Tuesday, August 21, 2018


From Himeji we continued to Kyoto, arriving in the evening, too late to do much but gawk at the huge train station (we got lost trying to find the way out).  The following morning we met up with Ducky, a Japanese friend I've known for about 20 years.  He drove up on his own from Wakayama where he lives to join us for a whirlwind day in Kyoto.  Kyoto can't be done in a day.  It was my second visit and I've barely scratched the surface.  It needs lots of time or multiple visits. Or a lifetime.  As the former imperial capital of Japan for over 1000 years, it has History.  With a capital H.  There are literally hundreds if not thousands of temples and shrines, gardens, parks and museums.  It is completely mental with tourist visitors but still a great city to visit.  Just don't ask me which temples to prioritize on a visit.  I've followed Ducky's lead both times and I was impressed.  This time we went to Kiyomizu temple with it's nice views over the city, the Imperial Palace, Maruyama park with the Chion-in temple. We also visited the Arashiyama bamboo grove on the west side of town which was nice, especially the nearby area along the river.  We were briefly mobbed by a group of school kids wanting to practice their English which amused Ducky and brought back old memories for me.  We were also lucky enough to see a couple of real Geishas heading off to work in the Gion area where the highest quality ones are traditionally from.

Special water at Kiyomiu temple.

View from Kiyomizu

Must have green tea ice cream

Arashiyama bamboo grove

Arashiyama area

A break to help with homework :)

In Gion

 The next day I hijacked Ducky and made him take us to Nara on our way to Wakayama so we could see the two Unesco sites there (a scenario that will feel very familiar to Savannah by now).  Nara was briefly the capital of Japan in the 700's before it was moved to nearby Kyoto, though its temples maintained power and influence for much longer.  In Nara is Nara Park, with a number of attractions, but of primary interest to us was Todai-ji, a Buddhist temple that was until recently, the largest wooden building in the world.  As to be expected with any 1300 year old wooden building, it has been destroyed and rebuilt a couple times, but impressively, the most recent reconstruction from 300 years ago is actually 30% smaller than the original.  It looks big, but you really have to get right up to it to appreciate its size.  Inside, of course, is a very large Buddha statue in a Japanese style.  Arguably the more famous attractions in Nara Park are the deer running around.  They are protected as sacred so there are over 1000 of them now and vendors sell "deer crackers". I'm not sure if people are feeding the deer or the deer are just mugging the people and taking the food...

Todai-ji temple

On the outskirts of Nara was our second destination, Horyu-ji, another temple complex whose pagoda is widely believed to be the world's oldest wooden building, dating to 607. Not that you can tell from looking at it. It was a much quieter and more relaxed temple complex to visit and we enjoyed a very quick run around the temples, shrines and attached museum. On our way back to Wakayama we made a brief stop in Osaka to eat some takoyaki (fried balls of octopus), a local specialty.

Horyu-ji pagoda on the right.


Takoyaki time!

 Last time I met Ducky was on my only other visit to Japan in 2009 and we had a blast.  He has so much energy and enthusiasm you can't help but get sucked into the fun.  His wife was pregnant with their first child back then and now he has 3 cute little daughters.  When we finally met his family, they were shy for about 15 minutes before taking a liking to Sasha.  We spent the next couple days hanging out with them, going to the park for picnics or burying each other in the sand on the beach.  Coming from a world where "helicopter parents" drive their teenage kids to school, it was a shock to watch his 6-year old daughter take off on her bike to ride to her music lessons on her own a few blocks away.  Have I mentioned that I can't imagine a country that feels safer and more polite than Japan?  We ate exceptionally well too but it came to an end all too soon and it was time to move on to the next destination.

Ducky's family

Beach at Wakayama



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home