A Travellerspoint blog

More of Kyoto and Osaka

Well it has been a long time since I have last updated this blog. Hopefully, you were all too busy with your summer vacation to notice. *smiles*

Kyoto is an amazing city with a lot of history. It has become one my favorite places. Every day there is something new to see and to discover. Since there were so many places that we visited I will do a quick outline of the places and eventually I will come back and write more about them.

I’ll start first with the many temples and shrines that we visited inside Kyoto. On the eastern side of Kyoto is an area, Higashima, where there are many, many temples and shrines. It’s so long, Mr. C and I had to break it up into a two day trip. As I said before we saw the temple, Kiyomizu-dera, that was built up onto the mountain side, and had a large structure built up so that the temple was much higher and overlooked the city.

Another famous place we visited was the Ginkaku-ji Temple. This was known as the Silver Pavilion – it was suppose to be plated in silver, but that was never completed. Unfortunately, this was under renovation so we didn’t see much of it. However, we were able to see the Kinkaku-ji temple, it’s sister site known as the Golden Pavilion. This was plated in gold and was a very magnificent site to see. Near here is a famous rock garden in the Ryoan-ji temple.

Heian Jingu Shrine was based on the architecture in China and influenced some of the other buildings. It is a very large shrine surrounded by some beautiful gardens. It also marks the midway point in the Higashima area. A little to the south of this shrine is the Yasaka Jinja Shrine, known for all the laterns it puts up. This is also the shrine that is part of the Gion Matsurii, one of the largest festivals in all of Japan ~ more on that later.

We also saw some castles such as the Nijo-jo castle, one of the former homes of shoguns (samurai’s that were generals and were leaders of Japan, sometimes when there was no Emperor). Another area was the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Up until the new Japanese Emperor, this is where the Imperial family have lived. So this place has only been vacant for a couple of decades! Katsura Imperial Villa is one of the most intact imperial homes to have survived – that wasn’t damaged by fire or other natural disasters. Mr. C did a project on this place when he was in school and it was very exciting to see in person.

Next are the day trips out of Kyoto. There are several places not too far from Kyoto that we visited. One of them was Himeji (one you should all remember!). Another was Hiroshima. Some of you may have heard about this city from learning about World War II. This was the first city that was attacked by an atomic bomb. This was a very a moving and sad place to visit. Sad, knowing what had happened, and very moving to see how much they have rebuilt their city. They had built a beautiful park and memorial at the center of the most damage. It’s now very peaceful to walk through – I even stumbled upon a couple of school field trips!

Nara is one of my favorite spots to visit. I felt like a Disney princess come to life – well sort of. Why you may ask? Well, Nara has a large park that is home to many deer. They are free to roam around and many of them will come up to you if you have food. So you can sit with the deer and pet them like one of those cartoon princesses. It ends there when you have food in your hands. They all came up at once trying to get the food and will “nudge” each other away to get the food. There are vendors around who sell special “deer cookies” that you can feed the deer. Some were smart enough to stay and “rest” around the vendor. As soon as you approach the vendor, they started to follow you around. Mr. C even made one follow him around for a while with a cookie. Check back with me at school sometime and I might have the video to show you. One other thing to add about the deer, when they think you have more food they will eat anything, some examples: one ate my map of the area (good thing I had two of them!), another 2-3 tried to eat my shirt (deer drool is not fun) and Mr. C’s shirt (he was not happy), 3 of them kept nudging my legs until I gave them food and last but not least, if you leave your shopping bag unattended the deer will go inside of it to see if there is food. I watched one poor lady chase the deer off cause it was trying to eat her groceries!

Now Nara is not only known for it’s deer, but also houses the largest wooden structure in the world. In it is the temple for Buddhists which has a very large Buddha inside. They even have column that has a hole carved out the size of the Buddha statue’s nostril. If you crawl through it, you are suppose to reach Nirvana (a Buddhist belief). All the kids went through, many of the adults… well I think they all would get stuck!

