November 27, 2009
I have never in my life been up and down so many steps as I have on this trip. Surprisingly, I’m still holding up. At several points I counted three sets of thirty steps that we walked either up or down, often carrying my suitcase. Yes, I was the one carrying it or pulling it.
Kyoto train station
We took a second Sunrise tour for this trip, the Shogun and Emperor Tour for the morning. I was surprised to hear that Japan had a Hundred Year’s War just as what happened in Europe. I guess boys will be boys all over the world. The shoguns finally decided to call it quits.
Although we didn’t tour it, Kyoto has the largest Buddhist organization in the world. We drove by it. It covers a lot of city land.
Due to decisions made during World War II, Kyoto was spared being bombed so some of their buildings are quite ancient. The first visit was to Nijo Castle, home of shoguns. Shoguns were responsible for the governing of Japan. The emperor was the spiritual leader.
These gates are the entrance way to the castle. The rooms are arranged with doors opening onto a wooden hallway that goes on all four sides of the castle. No pictures were allowed inside of the castle but I found this one to show.
Interior room Nijo Castle
All of the rooms looked pretty much the same except for the paintings on the walls. There were tigers in some, cranes in others, cherry blossoms in a few. Some were the private living quarters of the shoguns, others were receiving rooms for guests and messengers of the emperors.
According to our guide, Kay, the shoguns needed male heirs and so surrounded themselves with potential “mothers”. The young women would bring tea to them. If the shogun liked what he saw, things would go according to nature. If he didn’t, he would wave her away with his hand since “she was not his cup of tea”. I thought that was an interesting story.
As we walked there was constant chirping sounds. It was called the nightengale hall because iron clamps had been installed under the wooden floors as a security device. No one could walk silently on the floors without the clamps “chirping”. Since there were about thirty of us in the tour group, the halls were never silent. Next stop was the Golden Pavilion. It turned out to be a beautiful sunny afternoon. The sun was really reflecting off the building. It looked truly spectacular. The grounds and ponds were almost breathtaking. There were still enough trees with their autumn colors to make this area very picturesque.
- Golden Palace or Pavilion
We ended the morning tour with a buffet at a handicraft center. I’m not sure what I will do with it, but I bought myself and my son yakatas. They are the cotton versions of kimonos. I also went wild buying souveniers for my friends. It was an expensive stop on the tour.
In the afternoon we toured a Buddhist Temple, one of the largest in the world. By this time I was no longer taking notes and I cannot remember which one of the hundreds of temples in Kyoto that it actually was. I do know that the statue of Buddha was huge and it was flanked by a lot of guardian statues as well as 500 smaller statues. It was extremely impressive.
Again, we were asked not to take pictures so this one is borrowed. It’s not exactly like the ones we saw but it is as impressive.
After yet another bus ride we were at our final tour Kiyomizu Temple
(thank goodness). This time it was at the top of a rather steep hill. Once more I surprised myself that I was able to make it all the way up. I was so proud of myself. We basically just walked around. The autumn leaves were gorgeous. From the top of the hill we could see most of Kyoto in the distance. The sun was setting so it was another very impressive site. The place was very crowded. I got in line to drink the holy water pouring off the hill (small mountain it seemed) but Nathan suggested there were too many people in line ahead of me. We would be late for the bus. I got back out of line, figuring I’d had about as much good fortune as I needed for the day and we headed back down the hill. I compared the crowd to Times Square New York City at New Year’s but Nathan disagreed. He said there were even times it was possible to stretch our arms out without hitting anybody. Whatever! It was a crowd.
We made it back to the train station with enough time to eat before heading to Yoko’s parents’ home. There were restaurants on the eleventh floor so we took the escalators up to the top. This was a very high class department store. There were name brand merchandise near the escalator on every floor. Japan was full of fashionistas. From the top we could look down upon the multistory Christmas tree lights. It was quite pretty.
After eating we made it to the train for another two hour ride. Yoko and her father were there at our destination to greet us and drive us a half hour to their home. When we arrived, we were greeted by Yoko’s mother who presented us with more sushi, rice, miso, crab, fruit, and saki at 11 pm.
Afterwards I was a little chilly so I asked to take a bath. Between the bath, the saki, and the very long day, I was very tired. We had futons on the floor and the thickest down comforters I’ve ever slept under. I hit the futon and was asleep in about 90 seconds. I slept the entire rest of the night until around 6:30 a.m. I haven’t slept in that long a stretch in ages. Maybe I should consider buying some saki for medicinal purposes?
It had been a very very very long day. Namaste Attic Annie