KYOTO WITHOUT CROWDS: End of autumn
This was Himukai Daijingu ten days ago - past its peak but still beautiful. And empty of people. Cycling around Kyoto in recent weeks has confirmed my sense that this is the loveliest time of year to visit its temples, even better than spring, but I've had to revise some of my ideas about where to go. Temples like Renge-ji, Enko-ji and Shinnyo-do are now too well known to Japanese tourists to be anything but crowded in November. And that's even more true of Ruriko-in. It's one of my favourite places, but after twenty minutes in the scrum I couldn't wait to get out of there - so I shall rewrite the entry in KWC and try it next time right at the beginning or end of the spring opening season. The most tranquil spots I found for enjoying the autumn colours, apart from Himukai Daijingu, were Choraku-ji, Imakumano Kannon-ji and Sennyu-ji's Raigo-in. And to these I'd add a sub-temple of Tenryu-ji in Arashiyama called Hogon-in. Admittedly, I didn't get to Hogon-in until last week, when many of the leaves had fallen, but the sight of them carpeting the moss and carried down the stream is itself a special thrill. I'd also recommend the two great shrines of Kamigamo-jinja and Shimogamo-jinja. You'll probably find plenty of people there (though Kamigamo was surprisingly empty when I went), but both of them have a wonderful display of maples and are large enough to absorb a fair-sized crowd without the sardine effect of some of the smaller places.
Part of the reason for my relentless tourism over the past month has been to check the proof of a print version of KWC, which I hope will be available in January 2018 - along with a revised edition of the ebook.