09 January 2012

Trainride from Kyōto to Kansai Airport

Instead of posting a traditional final blog from Japan, I decided to make a short slideshow instead of my fotos from our (sad) train ride on the Haruka limited express train from Kyōto Station all the way to Kansai Airport. The music, by the way, is also me. So, do me a favor, scroll to the very bottom of this blog, on the right side + pause the music on the player + then, enjoy the slideshow:

05 January 2012

Amida Buddha, Malls + Melonpan

LB + I decided to keep our shrine/temple visiting today low-key since:

1. Yesterday, we walked like motherfuckers
2. We're leaving Nippon tomorrow, a fact which continues to depress us every time one of us brings it up to torture the other person

So, we decided to take the bus to Kinkaku-jin where I learned that you board a Japanese bus in back + also pay your fare at the end, just before you get off. Another thing, bus stops, at least the ones in Kyōto, have these little traffic boards with cute bus icons letting you know how far away the next bus is + how many minutes the wait will be--so fucking considerate + smart. Kinkaku-jin was fucking amazing, absolutely one of the most striking temples/UN Heritage sites I've ever seen, so beautiful in fact, that you feel as if you're peering at some collective mirage. I must have taken 25 pictures, each time trying to capture the magical floating above water + each time failing. After receiving beautiful goshuen calligraphy stamps in our goshuen-cho books, we ate tempura udon for lunch (always fucking satisfying!) + then walked to daitoku-ji, which is this beautiful, slowly disentegrating Rinzai megatemple with a number of subtemples inside of it, each one with its own character, style, aesthetics. Eventually, after petting a cat with a mustache, we took the bus back to Shijo-Kawaramachi, walked around the covered shopping malls in the Teramachi Shopping Arcade--by the way, between stores, there are these sudden Buddhist temples that come out of nowhere--before we walked to 7-11 (which are really cool in Japan, by the way), lingering there as if we weren't ready to say good-bye to one of our favorite countries in the whole world. I ended up buying some adolescent male magazine with pulp style manga drama, tasteful Moe centerfolds + lots of gadgets. And then, after buying a melonpan that was fucking delicious (the kind with the sweet, gushing custard inside) we walked back to our hotel + moped, sad, pissed off, bummed out.

Here are the pics, first starting with Daitoku-ji:

















Kinkaku-ji:









Teramachi Shopping Arcade:





04 January 2012

Buddhist Temples, Snow + Conveyor Belt Sushi Restaurants!

Today was a day of Buddhist temples, snow + conveyor belt sushi. Based on Eikichi's recommendations (+ serendipity), LB + I definitely got our walk on today, walking first from our hotel in Nakagyo-ku into the majestic Chion-in totally by accident, where legend has it that Honen, the founder of Jōdo Schū (pure land sect Buddhism) first taught chanting namu amida butsu as an exclusive vehicle for spiritual salvation. From there, we walked to Maruyama Park into Yasaka Shrine where nihonjin were throwing coins, following Shinto prayer formulas while families ate melonpan + various yakitori.

From there we walked through old Kyōto, which was definitely one of the most charming + quaint parts in all of Kansai with its tiny cobblestone streets, multitudinous ocha, fan + mochi shops + dessert cafes, sushi restaurants + udon joints (where LB + I ate hot, delicious tempura udon + fresh ocha--nothing like it in the whole world on cold winter days!). Eventually we ended up at Kodaiji temple where we got to peer into old Buddhist meditation halls + old monastery dormitories before walking through a bamboo grove.

And then it was time for even more walking as we made the longer trek to Kiyomizu where--miracle of miracles--it started snowing! It's been four years either of us has even seen snow + it was so fucking majestic, beautiful + auspicious, the snow falling down in big, fluffy strands of cotton from the sky, covering everything in an ephemeral blanket of soft, plush white snow. After taking a short amasake break, we walked back to the hotel. Forty minutes later, we returned to Nakagyo-ku where we ate sushi from conveyor belts + poured our own tea. Today was nothing short of epic. There can never be another day like today, which makes me sad in a way, but also so deeply grateful too. I have to say, I love old Japan as much as I love new Japan, each for different reasons. Here are the pics:

Chion-in:





Maruyama Park + Yasaka Shrine:











Through the Streets of Old Kyōto to Kodai-ji:














Through the Old Streets Again to Kiyomizu:






















Conveyor Belt Sushi Restaurant!: