Shogunzuka Mound and Kennin-Ji Temple

This morning’s goal was to climb the mountain to see the Shogunzuka mound and the lookout which has been built next to it. A quick bus trip to the subway, then one stop to Keage station.

towards the mountain path

These ticket machines are great. You can either use a ticket (the yellow slot) or tap the blue pad with your phone or NFC pass to tag on. They’re great. Even when you don’t tag just right and you break the light beam and the little yellow fence things pop out, the lights go red and it yells at you!

japan subway ticket machines

We aborted our first attempt to walk up. I thought we could just follow the road but derp, it’s a narrow winding road with no footpaths. There was a bus, but we’d passed the “one an hour” service on the way up when it was stuck trying to pass a tour bus going down… then it had disappeared. We wanted to walk anyway, it’s part of the journey.

We had walked past this on the way up, I really need to tell them to add “Shogunzuka Mound” since it would have saved us a KM or two. :)

direction warning sign

That retaining wall, each of those “spikes” is about as thick as my leg. They don’t mess around with holding their hills up…

epic retaining wall

I really appreciate how even their water treatment plants aren’t ugly lumps. It looks quite like a private school until you look closer.

water treatment plant

On the way down to the starting point we found with some quick searching, we passed a Nejirimanpo (Spiral Tunnel)… pretty funky. Completed in June 1888, it was built to take the weight of the road above it only using bricks laid in a spiral pattern; it’s also built at an angle to the road.

spiral tunnel

The sign next to it had an instantly recognisable friend from home on it… eek.

redback signspi

After some slightly confusing directions, we found ourselves at the start of the path, the Sonshi-In temple, accessible only by a steep and slippery path.

shogunzuka slippery road

shogunzuka trail slippery steps

Once we were on our way, it was a really lovely walk to the top. Reminded me a lot of Australian rainforest, only colder. And with terrifying monkeys. Well, signs about them at least.

shogunzuka trail monkeys

I guess they’d left for warmer pastures this time of year?

After the 35 minute walk to the top, we were at the Shōgunzuka complex.

shogunzuka gate

The Shōgunzuka Seiryu-den Hall, first built in 1915 as a Butokuden (training hall), it was transferred to the Police in 1947 for their training use as a peace dojo. Later it was opened to the public and many people came to engage in martial arts training. In 1999, it was shut down and dismantled by the Kyoto government and put into storage due to rain damage and lacking maintenance.

shogunzuka hall and deck

Ten years later Shorenin took ownership and started rebuilding it next to Shogunzuka Mound, extending it with a large observation deck and completing the work in 2014.

shogunzuka hall

It’s a beautiful structure inside and out, and the views from the deck are spectacular, taking in most of Kyoto city.

shogunzuka outlook panorama

Inside is a replica of “The Painting of Aofudo (Blue Acala)”, an 11th century painting considered one of the best examples of Buddhist masterwork. It’s ensconced safely nearby and recently was exhibited twice and 550,000 people came to see it.

The mound is… a mound. The story is better told by its caretakers:

Folklore tells that when Emperor Kanmu was to determine a capital, he first climbed the mound accompanied by Wake no Kiyomaro, and then decided Kyoto to be the capital. After having the image of the Shogun buried in armor, he prayed for the peace and security of the newly found capital. The Shogunzuka area extends about 20m in all directions.

shogunzuka garden and mound

There’s some beautiful gardens to wander through after visiting the aforementioned sights, built in the circuitous Muromachi style.

shogunzuka garden path

shogunzuka garden greenery

shogunzuka garden rocks

shogunzuka garden leaving

After leaving that area we stopped for a drink while working out how to get back down. We didn’t want to go back the same way, and after some poking at signs, found another way that would take us down to the rear of the Chion-in temple we’d walked past the day before.

This was from a viewing platform in the nearby park, looking southeast to Yamashina ward.

looking southeast to yamashina ward

Looks like we found where Santa goes after the 25th of December…

santa claus

Vending machines with wifi and public toilets, bringing together two of my favourite things. ^_^

vending machine wifi

Some paths had been seriously damaged in the recent typhoon (#19, 2019) but thankfully not the ones we wanted to go down. There was still some evidence of spectacular weather…

typhoon damage 1

typhoon damage 2

typhoon damage 3

It was a lovely walk, a little less windy, a lot more slippery due to moss and rain.

walking lady

Only twenty-six minutes later, we were plodding into the rear entrance of the Chion-in temple, home to Japan’s largest temple bell, which was commissioned in 1633 and weighs 74 tons. The bell is at the end of the path, and a spectacular sight to behold. It was a little hard to get a good view of it, with large crowds of worshippers and lots of camera/lighting gear set up for the celebrations tonight when it’s to be rung 108 times!

