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Japan 2016 : Part 11 – Ryoanji Temple

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the very beginning, click here.

Day 5 and final day in Kyoto! Early morning was our breakfast of ham and instant noodles bought from the nearby convenience store the previous night (we actually also brought our own cup noodles from Malaysia…). The itinerary for today was to visit Ryoanji Temple, Nijo Castle, Ginkakuji, Philosopher’s Path, see the night illumination at Eikando temple, and finally dinner at the famous Ichiran Ramen. We were supposed to visit Ryoanji the previous day together with the Golden Pavilion, but since it was late we moved it to today.

Another ambitiously planned itinerary, so no time to lose.

First thing was to take a bus to Ryoanji. It was convenient since there was a bus straight from my Airbnb. But another complication – our ICOCA cards were running out of credit. We checked the last time we used it, there was credit enough for 1 more bus trip (bus trips cost JPY 230 per ride). The best place to top them up are subway and train stations, but we weren’t passing by them en route to Ryoanji. Hmmm. So we decided to use cash for the bus.

On the bus, there is a coin change machine conveniently located next to the driver, where you can change JPY 1000 notes and JPY 500 coins into the smaller JPY 100 denomination. Buses don’t give change for rides, so you should have the exact amount. So during the train ride there, I inched my way to the front to change my JPY 1000 note. I saw the lady in front of me buy a bus pass from the driver. Then I thought, “eh, I should use it, too, since we’re using buses a lot today!” Bus passes cost JPY 500, so if you use it more than twice, it will pay for itself. I had researched about it, but it hadn’t occurred to me to use them today.

The first time you use the pass, slot it into the machine next to the coin entry, and the date will be imprinted on it. For subsequent uses during the day, just show the date to the driver.

So bus problem solved. On to Ryoanji.

Ryoanji is the most famous zen garden in Japan. It is located within a large garden that has the most beautiful autumn colours that we’ve seen during our stay in Japan.

You can walk around the large garden first, or follow the crowds and see the zen garden.

The zen garden has a long and complicated history, with lots of views explaining the significance of the rock layout. Actually, nobody knows what it represents and why it is laid out like this, but the interesting thing is that no matter where you stand, you cannot see all 15 rocks at one time.


(the zen garden)


(trust me, even this water spring also got long story one)

Outside the garden near the entrance there’s a souvenir shop and some vending machines. Talking about vending machines – I’ve heard so much about them in Japan, but most of the ones we’ve seen in Kyoto and Osaka were from the same company, selling coffee and soft drinks in cans.

This one that we saw is different, although not uncommon. It serves hot drinks like coffee and chocolate. Actually, someone warned me that these vending machine coffees don’t taste great, but my daughter was really keen to try. So try we did.


(vending machine!)

I guess it was alright, a little weak for my taste.

Then we took a bus back to Nijo Castle near my Airbnb, where I could top up our ICOCA cards at the nearby subway station. We decided not to go into Nijo Castle (even though we were at the bus stop right in front of the entrance), I guess after 5 days in Kyoto, we’ve seen enough castles and temples.

But with the bus pass, though, that was really useful! We took a bus just one station down the road to try this curry house. In the past few days we’ve walked past this place, and the smell of the curry was so enticing.


(our vegetables for the day)


(and pork chop with curry!)

Next – Ginkakuji, Philosopher’s Path and Eikando

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