Sunday, March 11, 2012

Japan Part IV: The Finale, Finally

Okay, it's been a month since we got back from Japan, so I need to finish up these posts! Here's the last bit about our trip to Kyoto. Our second full day in Kyoto, we rented bikes to get around. Kyoto is very bike friendly and I felt just like a local. On our way to the bike rental place, we stumbled upon Nishiki market, where you can buy pretty much any Japanese food you've ever thought of, and a few you haven't.

Foreign veggies (literally).  We didn't buy anything.

Next, we rode our bikes to the Silver Pavilion, which is a temple on the outskirts of Kyoto. Like I said before, Kyoto is famous for its Zen gardens, and the Silver Pavilion had some very lovely ones. This cone made of sand is meant to represent the volcanic mountains (like Mt. Fuji) and inspire meditation. Mostly, I wanted to touch it.

If the guy who made this gets paid by the hour, he must be loaded.

The Golden Pavilion (which we didn't visit) is actually covered in gold leaf, but the Silver Pavilion was never covered with the silver leaf it was intended to have. Considering how quickly silver oxidizes, it probably would have been difficult to maintain, anyway.

The Silver Pavilion.  Real silver not included.

View of the zen garden from above.

After we visited the Silver Pavilion, we rode our bikes down the Philosophers Path along the canal, which was really quiet and pretty. I read about this shrine in one of our books, but it must not be popular among foreign visitors because there were few English signs. Fortunately, I managed to find it when I saw a Japanese sign with a drawing of a little mouse.

The "mouse" shrine.
I'm cute!  Worship me!

The shrine is famous for its mice, but it has a few other animals too.

Worship me, or I will kidnap your little dog and unstuff your straw friend.

Next, we went to Nanzen-ji, another huge temple complex. This was the gate out front.

This gate would keep me out, for sure.

You had to pay for almost everything in this temple, so we picked a garden that sounded kind of cool, with a lake inside that was the shape of a dragon. Only the "lake" was more of a pond, and by "dragon", I think they meant "square". We dubbed this guy the Rip-Off garden.

I paid 300Y and all I got was this picture (and a 2 minute walk).

After that, we bailed on Nanzen-ji and rode down to Gion, which is one of the most traditional areas of Kyoto. Supposedly, this is where the geisha (or geiko, which I have been told is the preferred term) live. We didn't see any geiko walking around, but I loved the old wooden buildings along the canal.

One of the oldest streets in Kyoto.

Riding back towards the bike rental place, we passed by this shop selling Fugu, the poisonous puffer fish. They are quite expensive (and the restaurant was not open yet) so we did not eat any.

My rented bike and a tank full of pufferfish waiting to be eaten.
Our final day in Kyoto, we stored our bags in a locker at the train station and went to a shrine called Fushimi-Inari before heading back to Tokyo. It was a weekend, and the shrine was full of worshippers. It was possibly one of the busiest places we visited outside of Shibuya Station!

Ethan beneath a tori, the gate to a shrine.

I found the shrine itself to be pretty gaudy, but the thousands of torii leading up the mountain were pretty cool. I guess people pay to have these erected in honor of family members or something. Sort of like "sponsor a road" I guess.

Fushimi-Inari is well known for having thousands of Torii.

They led all the way to the top of the mountain.

Fushimi-Inari also seemed to be some sort of fox shrine, so there were lots of statues of foxes around.
This statue also serves as a purifying fountain.

Finally, we got back on the Shinkansen and headed back to Narita airport, where we discovered that I had booked our return flight for March 12, not February 12. After some panicking and some tears (both on my part), we managed to contact a Qantas agent who was able to change our flight to the one departing that night, and we ran through the airport to get to the flight just in time.

As usual, I've gotten tired of posting about our trip, so even though there was a lot I didn't cover, that's the end of these posts. I really loved our visit to Japan, and I can't wait to go back. But now it's time to appreciate all Australia has to offer before we return to the U.S.


Erica said...

ha ha ha ha ha! I loved the part about a ticket home for March 12th instead of February 12th! Of course, I'm sure it wasn't funny in the moment, but it really is hilarous! I've been smiling for days whenever I think of that!

Carlw4514 said...

very good, thanks!

a request: when taking a picture to show that you have visited the XYZ famous or interesting spot, do not follow your instinct to have the person stand near the XYZ. Instead have the person near the camera, showing XYZ in the background. We well still get it that you actually visited the distant object and we get a picture of you, which I was longing more for.

Uncle C

Carlw4514 said...

I mean of course a *closer* picture of you.

Uncle C

L said...

Erica, glad you enjoyed the story! Ethan did not think I represented the panic well enough in the blog. We were not happy folks.

Uncle Carl, thanks for the tip. I will try to keep that in mind in the future.