Chion-In Bell

It used to require a 25-man team to sound it. But now they’re using 17-man teams. Modern diets maybe?

The Chion-in complex is quite spectacular, with the recently restored exterior of the main hall “Mieido” showing the skill of its craftsmen. The Tokugawa family influence is everywhere, with their kamon (crest) being embedded into the ends of every tile and many other features.

tokugawa influence

We couldn’t see inside the main hall because the restoration is still continuing, but the outside and its surrounds are spectacular.

leaving chion-in

As we were walking around I could hear what sounded like Throat singing at the Honen, with the chant and bell ringing combining to create quite a moving combination. It happened to be just where I saw my first Sakura in Japan, too.

chion-in sakura

Here’s where I saw the biggest concentration of vending machines so far, 18 around the little souvenir/shop building, with 8 in a single row.

chion-in vending machines

Having walked up a mountain and back again, our stomachs were rumbling, so we went looking for food.

gion ladies 1

Every place we looked at was closed, given that most of them are close to the shrines and would be opening again around midnight to cater for the end of year celebrations.

i-chi-jo noodles

We happened to stumble upon a tiny ramen place, 一乗 (I-chi-Jo noodles). The guy running the place had popped outside for a smoke, and was fantastically friendly and fun as we stood there checking out the simple, but tasty looking menu. We fed his ticket machine, and he smashed out some great food for fifteen people while we waited; our meal was awesome.

ichijo ramen

i-chi-jo noodles chef

After lunch we headed to the Kennin-Ji temple, the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto.

We saw a beautiful painting of “The Wind and Thunder Gods” from the Edo period, painted by Tawraya Sotatsu. They look a little ferocious, but also a little humorous.

kennin-ji wind and thunder gods

The grounds and buildings of the temple are beautiful and serene, even packed full of visitors.

kennin-ji calligraphy

kennin-ji blue waters

kennin-ji water painting

kennin-ji temple garden

kennin-ji template gardens 2

Seems it might be a little too serene, these signs were everywhere!

kennin-ji please do not lie down

kennin-ji dragons 1

kennin-ji dragons 2

kennin-ji rock boy

Painted to commemorate the 800-year anniversary of the founding of the temple, the painting of the Twin Dragons adorns the ceiling of one of the halls. It’s a spectacular piece of art which took two years to complete, but hand, with ink on traditional Japanese paper. It covers the equivalent of 108 tatami mats of space.

kennin-ji twin dragons

The rain had come and our feet were tired, so I headed to a chemist to grab something for my angry, phlegmatic lungs, and was sold a tiny bottle of what I hope can only be goodness. The nice old lady at the shop wouldn’t try to kill a tourist, would she?

kyoto lung drugs

We picked up some supplies as I’d seen some mention of things being closed tomorrow. Only the essentials of course. Food, snacks, grog, and happy raccoon wash!

nye supplies

I guess this home owner also owns the vending machine? Cute.

pikachu car and vending machine

A friend mentioned fireworks as being possible, found this as something to do while researching:

Kouhaku Uta Gassen

Watching this long-running show, which started in 1959, has become a New Year’s Eve tradition for many Japanese families. Broadcast on the public TV channel NHK from around 7:15 pm until 11:45 pm, this 4.5-hour-long program involves a musical battle (in fact, the title literally translates to “Red-and-White Song Battle”) between two teams consisting of the year’s most popular and commercially successful artists. The artists are invited by NHK, so to be on the show is considered an honor. The audience and judges then vote for the best team.

Wow. The combination of music, comedy and just… Japanese TV is epic.

Just a few of the random things I could identify by the time I thought of it. I’ve been grabbing short clips and hope to make a compilation if I don’t find a better one first. It’s… great.

I managed to grab a chunk of the “megamix” of highlights at the end…

Editor: but it got taken down the next day by NHK in a copyright report. Boooooo.

Happy new year?

bike and fence

#japan #kyoto #travel #holiday #walks