I took part in the Japan Cycle Tours, which Ruthy Kanagy, my friend of 10 years, in Kyoto for two days. And after the tour, we pedaled from Kyoto to Sekigahara tracing Nakasendo, one of the five historic routes in Japan for two days.
- Day 1: Cycle Kyoto : 33 km
- Day 2: Visited Nijo-jo Castle and other temples in Kyoto
- Day 3: Pedaled from Kyoto to Omihachiman, Shiga prefecture: 63 km
- Day 4: Pedaled from Omihachiman to Sekigahara, Gifu prefecture : 67 km
Day 1: Cycle Kyoto
The first day, I traveled from Tokyo to Kyoto on Shinkansen and joined the Cycle Kyoto tour and enjoyed the beauty of Maiko.
6:43 AM I got on Shinkansen at Tokyo Station with my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket Petite. I booked the seat in the last row and left my bike behind it.
(JR Tokai announced that passengers with oversized baggage are required to reserve a seat with an extra charge ¥1,000 onto the Tokaido Shinkansen from May 2020).
9:00 AM Arrived at Kyoto Station and unpacked my bike, then went to Cycle Kyoto and waited for other participants.
Cycle Kyoto Tour
9:45 AM The other participants arrived and the north Kyoto tour started.
Cycle Kyoto offers their bikes and helmets for the guests. (Giant Escape)
Ryukoku University 龍谷大学
First, we visited Ryukoku University 龍谷大学, “Japan’s first university”, which was founded in 1639 as a Buddhist university. It’s western-style school buildings were constructed in 1879. They are designated as Japan’s important cultural property.
Then we visited a huge Nishi-Honganji temple 西本願寺, then go to Shinsenen 神泉苑, the oldest Japanese garden in Kyoto. It was originally constructed in 794 connected to the Heian palace as a private garden for Emperors.
Kitano Tenmangu Shrine 北野天満宮
Then we visited Kitano Tenmangu shrine. The shrine was originally build in 947 to worship “Sugawara no Michizane”, who was a scholar, poet and politician in the 9th century.
Michizane was promoted to a high rank official in the imperial court with the support of Uda Emperor, but finally he lost his position and was sent to a branch office in Kyushu island and he died a disappointed man.
After Michizane’s death, plague and drought spread, some imperial family members died and lightning struck Imperial Palace building in quick succession.
People thought it would have been caused by “Tatari たたり”, curse of Michizane and built a shrine to console the spirit of Michizane.
Eventually Michizane became the god of study (because of his intelligence) and now there are over 12,000 tenmangu or tenjin shrines dedicated to Michizane.
Ox is the messenger of the God in Tenmangu shrine because Michizane wished for an ox to pull the cart of his coffin and his body would be buried where the ox stopped.
The roofs are covered with layers of the bark of a cypress tree. It is called “Hiwada-buki 檜皮葺”, the most prestigious style of Japanese traditional architecture.
There are numerous Ema, the votive wooden tablet with wishes by students who are preparing for entrance exams such as “Wish to pass Kyoto University”.
Kinkakuji temple/ Golden Pavilion 金閣寺
Then we headed north and soon arrived Kinkakuji Temple /Golden Pavilion.
Kunkakuji or Golden pavilion was originally constructed in 1397 by the 3rd Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu as his villa and after he passed away, it was turned into a temple according to his will.
舎利殿 金閣 Shariden Kinkaku, The most famous Japanese architecture. The walls of the second and third floors are recovered by 20 kg gold leaf. (7.8 million USD) in 1987.
陸舟の松 Rikushu no Matsue
These 600 year old pine trees were transplanted from a bonsai tree which Shogun Yoshimitsu lived and shaped in a form of sailboat.
It was the beginning of the season of autumn leaves.
Then we rode to Kyoto Imperial palace ground and ate Bento lunch box.
After the lunch, we went to Kamo river bank and headed south along the river.
Gion District 祇園
We visited Gion, which is one of the most well-known geisha districts in all in Japan.
Shirakawa Canal 白河 in the Gion District. The rear of some Ochaya,お茶屋, restaurants where Geisha entertain the guests.
The district around Shirakawa Canal retains old Kyoto atmosphere.
Inuyarai 犬矢来, the short bamboo arched fence around walls to protect the wall from fouling or damage.
We enjoyed its special atmosphere and went back to the Cycle Kyoto office where we started the tour.
At night, we joined the Maiko Show at Daiwa Royal Hotel Grande. We enjoyed Maiko’s dance, a game and Q&A sessions.
Maiko are young apprentice’s Geisha. They live at Okiya 置屋 (boarding house), Geisha house and undergo training dance, Japanese traditional musical instruments such as Shamisen 三味線, drums 太鼓, and flute 笛 in order to become Geisha after 4 or 5 years.
Maiko also go to ochaya 茶屋, literally “tea house”, special restaurants and entertain the customers. The Maiko said we usually go to two ochaya twice a night until midnight.
( In Kyoto many Ochaya traditionally refuse first-time customers without the introduction by a patron.)
At this time, I stayed at “Peace Hostel Kyoto“. It is only 4 minutes walk from Kyoto Station and the price was relatively cheap in Kyoto, clean and it offers Breakfast. I recommend the hostel for the visitors on a tight budget.