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!