We took respite in this small café called 緑翠庵 喫茶店 right in front of Saihōji to warm up our bodies with bowls of zenzai (ぜんざい or sweet red bean soup with toasted mochi), hot tea and coffee. A nice elderly lady was manning this café with a beautiful backyard garden when we were there and she was such a blessing!

How to get to Saihōji

西芳寺 (苔寺) 〒615-8286 京都市西京区松尾神ヶ谷町56

Entry Fees ¥3,000

By Bus:

  1. From Kyoto Station, take Kyoto Bus 73 or 83 for about an hour. If you’re in Arashiyama, you can also catch Kyoto Bus 63 or 73 from the Arashiyama Station (Hankyu). This bus ride is not covered under the ¥500 day pass.
  2. Alight at Kokedera Suzumushidera (苔寺 鈴虫寺) Bus Stop.
  3. Walk for 2 minutes.
Tofukuji Temple Must-See - Autumn Colors Kyoto

Tofuku-ji Kyoto // A Must-Visit for Spectacular Autumn Colors

Autumn is a fantastic time to be in Kyoto, Japan. During this season, leaves change their green coats to varying shades of vibrant yellows, flaming oranges, and deep reds. Famed gardens and ancient trees are prevalent in the many shrines spotted all over Kyoto. I knew I had to be in Kyoto during autumn at least once in my life to witness these autumn colors or kōyō (紅葉) with my own eyes.

Autumn Colors - Kyoto Japan

With that many gardens and shrines in Kyoto, we had to be selective in the places we were going to visit. Time is limited during travels, but isn’t that always the case?

Considered as Kyoto’s five greatest zen temples or Kyoto Gozan (京都御座), Tōfuku-ji (東福寺) was found in 1236 and its huge garden, which left an unforgettable mark in my experience and memory, was designed in the 1930s by landscape architect Mirei Shigemori – landscape architect of Tofuku-ji in Kyoto.

Tofuku-ji Entrance - Autumn in Kyoto Japan

Even before reaching the main gate where we had to pay our entry fees, towering trees in their glorious reds greeted us. Across the canopy of these trees, we saw temple’s bridge, Tsūten-kyō (通天橋), already packed with visitors.

Maple Leaves Trees - Tofuku-ji Kyoto Japan

Young maple trees line the path leading to the temple garden. Expectant of older, redder and more Japanese maple trees ahead, some rushed on by. Others took their time strolling to the entrance and enjoying the cool breeze.

Path Tofuku-ji - Kyoto Japan

Tofuku-ji Ticket - Kyoto Japan

After paying ¥400 for entry to the garden and bridge, we stepped across the wooden bridge and attempted to get a good spot to photograph the scenery below us.

It is difficult not to get elbowed and bumped during the peak autumn season when the leaves are at their reddest. For photography enthusiasts, no tripod is allowed on the bridge. Temple wardens patrol the bridge (Tsūten-kyō 通天橋), making sure visitors keep to their respective lanes and do not lean dangerously over the edge.

Tofuku-ji Bridge - Tsuten-Kyo - Kyoto Japan

Tofuku-ji Maple Trees - Kyoto Japan

When we stepped off the bridge, that was when the magic began. It was almost too surreal for this girl from a one-season country to fathom. Such intensity in colors. Such a miraculous symphony of hues. Such a spectacle of God’s ingenuity and nature’s wondrous glory.

Tofukuji Temple Must-See - Autumn Colors Kyoto

Tofuku-ji Autumn Colours - Maple Trees Kyoto

Low-lying branches arch over carpets of reds, oranges, and yellows. As you look across beneath the branches, you get a sense that you’re bathed in orange-red light.

Tofukuji - Under the Maple Trees - Kyoto

Light beams streamed in between the branches & leaves, casting a magical glow on the lush carpet of fallen maple leaves in a myriad of warm tones. If it had been really quiet, it would have been a scene right out of a dream – surreal, almost unreal.

Hand on Maple Leaves - Tofukuji Kyoto

Some of these Japanese maple trees are petite enough for you to touch their soft leaves or take really good selfies.