Now, earlier I had said I would talk about the Gion Matsurii. This is a festival that has been going on over 1000 years in Kyoto. It first started when there were years of bad plagues. Many people were dying and they all felt something needed to be done. So they built these shrines/floats that they would parade around the town to “collect” all the bad illnesses, spirits, and such and then store it away so people wouldn’t be sick anymore. After a while, it kept building up and today it is one of the 3 largest festivals in Japan.

Mr. C and I were lucky enough to be here for it and watch it. Unlike the parades you normally see, these floats are all carried or pulled by people and are built and taken apart within a week. They are built only with wood and ropes, and decorated with the treasures that are associated with each float. In each of the large floats are musicians who play the flute or drums, people who sit on the roofs to make sure the pines don’t fall and the guides who ride on the front with their fans to direct the men who are pulling the float with two large ropes. On each of these there are at least 100 people helping the float. Since these floats can be very large, when they reach a corner to turn, the men put wet bamboo on the ground and have to slowly turn the float. It took over 3 hours to have all 32 floats pass by.
Well, there’s a little bit about what Mr. C and I saw. There is so much I can write about each thing and so many things I didn’t mention. Hopefully, even if it is after the trip, I will write more about each.

One more note, Mr. C and I have gone to Hong Kong and China to visit family and friends. Since we didn’t do too much site seeing, there will not be an entry on this part of the trip. I may add in a few pictures later so you can see what it looks like. However, feel free to ask me about it later if you want!

Have a good week and enjoy the last month of summer!

Posted by kalara 17:55 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Kyoto

Mr. C and I are now in Kyoto. This is a city to the west of Tokyo. Kyoto is a really old city. This use to be the capitol of Japan for over a thousand years. With such a rich history there are many, many places to visit in the area. First, I will start with our travels here from Tokyo.

Japan is known for their very efficient trains. They also have trains known as the bullet trains (for English speakers) or Shinkansen in Japan. These are trains that really fast, the fastest one called the Nozomi is the fastest train in the world. It's speed is 261.8 kph or 162.68 mph! We didn't go on the Nozomi, but one called the Hikari. It was still pretty fast! The ride from Tokyo to Kyoto was about 2 hours. It did not feel like it was going too fast, but when you looked out the window some things were blurrier than usual. =D Below is a picture of the Nozomi.

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We arrived at Kyoto Station around 1 in the afternoon. If you remember when Mr. C came to do the lesson, he showed a picture of the station. It is a very beautiful, big open area. Mr. C ended up taking over 60 photos of it (I had to wait very patiently to get my camera back!). Fortunately, we were staying in a hotel that is pretty close by (two blocks away). We walked to our new hotel and it is a traditional Japanese inn. For traditional Japanese inns we sleep in rooms that are made of tatami mats (straw mats) with futons as our beds. They are mattresses that are put on the floor. This is the traditional style of sleeping in Japan. Each day they will take it out at night to sleep and then put it away into a closet. Now doesn't making your bed seem a little easier then having fold up your bed everyday and putting it away in the closet?

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Another traditional thing about the ryokan is that we need to take off our shoes before we go into the main part of the building. So when we get in, there is a little floor area to take off your shoes and change in slippers. Then you walk up the steps into the main part of the building. You even have special slippers that you wear into the bathrooms! This particular ryokan also has a very special hostess, a cat! It has greeted Mr. C and I several times when we come back in. Although one time it ignored us cause it's dinner had come.

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The first day we just walked around the area around our hotel. The first thing we noticed that was different from Tokyo was the number of shrines in a small area. Since Kyoto is such an old city its has many, many historical buildings. Within two blocks there were two very famous shrines. Although by the time we got there they were closed, so we decided to come back another time.

We spent more time at Kyoto Station and had dinner there. Here is a picture of what a traditional type of Japanese dinner looks like.

