Have you ever found yourself in a city for a visit, wanting to get the most of your time but not just run after the usual must-see sights (again) – and ended up with a day that was immensely dissatisfying, yet ultimately full of discoveries?

That was the day after my tour across Kyoto which had led me to 7+ must-see temples in a day

For this day, it seemed like a good idea to delve deeper into my interest in strong aromas. The search for “spice” in Japan was what had led me here, after all.

Searching for Matcha… with Limited Success

Following my interest in matcha, first of all, I wanted to see if I couldn’t perhaps pay a visit to the Urasenke tea school (again, as this was one of the places I had also been at during the study tour to Japan 20 years ago).

Checked the location on the map, checked some info, set out… and had forgot to put two and two together.

First, I passed by the main store of Ippodo in Kyoto, which was pretty nice to see.

Ippodo Main Store

Ippodo Main Store

When I arrived at Urasenke, after a stroll (well, you could also call it a hike) through Kyoto, it turned out that they would soon be putting on a new exhibition (which I had seen a note of).

They close for the preparation of such exhibitions (which I’m afraid I had actually noticed a note about, too).

I had just not figured out that it would naturally apply to this time, for this exhibition. So, they were closed.

Tea Ceremony Presentation at Urasenke Tea School, Kyoto, 1997

Tea Ceremony Presentation at Urasenke Tea School, Kyoto, 1997

The woman at the reception was apologetic as the Japanese, in particular, are (supposedly) wont to be and pointed me to where Urasenke has a, well, something, I could visit instead.

Standing around there, wondering if I was in the right place, it was obvious that some more things were going on – and meant that this place was also closed.
As a security guard gruffly pointed out just in case I would just walk in there. (So much for the apologetic character.)

The area, fortunately, was interesting.

Honpo-ji

Honpo-ji Temple, Kyoto

Honpo-ji Temple, Kyoto

Not that I hadn’t just seen enough temples, but here was another one that looked like hardly anyone ever visited, where tourists are concerned. It is, however, the Honpo-ji which is there. Only one of the most important temples of the Nichiren sect (school, if you will) of Buddhism…

Sun shining down through pine trees, women and men in traditional kimono (Hey, men’s traditional clothing is also called kimono!) walking by to whatever it was they congregated for, it was quite atmospheric.

Interesting offerings at this side area of Honpo-ji...

Interesting offerings at this side area of Honpo-ji…

This also, at the very least, proved an interesting area for tea ware – one store around there was open, and they had tea bowls and other paraphernalia for the tea ceremony… I could have left loads of money there, if I could have.

This mixed bag of an experience declared as finished, it was time to see if I couldn’t accomplish something else, and I did have another plan for this day, too:
With my interest in botany, why not have a look at the Kyoto Botanical Garden?

Kyoto Botanical Garden

There was no Japanese pepper to be found there, either – a major reason I had gone to Japan; talked more about on www.chilicult.com
I could only (at least) find a relative of that.

Zanthoxylum (Sichuan Pepper) in Kyoto Botanical Garden

Zanthoxylum (Sichuan Pepper) in Kyoto Botanical Garden

Still, seeing a different botanical garden from Vienna’s, which I know so well, was quite interesting. This fall season was not the most interesting for a visit, but there were not so few people having a look around.

The tropical greenhouse they have is quite nice to visit, rather similar to that in Beijing’s botanical garden (whereas in Vienna, you’d have to head to the Palm House in Schönbrunn for something similar; the botanical garden’s greenhouses are not usually open to the public).

Kyoto Botanical Garden Greenhouse

Kyoto Botanical Garden Greenhouse

As so often, hardly enough of the plants on show are signposted well enough for a casual visitor to really learn from them; let alone presented in more modern ways.

It is still interesting to see how plants are being presented.

Here, for example, with a bit more of a focus on geography (as in native plants versus European gardens) and a look at certain types of plants that may or may not get so much attention elsewhere.

There is a rose garden, like most places, for example, but also an area of/for bonsai, which are rather less usual outside of East Asia.

Bonsai, Kyoto Botanical Garden

That bonsai also offered one of the few cases of fall leaf coloring I saw on my trip ;)

From there, I went back into town and to an exploration of Sichuan pepper (well, Japanese pepper) and other spices at Nishiki Market, on the search for which I had gone to Japan.
You can read about that experience here, on ChiliCult…

Gion

Finally, night having fallen, I ended this odd day with a quick stint across the river, into Kyoto’s famous geisha quarter of Gion, for a little atmosphere of that and attempts at photography.

First, on the way, a bit of the modern and loud Japan…

Game parlor in Kyoto

Game parlor in Kyoto

Souvenir figures from coin machines, Kyoto

Souvenir figures from coin machines, Kyoto

… and then the other side:

Gion, Kyoto, Night Atmosphere

Gion, Kyoto, Night Atmosphere

Play of light and shadows, Gion, Kyoto

Play of light and shadows, Gion, Kyoto

Back entrance to a restaurant, Gion, Kyoto

Back entrance to a restaurant, Gion, Kyoto

Like at Urasenke, this was a Japan that felt little like home, more like the closed place it is often described as, where the casual visitor – let alone, foreigner – sure does not belong.

Not much felt like that, though…