Japan 2010:
Day 3 - Kyoto & Nara


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Japan 2010: [Day 1 - Tokyo] [Day 2 - Osaka & Kobe] [Day 3 - Kyoto & Nara] [Day 4 - Hiroshima] [Day 5 - Tokyo Tower] [Day 6 - Mt. Fuji] [Day 7 - Tokyo] [Day 8 - Ginza]

Tuesday, February 23: We awoke around 4:00 AM and killed some time before Tom went out at 7:00 AM to fetch McDonald's for breakfast. We ate it on while seated on our little floor chairs in our ryokan guest room.
At 8:00, we were picked up at the Kyoto Tower Hotel lobby for a day tour of Kyoto and Nara. We started at Nijo Castle.
Like any good castle, it is surrounded by a moat.
The roofs on the entrances and buildings are made from Japanese cypress bark.
We were not allowed to take photos during the interior tour, but there's no way to photograph floors that squeak like nightingales when you walk, so you'd just have to imagine the coolest part of the tour even if we did have photos.
The detail on traditional Japanese roofs fascinates us.
As we left the interior part of our tour, a group of high school students began their tour. They all had matching red hats.
This is one of two large bells in the courtyard. We had to get a miniature one as a souvenir later in the day.
There are extensive gardens in the back.
At the gift shop, Debbie found this machine. It appeared to make some sort of personalized something. Unable to read Japanese, she pressed buttons at random, selecting text, designs, and colors, and was rewarded with some cute little Japanese stickers on a sheet.
We drove through Kyoto, which is a nice modern town. City regulations forbid tall buildings, so it doesn't feel like a large city.
The Colonel has successfully infiltrated Japan. We did not indulge.
Our next visit was the Kinkakuji Temple.
The temple grounds have some nice buildings, but here is the real star ... wait for it ...
Bam!! The Golden Pavilion is a beauty, especially on a beautiful sunny day.
It reflects perfectly in the water ...

... and looks even better in a panorama shot of the beautiful pond and gardens surrounding it, courtesy of Debbie's iPhone.

