dakroland's Japan Journal



Sorry about the lack of posting. I've been meaning to put up some more pictures and post more details of our trip, but I've been extremely busy these last few days, and not today, it would seem I've come down with some kind of upper respiratory bug. I've been coughing and hacking all day, and I'm pretty sure I don't have that 2 pack-a-day habit to blame this all on. Lucky me.

In the haze of my less than coherent state, I was able to edit another 93 pictures from my Dad's Japan photos. Actually, these are scans of the original negatives. They have been posted online in my Flickr account. There are more to come soon, I hope. I haven't titled everything or put descriptions with the photos, but I will soon. Promise!

Glad to see Sasori-Gal is back to Japan safe and sound. I still wish I was in Japan. God I miss it there. :(

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4:58 p.m. - 2007-11-05


Kyoto Day #2 And More Pictures!

Wow, I just want to say hello to some new readers. It's cool to know there are others interested in what I experienced. I hope the pictures and the writing does not disappoint. Thanks for stopping by.

This blog entry will focus just on Kyoto day 2. When last we left our intrepid tourists, they had just finished off a take-out tray of sushi and retired for the night in their craptastic hotel rooms. Checking out the next morning couldn't happen fast enough. One issue however needed to be addressed and soon. My finances. Being the brave adventurer that I am (okay...also cheap, since I wasn't going to pay for Travelers Checques) I was basically paying with cash for the whole trip. Large purchases, like the Hotel and some stores would be put on my Cards. But smaller items and food purchases would be paid for in cash. Also, anything that was paid for by Miki or Miho on their cards, I reimbursed my share with cash as soon as I possibly could.

Unfortunately, money was getting a little tight and I needed to withdraw some fundage from my bank account. Even more unfortunately, my lovely Bank decided it was in their best interest to put an $800 hold on my account, effectively cutting me off from my money for almost a week and a half. Finally able to check my Bank account information online, I saw they had removed the hold that morning, so I could get my money out. Finding an ATM where I could use my bank card was the next trick. Thankfully, thought the hotel room was craptastic, the staff was very helpful, and pointed out a JP Post office at a local popular retailer that had an ATM that would let me withdraw funds with my card in Japanese Yen. Awesome!

Our first order of business was the move Miki's SUV to another, less expensive parking area. We packed up the car and paid for our parking fare, then drove about 5 minutes to a parking facility that, from the outside, looked like it may be able to hold 2 or 3 vehicles. However, I had heard about these parking garages that automatically ferry your vehicle down into an automated storage system. We parked the SUV, got out and watched as a door to the side slid opened, the platform the vehicle sat on slid through the open doorway, another platform slid out from underneath and replaced it, then the door closed. The SUV would move down an elevator into an underground facility until we came back for it. I videotaped it, but don't have the video ready for online posting yet. I will post it later.

We walked from there about 10 minutes to a major department store in downtown Kyoto. The view was awesome, and we crossed a river which is popular for lovers in the evening to meet. Again, I'm sorry, but the name of the river has escaped my memory for the moment.

We got to the department store around 10am, right when it opened. (Yes, I forgot the name of this place too. I know it begins with a 'T' though!) Outside you can hear this dramatic, thematic music playing from hidden speakers. It's almost as if coming to this store was to be treated like a dramatic event. We were greeted by nicely dressed associated inside the doors, who politely thanked us for coming and bowed to everyone. It was very cool. We went up to the 6th floor and looked for about 15 minutes for the Japan Post office we were told about. Finally, we located it and I was able to withdraw a safe cushion of extra cash, and we were good to go.

It was time to eat some breakfast, so we went across the intersection to a place Miho and Miki wanted to go, but we were barred from entering. Apaprently, they were closed until the next day. Our initial option denied us, we tried door #2, and little bakery and coffee shop across the street, but their offerings didn't thrill us, so we tried a Holly's Cafe. Again, unimpressed by the selection, we headed back to the department store and went downstairs to their grocery store. This HUGE marketplace was amazing. We purchased some really nice looking items to eat, all fresh baked, and went back upstairs and found a place to sit and eat. Everything was delicious, but I wound up buying more than I could eat. I figured we could save it for later if we got hungry.

We walked back across the river and headed toward the old part of Kyoto. We passed by an Okonomiyaki shop and Miki told me I should take a picture. "Interesting!" she said as she pointed. I took the picture and then realized what she was point at. >.<

Our first stop was Kennin-ji Temple. The oldest Zen temple in Japan, founded in 1202, it turned out to be my favorite place that day. It wasn't crowded, in fact, there were very few people there. It's setting was serene, peaceful, and calm. The buildings had many stone and moss gardens around them, and it quiet setting allowed me to enjoy the beauty of this place.