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That was just our first day in Kyoto. The following day we went to towards the eastern part of Kyoto called Higashiyama. Along just one street there were at least 10 different temples or shrines. The first one we visited was called Kiyomizu Temple. This a large temple perched on top of a large wooden platform. From here you can see over the city of Kyoto. There has also been temple in this area since 778. Most of the buildings now are from 1633. It's very beautiful and surrounded by mountains and forests. From one of the platforms, it overlooks to a pagoda (part of the temple) that seems to just rise out of the trees.

Afterwards, we walked along the streets which were lined with little shops. This was very nice because it is very hot outside and walking as much as we do it's nice to step into the shops for a little cool down. We stopped in front of another temple called Chion-in. This houses the largest Daisho-ro bell. It takes seventeen priests to ring 67 ton bell. Along the way we also came upon a monk and geisha.

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Later that day we went to Gion. This is district known for their restaurants and entertainment. We had dinner here and wandered around the older part of the town. After dinner we went to the Yasaka-jinga, a temple that has many lanterns. At night it was very beautiful with all the lanterns lit up. It's probably one of my favorites places that we visited. That was our first full day in Kyoto. As you can tell, Mr. C and I try to pack in a lot each day. So much that we average about 10 miles of walking! Needless to say our feet hurt.

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Today, we visited Nijo Castle. This was built in the 1600s for the shoguns. Shoguns were military leaders or similar to what our generals are. For a period of time in Japan, the Shoguns were the rulers. Later they relinquished the powers back to the Emperor Meiji. This castle is composed of two main buildings. The overall area is surrounded by one big moat and inside the shogun's home was surrounded by another moat. Originally, there was a tower of five floors that overlooked the city. Unfortunately, it was burned and today only the base of the tower exists. There are still other buildings that survived. One of them was the "business building" where the shogun met with different officials and had a place to stay (this building was called Honmaru Palace). Many of the old castles in old Japan had these special floors called "nightingale floors." These floors were constructed in such a way that they squeak like birds when anyone walks on them. This was to protect the people from sneak attacks. They were very squeaky!!!

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After Nijo Castle, we walked to the Kyoto Museum. This museum was about the history of Kyoto and how the city grew. It showed many mini-replicas of different buildings throughout it's history. Unfortunately, some of these buildings were destroyed throughout the years. Some of them have been rebuilt and others are just documented in different paintings and writings.

From here we walked back to our hotel (12 very long blocks!). On the way we stopped at the Higashi Honganji Temple. This is one of the largest wooden structures in the world. It is currently under renovations right now. They are taking off the tiles from the roof, cleaning them and putting it all back on (that's over 2400 square feet of tiles).

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So that's pretty much what we've been up to the past couple of days. We are planning on visiting many, many more sites. Tomorrow we will be going to see the Kyoto Imperial Palace. During the rest of the week, we will be taking many day trips out to visit some of the cities outside of Kyoto such as Nara, Himeji (some of you worked on this for your geometry project!) and Hiroshima.

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Posted by kalara 01:24 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Tokyo

Shinjaku, Ginza, Imperial Palace, Shibuya, Omote-Sando, and Harajuku

Mr. Cheung and I arrived into Japan about 2:40 pm on Tuesday, July 1. We actually got in earlier than it was scheduled. Very quickly we went to go get our luggage and then our tickets to take the train into Tokyo. The airport even though they say its a Tokyo airport is in a city called Narita. It's about an hour away from the city of Tokyo. We got settled in and fell asleep. We both had been up for almost over 24 hours and were very tired.

The next day we got up really early and decided to go see what's around. We decided to walk to the Imperial Palace area since that is where the Emperor and his family live. It was about 7 in the morning and the only other people up were those going to work. So went to a water fountain park outside of the Imperial Park area called Wadakura. There we had a picnic breakfast. The birds were not shy and quickly came up to us to get some food. Mr. Cheung was nice enough to feed it some rice.

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Afterwards we walked around the park for another hour or so and then headed to big area called Ginza. This is a famous area in Japan for shopping. We walked around for a bit and then went and had lunch. Mr. Cheung and I did stop in a store that was 8 floors of toys and games!

We then went to a place called Shinjaku. This is a big business area and it has a lot of the national government buildings. We got to go in one of the National Government buildings and go to the 45th! floor to see the view of the city. It was a really impressive site. The elevator for the observation deck was fast too! It only had the 1st, 2nd and 45th floor as the options. We stayed in the area until it got dark. It was mainly shopping and business buildings. Mr. Cheung sketched some of the buildings. I timed him, he only takes 5-15 minutes for some of the pictures!

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That was the first full day in Japan. Today (Thursday, July 3) we went to an area called Shibuya, Omote-Sando and Harajuku. They were all right next to each other. We visited a shinto shrine that was dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. They were very loved by the people that they donated 100,000 trees to create the forest around the temple.

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After our visit we walked around the different areas and just took in the view. We will be leaving for Kyoto (to the west of Tokyo) tomorrow and hopefully I'll put up more information about the places we visited. Enjoy some of the pictures and hopefully I can put up some more later.

Posted by kalara 05:01 Comments (0)

Day 1: Monday, June 30, 2008

Well, today is finally the day that Mr. C and I left for our big trip. I was so excited about the trip that I was up until 1 in the morning and woke up early at 6! So Mr. C and I got the airport and we were very lucky that the lines were short. I think we just got there just in time before the big rush, because the line behind us got very, very long. We checked in our bags, got our tickets, went through the security line and got to the gate for our plane. Now since we were early, we had a lot of time before we actually boarded. We did a lot of reading at that time and we charged up my DS player. *smiles*

We ended up being very lucky because as we were waiting they called us on the speaker (like the ones at school) and we got upgraded. So we were moved to the next set of seats that were much nicer and roomier. This is very nice because we are on the plane for 14 hours! So we wait and wait and wait and finally they call for us to board.
When we boarded the plane we had some nice surprises.

First, all of the seats on the plane came with a little tv in front and a remote control that you can pull out of the seat. The remote control let us pick what movies, tv shows and games we wanted to play. They are mini game controllers too! I tried to play one of the games but I was pretty bad at it. I was never very good at video games. I might try it later in the flight.

Another fun thing about the plane, there is a camera at the front of the plane that shows what the pilots see. We got to watch the plane go on the runway and take-off. It’s almost like an amusement park ride. After we took off, the camera changed so you can see what we were flying over. It was very fun to watch the land get smaller and smaller and look like one of those miniature train sets.

Now, I’m going to take a little break and add on more once we get to Japan and explore it some. But I will leave with a fun math problem for you. I’ll provide the answer in my next entry.

Mr. C and I left the US at 12:20 pm and Monday, June 30, 2008. We will arrive in Japan on Tuesday, July 1, 2008 at 3 pm. Japan is 13 hours ahead of our area. So what time will it be in Virginia when Mr. C and I land at the airport in Japan? (Hint: Figure out what the extra information I gave and ignore it. Focus on the pieces of information you really need!)

Side note: If you want to send me a message you can always email me!

Posted by kalara 16:26 Comments (0)

West Point

Well we're about one week away from our big trip to Japan. However, before we go, Mr. Cheung and I are at West Point for the weekend for a wedding. West Point is in New York around the Hudson Valley area. Tidbit: I also spent four years of elementary school in the Hudson Valley area in a place called Poughkeepsie.

West Point was created during the Revolutionary War, because they saw that the Hudson River Valley area was a good strategic point in the colonies. It was never captured during the war, even though Benedict Arnold betrayed the patriots. West Point is the oldest continuously occupied military post in America.

When Thomas Jefferson was President, signed legislation to make it a military academy. Since then, cadets are trained both for the military as well as getting an education like others in different fields of study.

If you want to read more, you can go to this link about their history. http://www.usma.edu/Publicaffairs/history/

Later, I will try to get some pictures up of West Point.

Posted by kalara 05:01 Comments (0)

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