Monday, April 04, 2016

Kyoto: Ninenzaka ,Sannenzaka and Higashiyama area

On one of our recent visits to Kyoto, we visited the Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka area of Kyoto. It is said that no visit to Kyoto is complete without visiting the Ni-nen-zaka and San-nen-zaka area. 

The Higashiyama District of Kyoto is one of the city's best preserved historic districts. It is perhaps the best place to experience the real Kyoto, the traditional and culturally rich erstwhile capital of Japan.  
While most of the area between the Yasaka Shrine at the corner of Gion and Kiyomizudera is popular among locals and tourists for its traditional charm, the best part would be Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka. These two sloping lanes that lead down from the Kiyomizudera to Nene no Michi lane are perfect for a stroll along many traditional shops, houses, teahouses and restaurants. If your are lucky, you might also catch up with a real Geisha or Maiko walking down to or from work. On one of my visits to the area with my friends, we met a mother-daughter duo, a Geisha and a Maiko on their way to work. They also posed for pictures with us.

And many a times you could also see tourists dressed up like a Maiko complete with the rich kimonos, painted faces and traditional hairdo, walking along the street with a professional photographer in tow. 
Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka are pedestrian only lanes and a steep flight of stone stairs takes visitors to the slope leading to the Kiyomizu dera temple. 

Visitors can shop for souvenirs of Kyoto at one of the many shops along the way. 
And many stores selling traditional Japanese food or Green tea handout samples to passersby.
There are some interesting shops along the Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka slopes.

The area between the  Maruyama park and Ninenzaka stairs leading past the Kodaiji temple is also referred to as Nene-no-saka after the wife of feudal lord, Toyotomi Hideyoshi who had the Kodai-ji temple built in memory of her husband. 

Many small shrines and temples add to the charm of the area.

A month long lantern festival, 'Hanatoro' is held in March when thousands of lanterns are lined up along the areas streets. Typically the area experiences heavy crowds during the 'Hanatoro' , Cherry Blossom season and Autumn. Be it any season, you are sure to enjoy a leisurely stroll in the area. On certain stretches of the preserved path, visitors can enjoy a ride in a 'Jinriksha' a human pulled rickshaw. 
The Kodaiji temple, Ryozen Kannon,Yasaka temple and Yasaka pagoda, Entokuin temple, Kiyomizudera temple are some of the landmarks in the vicinity. 
While the Yasaka Shrine is located a short distance away at Gion, the Yasaka pagoda is located on one of the slopes leading up to the Kiyomizudera temple.

Walking down the hill close to the Yasaka pagoda, visitors can stop by at the tiny Yasaka-Koshindo temple. 
Officially known as the Daikoku-san Kongoji Koshindo, the temple is dedicated to Koshin san, a guardian warrior and the three wise monkeys.
Koshin san is considered as a guardian of people who strive to be good persons and as one who punishes of bad persons. 
The shrine looks colorful due to the Kukurizaru- colorful cloth ball talismans representing the good faith monkeys.  
I definitely recommend a walk around the area in the late afternoon or early evening.

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