Monday, June 6, 2016

Japan Part 2 Review: Kyoto and Osaka 2016

When we arrived in Kyoto on Wednesday afternoon, we dropped our bags off and then went straight to Arashiyama district oto see the Sagano Bamboo Grove and Tenryu-ji Buddhist Temple.

Arashiyama, Kyoto 2016
Arashiyama district

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove 2016
Kevin and I in the Bamboo Grove

Arashiyama, Kyoto 2016
Kevin at the Tenryu-ji Buddhist Temple

Arashiyama, Kyoto 2016
The Tenryu-ji Buddhist Temple garden

In Kyoto we stayed at a ryokan, which is basically a traditional Japanese inn The rooms are with tatami-covered. Baths are "communal" though how communal varies depending on the ryokan. The baths are a big draw in ryokans. We had semi-private ones in our ryokan. So a typical bath would be public and separated by gender. At our ryokan there were five sets of guests and three private baths. So we changed into our yukata and shuffled downstairs to the baths in our slippers.

Kyoto Ryokan 2016
Wearing yukata in our ryokan


Thursday morning we woke up way before breakfast because we were still jet-lagged. Our ryokan served either breakfast or dinner per day you stayed there. We were signed up for breakfast which was really a dinner in the morning. The Japanese don't really do breakfast. This was actually perfect for us because it's hard to get a good breakfast there and since we were kind of on US time- we were actually eating it at what felt like dinnertime to us.

Kyoto Ryokan 2016
Most of these were yummy

We needed fuel because next up- we were hiking up the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine! This shinto shrine is awesome. You start at the base of the Inari mountain with the two-storied gate followed by the main shrine. As you follow the trail up the mountain you go through Torii gates and visit the other smaller shrines until you reach the top of the mountain which is 233 meters (764 feet) above sea level. We were told it would take us about 2 hours to walk up and took almost exactly that amount of time (counting the time it took me to snap hundreds of photos).

Fushimi Inari-taisha 2016
Selfie at the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

We rented kimonos to tour the Kiyomizu-dera UNESCO World Heritage site.

Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto 2016
At the Kiyomizu-dera Temple site



Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto 2016
This is the main temple- it's known for the way it hangs over the edge

The Kodai-ji Zen Temple  was nearby in Higashiyama-ku. It is a temple of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism and the largest subtemple of the Kennin-ji branch.

Kodai-ji Temple, Kyoto 2016
Zen garden! I just want to run out there with a rake! 

From certain points of the Kodai-ji Zen Temple you can see the Ryōzen Kannon ( War Memorial commemorating those who died in the Pacific War located in Eastern Kyoto. The statue of the Bodhisattva Kannon . The statue is 80 ft high.

Ryozen Kwannon War Memorial 2016
Ryōzen Kannon and War Memorial building

From there we headed back through Maruyama Park, which was gorgeous. The park has a weeping cherry tree, musical entertainment, and what appeared to be a heron trained to pose for pictures.

Maruyama Park, Kyoto 2016
Park and Weeping Cherry Tree

To get to Gion, we passed through the Yasaka Shrine. Seriously, you can't get from point A to Point B in Kyoto without accidentally walking through a beautiful shrine or temple. In Gion we walked around some more, did some shopping, and finally headed to the train station for our hotel reservation in Osaka that evening.

Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto 2016
Yasaka Shrine

Gion, Kyoto 2016
Streets in Gion

Thursday evening we took a train from Kyoto to Osaka. We'd heard that the main place to go at night was Dotonbori. After we checked into our Osaka hotel, we headed over.  The area is crazy as you can see from the pictures. We'd heard you were supposed to have octopus balls in Osaka, so we did. They were definitely meatier and more octopus-filled there. I vote in favor of the Kyoto octopus balls though.

Dotonbori, Osaka 2016
It was crazier than it looks even

Dotonbori, Osaka 2016
Buying octopus balls in Dotonbori

After we ate and had some beer, we wandered the side streets. The side streets are also weird. In an awesome way.

Dotonbori, Osaka 2016
Kevin had a drink at Bar Core, a TINY but fancy whisky bar.


On Friday, after having some conveyor belt sushi for lunch, we went to the main site in Osaka, the Osaka Castle and its park. The castle is surrounded by two moats which have been partially but not completely rebuilt after numerous historical misfortunes.

Osaka Castle 2016
Me and Kevin in front of Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle Park 2016
Toyokuni Shrine

We went to a baseball game in evening. This was high on Kevin's to do list, but when we were planning our trip I initially rolled my eyes. We bought tickets to a game at the end of the week though and it ended up being perfect because by the end of the week my feet were just giant agony blisters. Sitting and drinking beer was the best plan ever.

Osaka Baseball 2016
Me and Kevin in Koshien Stadium

Koshien Stadium is home of the Hanshin Tigers, sometimes called the Osaka Tigers. They were playing the Hiroshima Carp, which really doesn't sound like a sufficiently scary mascot. The Hanshin Tigers have this strange tradition that before the 7th inning everyone gets these provocatively shaped balloons in the color of their team - yellow for Hanshin Tigers and red for Hiroshima Carp- and then they release them at the same time.

Osaka Baseball 2016
Getting ready

Osaka Baseball 2016
Release!

Saturday was our last day in Japan, but we decided to go back to Kyoto and sneak in one more temple. The Sanjūsangen-dō Temple is awesome. The temple contains 10000 life-size statues of the Thousand-Armed Kannon, and one huge statue of the Thousand-Armed Kannon. In front of all these are 28 statues of guardian deities. This is such a crazy description that the pictures make more sense.

Sanjūsangen-dō Temple, Kyoto 2016
Kevin and I in front of the main hall.

Sanjūsangen-dō Temple, Kyoto 2016
Gardens at Rengeo-in

Sanjūsangen-dō Temple, Kyoto 2016
The 1000 life-size thousand-armed Kannon statues, and some of the guardian statues

Sanjūsangen-dō Temple, Kyoto 2016
The huge thousand-armed Kannon

Sadly, now it was time to go home! We went from Kyoto to Tokyo and from there to Narita. Our flight left Tokyo at 5:30 PM local time (really 4:30 AM in the US) and arrived in Toronto at 4:20 PM on the same day. Earlier than we left! Haha! After a short layover in Toronto, we arrived in New York on Saturday, 7:45 PM. It was a total of 12.5 hours from Tokyo to NYC, a little shorter than our trip there.

Flight to NYC 2016
The End!

* This post was originally 10 posts!

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