We only had a short time in Japan, so we were doubly fortunate to have friends willing to host us in their home and guide us (thanks, Akemi and Tsunemasa!). We arrived and went to their home outside Tokyo by high-speed bullet train. That in itself was so completely different from Thailand. While we often lump them together as simply “Asia,” Japan is as different from what I saw in Thailand as a hot dog is from ice cream: there is simply no comparison possible.
Japan was high-speed, orderly, neat and tidy. The cities were huge, but the traffic stayed within the lines, and the mass transit is a thing of beauty. Recycling containers were everywhere, and we oohed and aahed over a toilet that let you wash your hands with the clean water that was refilling the tank for the next flush.
Nature was enjoyed here. Parks and temples and shrines were crowded, as the fall foliage was near peak color. How did we get so lucky? We took another bullet train to Kyoto for the full shrine and temple garden experience, and again luck shone on us: the clouds pulled away and we had a magnificent view of Mt Fuji (but no picture, sorry. You’ll just have to believe me when I tell you how lovely it was.). Kyoto’s Higashiyama area, where we visited, holds six temples and shrines in close proximity, so it was a full day of walking, enjoying, and bliss.
OK, enough rhapsodizing. On to the photos. Click to enbiggen.
One view of Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto
Another view of Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. Really, there wasn’t a bad view of this amazing place!
At the very first temple we visited, there was a place to make a small donation and retrieve a random fortune. My fortune was titled “Bad Luck.” But never fear! Instead of taking your bad luck with you, there is this handy rack to tie your bad luck onto in order to leave it behind! Which I did, post-haste.
Did I mention I love bamboo?
Yes, we did use chopsticks, and yes, we were able to eat a full meal this way. Much to the surprise of the other breakfast buffet guests at the hotel on our final night, we (the only non-Asians in the room) also managed breakfast with them, trouble-free. Of course, we’d been practicing…
One of the serene beauties of Kodaji Temple.
And men can get into the dress-up game, as well. Really, though, don’t they look nice together?
Women who paid to be made up and costumed like Maiko Girls, and then to wear their lovely garb out into the gardens for all to admire. Lovely indeed.
Christmas light display in Tokyo.
Can you say “massive?” Sure you can! Just take a look at the size of this temple gate and be awed.
Narita is best known to westerners as the location (far outside of Tokyo proper!) of the Tokyo airport. What isn’t so well known is that it’s named for the Narita Temple that’s been there around 1,000 years. And it’s drop-dead gorgeous!
200-year old “stone receipts” telling all passersby how much money was donated to the temple by the patron. :-)
Pagoda at Kiyomizu Temple.
A tree all wrapped in protective tatami-like mats as a winter coat.