Monday, January 03, 2011

Kyoto I: Temples/Gion

Is anyone still out there following this blog? December got really crazy this year, preparing for two talks for the annual geo conference and then a week+ in L.A. visiting the fam. I'm back in Tokyo again and thought I better catch up on all my blog posts. 

Way back in October, Ry's parents came to visit and we took them to Nara and then Kyoto and finally Hiroshima. Here is the first of three segments on Kyoto. 
 Kyoto is the former capital of Japan and has retained a lot of the old world charm. Our first stop was Sajusangen-do, which is a temple hall that houses 1001 statues of Budda made in the 12th and 13th centuries (sorry no cameras allowed inside with the buddhas).
Next we followed our guide book's suggested walking tour, which had us traversing uphill through "teapot lane" to the Kiyomizu temple. On advice from friends, we first went to the small side building on the left, paid our 100yen, put our shoes in a plastic bag and descended the staircase into the darkest darkness you've ever seen. As you walk, you hang on to a string of large wooden beads. You might as well just close your eyes because you can't see a thing in front of you. Eventually you stumble upon a large stone that you turn a few times and spend a minute reflecting before following the beads out into the light. A really interesting experience.
 Here are Ryan's parents at the Kiyomizu-dera with all of Kyoto behind them in the distance.
At Kiyomizu there are many of these little stone jizo that are adorned with little outfits. 
Most have carved faces and bodies, though some have been worn down with time like the one in the back.  But for some reason this guy with the little red beret in the front just had me laughing and laughing.
We headed down the Sannen-zaka street away from Kiyomizu. Lots of good shopping here and a few of the leaves are just beginning to turn.
This strange contraption that looks like it came straight out of a SciFi film is actually a chestnut roaster.
Strolling through Gion at the end of our walking tour, we spied a couple of real geisha walking quickly to an engagement. This was the best picture I could get. They move fast!
The next day we headed out to Nijo Castle. The era of this castle must have been a peaceful period because this so called castle doesn't have a moat or high walls or anything. The walls inside are all made of paper.
The sole defensive architectural feature is that the floors are built somehow on squeaky springs so that when walked upon they tweet like a bird. This was designed to prevent any unannounced visitors. Can you imagine how annoying it would be to live there?  Okay, maybe the expansive garden and surrounding grounds would make up for it.
 Then we were off to visit the golden pavilion of Kinkaku-ji...
 and the famous stone garden of Ryoan-ji.
On the way back into town, we caught this old-timey train.

1 comment:

  1. I miss visiting Japan so much!!! Hope you had a great holidays, and happy new year!