Tokyo Blond Is Not Porn

Tokyo Blond is not a porn blog, about hair or even, as one pithy friend remarked, a micro beer or late 1980s glam metal band ("Dude, I just saw Skid Row and Tokyo Blond opened and played a killer set").

The purpose of this blog is to chronicle my experiences in Tokyo - poignantly, visually, irreverently - for fun.

Anybody can tag along...that is if I like you. This blog will endeavor to be entertaining and honest and frequent enough to keep those following interested including me.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Charmed - Kyoto Part Three

No McDonald's today.  Russell discovered the Hyatt actually provided free coffee to their guests in the morning but you have to go outside to get it.  It was day three, well really two and a half, in Kyoto. While yesterday was cold and brilliantly sunny, today was cold and rainy.   That's OK, we're in Kyoto and I packed umbrellas.  Which is nice.

Today's itinerary wasn't nearly as busy as yesterday's I thought.  That should leave plenty of time for shopping.  Little did I know.  That's before we decided to pretty much walk the entire day.  Not only did we do the Philosopher's Path but a walker's marathon through Higashiyama-ku.  They're listed as two separate walks in my Frommer's guide.  We did them both in one day, in the rain, uphill both ways.  Ok, well, maybe not both ways.

The funny thing was, there actually was some type of walk-a-thon going on that day.  We were not alone.  There were hundreds of walkers participating.  Every corner had a volunteer in purple, waving a flag and encouraging participants onto the next marker.  Apparently the walk-a-thon, which was 10, 20 and even 30 kilometers long depending upon which apron you were sporting, happened to be along the exact route we were taking, all day long.  The only difference was, the average age of the participants was around 60, and then there was us.  How come we seemed to be the only ones sweating?

Wake up call.  Flower Russell brought home from dinner the night before.
Nice but where's my coffee, or egg McMuffin?

We began our walk-a-thon by taking the bus 40 minutes to the furtherest destination on our itinerary that day, Ginkakuji Temple, otherwise known as the Silver Pavillion.  Unlike the Golden Temple which really is lined with gold, the Silver Temple isn't silver at all.  The shogun meant to do it but ran out of money.  No, actually he died. 

The Silver Temple may not have been silver but it had a better rock garden than the acclaimed Ryoanji Temple in my opinion.  In fact the entire grounds were stunning.  

Part of the rock garden installation.
This is symbolic of Mt. Fuji.
The oriental pines in the background make it a masterpiece.

No silver but nice.

Would you take a look at that?
Beautiful - this is what I imagined Japan would be.

Yen for your thoughts?

Before embarking on the Philosopher's Path we decided sustenance was in order and stopped at a
a soba shop.  It was warm and cheap and yummy - exactly what we needed.

Russell had the eel.

The Philosopher's Pathway is a pleasant stone path which runs along a cherry tree lined canal, from the Silver Pavillion, and by various temples and museums, until it ends in a older Kyoto neighborhood called, Nanzenji.   Apparently one of Japan's most famous philosophers, some guy named Nishida Kidaro, used to walk this path contemplating life on his daily trek to Kyoto university.  Kinda like I used to do on my hour drive into work.  Russell and I contemplated staying warm, sake came to mind, as we walked along the path.  There were no cherry blossoms yet, but lots of walk-a-thoners with dueling umbrellas.  Somebody could get an eye poked out here.  But it was pleasant in spite of the cold rain and umbrella wielding mob. 

Philosopher's Path

It wasn't on my itinerary but the path led us past this very impressive temple with a gigantic gate.  It's called Nanzenji Temple and apparently it's one of the most important temples in Japan because it's the head school of the Rinzai sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism. It also touts a nice Zen rock garden.  I'd had enough rock gardens so we admired the sanmon gate and kept walking.

Monolithic Sanmon Gate.
Looks even more commanding in black and white.
Plus you can't tell it's raining this way.

Russell looks rather statuesque amongst these pillars.

The pathway dropped off in a charming old neighborhood but we rambled onto our next destination the Heian Shrine.  While the Heian Shrine is colorful and built to commemorate the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Kyoto, we actually came for the garden.

The road to Heian.
Nice gate.

I like the lanterns.
Imagine how pretty they must be lit up at night.

Paper wishes otherwise known as Omikuji. 
They're actually randomly drawn fortunes.
Folks tie them to the trees to ensure that good fortunes come true and the bad ones don't.

The garden was lovely in spite of the rain.  Russell and I imagined how glorious it would be during Cherry Blossom season or Fall.  

Look, you can't even tell it's pouring in this photo.

Raindrops are falling on my head...

I love this pathway.

Bridge across the water was pleasing.

Nice framing.
I wonder why the paint the edges white?

Next we walked to the Gion district, or Geisha district.  The only geisha we saw, however, was on a poster, which we couldn't read.  But it was pretty.  

And this says what?

So was the Gion district itself. It was pretty much what I imaged except the streets were wider than expected. The old style buildings and door decorations were charming. I could imagine how beautiful they would be at night, romantically lit by lanterns, the sound of traditional Japanese music and geisha laughter wafting through the soji screens.

After Gion we decided to head up to Kiyomizu Temple, which commands one of the best views of Kyoto, not to mention being a spectacular temple in its own right.  

Along the way we encountered what turned out to be my favorite part of Kyoto.  It's called Sannenzaka Slope and it's a cobble stoned street lined with pretty little shops, including sake, pottery and incense shops.  There's also a rather impressive pagoda called Yasaka Pagoda.

Yasaka Pagoda.
The umbrellas just make it even more picturesque.

Sake shop.
The packaging is outstanding.
I fell for it and bought a bottle because it was, um, pretty.
It's like buying wine for the label.

The slope - look at the roof line.
I'm imagining ninjas alighting from one to another in the cloak of night.

In Kyoto we saw a few people wearing traditional kimono's.  A lot of hotels and tourist companies offer sightseeing packages which include a kimono rental in order to truly experience Kyoto the old fashioned way.  

These don't look like tourists however.

The shrine was impressive and crowded.  There were more than tourists here.  A lot of people were actually here to pray or wish for good fortune.  Russell and I were here to take pictures.  

These are called Ema.  
Worshippers write their wishes on wooden plaques, along with a donation, 
and leave them at the temple in hopes they come true.

There were other shrines within the temple including the Jishu Shrine, or matchmaking shrine. On the shrine grounds are two stones, about 30 feet apart.  It's said that if you can walk blindfolded from one rock to the other, you're guaranteed success in your love life.  

Unfortunately nobody was going to get lucky on this day.  The area was so crowded you could hardly walk ten feet, much less blindfolded.  It's more likely you would trip over the rock.  I wonder what that means?  Whatever, it sure makes for a nice story.

Throughout the grounds you can buy good luck charms for everything from a happy marriage, to an easy childbirth and even good grades.  How about no rain?

One of the two love rocks.
Yeah, that would make a nasty bruise on your shin.

This deity Okuninushi no Mikoto and his messenger rabbit 
at the Jishu-jinja shrine apparently aid in love.
Is this where the term, "the rabbit died" originated from?
Or does it just refer to the way rabbits proliferate? 

Ok, even though the view was obscured by clouds this was pretty amazing.

Otawa Falls where worshippers can drink "pure" water.
Eat your heart out Arrowhead.
Note there are three streams.  Drinking from each provides a different benefit including: longevity, success at school and a good love life.  But drinking all three is considered greedy. 
Hey, greed is good.

After the carnival of charm that was Kiyomizu Temple, it was time to go to the highlight of our trip, our ryokan.  But I'll save that for the next post.  I think I have just enough time for another drink of pure water, otherwise known as sake.  Good for everything.

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