Kyoto – The Welge Report


Hello Fellow Travelers:

Welcome to our world of business information, museums, adventure, birding, botanical gardens, good eating and fine wines.  This newsletter provides you with “The Welge Report for Kyoto.

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Recognition:  We extend special thanks to the people who manage and/or own the institutions, museums and restaurants featured in our guides.  In some instances we have relied on their descriptions and photos.




Historical perspective:  Kyoto is Japan’s third largest city and also one of its oldest. It was originally founded as Heian in 794, and had its golden age from 794 to 1185. Home to many cultural landmarks and historical sites, Kyoto is thought of as the heart of Japan.

The city still bears the name Kyoto, or “Capital City,” even though the emperor and the National Diet are located in Tokyo. For most of Japan’s history, Heian was the center not only of government but of learning and the arts.

Birding OppsInfo for our birding friends.  In and near Kyoto you can see these species: Chinese Bamboo Partridge, Green Pheasant, Eurasian Wigeon, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Great Knot, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker and White-cheeked Starling.

Birding – Kyoto, Kansai and Japan ( is a wonderful personal experience and photo diary.

Avibase – Bird Checklist of the World ( has this posting for Kyoto which is designed and maintained by Denis Lepage.

Here’s where to find your local Birding Pals (

BeveragesBeer is the most popular alcoholic drink in Japan.  Sake is a popular rice wine with an alcoholic content of 10-20%.  Japan is experiencing an increasing number of wineries, and wine is imported from all of the major world wine regions.

Transportation:  This is where to find public transportation (

Business Information:  Here is help in regard to your business: (

Exchange Rates (

Day One: Head for the Kinkeku-ji (The Golden Pavilion) – Daily: 9-5, 1 Kinkakuji-cho, Kita Ward, 75 461 0013

Kinkeku-ji’s history dates to 1397. The present structure was built in 1955 after being burned down by a mentally ill monk.

The garden complex is a Muromachi design integrating the structure within the landscape.  It’s the most popular site in Kyoto.

From gold to silver, our next stop is the Ginkaku-ji Temple – Daily: 8:30-5, 2 Ginkakujicho, Sakyo Ward,  81 75-771-5725

The main temple structure began in 1482 and it was to be covered in silver, but construction was halted during the Onin War.

The property features wooded grounds, a variety of moss, a sand garden with one carefully formed pile of sand symbolizing Mount Fuji.

One more stop this morning at my personal favorite Ryoan-ji Temple – Daily: 8:30-4:30, 13 Ryoanji Goryonoshitacho, Ukyo Ward, 81 75-463-2216

Ryoan-ji is a Zen temple that belongs to the Myoshin-ji school.  The garden is one of the finest examples of kare-sensui or “dry gardens”.

It features large rock formations arranged amidst a yard of pebbles that have been raked into patterns to facilitate meditation.  It was originally built in 1450 and rebuilt in 1488.

Lunch is at Den Shichi – L & D: Tu-Su, 4-1 Tatsumi-cho, Saiin, Ukyo-ku, 323-0700

No reservations but not too crowded at lunch. The  best seats are at the counter.  We like to start with the tuna (toro) sashimi.  Good selection of beer and sake.

The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto – Tu-Su: 9:30-4:30, 9 Okazaki, Enshoji-Cho, Sakyo-ku, 81 75-761-4111

The Collection Gallery exhibits selected works of nihonga (Japanese-style painting), yōga (Western-style painting), prints, sculpture, crafts (ceramics, textiles, metal works, wood and bamboo works, lacquers and jewelry) and photography from the museum collection.

Also shown are outstanding and monumental works of modern art in Japan, as well as modern and contemporary European and American art.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple – Daily: 6-6, Otowa Mountain is a must visit.

Kiyomizu-dera was established in 778 on Otowa Mountain.  The temple burned down and was rebuilt many times.  It is classified as a national treasure.

