Before I get started about our last spot in Japan, I wanted to let everyone know that the wonderful photographer behind these photos is Angelo. He is very talented and perceptive. It takes him a long time to take the photos and edit them. Thank you for your wonderful comments and letting us know how much your enjoying them!
Kyoto and Osaka is our last post about Japan before we head out to Bali, Indonesia. We took the Shinkansen or bullet train with our JR rail passes from Tokyo to Osaka in less than 2 hours. Kyoto, Nara and Osaka all lie in the Kensai region of Japan. Where Kyoto might be known for its old streets and sweets (mochi, mochi mochi!!!), Osaka is a food lovers dream!! Can you say okonomiyake??
Our first stop in Kyoto was Gion – the most known and premier geisha district. Actually in Gion they call the women not Geishas but Geikos. There was a lot of people visiting Kyoto, probably because it was still the end of the Sakura season. And although it was raining outside people were dressed in beautiful kimonos and Japanese sandals or geta. Angelo was on the lookout for a geisha, but was hard to find one all day. Many women (foreigners and Japanese) like to get dressed up like geishas for the day and go to tea houses. So it was difficult for us to tell if the geisha was real or not.
After Gion, we headed up the hills towards Higashiyama which are old preserved streets on the border of Kyoto. There was a little girl walking towards Angelo’s camera lens, she thought he was taking a pic of her so she flashed a very typical Japanese hand gesture for photos. Everywhere you look there are shops selling adorable souvenirs, hand crafted pottery and tea sets, mochi, crackers, matcha soft serve and beautiful chopsticks. I resisted the opportunity to buy anything, but Angelo and I took every chance to sample foods at a variety of stores.
We came across this temple in the middle of the hills called Ryozen Kannon. There is a large open space in front of the main building. We were able to give our incense sticks to the ashy mound that is right in front of the entrance. Upon entering the temple you could hear the rhythms of the den den-daiko as a monk was chanting. A small group of people were inside silently on their knees as they were following the ritual. This temple is one of many around the world dedicated to a unknown fallen soldier from World War 2. I found out that four times a day services are conducted for those who tragically perished in the war. In the back of the building at the bottom of the mountain looms a large, I mean gigantic statue of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. This bodhisattva can take a male or female form. I felt that it looked feminine and beautiful. I went inside the entrance to the building, and to the left two monks were inside an old and dusty room. One of the monks ushered me over and bowed to me with the hands in prayer position, he asked me where I was born. I told him California and bowed back out of respect. He just smiled and said thank you. We left Ryozen Kannon with calm hearts and happy smiles.
The next day we headed off to Kinkakuji or golden temple. It was pretty cold and a little rainy but again like the day before there was a lot of people at the temple. The Kinkakuji temple is a zen Buddhist temple. It was rebuilt around 1950 due to a fire. Some say that the original did not have so much gold on it. It is a beautiful sight to see and most of the front of the temple is surrounded by a small lake. As you walk away from the golden pavilion there are lots of small ponds and little statues to sightsee. Adjacent to the pavilion is a prayer site with incense and a shrine. I made a prayer with some incense at the temple. There also are candles at the shrine, you can choose to light a candle too for a very small fee. We didn’t explore anything other than Kinkakuji that day for the reasons of it being a bit chilly and exhausted from walking so much the past few weeks in Japan. I believe that we were ready to explore a different culture, one which did throw us into culture shock when we arrived.
As mentioned before we were staying in Osaka while exploring Kyoto and Nara. Through Air BNB we found our Korean host Minjae. Minjae is an engineer and his hobbies are diving (he is certified to teach). He was the perfect host accommodating our needs as guests. We even went out to his favorite ramen place in Osaka and we got dessert crepes after! In Osaka there is a famous street called Dotonbori that has lots of shops and good food. Angelo was able to capture some of the larger than life food statues that dot the street. Osaka area kind of reminded us of Las Vegas with its flamboyance and style.