Kyoto Hike


Kyoto Hike

31 October– 11 November 2017


Join Asian Studies professor Livia Kohn on a wonderful hike to the temples and mountains of Kyoto, Japan. Enjoy beautiful scenery, spectacular foliage, delicious food, and steaming hot tubs while learning first-hand about Japanese culture, religion, and lifestyle.


Tu, 10/31 Depart from home. Fly into Osaka, either Kansai (international) or Itami (domestic).


Wd, 11/1 Arrival. Arrive in Japan and transfer by train to the bustling Namba district in Osaka. Check into your hotel and relax, going out for dinner or a massage. If you come in early, enjoy a visit to Osaka Castle.


Th, 3/23 City Temples. After breakfast provided by the hotel, meet in the lobby at 8:00. Transfer to Kyoto by subway and train, drop off your luggage, and begin exploring. Walk along Shijo Avenue across the Kamo River and pass through the old quarter of Gion. Reach Yasaka Shrine, the major Shinto sanctuary in the center of town. After paying your respects to the deity protecting the city, pass through Maruyama Park and meander slowly through a gorgeous traditional neighborhood enjoing art galleries and unique pottery stores on the way. Have a rice bowl (domburi) lunch at a local eatery and move on to visit Kiyomizu Temple, founded upon finding a sweet spring gushing from the mountainside, the residence of Kannon, granter of wishes. Enjoy a rebirth experience and visit the god of love and relationships. After descending back to the city, walk along Gojo Avenue to inspect some more pottery stores, then meander through a traditional neighborhood back toward the hotel. Option to explore further temples, such as Kenninji and Rokuharamitsuji. Have dinner on your own (as always, except for the last night).


Fr, 11/2 The Eastern Mountains. After breakfast on your own, assemble at 8:30, then take a bus to the Silver Pavilion (Ginkakuji), reaching this gorgeous site by walking through a shopping arcade. Afterwards climb Mt. Daimoji, the west-facing hillside that is kept bare of trees to allow bonfires to shine forth in the shape of the character for “big,” an event that every August commemorates liberation from the plague. Enjoy a spectacular view over the city, then climb further to the top of the mountain. After a picnic lunch (bento), hike south across the ridge to descend at Nanzenji, a major Zen institution of the city. Alternatively, if a steep climb is not your thing, stroll down the Philosopher’s Walk with its charming landscape and numerous temples to reach Nanzenji. Once there, appreciate the Zen architecture and walk on to Jingumichi to visit Heian Shrine. From here, take a bus back to the hotel. Option to visit one or several museums (Kyoto Municipal, Modern Art) and/or the Kyoto Handicraft Center. Also in the area is the Budo Center, a national institution dedicated to the martial arts that allows observers. Another option is to have a traditional Yudofu (steamed tofu) dinner temple-style in a restaurant near Nanzenji.


Sat, 11/3 Palace, Textiles, and Zen. Take a bus to the Gosho, the imperial palace grounds in the middle of the city and visit the emperor’s precinct, including residences and major ceremonial halls. After a set meal (teishoku) lunch in a popular eatery, move on to the Nishijin Textile Center to learn about silk production and weaving techniques, then visit Aizenkobo, a workshop specializing in the dyeing and sewing of indigo fabrics. Following this, options include the Kyoto Archaeological Museum across the street or the imposing shogun residence at Nijo Casle a few bus stops further south. Other convenient options are the major Zen institution of Daitokuji, Kinkakuji with its Golden Pavilion, and Ryoanji with its world-renowned Zen rock garden.

Return downtown by bus.


Su, 11/4 Mount Hiei. Take a bus along the eastern mountains to Miyake Hachiman, a traditional farm village and walk from there through the woods to Yase, a picturesque resort. From there ride the cable car up to Mount Hiei, the protector of the city from the baleful influences of the northeast. Established when the city was first founded in the late 700s, it is the headquarters of the Tendai sect and home of the warrior and marathon monks. Walk around the back of the mountain, enjoying the views while eating a box lunch. Afterwards, visit the temple compound at Enryakuji, including an ancient sanctuary to the Medicine Buddha. Take a short bus ride to the Hieizan Hotel and from there a vigorous 2-3 hour hike back down to Kyoto, passing through many different landscapes, ending at Tanuki dani, the Valley of the Badgers, both the car blessing center and the location of a major sanctuary to the Shingon deity Fudo, the warrior who dispels baleful influences. Alternatively, stay on the bus and return to the city without exertion. Once back on city streets, take a bus back downtown and go for dinner. Option to conclude the day with a relaxing soak in a public bath.


Mo, 11/5 Tea and Foxes. Visit the headquarters of Japanese tea growing, southwest of Kyoto. Begin the trip by taking a train south to Uji. Enjoy the scenic river, the site of a major battle in the beginning of the Kamakura period, then visit Byodoin, the Fujiwara villa that was made into a Pure Land temple and miraculously survived centuries of neglect. Have lots of tea samples. Take a local train to Fushimi Inari and have lunch (sushi) at a local restaurant. Then visit the Fox Shrine, dedicated to the messenger of the rice goddess and a major protector of businesses. Climb to a great overlook of the city, passing through tunnels of orange Shinto gates on the way. After a short hike down, visit Tofuku ji, another major center of Zen Buddhism. Option to explore the abbot’s quarters and gardens; alternative option to visit Sanjusan gendo and/or the National Museum on the way back.


Tu, 11/6 FREE. A day to explore on your own, visit museums, or connect with local friends. Maybe visit Ohara (scenic village with gorgeous temples north of Kyoto), tour Nijo Castle (the residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns in Kyoto), enjoy Uzumasa (the film studios where samurai movies are made), or explore further temples, such as Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavilion), Daitokuji (a major Zen training center), or Higashi Honganji (a huge Pure Land institution). If you want to stay very local, take a walking tour around Kyoto Station and/or participate in a tea ceremony.

Alternatively, chill out, wander about, shop some more, and/or get a massage.


Wd, 11/7 The Western Mountains. Take a JR train out of the city, alighting at Hozukyo on a bridge over a cascading river. Hike along the river, then along a side stream to the picturesque village of Kiyotaki nestled dreamily in the mountains. Have a box lunch at a scenic spot, then hike along the river and across a hill to Daikakuji, a former imperial retirement palace turned into

a beautiful Shingon temple. Option to explore scenic Arashiyama with its wide river, inspiring temples, numerous shops, and spectacular bamboo forest. Return to the city by bus.


Thu, 11/8 Kurama. Pack up your bags and store them in the hotel, then take a subway to Demachi Yanagi station, the terminus of the Eiden line, at the confluence of the two rivers. Board a small country train for a half-hour ride to Kibune guchi in the northern mountains. Walk leisurely along a bubbling river to Kibune with its famous shrine, then enter the mountains and hike for about 45 minutes to the top of Mt. Kurama, where Usui Mikao received the celestial energy later known as Reiki and down from there to Kurama Temple with its age-old Kannon and great views. Descend further to Kurama village and have lunch, then take the shuttle to the open-air hot springs at Kurama Onsen for a languid spa experience. Return to Kyoto by train by mid afternoon, pick up your bags and move on to Nara.


Fri 11/9 Nara. Get up early to visit Todaiji before the crows, relishing this jewel of early Buddhism with its extensive wooden hallways, giant Buddha, and delightful scenery. Continue on to explore other early sanctuaries in the mountains, including Nigatsudo and Tamuke yama shrine. Afterwards, explore Nara on your own, choosing from various options: the wondrous garden at Issuien, the major Shinto shrine at Kasuga jinja, the great Nara Museum, the meandering paths through Nara Park, and the numerous art galleries throughout the town. Enjoy a relaxing dinner on your own before returning to the hotel.


Sat, 11/10 Mountainside Road. Take a short train ride to Tenri, the headquarters of the oldest and largest new Shinto sect. Walk through a shopping arcade to the main center, a massive square temple built around the central pillar of the universe, where the deity Tenri first appeared and took possession of the sect's founder. Move on into the foothills to visit Isonokami Shrine, one of the oldest extent shrines of the county, housing several imperial treasures, and walk on the 1000- year Mountainside Road (Yamanobe-no-michi), the main highway of imperial Japan. Enjoy a picnic lunch at a scenic spot and visit various other shrines, temples, and imperial tombs along the way, eventually reaching Hasedera, a spectacular and very ancient Shingon temple with gorgeous halls and wonderful views. Take a train back to Nara and enjoy a joint farewell dinner with everyone.


Su, 11/11 Onward. Pack your bags and get ready to leave, returning home or traveling on to further exciting destinations.


Price: $1650 per person, including hotel, daily lunches, farewell dinner, as well all transfers, bus/train fares, and entrance fees. Items marked “option” are not included.


Single supplement: $100.


Sign up: Please contact or call 727-501-6915 to reserve a spot. Participants limited to ten, so please book early.


Payment: Send check to Livia Kohn, P.O. Box 530416, St. Petersburg, FL 33747.


Deadlines: Down payment of US$ 700 due June 1, 2017 (full refund until July 15, 2017; 50% until

September 1, 2017s). Remainder (US$ 950; singled US$ 1050) due September 1, 2017.


Information: Details about Japanese religion and culture as well as about Kyoto city and modern life style as well as specifics on hotels will be provided two months before departure. Arrival details follow about two weeks before departure.


Arrival: Once you know your arrival time and flight information, please send it along. It helps to coordinate flights and allows us to let the hotel know when to expect specific travelers.


Suggested Reading:

Governor Mosher, Kyoto: A Contemplative Guide (all-time favorite!) Lonely Planet, Kyoto (very practical, with good maps)

Diane Durston, Old Kyoto (guide to traditional shops and crafts places)

Iyer Pico, The Lady and the Monk (narrative account of one year as a foreigner in Kyoto) Boye DeMente, Japan Made Easy (guide to behavioral conventions in Japan)

Untangling My Chopsticks (on the practicalities of Japanese life)


Suggested Websites:

Japan in general—

Japan lifestyle/bath— Kyoto in general— Performance— Relaxing massage—

Sushi go round— Tea ceremony—

Therapeutic massage— Walking tour—