Its important features are many, notably the Deva Gate, the West Gate, the three storied pagoda and bell tower.  The main hall contains the Eleven Headed and Thousand Armed Kannon Bodhisattva.  The landscaping and views of Kyoto are stunning.

Sumibi-kushiyaki Torito – D: W-M, 1F Kamihara Building, 9-5 Higashimaruta-cho, Kawabata-higashi-iru, Marutamachi-dori, Sakyo-ku, 752-4144 is our choice for dinner.

Torito is known for their “yakitori” or skewers of farm raised chicken cooked on a grill.  We are partial to the fried livers and wings.

The meatball and egg yolk special is very good.  They have a full bar that offers whiskey, beer and wine.

Day Two:  For the Kyoto breakfast experience that you will never forget, make a reservation at the Annex at the Hyotei – Daily: from 11 AM, 35 Nanzenji Kusagawacho, Sakyo Ward, 81 75-771-4116

The Hyotei began about 400 years ago as a sit-down tea house.  It has served its signature dish of boiled eggs since then.  The garden was created by Uekuma and is said to look as it did then.

The set menu starts with rice porridge that is followed by Hyotei’s famous eggs, a bowl of clear soup, grilled sweet fish and white rice porridge.

Our first stop today is Nijō Castle – Daily: 8:45-4, 541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, 81 75-841-0096

Nijo Castle was built by the Tokugawa shogun, Leyasu, in 1603 to protect Kyoto Imperial Palace and as a residence for the shogun when he visited Kyoto.

The  sculptures and paintings were commissioned by Lemitsu and reflect the Momoyama Period(1624-1643).

At Nijo Castle there are three gardens, the Ninomaru Garden, constructed during the Edo period(1603–1868), the Honmaru Garden, constructed in the Meiji period(1868–1912), and Seiryu-en Garden, which was constructed in the Showa period(1926–1989).

For our lunch today we are in for another unique Japanese experience at Honke Owariya Shijo – B,L,D: Daily, 64 Teianmaenocho, Shijo Teramachi-dori Higashi-iru, Simogyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture,  81 75-221-6080

A brief explanation of a soba (Japanese noodle) house is helpful.  Soba are thin brown noodles made from a mixture of sobako (buckwheat flour) and wheat flour udon and are a similar color to spaghetti but wider and softer.

Some soba dishes, such as seiro-soba, are traditionally served cold, with a side dish of soy. Other soba dishes and most udon dishes consist of a bowl of noodles in hot broth together with various ingredients such as green onions, shiitake mushrooms, fried tofu, egg and chicken.

The broth is made from soy sauce, mirin (sweet sake) specially selected seaweed, dried fish flakes and sugar.

As a starter we enjoy the deep fried shrimp and vegetables or the Fish cake with “wasabi” and soy sauce.  We usually pass on the cold noodle dishes and have the plain buckwheat noodles (soba) original “Owariya” soup or the kake soba with fish cake, “shiitake” mushroom, egg and green vegetables.

For dessert we like the green tea ice cream.

For our next stop we’ll visit the To-ji Temple – Daily: 5 AM-4:30 PM

The To-ji temple was built during the Heian Period shortly after the capital was moved to Kyoto in the late 700s, and served as the capital’s guardian in conjunction with its long gone sister temple Saiji.

Shortly after being built the founder, Kobo Daishi, of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism, was appointed head priest raising its stature.  Kobo added several wooden buildings that we can visit.

Kodo Hall houses 19 statues imported by Kobo Daishi from China, which are arranged according to a mandala with Dainichi Buddha (Vairocana) at the center, surrounded by buddhas, bodhisattvas and the fearful guardian kings.

Across from the Kondo and Kodo stands Toji’s five storied pagoda, which was originally erected by Kobo Daishi in 826. It stands 57 meters tall, making it the tallest pagoda in Japan, and has become a symbol of both the temple and Kyoto.

It’s time for some people watching in the Gion District – located around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine and the Kamo River.

