04/06/2024 Walking

Planes, trains, automobiles, buses, boats…..oh, and lots of lots of walking, have been included in this trip. I think we have hit almost every conceivable transport mechanism.  Yesterday was all about walking, despite managing to hit modes of transport including walking, buses, taxi, and train – all in one tour. Yep, it was a long day packed with lots of exciting adventures. We started off the day with the unique Japanese breakfast where we peruse the selection and wonder who would eat this for breakfast. An example is steamed tofu? Really, breakfast? Oh well, Kathy had cold pancakes and Dave found some cereal.

Next on the list was meeting our guide Chia who was a lovely lady from the area. She teaches English to local students, yet we at times had a hard time understanding her. We headed off to our first destination, Kiyomizu-dera Temple which is a holy place that people go to pray. Many women pray there for safe childbirth. KIYOMIZU-DERA TEMPLE (kiyomizudera.or.jp) The temple is accessed through some long winding streets that are lined with stores selling every kitschy thing you could want. The temple is perched high upon a hill and overlooks the city of Kyoto. On the walk down, we stopped at a shop where we sampled a variety of sweets. It was fun and interesting, but we did not buy any to bring home….they just did not compare to milk duds!

Next on our stop was the Sanjusangendo Temple, which has 1001 statues of Kannon, the Buddhist saint of mercy and is located in the longest wooden structure in Japan. The statues of the saints are wooden and painted a gold color. Each one is different and distinct. The Kannon Buddhist is guarded by four guardians who guard in each direction. Lotus Temple, Sanjusangendo The website shows the magnificence of Buddha and their guardians, and our words just do not do it justice.

Next on our Kyoto tour was the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which has thousands of bright red torii gates which mark a path that goes high up the mountain. We opted to not climb to the top and instead contented ourselves with milling about looking at the smaller shrines and learning about their history. (Our guide was greatly relieved that we did not walk to the top!)

Next was the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji, which was on Dave’s bucket list. Kinkaku-ji | 臨済宗相国寺派 (shokoku-ji.jp) The pavilion is covered in real gold leaf and was the home of one of the great Shoguns of Japan.  The Golden Pavilion was surrounded by a pond, and we even got to see a beautiful Grey heron guarding it.

Our last stop was Kitano-Tenmangu, a shrine to education.  School children come here to buy a lucky pencil in the hopes of getting good grades.  Damaged by a fire in 1444, many of the remaining timbers were used to build 7 tea houses in an area that has now become a Geisha District.  We did not see any Geishas, or even any Maikos, which are Geisha apprentices.  You serve and learn for 5 years as a Maiko before graduating to become a Geisha.

Finally we were headed home, part by taxi and part by bus. The bus was crammed full of people and Kathy was ready to bolt, but managed to hold out to the end of the line. Phew! back in our hotel, we made a decision on what to have for dinner. Getting a list of local restaurants from the hotel front desk –  with one of their “great” maps – we headed off to find dinner.  Finding dinner proved as elusive as finding an empty seat on the bus today. All the restaurants on the map were closed. A kind local lady even stopped her bike to help us find something, but the map even confused her. Thanking her, she headed off to her electric bath, we are still not sure what she was going to do, but apparently it is quite well known.  Off we headed on our journey to find dinner.  Finally we located an open restaurant and found ourselves at a small bar/restaurant where we seated ourselves at the bar. The wait staff who did not speak much English, worked hard at trying to explain the menu. Racing away, she brought someone who spoke some English. Explaining food limitations, we selected our meal. The meal called, Shuba-Shuba, was a highlight of the trip. Kathy opted for pork and Dave for chicken. The meal is cooked by the guests! They brought out a heating plate with a bowl of water (broth?) separated in two, one side for Dave and one side for Kathy. Next we each got a platter that contained paper thin strips of meat and lots of vegetables, most of which we were not able to recognize. We then put the ingredients in the broth and cooked our meat/vegetables along with a variety of seasonings to choose from.  The meal was then followed with Miso soup and steamed rice, (Kathy was not a fan of the soup, but again ate all the rice) and then a wicker steam basket full of vegetables.  Dave also ordered a drink – an organic plum and berry drink that was actually pretty tasty.  Last on the list was dessert, which was some weird cube things that shook like jello, but were not clear, and a small bowl with two cherry size tastes of ice cream and fruit (one grape cut in half and a morsel of kiwi).  It was a truly fun, and yet scary, adventure as neither of us had ever experienced doing something like this.  It was a truly authentic meal, no 7-11 or McDonalds here, but a small, out-of-the-way restaurant that served the locals with local foods.  When Dave got the bill (there were no prices on the set menu), it was a definite reminder that we were not a 7-11!

Lastly, bedtime at the early hour of 7:30 pm in the hopes that the cold Dave is trying to fend off with go away with a long sleep.

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