It's beautiful from the side too.
The area is a series of gardens. This tree/bush was supported by a sturdy support of wooden poles. Why? We don't know.
Here's the pretty view around the back of the pavilion.
Of course, there were koi in the pond.
Here's a tiny waterfall tucked behind some rocks ...
... and here's a bigger one.
Anytime we see a target and coins, we have to pull out some money and try our luck at the target. Tom nailed it; Debbie not so much.
Another beautiful pond and garden area.
Following the path through the gardens took us slowly up a hill, and this beautiful ramp brought us back down.
We saw the second symbol shown here quite a bit, most often in the Japanese symbols for Shinagawa. We think it looks like Jill spelled wrong, so it was easy to spot. With about 5 Japanese symbols memorized, we should be fluent by oh, let's just say never.
Our next stop was the Imperial Palace. From the bus to the check in point, we had to walk in rows of four people each so they could then check us in four people at a time. Fortunately, we did not have to hold hands.
Here's another temple entrance with the awesome cypress bark roof.
Here's another. Check out that shiny gold metalwork.
We saw some rooms that consisted of tatami mats, painted walls, and doors that opened wide to the outside.
In this room, we zoomed in to get a shot of the tiger paintings on the walls.
More cool buildings ...
... and more.
Nice detail work on the roof tiles ...
... and more detail.
This was an interesting display showing a cross section of a cypress bark roof.
Here's our guide, "Jessie." Her Japanese first name was Toshi. She had a portable audio system so it was easy to hear her during the tour.
Here's a stunning pond and Japanese garden.
Even in February, trees were in bloom.
These may have been plum trees, but we're not sure.
Jessie told us that these were white and red apricot trees for the royal family.
We saw daffodils in bloom several times, including here.
Lunch was at the Kyoto Handicraft Center. It was buffet style with plenty of seating so there was no awkward small talk with our fellow tourists.
The food was delicious, especially the vegetable tempura (Kakiage) shown here, consisting of onions, carrots, and beans. We went back more than once for these.
There was also delicious soup, sweet bread, sushi, and a Coke Zero fountain dispenser, so we ate and drank our fill. Then we did a little shopping on the various floors of the center, picking up some floral incense.
With our morning Kyoto tour done, we headed south, past the Kyoto Tower, ...
... and past the Shinkansen tracks of Kyoto Station, ...
... and past the giant pagoda just south of the station, ...
... to suburban Kyoto. The plants shown here are tea plants.
This building isn't anything special, but it blocks the view of the Nintendo headquarters a few blocks behind it.
Once in Nara, we passed this very cool water tower.
We arrived in Nara and started our visit at Todaiji Temple and Deer Park. More on the deer later.
Here is a giant wooden entrance ...
... featuring two of these gigantic (and very dusty) wooden figures.
Here's the next entrance, ...
... leading to the Great Buddha Hall.
Here's a very ornate lamp out front.
But the big draw is this giant 49 foot Buddha. There's no way to capture the immensity in a photo.
Here's a shot with a smaller statue to its right.
Wander around the back of the structure and you'll encounter two of these large statues, one at each back corner.
In between them is this tiny replica of the structure with the Buddha inside.
Here's another statue to Buddha's left.
One of the gift shops there was selling charms for various things. We bought one of these Charms for Passing Examinations for Jill. We have no idea what is actually inside.
Back outside, here is some more scenery.
And out in the deer park, we got to see two different ways that park employees keep the deer droppings under control -- driving a little streetsweeping tractor (on the left) and raking it up (on the right).
We still had to be careful about where we walked, because there were deer everywhere. This is the view looking back along the street we came in on.
Debbie decided to try feeding the deer. We had been told that they will bow for you to get you to feed them and that sounded interesting. We were also warned that they will nudge you if you take took long to feed them.
Bowing never happened. As soon as Debbie bought the deer food, she had deer swarming her trying to get to the food.
They nibbled at her clothes and followed her around until the food was all gone.
There are many baby deer, too. These babies were being very good and staying out of the main traffic.
Our next stop was the Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, home to thousands of lanterns.
Our guide said that these barrels of sake were donated by corporate sponsors of the site.
This is a Shinto shrine, indicated by the classic torii gate.
This gentleman stands guard over the lanterns.
Here is a beautiful fountain with a deer statue.
This is used to purify oneself before entering the shrine.
The main walkway is lined with hundreds of lanterns.
Seriously, they are everywhere.
Tree branches have even grown around the lanterns in some places.
To the left was the entrance to the shrine.
It is painted in the traditional red-orange color.
This shrine also sold little boards to write your prayers on, plus charms and fortunes. There are many ways to spend your money at a shrine.
Here was a series of tiny lanterns hanging from a roof.
Our guide showed us the proper method for praying at a shrine. We didn't get a photo of the place where you pray, but we did get a photo of what you're looking at when you do it -- a large area of smoothed pebbles.
Pleasant fortunes purchased at the gift shop are supposed to be taken with you, but unpleasant ones are tied to strings and left behind. Here, you can see the paper fortunes tied near the large wisteria trellis.
We walked around a little more and saw another shrine, more lanterns, and these lovely blossoms on a tree.
Deer really are everywhere in Nara, and this pretty girl stepped out into the late afternoon light just in time for a gorgeous picture.
As we left Nara, we passed this sign -- as if anyone needs reminding!
During the hour-long drive back to Kyoto, a woman distributed handheld devices designed to take English, Chinese, and Korean speech and translate it into Japanese. The Japanese Department of Tourism hopes to place these throughout the country to help tourists communicate with Japanese people.
They were looking for volunteers to try the system and we were happy to try.
We followed the onscreen tutorial, ...
... then started speaking sentences into the device for it to translate.
Back in Kyoto, we went to our McDonald's and Debbie finally got to have a delicious Filet-o-Ebi.

Like the wrapper says, Taste Happiness. It's pretty delicious.

Day 4 >


Japan 2010: [Day 1 - Tokyo] [Day 2 - Osaka & Kobe] [Day 3 - Kyoto & Nara] [Day 4 - Hiroshima] [Day 5 - Tokyo Tower] [Day 6 - Mt. Fuji] [Day 7 - Tokyo] [Day 8 - Ginza]

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