Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Kyoto Part 2

So after our woodblock printing lesson we noticed that there was a temple across the road. So we thought we might take a walk around and have a look at it. Turned out to be Heian Jingu. What a beautiful place. We had been told about a special garden within the grounds but unfortunately being spring there was a very large queue to enter. Oh well next time. So here are some shots of Heian Jingu.

While we were at Heian Jingu this group of elegantly dressed young ladies were very much in demand for photographs. Not Geisha or Maiko just ordinary girls out for the afternoon in their kimonos.

Then we headed off for the nearest subway. On our way we saw many stores selling beautiul hand made items so we bought a pair of chopsticks each and a pair of sake cups all made from a beautiful golden coloured wood. We caught the train back to the main line and then went back to our Ryokan for a quick rest. We got up refreshed from our Nanna nap and headed back in to town for a stroll and to find somewhere for dinner. On our way we found the Kyoto International Manga Museum. Inxpensive entry fee, Manga every where in book and Video format so you can sit and read(HMMM okay if you have Japanese reading skills as there was only a small selection in english) But very interesting none the less, heaps of stuff and interesting exhibitions.

Then we took a walk down Shijo-dori. WOW what a street, all the major Depato, and so many more shops, then there were covered sreets with heaps more shops. We were really working up an appetite with all this walking. So we headed back to Karasuma-dori to an Italian restaurant we had spotted earlier. What a fantastic find. The restaurant was named FLOWING, wonderful service and ambiance. Open kitchen, superb wine list and great menu. We had the Y3500 4 course selection and a bottle of french wine. All up for the 2 of us it cost about A$115. The food was really good, so if you ever go you have to try them. We enjoyed it so much we went again the next night. Here is a night shot of Flowing:

After dinner we caught the train back to the Ryokan and had a wonderful sleep.

The next day saw us get up fairly early and head out to Fushimi Inari Taisha. We caught the train out as it was only 22 stops from Kyoto station. We were really getting the hang of the trains. Another beautiful place, but with a secret we were not prepared for....4km round trip hike up a mountain. we think this shrine is hinted at in the movie 'Memoirs of a Geisha', it is the scene where she runs through the Torii. So we had to go, 'Geisha' is a favourite movie. It was amazing to see so many elderly people taking a stroll up the mountain and many family groups too. So here are some photos.

So then we headed back in to Kyoto station and walked around some more. Our main mission was to find Aritsugu knives in Nishiiki Market. What an amazing experience walking through the market, this market is regarded as the supermarket of Kyoto. You could buy your groceries or buy something to eat on the spot. We found the knife shop and were both blown away by the range available plus all the other accoutrements used by Japanese households, chefs and restaurants. After a quick look we got some assisstance form one of the VERY helpful staff and found my first Japanese craftsman made knife. They even engraved my name on it in Japanese. I haven't run it over a stone and it is still as sharp as the day I bought it. Back to the ryokan for a nap(we were a bit knackered after the walk around Fushimi Inari Taisha) and then we headed to Flowing again for dinner. The next day we headed back to the bright lights of Tokyo for our final 3 days. That is it for the moment. Thanks for looking and will catch you soon! Ciao for now!!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Kyoto:The Old Capital of Japan Part 1

Well on our 6th day in Japan we boarded a Hikari Shinkansen for our trip to Kyoto. We were very excited to be heading there as we knew we would see lots of old buildings and temples. On our approach to Kyoto station we were a little surprised as it was a lot more modern than we were actually expecting.
So we worked out how to get the train to our Ryokan, Aoi So Inn. This was a very handy spot to stay. 3 minutes walk from the closest subway stop and about 10 minutes travel time from central Kyoto. So our first day we hopped on the subway to find our pick up point for our 1/2 day Kyoto tour and then went exploring. Staying on Karasuma-dori we soon found a huge Shinto shrine called Higashi Hongan-ji, undergoing a massive restoration project. This meant we were unable to go into the main building but we were able to look around the grounds, where I found this beautiful purification area.

And here is the main gate:

Cherry blossoms were every where. Along the banks of the Kamo-gawa they were beautiful. This is the street outside Higashi Hongan-ji:

The banks of the Kamo-gawa.

So our first full day in Kyoto saw us join a tour which was part of our package. We were headed for two palaces and one temple/shrine followed by lunch at the Kyoto Handicrafts centre.

Our first stop on the tour was Nijo-jo, which was the family seat of the Tokugawa Shoguns. Unfortunately this is a very delicate building and photos of the interior are not able to be taken. This palace has the Nightingale floors as part of the original security. This was amazing to hear and then to see the costruction underneath. This floor was designed so that no one could sneak up and eavesdrop on conversations. In the more private areas of the palace the nightingale floor was not used. Here are a couple of shots of the outside and the gardens.

Entrance gate to Nijo-jo:

The pond in the garden:

Then it was on to Kinkaku-ji also known as the Golden Pavilion. Another stunning piece of architecture and landscaping. The top two floors of the building are covered in gold leaf. When the building was rebuilt after being set alight by an arsonist, the gold leaf cost US$7 million.

The bell in the garden:

The Pavillion viewed from across the reflecting pond:

Close up of the Pavillion

600 year old bonsai:

This bonsai was planted at the death of Yoshimitsu, the builder of the pavillion, as part of his instructions in his will.

Here is the small, elegant tea house built in honor of a visit by Emperor Go-Mizuno-o in the 17th century:

Third stop was the Imperial Palace. Absolutely beautiful!! We were not able to go inside the buildings but some had open doors that we coould peek in.

Main Public entry:

One of the birch roofs over another entry:

Closeup of the roof:

These roofs are made in the same manner as they always have been. 70 layers of birch bark and bamboo nails.

Looking in to the throne room across the courtyard. This is where the Emperors have previously been crowned, now they have started to do the enthronement ceremonies in the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

Interior shots of the waiting rooms for dignitaries, noblemen and courtiers:

After the Palace we went to the Kyoto Handicraft Centre where we had lunch, took a woodblock printing class and bought a kimono/dressing gown for me and Rene bought a Yukata with the Tokugawa family Hollyhock crest on it.

I think that is enough for part one. Stay tuned for more of beautiful Kyoto in part 2.
Thanks for having a look and catch you soon!!