The Gion district in Kyoto was developed in the Middle Ages to accommodate travelers visiting the Yasaka Shrine.  It evolved to become a well known geisha enclave.  Gion geisha are called geiko which means “a woman of art”.

Gion has many traditional Japanese houses called machiya “townhouse” of which some are areochaya “tea house” where the geiko entertain.  The entertainment may include cocktails, conversation, music, singing and dancing.

Gion also has many restaurants, bars, clubs and pachinko parlors.  Streets vary dramatically in their offerings.  Shijo Street is touristy while Hanami Lane is reserved.

While in Gion we’ll enjoy dinner at Gion Karyo – L & D: th-Tu, 570-23 Gion-machi Minami-gawa, Higashiyama-ku, 532-0025

Let’s start with some sake to go with our cod roe and sea urchin tofu or our sushi with pickles and crab and then the oyster with herring and salmon roe.

Next we enjoy the grilled Spanish mackerel with soy beans and canola greens.

Dessert is the rice dumpling in sweet red beans with a sesame wafer and kinako ice cream.

Day Three:  Breakfast today is at Prandia – Daily from 7 AM in the Kyoto Royal Hotel.

They offer a Japanese breakfast buffet but their specialty is pancakes with sautéed apple and caramel or ricotta and bananas or smoked salmon and cream cheese.

Today we begin with a visit to Sanjusangendo which is popular name for Rengeo-in, Daily: 8-4:30, 〒605-0941 Kyoto Prefecture, 81 75-561-0467

This temple is famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy.

The name Sanjusangendo (literally “33 intervals”) derives from the number of intervals between the building’s support columns, a local method of measuring the size of a building.

In the center of the main hall sits a large, wooden statue of a 1000-armed Kannon (Senju Kannon) that is flanked on each side by 500 statues of human sized 1000-armed Kannon standing in ten rows.

Kannon are equipped with 11 heads to better witness the suffering of humans and with 1000 arms to better help fight the suffering.

Next is the Nanzenji Temple – Daily: 8:45-4, 86 Nanzenji Fukuchicho, Sakyo Ward, 81 75 771 0365

The Nanzenji Temple is one of the most important Zen temples in Japan dating to the mid 13th century.  It is the head temple for one of the schools in the Rinzai sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism.

We enter through the Sanmon gate where we can climb up to the balcony for a view of the city.  Behind the gate is Hatto hall which we can’t enter, but past Hatto is the Hojo and its famous rock garden whose rocks are said to resemble tigers and cubs crossing through water.

Don’t miss the paintings on the sliding doors and the tea room with a view of a miniature waterfall.

Let’s graze through the Nishiki Market – Daily: 9-5, Nishiki Koji-dori, Nakagyou-ku

Nishiki Market is a narrow, five block long shopping street lined by more than one hundred shops and restaurants. It’s known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”.

This lively retail market specializes in all things food related, like fresh seafood, produce, knives and cookware, and is a great place to find seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties, such as Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood and sushi.  Lunch for us becomes a kaleidoscope of flavors.

For a temple comparison let’s visit the Tofuky-ji temple – Daily: 9-4, 605 0981 Kyoto Prefecture, 81 75 561 0087

The Tofuky-ji temple Sanmon Gate is the oldest Zen gate of its kind, dating back to 1425. Behind the gate is the Hondo (main hall) and the rock gardens, but the gardens at Tofukuji’s Hojo are unique.

They surround the building on all sides. Each garden has a different character, employing pebbles, large rocks, moss and trees.

The stone path in front of the Kaisando is flanked by contrasting gardens on both sides, a dry rock garden on the left and a lush pond garden on the right.

The Kaisando and its gardens were last reconstructed during the Edo Period (1603-1867).


Until next time, best wishes and happy travels,

Dick & Dee Welge

© 2015 R.E. Welge All Rights Reserved. Use of this website constitutes acceptance of the Web Site Rules and Regulations of Any business use without permission forfeits your right to “Kyoto pickles”.

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