There is a member of world cultural heritage of Kyoto in this area. That is Ginkaku-ji, which has the Silver Pavilion. There is another good temple, Nanzen-ji, which has a superb rock garden. You might find the Japanese aesthetic sense by seeing carefully placed flowers or autumn leaves on a moss-covered fountain in Honen-in temple.
I got off the subway Tozai Line at Keage station. I crossed a road and went through a small tunnel. It was under the remains of a railroad known as the Incline that used to be used to move wooden boats between different levels of waters of Biwako sosui, or Biwako Canal.
In about 10 minutes from Keage station, I saw a big Sanmon gate of Nanzen-ji. The two-storied wooden gate is open to public throughout the year and you can climb to the second floor of it. I paid an admission fee of 300 yen at the entrance of the staircase. I took off the shoes, left them on a shelf and climbed to the upper level of the gate. It was smaller but similar in design to the gate of Chion-in. They do not allow visitors to get in the sole room, where statues of Buddha and his 16 disciples sit. You can only see them through small openings in the doors. If you missed to see the Sanmon gate of Chion-in, you could imagine what it was like by seeing this gate. The view from the deck was much better here than that from the Sanmon of Chion-in.
I saw a gentleman and his two daughters coming up on to the verandah. When they got out from the narrow staircase and stood up on the floor, the girls started to cry. They said to their father that they were scared and wanted to go down. The floor of the verandah was a little slippery and sloped toward outside, which might have scared them though there was a guardrail.
After enjoyed the view from Sanmon, I climbed down to the ground and put the shoes on. Before I went to Hojo of Nanzen-ji, I dropped by and saw a large brick aqueduct, which is a part of the Biwako canal.
Hojo was close to the aqueduct. In the entrance hall of the building, I took off my shoes again and put on slippers they provided, which I did not like very much to wear. I paid an admission fee of 400 yen and went in to the building. There were two rock gardens, of which the larger must be one of prime Karesansui gardens. I heard that it was designed hundreds of years ago by Kobori Enshu, a famous designer of gardens and master of the tea ceremony (the first name is his family name).
A couple of visitors were comparing this garden with the rock garden of Ryoan-ji temple. One of them said he liked Ryoan-ji better and the other said she liked Nanzen-ji. If they had asked my opinion, I would have said I liked Ryoan-ji better because of its greater simplicity.
There was a small moss garden that was good, too. Also, there are many good Fusuma paintings and you should not miss to see them if you visited Nanzen-ji.
Please note that Fusuma is a papered sliding door for partitioning rooms.
Eikan-do temple is famous for it's autumn leaves. So I visited there in the late fall. The color of foliage was marvelous. I wished the number of the visitors was smaller, though.
The admission fee was 1,000 Yen. You could see only the garden for 300 yen if you were not interested in the buildings. They said that the garden would be free for admission other than late fall.
They took a part of the ticket, which was for the garden, at the gate. Then I gave another part of the ticket to a person at the entrance hall of the building. I took off the shoes and put them in the plastic bag they provided and went in the building. Eikan-do consisted with several buildings that were connected by wooden corridors. There were signs that showed the way and I followed them. Part of the corridors was constructed on a cliff face, which led me to Taho-to pagoda. From there, you could see the city of Kyoto as well as the garden of Eikan-do.
There was a small statue of Buddha in the main building. The statue was so unique that it did not look forward but looked back over its shoulder.
After looking those buildings, I put on the shoes and went out to the garden. The garden was in full colors of autumn leaves. I took photos of the leaves and left the temple.
There is a road named Tetsugaku-no-michi, or road of philosophy that is along a narrow and shallow canal. I walked on this road toward north for Ginkaku-ji temple. There were many cherry trees along the road.
I visited Honen-in temple before going to Ginkaku-ji. I went through a gate and walked on the approach toward a small thatched Sanmon gate. On the both sides of the approach were maple trees and Japanese cedar trees. Above the path was foliage of those trees and I felt like I was walking in a forest.
The Sanmon gate was built on a mound of about 2 meters high so that those student monks can not see outside and concentrate in practicing asceticism. Before I went up the stairs to the gate, I noticed an old large stone marker on which there were Kanji, or Chinese characters. It read that no garlic, meat, alcohol are allowed to be brought inside of the Sanmon.
I climbed up the stone stairs and went through the gate. There were mounds of sand on the both sides of the path. There also was a small pond and a small bridge beyond the mounds.
I thought that Honen-in was a place where you should expect something to feel instead of something to see. I felt a unique atmosphere in the small temple. It had no spectacular things but had refreshing and calm atmosphere. It also was like a Zen Buddhist seminary though it's not a Zen temple.
The building of the temple was said to be open to public only twice a year and it was closed then. It might be good just to drop by and walk through the thatched gate and stroll through the small garden of this temple. You might notice Japanese aesthetic sense by seeing carefully placed flowers or autumn leaves on a moss-covered fountain.
I took a bypass instead of Tetsugaku-no-michi road from Honen-in to Ginkaku-ji. When I came to the approach, I saw many visitors. I paid an admission fee of 500 Yen and walked into the garden of the famous temple.
When I was taking pictures of Ginkaku, or Silver Pavilion, a young couple came in. The boy asked his girlfriend, "where is Ginkaku?" The girl answered, "it is in front of you." He said, "you are kidding. It is just a poor old building, it is not silver either." Then a taxi driver came with his customers. He explained them that Ginkaku-ji used to be a villa of a shogun and the shogun had thought to put silver leaves on the walls of the pavilion but he had passed away before accomplishing
It is true that I had similar impression with the boy at first. It looked like a poor old pavilion. But now I guess I can somewhat admire the beauty of the building. I wish you would think twice before deciding that this is just an old house.
There were several other buildings in Ginkaku-ji. The main hall has an extended porch and many visitors sat on it and were seeing thick raked white sand and a mound of sand that looked like Mt. Fuji, with Ginkaku in the background (please see the above picture).
I heard that the white sand was laid to reflect moonlight and make a night brighter. It would be nice to sit in a room of Ginkaku or in the main hall and see the moonlit garden.
Next to the white sand, there was a beautiful stroll garden with a pond and rocks and trees. I strolled in the garden and went along the path. The path led me to an observatory where the whole Ginkaku-ji could be seen. I took a couple of pictures and walked down the path. I took another picture of Ginkaku from a different angle before leaving the temple.