The main hall is where you will find a video about Kennin-ji Temple, as well as the panels depicting the Wind and Thunder Gods, Fujin and Raijin. From there you can walk around it's stone gardens and see more items in museum fashion. Interstingly, many of the buildings on the temple grounds were donated from other temples, and a tea room that was there was build originally for Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the man famous for uniting Japan under one rule, and for building Osaka Castle. The tea room I believe was original. Other buildings were destroyed by fires and rebuilt several times over the centuries.

The main temple is a large building, but nothing too special on the outside. It definitely does NOT prepare you for what you see when you walk in. The temple was enormous. At least 5 stories high, and in the middle sits a gold image of Buddha. above is a large "lantern?" that looks as though it is being held aloft by birds, and on the ceiling is an incredible painting of 2 dragons in the sky, painted for the temple's 800th anniversary 5 years ago. (Typically, most Zen temples have one dragon, emerging from a circle that represents the universe, so this painting is rather unique.) Buddha is flanked on both sides by 2 more statues in shrines, but due to the poor lighting, and weak flash on my camera, I was unable to take any decent pictures of them. Apologies for the poor photos of the inside of the temple.

Kennin-ji temple is an amazing place to visit. The gardens and museum are just the tip of the iceberg there, and the main temple is absolutely breathtaking. If you're ever in Kyoto, you HAVE to visit Kennin-ji Temple. It is such an awe inspiring place, you will be simply astounded.

We left Kennin-ji and continued to walk deeper into the old part of Kyoto. In the distance I could see a very tall 5-tiered pagoda rising above the buildings. The Yasaka Pagoda. We didn't go inside, sadly, it was too expensive, but I did get some pictures.

We were going to Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a HUGE temple complex on the side of a mountain. We stopped at several shops along the way, and it was here that I was approached by a small group of middle school students. They held up a bag with a sheet of paper in it that read "We are middle school students studying English. Would you speak English with us? You may reject by saying No." I was more than happy to talk with them, so I asked them, "What would you like to talk about?" They looked very happy and proceeded to ask me my name, if I could point out where I live on a map, what foods on the reverse side had I tried and which did I like, and then for a picture with them. Amazingly, I had tried every food listed except Natto and Sukiyaki (which I had our last night in Japan) and I loved everything I had eaten thus far. They seemed rather impressed by that. After the picture, they handed me the bag and said it was a gift, a 'thank you' for helping them. In the bag were some 25 origami they had folded, and 4 classic Japanese images they had colored. It was an awesome moment for me, and one I'll never forget. Unfortunately, I boneheadedly forgot to get a picture on my camera, and I thought the opportunity was lost. I was very surprised when we happened to bump into them when leaving Kyomizu-dera, so I asked them for a picture. They happily agreed.

The closer we got to Kiyomizu-dera Temple, the more crowded it got. The narrow streets (barely wide enough for a car) made the congestion worse. Also, we had been walking uphill for quite some time. But eventually, the street opened up to a large plaza. We had arrived at Kiyomizu-dera.

Kiyomizu-dera is comprised of several buildings, most notable of which is the main hall with large veranda that looks out over the incredible view of the mountainside. Off in the distance you can see Kyoto, and you realize you're really high up the mountain to be seeing such a view.

The temple is a major pilgrimage spot, and is visited by many students due to a belief that if you drink the water from the mountain waterfall it will give you health, longevity, and success in studying. Conveniently, they have commemorative plastic bottles for sale to collect the water. ;-)

Once in a while, we would happen upon a monk in training. He would be standing very still, reciting sayings and lines from his sects holy texts, and holding out a hand with a small wicker cup for money. He would not move, not stop his practicing, only speaking continually. My daughter gave him a donation.

We walked around Kiyomizu-dera for a while, and then headed back to central Kyoto. We stopped at a green tea shoppe for some treats, and they were FANTASTIC! Almost everything they served was made with green tea. And yes, they even served it WITH green tea. LOL

Leaving there, we continued walking towards Kyoto proper, and passed a famous Kabuki theater.

And a beer vending machine!

A reflecting pool and zen garden at an outdoor mall...

And an apologetic statue.

We were looking for someplace to eat, and my daughter was hungry for something italian. We found a nice Italian/French restaurant in an out of the way side street, and we were certainly rewarded for it. The food was amazing. We ate a rice croquette, with cheese inside and covered with a tasty meat sauce.

A small pan of lasagna...

And spaghetti with a sauce made with crab meat. Oishikatta!!

Dinner was fantastic, and of course, I probably ate more than I should have. We noticed when we left this English style pub across the way, which was decked out for Halloween. Even the lamps were decorated with Jack from "A Nightmare Before Christmas".

We made our way back to the parking facility, retrieved our car and drove back home to Sasayama. The drive home was fast. We showered or took baths and had a little to drink before we went to bed. I slept a full night that night and had wonderful dreams.

Tomorrow: Rainy Day Off, Tanba Festival and a trip to the Onsen!

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3:36 p.m. - 2007-10-31


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