Stream Maple Trees - Tofukuji Kyoto

A little stream runs through the garden, crinkling their watery music to calm the soul.

Kimono Autumn Colours - Tofukuji Kyoto

Every step or two, you’ll see ladies dressed in kimonos, seeking out scenic spots to commemorate their visit to this awe-inspiring place. This, plus the scenery, made it seem that we might have stepped into a period Japanese movie.

pling thinks…it is just spectacular! Not to missed.

How to get to Tofuku-ji

Yuba Udon - Kyoto JapanWe walked from Fushimi Inari Shrine to Tofuku-ji, and stopped by a makeshift food stall where we had a simple meal of one of Kyoto’s signature food, yuba (湯葉, tofu skin or 豆腐皮)  and udon, enjoying the view of maple leaves fluttering above our heads.

東福寺 612-0839 京都府京都市, 伏見区深草本寺山町1−4

Entry Fees ¥400
9am – 4pm (April – October)
8.30am – 4.30pm (November – early December)
9am – 4pm (early December – March)
Last admission: 30 mins before closing time

By Train:

  1. From Kyoto Station, take the JR Nara line (Platform 32, 33) to the JR Tofukuji Station (東福寺). Cross the road and turn right.
  2. From Gion-Shijo Station, take the Keihan Main Line and alight at Tofukuji Station.

By Bus:

  1. From Kyoto Station, take Kyoto City Bus 208 and alight at Tofukuji Bus Stop.

Beauty-Pati.com // 5 Superfoods for Stunning Hair

I’ve been obsessing about my hair and nails, noticing that they are getting brittle easily with age. On days when the weather doesn’t let up with its humidity and temperature, and when I’m shuttling between appointments and meetings, my fine hair gets limp and my scalp gets oily by midday. Not good at all.

While we care for the outer beauty of our hair, I thought it is as important, if not more important, to look at our diet and what’s good for nurturing healthier, more beautiful hair.

The first thing to do is to take a closer look at what I eat. As we advance in age, we take more care of what we put into our mouths. Gone are the days when you can just pop whatever your heart, no, stomach desires.

spinach walnut salad - superfood for hair

While there are lots of food that are good for hair, I’ve written a list of 5 Superfoods known to fortify hairs with their natural nutrients – zinc, selenium, iron, magnesium, proteins, Omega-3 and vitamins, and the recommended daily intake. I’ve included some yummy food in this article, so it’s not just all greens!

Walnuts - Superfood for Beautiful Hair
So, hop over to Beauty-Pati.com to start stocking up and feed your hair!

beauty-pati 5 superfoods for stunning hair

Beauty-Pati.com // Top 8 Cleansing Oils

Gone are the days when we have to use cold cream to vigorously rub off our makeup. I remember pulling at my skin using many cotton pads during my teenage years, and before discovering the wonder of cleansing oils. Since then, I’ve not looked back.

Top 8 Cleansing OilsWhy? Because they are fast, simple and effective in removing all traces of makeup, including stubborn eyeliner and coats of mascara. Even though I have sensitive skin, veering from oily to combination depending on the weather and environment, I swear by cleansing oils to cleanly remove makeup without fuss and without breakouts.

Like many, I thought that I should never use oil on oily skin. It would make it worse and even oilier, right? Wrong! It’s worse to go to bed with your skin still hinting of makeup in corners, clogged up, and unable to breathe. The technology has advanced so much that many cleansing oils are light and emulsify well to be totally removed by a single wash with no trace of oil remaining on our skin.

With that many years of using cleansing oils behind me, I’ve compiled this list of the Top 8 Cleansing Oils on Beauty-Pati.com.

Beauty-Pati - Top 8 Cleansing Oils

For those with oily skin, I would recommend a “double cleanse” with some of the cleansing oils. This means to follow up with your usual facial cleanser after removing your makeup. I am a bit of a stickler for clean skin before bed, so I like to ensure that my skin is ready to absorb all the goodness of my lotion, toner and serum.

Your Turn: What’s your favorite Cleansing Oil?