All posts by rhubarb

Day 10: Another Day In Kyoto

For our second day in Kyoto, we visited a temple that had about a bagillion temple gates. Temple gates are basically a really large pi symbol that you walk through. Most temples have one or maybe a small handful spread out over the complex. This area had them lined up back to back for about a mile (a guesstimate).

Next we explored the Uji temple. The center building had pheonixes on the roof and a very large Budda statue inside. We didn’t go inside, but we saw pictures of the statue.

From here we walked to the Tale of Genji museum. Along the way we saw some birds that were caged up. I think a guy there was trying to tell us they used the birds for fishing, but I’m not quite sure how that works other than if the birds coughed the fish back up… Which is what the guy was mimicking. The guy also had a pet parrot in a  pet carry case. It was pretty random. Anyway, the Tale of Genji is considered the first novel ever written. It was written by a Japanese woman a long time ago. It was a good museum. I’ll have to read the books sometime.
That night, we hopped on a train for our next destination, which is the place I am most looking forward to explore – Kumamoto.

Day 9: Kyoto

We came into Kyoto by train in the morning. The Ninnaji temple complex was first on our list of things to see today. Gale said it was pretty standard as temple complexes go, but this was my first so it was interesting for me to see. Then we stopped at another temple called Tenryuji. Japan might have more temples than the US has Starbucks. This one had a nice pond and meditation area.

Next up was a bamboo grove. It was fun to walk through, especially when the wind blew and they swayed.

As the day turned to night, we proceeded to a district known for its Gaisha. We watched a show that had a Gaisha dance, tea ceremony, an elaborate puppet show, a comedy sketch, and a flower arrangement demonstration.

After the show, we were walking to a temple and saw an actual Gaisha going to an appointment.

The temple was lit up and pretty. There was a raised walkway in one area where instead of cutting tree branches to make room for the walkway, they left holes in the walkway and built around the branches.

That night, we stayed in a Japanese style hotel room. The bed mattress was on the floor and the room was small, but cozy. The desk and chair were super low to the ground too. It made us feel like giants.

Day 8

After sleeping in a bit and lounging at the hotel pool, we saw a Broadway-equivalent show, Scarlett Pimpernel. The show was entirely in Japanese and had an all female cast. I counted maybe 10 men in the theater, and one of them worked for the theater. We also think we were the only two foreigners in the audience.

From here we went to the Suntory brewery. They had an impressive whiskey library as well as a museum where they talked about how Suntory was the first Japanese whiskey, which was only in 1923.

Last for the day, we visited Osaka castle. They had lots of samurai stuff as well as some nice paintings of various battles in the area.

Surviving Day Seven

Day seven was cold. We also had our first signs of rain since arriving. Luckily it was a light rain. In some ways it was good as it kept most of the tourists away from the outdoor activities we had planned. First for today was a garden park area rated the most beautiful in Japan. I certainly can’t argue against that claim. After the garden we toured a castle ruins. Most of the castle was gone, but parts were reconstructed. Our tour guide told us the shinkansen has helped bring tourists to the area, allowing them to slowly rebuild it.

Tired and cold from walking around all day, we hopped on  a a train to Osaka where we are staying at a super fancy hotel.

Six on Six

We hit up six touristy places on day six.

1) Our backup plan if we didn’t see any bioluminescent squid on the beach the previous night was to visit the museum dedicated to the creatures. There was a live demonstration where they turned off the lights and agitated them so you could see them glow. In another room you could touch the squid. One bit me (a little pin prick sensation, nothing serious) so expect me to have some sort of mutation or super power the next time you see me.

From Toyama bay, we hopped on a train to Kanazawa.

2) The ninja temple was next on our list. The name is a little misleading. It had nothing to do with ninjas, but rather the temple had many traps and hidden features to help defend against invaders. For example, there were false walls for samurai to hide behind, ready to jump out into the main room if a guest turned violent. They also had many of the classics, such as hidden doors, hidden stairs, and pits if you stood in the wrong location.

3) After the ninja temple, we visited the samurai house. This place had a lovely garden area with water features and a tea room where we had tea overlooking the garden. They had a few samurai things on display such as armor, swords, and coins.

4) The samurai house was relaxing, but the Zen museum took it up a notch (or would that be down a notch?). The museum showed info on the guy who is credited for making Zen Buddhism popular around the world. There was a large shallow pool there that was calm and smooth. Every few minutes, a device caused ripples in the pool which slowly spread out from it’s source. 

5) Behind the museum was a walking park/garden area. Almost everyone in Japan has a garden at their house. As my wife put it, everyone in Japan is a professional gardener. The parks then need to take it to the next level. It’s just something they do and they do it well.

6) Lastly, we went to a contemporary art and sculpture museum. They had a few interesting exhibits including a halfdome made up of metal halfdomes. It gave an interesting effect when you stood inside.

To end the night, we did dinner at a German bar.

Foxy Day Five

We headed north to Zao (don’t worry, the Tokyo natives hadn’t heard of it either) on the shinkansen – a super fast train. The ride was smooth and relaxing. There we went to the fox village, which is a cross between a wildlife preserve and a zoo for foxes. They had other animals there too, such as goats, a crow, and rabbits, but the main attraction was the foxes. We fed the foxes and then got to briefly hold one. Very soft and fluffy.

From there, we took the train to Toyama bay to see the squids. None had washed up on the beach like we had hoped, but I enjoyed the walk with my wife anyway. We were getting tired, so we went back to the hotel for a late night noodle snack and then to bed.

Day 4: Tokyo tour

We ate some tasty donuts off the beaten path today. On the way back to the train, we saw a Pepper robot out in the wild. It was selling household appliances in a shop about 8ft by 10ft in size. I was not expecting that.

Next we went to the Ghibli Studio museum. It was fun to see all the film and animation stuff they create even if I hadn’t seen most of their movies.

After that, we stopped in the owl cafe to pet and hold the owls. It was pretty amazing! I would probably visit once a week if I lived in the area.

To round off the evening, we had drinks at a bar next to a giant (possibly life sized?) Godzilla head. Every half-hour it would flash lights and smoke would come out it’s mouth. Walking back to the train station after drinks we saw another Pepper robot. This one was at a karaoke bar and was singing.

Day 3: Fujisan

It was cold today, but it was worth it to be able to get a clear view of Mt Fuji. We took a cable car to the top of a neighboring mountain to get a better view, then walked around the lake to explore the town there. We also ate some giant-noodle dish that was served in a cast iron pot.

Day 2: Revenge of the Airport Gods

Yesterday we stormed Shurijo castle in Okinawa before catching a flight back to Tokyo. The castle looked great, although it looked like new construction. This is because it was rebuilt after burning down in the 1940s. I’m not complaining, it just  gave the place a different feel. My flights out to Japan and to Okinawa were over the weekend and I had no problems whatsoever, however we had a 4 hour delay getting back to Tokyo. My theory is that the angry Japanese airport gods only work on weekdays. Between the flight and train ride to our lodgings, we got in between midnight and 1am. 4 hours of sleep later, we are back on a train heading to Mt Fuji.

Ok, Okinawa

I’m in Japan! My first day was spent watching a roller derby tournament in Okinawa, which was fun. I took video and pictures for the Tokyo team. Those will enentually be posted, along with all my other trip photos and videos. I’ll post links once they are up.